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Hazard Perception Skills

By: Sally Aquire - Updated: 25 Feb 2013 | comments*Discuss
Hazard Perception Skills

Hazard perception skills are an important part of safe driving. Over 3000 people are killed every year in road traffic accidents, and the government hope that improving the hazard perception skills of as many drivers as possible, especially new drivers, will go some way towards reducing this number. Young drivers are involved in many of these accidents, despite accounting for less than 10% of all license holders in the UK.

The Hazard Perception Test

Being able to spot a potential hazard before it turns into a problem or accident is a large part of the driving experience, so much so that it now has its own test to gauge the alertness of candidates. This is usually part of the theory test.

If you passed your driving test after 2002, you will have had to sit the hazard perception test. This was introduced to test the hazard perception skills of prospective drivers before they pass their practical test and can take to the road.

It involves sitting in front of a computer screen and watching a series of short video clips. In each of these video clips are several hazards that would require the on-screen driver to adjust his or her driving style (for example, the need to slow down as a potential hazard is spotted) that you need to look for, and click the mouse when you think you have seen it to register your answer(s).

Potential Hazards

Hazards to be aware of whilst driving include:
  • Pedestrians (who may decide to try to cross the road in between parked cars or at other unsafe places in the road, especially if there are no pedestrian crossings nearby - and sometimes, even if there are)
  • Children (who may be playing in or near to the edge of the road or between parked cars, and trying to cross the road at unexpected places)
  • Cyclists (who may not be visible in your mirrors if they approach via a 'blind spot. Look over your shoulder to check this before moving off and keep an eye out for them at junctions)
  • Motorcyclists (similar to cyclists)
  • Vehicles that have broken down on a bend
  • School crossing patrols
  • Traffic lights switching from green to red as you approach them
  • Buses pulling out of a bus lane

You will also need to be alert to the possibility of running into trouble when trying to overtake a large vehicle (such as a bus) that will probably obscure your view of the road ahead. This is particularly true if negotiating the vehicle requires you to partially move into the other side of the road (into oncoming traffic). See our article on 'Overtaking Safely' for more advice on this.

Hazard perceptions are more important than you might think. If you are not quick enough to spot potentially dangerous situations and to react quickly and safely as soon as you do, it can be result in an accident. If you took your test before 2002, you may be interested in improving or refreshing your hazard perception skills to make you a safer driver. You can choose from a range of CD-ROM packages that are aimed as practice for those who are about to take their hazard perception test, but these will not necessarily tell you if you were right or wrong.

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