Driving Hints and Tips
Key to confidence
As you take your practical test just remember one thing: stick to what you know. Throughout your lessons, your instructor will have taken you through everything you need to get test-ready. You might not realise it, but your instructor has helped you carefully cultivate a safe driving style. So why would you change it during the test? Driving anxiety and nerves aside, don’t let other road users influence you and don’t change your driving style because you think the examiner might like it. If you need a reminder, bring your instructor on your test so their presence will ground you.
Don’t wing it
Side mirrors, otherwise known as wing mirrors, are crucial to maintaining good visibility around you on the road. Importantly, they inform you of where a cyclist may be in traffic when your rear-view mirror might not have picked them up. Unfortunately, wing mirrors are prone to damage. Should this happen, it may not appear a major priority but legally you need two working mirrors and one must be on the driver’s side. A damaged mirror dramatically reduces your visibility and affects the safety of other road users. Fixing a wing mirror can cost from £15 to £150, so it isn’t worth taking the risk and landing a hefty fine of up to £2,500.
Signalling or indicating when driving is an essential safety and courtesy task, thinking that it’s not important or just forgetting leads to many an incident. For this reason, you should always signal when pulling away, even if it’s only a pedestrian who benefits from seeing your signal. If there’s no one around, then a signal is not necessary, but use caution. If you are ready to move off and notice a vehicle approaching from the rear to pass you, do not indicate off if you intend to wait for them to pass. The effect of this can cause the approaching vehicle to slow down or stop to let you pull away or swerve around you. Wait till the vehicle has passed and if all is clear, signal if necessary.
Mantra for motoring
There is a simple mantra to bear in mind when you’re driving in traffic: when a situation feels dangerous to you, it’s probably safer than you know; when a situation feels safe, that is precisely when you should feel on guard. Most incidents happen on dry roads, on clear and sunny days, to sober drivers. Best advice: drive every road as if you’ve never done it before. Don’t negate your local knowledge, but be prepared because circumstances change from day-to-day.
On turning right
By definition, while you’re waiting to turn right, your vehicle is preparing to move across
oncoming traffic. As you sit waiting for a suitable gap to cross, it’s a good idea to think about
your steering and the direction your wheels are pointing. Your front wheels should be pointing
straight ahead until the time comes to actually cross the road. Resist the temptation to turn
the wheels to the right in readiness. Keeping your wheels straight ensures that if you are hit
from behind, perhaps by a vehicle filtering past on your left, the impact is less likely to send
you into any oncoming traffic. Not only is it safer to complete the steering manoeuvre in one
go, you will also avoid ‘dry steering’ which occurs when you twist the tyres round when they
are not rolling. This places wear on the tyres and a strain on your steering linkages.
The next time you’re behind the wheel and feel you need to concentrate, consider talking out loud and describe your journey and surroundings in great detail. Sounds crazy perhaps, but it works because you have to concentrate to do this well, so you can’t be thinking about other things. Again, if you’re on an A or B road try honing your skills. The aim is to be doing precisely the lower speed limit as you enter a lower speed zone, for example, a 30mph zone. Think of this as a curtain – when you drive through this curtain into the lower speed zone you should be doing the new speed precisely. You should only speed up when you pass through that curtain again, into a faster zone.
Unless you are parking in a pay and display space, don’t leave your ticket in the car and make sure you put it somewhere safe. If you are a regular at losing tickets, take a quick photo on your phone so you’ll have all the details to hand in case it’s not your day again. Alternatively, if you are using pay and display, set an alarm on your phone to remind you when the time runs out as it’s easy to let time slip away without noticing.
Minimum speed limits
You may not be aware, but you can be fined for driving too slowly and cautiously. In some situations, this can be as dangerous as speeding as it increases the risk of congestion, especially in tunnels or fast-moving traffic, and can lead to tailgating. Certain roads will display minimum speed limits and just like maximum speed limits must be adhered to – so make sure you recognise the signs. They are marked by a blue, circular sign containing the minimum speed limit in white. The end of the minimum speed limit is signalled by the same sign with a red line through it.
We’ve all been there. You’re driving down a road with a lot of parked cars on either side of the road and another car is coming towards you, which means you have to start assessing where you can safely pull in as neither of you has right of way. Unfortunately, there isn’t a rule about this and best practice depends largely on the road in question and where the passing places are. However, if you’re driving on a gradient then the right of way should always go to the motorist driving uphill, as it’s harder to pull away safely when driving up an incline.
Middle lane hogging
If you’re planning to drive on a motorway, remember Rule 264 of the Highway Code states: ‘You should always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear. If you are overtaking a number of slower-moving vehicles, you should return to the left-hand lane as soon as you are safely past. Slow-moving or speed-restricted vehicles should always remain in the left-hand lane of the carriageway unless overtaking.’ Hogging the middle lane of a motorway is one of the most annoying bad habits and a contravention of motorway road rules. If you are caught middle lane hogging you can be fined £100 and land three penalty points.