Smith System Training – 5 Keys of Defensive Driving

Smith System® Driver Improvement Institute was the nation’s first professional driver training company.  Established in 1952 by Harold Smith, it operates on the principle that most collisions are preventable if the right driving habits are learned, practiced and applied consistently.  Since then, millions of drivers throughout the world have benefited from this system.

It operates on 5 key principles:

Aim High In Steering

Look at least 15 seconds into your future, not just at the vehicle in front of you.

Get the Big Picture

Look for hazards.  (Other Motorists, Pedestrians, Vehicle doors opening, etc.)

Keep Your Eyes Moving

Don’t stare.  Use your peripheral vision.  Stop the fixed habit stare.

Leave Yourself an Out

Monitor the space cushion around you.

Make Sure They See You

Use your signals.  (Directionals, 4-way Flashers, Head Lights, Brake Lights, Horn, Hand Signals.)  Make eye contact.

Here at P&S Transportation, we offer Smith System® classes to our drivers.  They are taught by Ben Dunn at our Birmingham, AL terminal, and by Buck Ivey at our Emporia, VA terminal.  These classes are a great way to be involved with your Safety Department, and offer great tips and tools for sharpening your flatbed driving techniques.

Please contribute below on how your flatbed driving skills have improved since completing Smith System® training.


  1. Marc Fillion says:

    I think the “fixed staring habit” can be especially negative for truckers. It’s extremely easy to zone out when you’re driving, but it’s dangerous for you and everyone else. Even just being aware of the habit can make truckers more alert.

    • Russ says:

      I can understand its especially easy for truckers to get ‘hypnotized’ by the road, long drives, straight roads. I see cars/trucks/suvs do it too. I think Smith System should be a requirement for ALL drivers.

  2. Olamilekan says:

    How can I b a progressing professional driver

  3. Jim Stiles says:

    I have used the Smith System as a Driver Education instructors for over 40 years.

    Last week I received a post card from Colorado, from a former student that I taught in 1967. He was thanking me for the defensive driving I pounded into the students. He had just averted a bad accident that he would not have seen developing had we not practiced such situations using the 5 Principles.
    He was thanking me, so I want to thank you for the many, many, students over the years who benefited from the system. Keep up the good work!

    Jim Stiles
    Lansing, MI 48911

  4. Ntoney André guillaume says:

    Very good training

  5. Bruce K Gardner says:

    I’m a Fleet Safety Trainer for Smith System. My last preventable MBA was 1977 before I learned the system. IT WORKS! I’ve been training Smith System for 17 yrs to every type of driver. Commercial, office workers, truck drivers, etc.

  6. BILLA says:

    Very good driving System

  7. Ovia Morea says:

    The 5 Key Principles are beneficial to every driver if applied and developed as a habit. It prevents vehicle accidents and save lives.


  8. John Childs says:

    I really wish Smith system for cars would STOP telling them it’s good idea to flash headlights before passing big trucks. Now many states have put this into their driver handbooks. Flashing the headlights at semi trucks is the signal semi’ s have used since the 30’s to say “your clear to come over in front of me”. Can’t tell you how many near accidents I’ve seen caused by this miscommunication. Semi in right lane puts left signal on signalling he wants to change lanes. Car comes up flashes headlights telling semi driver they are going to pass the semi. Semi driver see’ s flash of headlights and thinks the car is saying come on over in front of me.
    I use Smith system everyday driving a truck and generally agree with most of it. But the flashing headlights is absolutely horrific,dangerous idea. And is happening more since states have adopted the idea.

  9. Paul says:

    I learned the Smith System while in the Navy in the 1960s, and it has been with me ever since. It has actually saved me from catastrophe more than once, and over the years I have promoted it to everyone who will listen. Glad to see it’s still be taught and used.

  10. Ebenezer says:

    i am a driver at cargill cocoa lbc Ghana, i have studying the five keys for some years now, and it has change my driving style, and also impacted defensive driving habit and safety consciousness in when ever am behind the wheels.thanks and thumbs up.

  11. Mr B says:

    LOOK – Driving 66000 miles a year, this stuff works.
    Took the course. Would retake it no problem.

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