To be truly in control, you need to know what’s going on in front of you. To achieve that, you need to know where to look and what to watch out for when you’re driving.
Drive Like a Pro is a series that will show you how to use the skills and knowledge acquired by our rally drivers to drive more safely and effectively on the road.
Why do racing or rallying drivers get so nervous when riding with someone untrained? Usually, it’s not the way amateurs hold the wheel, or the line they take through the corners, or even the way they sit. It’s where they look.
A lot has been said about racing drivers having reaction times comparable to those of fighter pilots. That’s something you can’t easily replicate, unless you spend an awfullot of time practicing. What is equally important, however, is not how fastthey react, but when they start to react.
Take a ride with an ordinary driver and watch where they look. Chances are, their eyes will be fixed on the road in front of the car. A few car lengths ahead in the worst case scenario, a couple of hundred meters in the best. That’s not far enough.
A properly trained driver will keep their eyes fixed, not on the road just ahead of them, but on the horizon – or as close to it as possible. This makes it possible to spot problems far in the distance, long before you encounter them, and to react well in advance.
At first, this may seem unnatural, as the human brain tends to prioritise any dangers that are nearby. With just a little practice, however, your peripheral vision will start dealing with the stuff that’s happening right in front of you.
Once you get used to scanning the road far ahead, with just a quick glance at your immediate surroundings now and then, you will find that you have much more time to react – not just to emergencies, but to normal traffic as well.
With more time to react, prepare and take action, your driving will become smoother and more relaxed, allowing you to concentrate fully on the control of the car itself.
Be safe, look far ahead!