Driving Hints and Tips
No more ice screen
It’s a common sight to see drivers creeping along with a letterbox size gap scraped into the ice on their windscreens as temperatures turn to frost. Don’t follow this foolish example as rule 229 of the Highway Code states that before you set off, ‘you must be able to see, so clear all snow and ice from all your windows’. This does not mean just the part of the window in front of you, but all of your windscreen. The police have the right to stop and fine you £60 if any part of your screen is obstructed. Again, your number plates and lights must be clear and your mirrors and windows thoroughly demisted. You’ll also need to remove any snow from your car roof to prevent it falling into the path of other road users. Best advice: when there’s snow and ice always give yourself extra minutes to get road ready
Switch those faulty wipers
Do you know when your windscreen wiper blades need changing? As it rains frequently in the UK, you are urged to check your wipers before setting off and change them at least every 12 months. Depending on weather conditions, they may need to be changed after six months. It is definitely time to change them when they start to smear rather than clear water from your windscreen. Poor visibility means you may not see a hazard quickly and slows your reaction time. Modern flat wiper blades don’t screech on the windscreen anymore, so if you are listening for an audible warning you’ll miss the signs. You could also be charged with driving without due care and attention, which carries a £100 on-the-spot fine and up to three penalty points on your licence
Speed bump alert
While not popular with drivers, you will come across speed bumps regularly. Driving over them too quickly or braking just before driving over them can damage your car. By applying your brakes at the last moment, your car will nosedive and compress the suspension precisely as you pass over the speed bump increasing the risk of the underside of your car grazing the bump. In turn, the bump forces your wheels upwards which further compresses your suspension, adding unnecessary strain. Best advice, adjust your speed well before approaching a bump. If you frequently drive over speed bumps, this can increase the wear on the inner shoulder of your tyres.
Your legal lights
Driving with a light on inside the car is not illegal and there is no law against having it on while you are moving. Many drivers believe that driving with your interior light on is against the law as it could distract other motorists. You do not need to worry about falling foul of the Highway Code as it does not mention this. However, you should not cause a visible distraction, for example, by constantly flicking your interior light on and off. Given the numerous lights within the cockpit of a car nowadays, one more located in the roof is unlikely to make much difference, but it can annoy the driver and make it harder to see outside.
Driving on new or unknown roads can be unnerving especially for new drivers, along with the thought of getting lost. If you are taking a route for the first time, research is the key. Take it methodically, study the area beforehand to get an idea of where you’re going and make sure you keep a map in your car even if you have sat nav. Always allow yourself extra time to get to your destination to avoid additional pressure. If it’s estimated to take an hour to get from A to B, allow 90 minutes. You will thank yourself.
Keep your cool
Sometimes there are reasons to feel frustrated behind the wheel, but there’s no point in getting angry with inconsiderate drivers. Consider London ‘black cab’ taxi drivers. They spend all day annoying other drivers by stopping and performing U-turns with little warning, but they tend not to get into disputes. Why? They’re taught to avoid confrontational eye contact with other road users, to not engage in quarrels, to wave and signal before they carry out manoeuvres, and generally avoid aggravation. You can all learn a lot from this. Let others huff and puff, while you stay focused on your journey ahead.
Good drivers always C.O.A.S.T
The process of learning how to drive begins in earnest after you have passed your test. Even if you complete the same journey every day, you never know what you might encounter. For this reason, repeat the acronym C.O.A.S.T every time you get behind the wheel. This stands for five crucial elements that contribute to safer driving. The letter C is for Concentration. Even the smallest lapse can be dangerous. O is for Observation, so use your mirrors regularly, pay close attention to all that is going on around you, and indicate your intentions clearly. A is for Anticipation because you can’t always predict what other drivers will do, especially at junctions. S is for Space, so give other drivers more room and yourself the space to take evasive action if need be. Lastly, T is for Time, allow more time to brake in bad weather and plenty of time to pull out safely at junctions and roundabouts. Don’t take risks by trying to get ahead when a few extra seconds can keep everyone safer.
Banish those distractions
Distractions behind the wheel can be visual, auditory, physical or cognitive. Are you looking at, listening to, or thinking about something that’s taking your attention away from the road? Are you doing something in addition to driving? Any of these distractions can reduce your control of the vehicle, your reaction times and your decision-making. The good news is that you can banish them all if you want to, through straightforward self-discipline and journey planning. To help you focus and nip those dangerous distractions, simply put your phone on silent, out of reach and out of sight. You know it’s illegal to use unless you’re stationary, with engine off and keys out of the ignition. If you listen to music, get it organised before you set off to avoid searching for that elusive track at 40mph. Driving with children? Make sure they have something to distract them and not you. Avoid snacking on route as you’ll have one hand off the wheel and crisps are a distraction, so pull over for your mini meal.
As the driver, you are responsible for the safety of the vehicle you are driving. Whether you are learning to drive with an instructor, friends or parents, the rule is the same and there are no exceptions for learners. Regardless of who a vehicle belongs to, if there is a problem the person behind the wheel is fully or jointly responsible in the eyes of the law and liable to penalties. For example, if you are driving an unroadworthy car that belongs to someone else, it’s no defence to blame them if you are stopped by the police. You have to make your own mind up about what is acceptable, and face the consequences if you take risks.
Motorway services alert
While it’s tempting to relax as soon as you’ve entered a motorway services, bear in mind that they can have unintuitive traffic layouts, with some areas intended for trucks or coaches only. Keep a close eye out for road markings and signs, drive with caution and trust your instincts if in doubt. Tired drivers, wayward children and baffling priority arrangements have the potential to make your break anything but welcome.