The Smith System

The Smith System
Driver Education
Dave Haskins
Major Concept
• Space Cushion Driving
– Why?
– Unlocks Vision Barriers
– Good Vision – buys time and space and gives you
the opportunity to avoid trouble and adapt to
traffic conditions.
Five Habits
Aim High in Steering
Get the Big Picture
Keep Your Eyes Moving
Leave Yourself an Out
Make Sure they See You
Aim High
• Look far ahead in the lane you are using.
• Vision high – look 20-30 seconds down the
• Main idea: “Look where you want to go and
not where you are at.”
What you should do. . .
• Stay in the center of your lane
• See objects (moving and fixed) well ahead of
• Stay back from other vehicles
• Adjust your speed according to weather
Big Picture
• New scenes and new situations are constantly
presenting themselves as your drive.
• It is YOUR responsibility to get the BIG
What is it?
• About 20 seconds down the road and the
width of the roadway.
• Not just what you can see, but what you
should see.
What you should do
• Eliminate barriers
• 4-8 second following distance
• Reduce speed if following distance is not
Keep your Eyes Moving
• This is key to establishing the big picture
• Because the traffic around you is continuously
moving, your eyes should be too.
• Every 2 seconds, your eyes should move.
– You should be looking at,
– Near, far, inside mirror, outside mirrors, etc.
What you should do
• Eyes move every 2 seconds – check rear every
5-8 seconds.
• Before changing lanes, turning or stopping,
check the rear
• Avoid drivers who appear erratic or unsafe
• No eye distractions (phones, traffic accidents,
Leave Yourself an Out
• Space Cushion!
• Choose the proper lane, leave space ahead
and on one or both sides
• Plan for space, but be ready for anything
What you should do
• Choose the lane of least resistance
• Leave one side open for swerving if necessary
• Only pass when it is safe to do so (you have
enough space, the visibility is good and there
is appropriate distance)
Make Sure They See You
• Use your turn signals
• Hand signals, soft brakes
• Eye contact
• Gentle tap on horn
What you should do
• Turn on lights in darkness or low visibility
• Signal early
• Avoid driving in the blind spots of other
Smith System Driver Evaluation Check
Aim High in Steering
Keeps vehicle centered in the lane.
Sees moving and fixed objects at least a block away in city
traffic and at least one half mile ahead on expressways or
Maintains a safe following distance.
Avoids swerving when passing other vehicles, turning or
approaching parked vehicles.
Reduces speed to allow for poor conditions or reduced
Get the Big Picture
Avoids being boxed in when lanes ahead are blocked.
Avoids severe breaking and abrupt turns.
Adjusts speed when approaching intersections.
Correctly anticipates moves of other drivers and pedestrians
and avoids conflicts.
Slows down before entering “no control” intersections or
where there is a possibility of conflict.
Keep Your Eyes Moving
Keep eyes moving at least every two seconds and checks to
the rear every five to eight seconds.
Checks to the rear before changing lanes, turning, or
Stays clear of erratic drivers.
Checks in all directions and leaves a space cushion before
starting up at intersections.
Disposes of eye holding distractions quickly.
Leave Yourself an Out
Recognizes the lane of least resistance and positions
the vehicle accordingly.
Allows extra following distance when crowded by a
When possible, leaves at least one side open for
swerving room.
Passes only when there is space, visibility, and distance
to do safely.
Quickly re-establishes space around the vehicle when
space diminishes.
Make Sure They See You
Alerts non-attentive drivers and pedestrians with
gentle tap of the horn or flick of the lights to get eye
contact (includes those on bicycles and motorcycles).
Turns on lights when visibility is low in order to be
Tries to obtain eye contact with people when
conditions dictate that it should be done.
Gives early signals for turns of lane changes and checks
to see if they are heeded.
Does not ride in the blind zone of drivers on left right.
Note: This checklist is copyrighted by Smith System
Driver Improvement Institute, Inc., 1993.

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