Driver Knowledge Tests

Improving your driving skills by learning to do commentary drives

A commentary drive is an advanced driving technique where you describe what you are seeing and doing while you are driving and the reason why – it is you, as the driver, commentating your driving just like a footie commentator commentates the game. Sound simple? It’s not that simple when you first start. Our brains automatically take in an enormous amount of information and process it without thinking about it, but it also takes in a lot of information that we don’t need – information that should be ignored – and it misses information that we should be paying attention to, but we haven’t noticed it.

The purpose of the commentary drive is to sharpen your brain’s processing skills when it comes to observing what’s going on around you on the road while you are driving or riding, and what potential dangers are coming up.

Commentary drives are taught by advanced driving instructors to drivers who need to drive under high pressure and/or high speed, for example emergency services drivers. They’re also especially useful for motorbike riders who will change position within their lane much more dramatically and frequently than car drivers as it brings more awareness of the road ahead and the actions of other road users.

If you are just starting to learn to drive, a commentary drive might be a bit advanced while you’re still learning to cope with all the road signs and driving in general, but check with your instructor as the skills learned are very beneficial.

If you’ve been driving a while learning to to a commentary drive will improve your skills and reduce your likelihood of having an accident.

Let’s first look at what’s in a high-quality commentary drive on video, and then go through the types of actions and observations you will talk about in your commentary.

What you describe on a commentary drive

The commentary will describe everything that you see which affects how you drive, and everything that you do while driving that keeps you safe and allows you to make progress smoothly.

  • General observation: using your mirrors; looking for other road users up ahead that could move into your lane or prevent you from maintaining your speed
  • Approaching vehicles: vehicles from behind, to the side and ahead that may cause you to change your line (large vehicles coming towards you, vehicles entering from side streets, vehicles following to closely or approaching too fast from behind)
  • Changes to the road: changes to the road surface (e.g. becomes slippery or bumpy); changes to the road’s direction and anticipation of that direction using natural and man-made cues such as the tree line or lines of power poles that might follow the edge o the road beyond where you can see it
  • Other road users: vulnerable road users at pedestrian crossings or walking on the road; animals such as horses and dogs; cyclists
  • Using road markings and signage: using road markings to help anticipate the road ahead; watching for signs well into the distance
  • Changes to your speed, and gear selection: your choice of gear and speed and why.

If you want to become better at driving by learning commentary drives there are many resources on YouTube and you can also talk to advanced driving instructors who will be able to give you instruction in how far ahead to look and what you should and shouldn’t be looking for. There are a multitude of events and occurrences to observe while driving, some of which you probably won’t have considered which is why it’s best to get a professional to help supervise you while you are learning. The result will be that your driving will improve; you’ll be a safer driver that inflicts less wear and tear on your vehicle because your skills in anticipation, observation and how you control your vehicle will improve dramatically.

Darren is an expert on driving and transport, and is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists

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Posted in Advice, Car, Heavy Vehicle, Motorbike
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