5 Keys of Smith System Driving

5 rules of the smith system for driving

Looking to improve your driving skills and become a safer driver? Look no further than the Smith System, a widely recognized defensive driving technique. Top Driver Driver Intelligence™ Curriculum was inspired by the Smith System and has developed hundreds of thousands of safe, intelligent drivers.

What is the Smith System?

The Smith System was invented by Harold Smith in 1952 to increase safety of commercial drivers and revolves around employing five key rules when operating a motor vehicle. Abiding by the Smith System can dramatically reduce the risk of major accidents on both highways and roads. 

The five key rules outlined by this technique, include: 

  1. Aim High
  2. The Big Picture 
  3. Keep Your Eyes Moving 
  4. Leave Yourself An Out 
  5. Make Sure They See You

Five Keys of Smith System Driving:

1. Aim High in Steering 

To increase your reaction time, the first rule emphasizes extending your eye lead time. This means looking at least 15 seconds ahead, scanning the road for potential hazards and traffic flow, rather than focusing directly in front of your car. By staying alert of dangers further down the road, you can not only avoid rear-end collisions but also alert other drivers behind you to slow down. This wider view is achieved by steering and focusing your attention further down the road, allowing you to see the whole picture instead of just a few feet in front of your car.

2. Get the Big Picture

“Be aware of your surroundings at all times” may seem obvious to say, but distracted drivers are just as dangerous as intoxicated ones. Erratic and angry drivers take up a large portion of the traffic we see daily, so avoid major accidents by noticing how other drivers behave on the road. Getting the big picture means that you are doing your part to keep your vehicle as safe as possible while moving 1000 ft a second. There are a variety of hazards between your own vehicle and other drivers, and a keen awareness of these dangers will reduce these risks.

3. Keep Your Eyes Moving

The third key of the Smith System asks drivers to remain alert. Energy drinks can only do so much before they cause the body to crash, and any repetitive motion sends us into a trance. Combat fatigue and inattentiveness by constantly scanning your environment. Look at your mirrors frequently, check your blind spots before lane changes, and avoid fixating on one point for too long. This keeps you alert and responsive to changing road conditions.

4. Leave Yourself an Out

The fourth key of the Smith System emphasizes maintaining safe following distances and avoiding situations that could box you in. This proactive approach ensures you have room to maneuver and react if the driver in front brakes suddenly or there’s an unexpected hazard.

5. Make Sure They See You

The fifth key stresses clear communication with other drivers. Utilize turn signals, brake lights, and headlights. In some situations, a quick honk can be necessary to get their attention and avoid misunderstandings. This rule prevents accidents by removing assumptions behind the wheel. As a driver, make sure that other drivers can see you and anticipate your move, but never assume they see you or will act predictably.

Beyond the Smith System: Quick Tips to Ensure Your Safety While Driving

The Smith System prioritizes driver safety by enhancing three key areas: space, visibility, and reaction time. While we can’t control others on the road, we can control ourselves. By creating space and allowing more time to react to hazards, the Smith System empowers you to protect yourself.  

While the Smith System provides a strong foundation for safe driving, there’s always more to learn. At Top Driver Driving School, we equip you with additional safety tips to keep you confident and prepared on the road.

  • Listen and stay alert: Remain focused on the road at all times by not engaging in distracted driving. Use your mirrors to view oncoming vehicles. 16% of fatal crashes involve driver distraction.
  • Proceed with caution: Pull to the right side of the road and do so swiftly, but cautiously when approached by emergency vehicles.
  • Resume entry slowly: Use your turn signal! Slowly merge back onto the road or highway while checking your surroundings for others when re-entering roadways.

Stay vigilant, prepared, and remember to be a proactive driver. As a motorist, it is our responsibility to operate vehicles safely and in a sensible manner. Consider taking an online refresher driving course to stay current with law changes and best driving practices.


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