How Does Commentary Driving Help You Improve Your Driving Skills

Written by Omid Karimi

Have you tried commentary driving or is this the first time you've heard about it? When you start to take some interest in driving, you might mumble a few signs as soon as you see them. For example, saying, "green light" when approaching a traffic light at an intersection. Or saying, "children crossing" when coming to a school zone. This is a subconscious thing we do even before we start to learn how to drive. But what exactly is commentary driving and how do you do it? And what are the benefits of doing it?

Let's first know about commentary driving.

Commentary driving is basically ‘speaking out’ any observations made by learner drivers. It could be reading out traffic signs and their interpretation of their surrounding. To simply put it, you are making comments on your observations. You also say out loud what possible manoeuvres you might need to perform. You should make the comments way before the actual event, NOT AFTER. Like, 'oh, I should have slowed down.' Saying things before the fact could help avoid possible road accidents.

The student driver has to describe everything they believe to be relevant to driving. This includes what they see ahead, behind, or on the sides of their car. The instructor will also point out other details in case they miss something. The learners, then, can write these points down at the end of the lesson so they know what to look out for the next time they drive.

To make it more tangible, let’s go over an imaginary scenario. A student is driving with his supervisor on a busy road. The commentary driving by the student can go like this: 

“I see a 60 speed limit sign ahead and since the traffic is flowing very well, I try to keep up with the speed limit of the area and drive a little under 60. I see a yellow advisory sign, indicating that there is a sharp bend ahead and the recommended speed is 30 km/hr. So I drop my speed around this upcoming bend. 

I see the traffic light ahead is red, so I go for the brake and prepare to stop smoothly. The traffic light turned green, so I scan both sides of the intersection and start driving. I see a school zone sign with a 40 speed. It’s 2:30pm. So I drop my speed to a little below 40 at the school zone. Now I can see a 60 sign. So the school zone is over. I gradually start increasing my speed, so I don’t hold up the traffic behind me.” 

 And it goes on just like this.

Now, we will focus on what the students could gain when they do a commentary driving. So what are the goals and benefits of doing commentary driving?

  1. Creating awareness of possible hazards and providing practice in dealing with these hazards.
  2. Building resistance to possible distractions.
  3. Reviewing and reinforcing the knowledge and driving skills previously learned.
  4. Involvement and participation of student observers (if driving with other students).
  5. Improving the ability to judge how far ahead one should observe and how early to start taking action.
  6. Reducing the possibility of selective seeing habits. For example, student drivers focus too much on the road ahead and they miss traffic signs.
  7. Verbalizing certain situations will develop certain visual skills (hazard perception skills) or habits.

Driving instructors also use this technique to assess the student's skills. The instructor will be able to know how far the student's progress is when asking these questions:

  1. Are the students using their eyes effectively?
  2. Are the students demonstrating correct hazard perception skills?
  3. Do they understand and observe traffic rules, and perform defensive driving?
  4. What training or retraining do the students need?

Commentary driving is a great technique used by driving instructors and beginner drivers. And doing so, helps drivers retain their knowledge and improve their driving skills significantly. Give it a try next time you drive with your supervisor and see if it helps.

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