Defensive Driving Crash Course
The SEE System for Space Management

The SEE System - Effective Space Management for Defensive Driving

Updated Dec. 15, 2020

The SEE system is a defensive driving strategy that allows you to avoid collisions, by keeping the space around your vehicle free from obstacles – it is a space management system. Drivers who manage the space around their vehicles effectively can predict hazardous situations before they happen and change their driving behavior to avoid that situation coming to pass. The SEE system will also help you to avoid a collision in the face of unavoidable dangers, which do sometimes occur.


SEE prepares you to deal with dangerous roadway situations, by searching, evaluating and executing an appropriate response:

  1. 1

    Search the road around and ahead of your vehicle, to identify potential dangers and situations which would warrant a change in your behavior.

  2. 2

    Evaluate what you have seen. Prioritize dangers in order of risk and decide on the safest course of action.

  3. 3

    Execute the action you have decided on. That may be a change in speed or lane position, communicating with other drivers, making an evasive maneuver, or doing nothing!

With application of the SEE system, you can prevent hazards from entering the immediate space around your vehicle. In the rare occasions where a hazardous situation cannot be predicted and avoided, the SEE system will give you the best possible chance of escaping the danger unscathed.

Remember that the goal of defensive driving is to prevent dangerous events before they occur, by identifying future points of conflict and acting pre-emptively against them. Actively searching your target area on the roadway ahead and along your path of travel will help you to achieve this. Look for possible dangers and anticipate how events may play out when you reach your target area. Then, you will have the time and power to alter your behavior to avoid danger.

Searching the road

“Searching” is the first step of the SEE system, which involves actively looking for hazards on the roadway. As your goal is to maintain a safe bubble of space around your vehicle, you must monitor the immediate area 360 degrees around your car with your side-view and rear-view mirrors and by looking over your shoulder to check blind spots. You must also search your target area on the roadway ahead and various points along your intended path of travel, to identify hazards that may enter the space around your vehicle in the future. To do this effectively, you must keep your eyes moving and avoid staring at a single spot for too long.

A hazard is any object or situation which would demand an alteration in your driving behavior to avoid a collision or an increase in danger. This could be physical aspects of the roadway itself, other vehicles, objects in the road, intersections, interchanges or traffic control devices. Your aim while searching the roadway should be to collect as much visual information about your driving environment as possible.

Evaluating visual information

Having compiled a mental list of potential hazards on the road, you will then draw on all the knowledge and experience stored in your brain to evaluate the situation. This is where your understanding of road rules, vehicle control and defensive driving techniques come into play! Studying driving rules and traffic laws is an extremely important aspect of your driver’s education program, as without it, the visual information you have collected will mean nothing.

Your evaluation of the roadway will answer two questions:

  1. 1

    Which hazards deserve priority?
    Some potential roadway hazards are more dangerous or more likely to occur than others. If you cannot avoid all dangers at the same time, you must choose which to act against first.

  2. 2

    What is the safest thing for me to do?
    Consider all maneuvers you could use to avoid the danger (e.g. steering, changing speed, etc.) and choose the action which creates the safest situation for yourself and other road users in the vicinity.

This seems a lengthy and complex procedure but remember that the human brain is an incredibly efficient information-processing machine. If you arm yourself with the correct knowledge, the evaluation process will occur in the blink of an eye.

Executing a response

The last stage of the SEE space management process is execution. To put it simply, this means carrying out whichever action you have decided upon during the evaluation stage. Achieving this will depend on having good reflexes, vehicle control skills and knowledge of how your vehicle handles. Your response may be preventative in that it stops some potential danger from coming to fruition, or evasive, in that it avoids an immediate danger. If you carry out the search and evaluation stages correctly, these latter instances should be rare.

As you progress through this section of the defensive driving course, you will notice that many different types of common hazards are dealt with similarly. Often, the safest course of action is to reduce speed, adjust lane position or increase your following distance. Sometimes, the execution stage of the SEE process will involve several actions, such as slowing down, shifting lane position and signaling your intention to turn.

SEE as a continuous process

While progressing along a stretch of road, your mind will work through the SEE space management system in a cyclical, continuous manner. You will search, evaluate and execute based on all the information you have about your current environment, then repeat that process as more visual information comes into view. The more complex and hazardous your driving environment, the faster this process must operate. Attentive driving is the key to working with the SEE system effectively.

Would you pass a driving test today?

Find out with our free quiz!


Like the article? Give us 5 points!

Click a star to add your vote

5.0 out of 5 stars based on 5 votes.

Read next

Scanning The Road - Defensive Driving Techniques
Defensive Driving Crash Course 4 of 7

Scanning the Road

The first stage of the SEE system – or indeed any defensive driving strategy – is scanning the roadway to detect potential hazards and upcoming changes, which would require alterations to your driving behavior. This step is crucial, as your ability to make safe driving decisions rests on forming an accurate picture of the situation around your vehicle.

Identifying Road Hazards
Defensive Driving Crash Course 5 of 7

Identifying Road Hazards

As you become more confident behind the wheel, evaluating hazards and making the necessary adjustments to your driving behavior will become as instinctual as breathing. The only way to ensure you avoid all hazards is to remain attentive and focused on actively scanning the roadway.

Evaluating Road Hazards - Defensive Driving
Defensive Driving Crash Course 6 of 7

Evaluating Road Hazards

Having conducted a search of the roadway to gather visual information, you must then evaluate what you have seen in order to choose an appropriate response. In accordance with the SEE system, the final step will be to execute that response. Your chosen response must reflect the safest course of action for that driving situation.

Preventing Distracted Driving 10 of 13

Less Common Distracting Activities

There are countless minor tasks which we engage in on a day-to-day basis without thinking, which could prove to be dangerous distractions while driving. You may not think twice about smoking, allowing your mind to wander, swatting away a bug or picking up a dropped object while you’re walking down the street, but you must avoid these activities as much as possible while behind the wheel.

Preventing Distracted Driving 11 of 13

Driving With Passengers

As a driver, your responsibility is to keep your passengers safe, not to keep them entertained. Any passenger you transport must respect your need to pay attention to the road and must not distract you from the driving task. Remember: your car, your rules.

Preventing Distracted Driving 12 of 13

Distractions Outside The Car

Distractions inside the car are not the only problem you face while driving. Your attention will be focused on events around your vehicle and on the roadway up ahead, which means you are at risk of becoming distracted by things happening outside the car and by the roadside.

Preventing Distracted Driving 13 of 13

Dealing with Distracted Drivers

Even the most attentive drivers in the world become distracted from time to time. Unfortunately, distracted driving is a country-wide epidemic in America, so it is something you will encounter quite frequently. You must know how to deal with distracted drivers, otherwise they may end up distracting you in turn.

Defensive Driving Crash Course 1 of 7

Defensive Driving Crash Course

Defensive driving is a set of strategies which reduce the risk of sustaining property damage, injury or death, as a result of traffic accidents or collisions. The technique works by helping you to avoid conflicts and dangerous situations while driving.

Defensive Driving Crash Course 2 of 7

Driving Space Management Systems

Effective space management is a driver’s most powerful line of defense against hazards and traffic accidents. There are several different space management systems commonly taught in driver’s ed programs. Each of these systems work to achieve the same goal: maintaining a safe “bubble” of space around your vehicle.