Defensive driving
BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon (The Freeman) - July 23, 2019 - 12:00am

It was in 2011 when I was about to apply for the first time for a driver’s license that I came across the term defensive driving. To help me prepare for the written and practical exam administered by the LTO, I took the initiative to enroll in a driving school that has an outlet in a mall.

I availed of the basic driver's training package. It consisted of several sessions of pre-driving orientation and lectures and at least five hours of one-on-one hands-on training with an LTO- and TESDA-accredited driving instructor. I also bought a copy of the school’s driver’s manual book that was over 300 pages thick.

It was when I started driving that I realized how valuable the lessons were on defensive driving. Come to think of it; when you are behind the wheel, you are controlling a machine that has the power of 550-foot-pounds per second (horsepower) multiplied by at least 250 times.

In other words, you are in control of what potentially at any time can become a killing machine. For all the conveniences of modern transportation, motorized vehicles can end innocent lives and change a driver’s mundane life to a living hell – in an instant!

The tragic road accidents that happened in Cebu in the past few weeks show us that. Last Friday, July 19, eight schoolchildren were killed in Boljoon while on their way to a sports meet. The dump truck they were riding brushed against the mountain after its brakes failed. The reports didn’t mention the speed of the truck while on a downward slope – or if the driver tried engine braking (downshifting gears) to no avail.

Last Saturday dawn, three persons were killed, and at least five others were injured after a Toyota Fortuner driven by a 21-year-old rammed into a multicab along General Maxilom Avenue. On June 24, a collision between a multicab and a van along the national highway in the City of Naga killed two people and injured nine others. The driver of the multicab lost control of his vehicle, which caused it to swerve to the other lane and hit the van.

Had defensive driving been observed in these settings, the possibility of such accidents from happening would have been significantly reduced. The American National Standard Safe Practices for Motor Vehicle Operation and the American Society of Safety Engineers define defensive driving as “driving to save lives, time, and money, in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others.”

Defensive driving allows the driver time and space to adjust to the lack of skill or reckless actions of other road users, including pedestrians. It also allows the driver to adjust to the physical features of the road, such as slippery roads and downward slopes, to promptly react in the event of a mechanical failure.

But how many of our drivers in the country practice defensive driving? I suspect that most drivers may not even be aware of this principle in driving.

How many drivers make allowances for the mistakes of other drivers? How many drivers assess the road conditions and try to anticipate whatever danger may arise in every blind spot and other accident-prone sections?

How many drivers are aware of the 4-second gap method (or 2-second gap depending on the road condition) in observing the proper distance between their vehicle and the one ahead? How about the four requirements in overtaking a vehicle?

Sadly, many drivers merely know how to operate a vehicle but are ignorant about driving a vehicle in the textbook sense, more so about defensive driving.

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