Ever seen a movie of Apollo 11 landing on the moon? We know exactly how it played out because the astronauts described every single action they made.
The same applies to Formula 1 drivers learning a new circuit and Police taking part in a high-speed chase – they talk through every step they take behind the controls and describe every change in conditions or potential distractions and dangers. It’s called commentary driving (or perhaps flying if NASA is involved) and is a technique where you describe exactly what you are doing as you are driving, and what you are doing to avoid potential risks.
It’s used by advanced drivers and those who spend a lot of time driving in high-risk situations, but it’s also particularly good for learner and newly solo drivers.
Driving requires alertness and concentration and learner drivers often find it hard to maintain both of these in what is often a high-pressure environment with many new skills to learn. Commentary driving helps to maintain a driver’s focus by engaging the brain in every action. It trains drivers to be observant and pushes out other distracting thoughts that can take the mind off the road.
If you initially feel self-conscious speaking out loud and describing your every move, you’re not the only one. But like many new skills, once commentary driving becomes a habit it’s hard to imagine not doing it. More importantly, it will give you an indication of the enormous number of things that our brains have to process every time we drive. Learning to process these distractions and potential dangers in a more efficient way is key to being able to drive more safely.
In practice, commentary driving means articulating what you are doing from when you start the vehicle, put your indicators on and check your mirrors before pulling out onto the road – right through to when you park again.