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The Smith5Keys®

These five keys are the pillars of our driver safety training.

The Smith5Keys are designed to provide drivers with the knowledge and skills to create three important things while driving:

  • Space to maneuver their vehicle away from conflict
  • Visibility to detect danger and the potential for conflict with another vehicle or fixed object early
  • Time to react to volatile and complex driving environments

So, what exactly are the five keys?

Key 1. Aim High In Steering®

  • Our eyes are designed to work for us at walking speeds.
  • The average person has not adjusted visually or mentally to the higher speeds of motor vehicles.
  • Look ahead to where you will be at least 15 seconds into your future.
  • A 15-second eye-lead time provides advanced warning and gives you an additional margin of safety.
  • Use improved eye-lead time for more efficient and economical driving.

Key 2. Get The Big Picture®

  • While scanning ahead, do not forget the sides and rear.
  • Consistently update your information.
  • Check at least one of your mirrors every 5 to 8 seconds.
  • Do not focus attention on insignificant objects.
  • Stay alert to the relevant information that can assist you in making well-informed decisions.
  • Eliminate visual barriers by establishing proper following distance.
  • Stay far enough behind other vehicles to obtain the visibility necessary to make your own decisions.

Key 3. Keep Your Eyes Moving®

  • Focusing on any object for too long diminishes your peripheral vision.
  • Scan all intersections before entering them.
  • Keep your eyes moving every 2 seconds.
  • Eye activity stimulates the brain. An active mind is better able to resist the effects of fatigue.
  • Avoid distractions in your vehicle and your thinking.
  • Recognize and avoid drivers who seem distracted.

Key 4. Leave Yourself An Out®

  • The safest position in traffic is with few or no vehicles around you.
  • When possible, surround your vehicle with space.
  • Choose the proper lane and adjust speed accordingly to maintain your space cushion.
  • If you lose part of the cushion, work to keep at least the front and one side open.
  • Avoid tailgaters. When one is present, the collision potential is high.

Key 5. Make Sure They See You®

  • Detect the presence of potential danger early.
  • Send your warning signals as soon as you think they will be recognized not too soon or too late.
  • Seek eye contact by using the warning devices on your vehicle.
  • Do not take eye contact for granted. Be sure your warnings are heeded.
  • Eye contact is valuable but it is no guarantee against the unexpected.

All Rights Reserved. No part of these course materials may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means. Each of the Smith5Keys and all knowledge derived from “The Smith System,” (Space-Visibility-Time) “Space Cushion Driving,” (G.O.A.L.), are registered, copyrighted and trademarked by Smith System for the use of Smith System Driver Safety Training.