How to master the 5 principles of Smith System driving

February 24, 2022 Casey Nighbor

There are many types of driving systems to choose from but one of the most common is the Smith System.

It was invented by Harold Smith in 1952 to increase the safety of commercial drivers. The Smith System is based on using five rules when operating a motor vehicle and aims to provide space, visibility and time to reduce the chance of a major accident.

The benefits of the Smith System 

The main benefit of the Smith System of driving is increased safety. This system helps reduce accidents and incidents by optimizing the way you drive and increasing your awareness of what is happening on the road. As you very well know, while driving a truck a couple of seconds can make the difference between avoiding an accident or being in one. 

1. Aim high

The first principle of the Smith System is to aim high while steering. Our eyes are meant to work for us at walking speed and not the high rates of speed of motor vehicles. In order to improve eye-lead time, you should look ahead to where you’ll be about 15 seconds into the future. 

This helps provide advanced warning of oncoming hazards and gives you more time to react. This is especially important when trying to avoid rear-end collisions.

2. The big picture

While you are looking 15 seconds ahead, you should also be scanning the sides and rear of your vehicle in order to get the full picture. By consistently updating your information, you will be alert to the most relevant information and make well-informed decisions. 

You should check at least one of your mirrors every 5-8 seconds. By having the whole picture, you are doing your part to keep your vehicle safe and avoid major accidents by noticing what other drivers are doing on the road.

3. Keep your eyes moving

Consistent eye movement prevents your body from entering a trance state and allows you to remain alert by stimulating brain activity. When you stare at any object for too long, you reduce your peripheral vision and increase your chances of missing something on the road. 

You should be moving our eyes every 2 seconds and scanning all intersections before driving through them.

4. Leave yourself an out

You should always leave yourself an out while driving. This means you should be surrounding your vehicle with space as much as possible. Do not follow other vehicles too closely and do your best to leave at least the front and one side open. 

You do not want other drivers to box you in because it reduces the chance of being able to avoid a hazard.

5. Make sure they see you

The final principle of the Smith System is to make sure other drivers see you. You should never assume another driver can see you or that they are concerned with driving safely.

By getting eye contact from those who are seemingly unaware, you can avoid potential accidents. Use your blinker and your horn, if necessary, to alert others of your next move.

When used correctly, the Smith System can reduce preventable accidents by 60 percent. By employing these tips, you can help drive safer every day.

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