Driving Hints and Tips

On the sunny side

Drivers who don’t wear sunglasses to protect against the dazzling effects of the sun may be inadvertently putting the safety of all roads users at risk. The consequences of not driving safely due to being blinded by the sun – whether it’s as a result of not wearing sunglasses, not using a vehicle’s sun visor or not slowing down are severe. You could be deemed to be driving without due care and attention and face an on-the-spot fine of £100 and three penalty points on your licence. The advice, according to Rule 237 of the Highway Code, is to slow down or pull over if you become ‘dazzled by bright sunlight’. This means that, although it’s not a legal requirement to drive wearing sunglasses in bright conditions, you could be breaking the law if you don’t slow down or stop if you become temporarily blinded by the sun. When it comes to choosing sunglasses, it’s essential you pick the right pair as some hamper driving. In the UK, sunglasses are normally labelled with a category, so avoid category four glasses which are illegal, and should be marked ‘not suitable for driving and road use’. Also avoid variable tint lenses behind the wheel.

Hold your horses

If you are approaching a horse from behind, hold back while gathering enough information to pass safely. Do not get any closer than three car lengths and be careful not to creep into this space. Be prepared to slow down further or even stop to protect this space as horses can react and move incredibly quickly. Again, make sure you give the horse enough space when passing. Best advice is at least a car’s width and make sure this is done slowly, at no more than 15mph. When you see riders two abreast it is usually for safety reasons, an inexperienced rider or a nervous animal being coached along by a more experienced companion. This is a good opportunity to share road space safely and use the information around you. Road signs, horses in fields, horse muck on the road or signs to an equestrian centre are all clues to help you anticipate meeting riders on the road – and when you do, ‘wide and slow’ is the mantra.

Headlight caution

If you are caught flashing your car’s headlights to warn other motorists about a mobile speed trap or upcoming camera you could face a large fine. Some drivers may think they’re doing you a good turn, but according to rule 110 of the Highway Code: ‘Only flash your headlights to let other road users know that you are there. Do not flash your headlights to convey any other message or intimidate other road users.’ By flashing a warning, you could also be breaking the law according to the Police Act of 1996, by obstructing an officer in the course of their duties. Motorists caught breaking this law can be fined up to £1,000. According to research by Confused.com around one in six drivers in the UK are unsure this is an offence, don’t be one of them.

Better braking

When you need to slow down try to avoid frequent tapping of your brake pedal as this makes drivers around you unsure if you’re actually stopping. On the other hand, don’t brake at the last moment. Give drivers behind you plenty of time to notice that you’re braking so they can do likewise. A good time to start braking is when you notice the car in front of the one you’re following braking, this will help you to break more smoothly. The best way to reduce your speed is simply to come off your gas pedal. This requires the ability to look ahead and demands greater anticipation, but this will lower your fuel bills and is better for the environment.

Liable for litter

As a driver you can now be fined £150 for littering even if it’s the passenger who is guilty of dropping rubbish from your car. Updated laws mean that councils no longer have to prove who committed the offence, leaving vehicle owners automatically responsible no matter who throws litter from their car. It’s hoped a crackdown on littering drivers will help tackle the endless coffee cups, fast food wrapping, plastic bottles and cigarette ends which cover roadsides and motorway verges, costing us more than £700 million each year to clean up.

Painted mini-roundabouts

When it’s just you at the wheel and an empty road ahead, you may be tempted to drive straight over a painted mini-roundabout thinking that making a deliberate circle is pointless. However, it’s not acceptable practice under the Highway Code, and remains one of the most widespread misdemeanours on local roads. The only exception is if you are driving a large vehicle or towing a trailer that can’t make such a small turn. Best advice: drive around the painted circle as it’s the law and you could be subject to a Fixed Penalty Notice if caught, and remember, there is usually less space to manoeuvre and less time to signal on a mini-roundabout.

Too close to overtake

Before you drive off, try holding your hand about two inches in front of your eyes and consider what you can see directly in front of you. Keeping your hand in front and in line with your eyes, gradually move it away and notice how your view of the world in front is changing. If you apply the same principle to large vehicles you will find that by keeping well back you will have a wider field of view ahead. This is one reason why you are advised to leave a ‘two chevron’ gap on specially marked sections of motorways. Quite simply, if you follow a large vehicle too closely you will miss opportunities to overtake because you can’t see far enough ahead. By keeping well back you’ll be in a much safer position to overtake when an opportunity arises.

On smart motorways

The next time you’re on a smart motorway and the gantry is blank, don’t think that the cameras are turned off. Even when display screens are inactive and completely black, the integrated speed cameras are still active and can capture the number plates of speeding drivers. Likewise, speed limits on smart motorways are not advisory despite drivers mistakenly thinking this to be the case. The speed displayed in a red circle on the electronic boards is mandatory and you must to stick to it. If the speed limit is accompanied by orange flashing lights, then the limit is advisory.

Motorway myth

Although there are more than 2,000 miles of motorway across Britain, they remain a bit of a mystery to some drivers due to widely-held but wrong beliefs. Perhaps the most common of these motorway myths is the ‘fast lane’ and ‘slow lane’. These are commonly used phrases, but don’t actually exist. The left-hand lane should be used for normal driving when the road ahead is clear. The other lanes should only be used for overtaking slower moving or speed-restricted vehicles and you should return to the left-hand lane as soon as you are safely past, there is no fast or slow lane.

Do a good turn

Failing to correctly and safely indicate when turning near pedestrians could lead to a fine, nine points on your licence and even disqualification. According to the Highway Code, you must always: ‘Warn and inform other road users, including pedestrians, of your intended actions.’ When turning into a side street, if a pedestrian has already started to cross the road you should allow them to cross safely as they have the right of way. Again, you should also be aware of pedestrians who are looking to cross the street, and clearly indicate to let them know of your decision to turn. While failing to indicate is not an offence in itself, should it lead to an incident with a pedestrian or colliding with another road user, it could be deemed careless or dangerous driving. Best advice: always signal your intentions to other road users clearly, including pedestrians. Failing to do so may mean you fall below the threshold of being a careful, competent driver and you could receive a ‘driving without due care and attention’ charge.