Driving Hints and Tips

Crystal clear

As a motorist, you must ensure your driving does not have a negative impact on others, and this also applies to how your car is kept, especially your windscreen. After all, a filthy windscreen could impair your vision and consequently your decision making and reaction times. Under Regulation 30 of The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, drivers are warned they must keep all glass clear of obstruction. The law states: ‘All glass or other transparent material fitted to a motor vehicle shall be maintained in such condition that it does not obscure the vision of the driver while the vehicle is being driven on a road.’ A dirty or muddy surface could see you charged with careless driving which carries a £100 on-the-spot fine and three penalty points on your licence. Best advice, always keep your windscreen crystal clear and your screen wash topped up.

Watch that space

If you have stopped on a hill in traffic, always allow a little extra room in case the vehicle in front of you should roll back slightly. The driver may not have applied the handbrake firmly enough, or may make such a clumsy start that their vehicle rolls back a couple of feet before it moves forward, so always leave an extra few feet as a margin. The fact that learners — and some more experienced drivers — have been known to select reverse instead of first emphasises the value of leaving that extra gap when you have to wait in traffic on a hill.

Splashing out

You may think driving through puddles or roadside water is a bit of fun, but anyone who has been drenched would probably welcome a financial penalty for the driver. Under section three of the Road Traffic Act 1988, it is illegal to splash someone as it amounts to driving ‘without reasonable consideration for other persons.’ Those found guilty of deliberately splashing pedestrians face a £100 fixed penalty notice and three penalty points if caught by police. If you are deemed to be driving in a manner that ‘amounts to a clear act of incompetence, selfishness, impatience, and aggressiveness’ then the maximum punishment of a £5,000 fine could be imposed. Best advice: always watch out for pedestrians and other road users and avoid unwanted soakings.

Keep your distance

Take note of the new law introduced during 2018 to protect cyclists on the road. The rule dictates that drivers must leave a minimum distance away from a cyclist when overtaking or travelling alongside a bicycle. You could be penalised with a £100 fine and three penalty points if caught driving too close to a bicycle. The recommended distance you must now leave between your car and cyclist is 1.5 metres. Previously, the Highway Code simply stated that drivers should offer cyclists ‘plenty of room’ when overtaking. Rule 163 also advises drivers should ‘give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car.’

Overtaking on rural roads

Always think twice before overtaking on a single carriageway country road and only do so if it’s essential, this doesn’t include feeling impatient because someone is driving a few mph slower than you want to. In this situation, even if you are stuck behind an extremely slow moving vehicle, cool-headed, responsible drivers hang back and relax. This is because it’s incredibly risky to overtake on rural roads where there will rarely be enough straight, visible road ahead to be certain nothing is coming in the opposite direction.

Puncture prevention

As a driver, at some point you are likely to get a puncture. This is a hassle and could amount to a simple repair or replacing a tyre sooner than expected. To help avoid punctures be careful where you drive. Obviously avoid places where they are likely to occur such as construction sites, driving over broken glass, metal and things you can’t identify in the road. However, where you position your car on the road is also an important factor. Debris builds up in certain areas, like on the hard shoulder, close to curbs and in the centre of the road. You can protect your tyres by avoiding these areas and ensuring you position yourself correctly in the centre of your lane in the smooth, clean part of the road.

Country caution

Wherever you learn to drive, there’s no syllabus for driving in the countryside. Here you can drive for miles without seeing a road sign and there are fewer streetlights so you’ll be driving in the dark. Lanes will twist and turn from two-lane sense to a single lane in seconds and every area is different. Some of the likely hazards you’ll encounter include single track lanes where you may have to reverse considerable distances if someone comes the other way.
Blind bends overgrown with greenery, narrow bridges where give-way is based on what appears to be telepathy and faded road markings are all common. Best advice, always leave extra time to get somewhere in the country. Even today with satnav, signal can disappear and you can still get lost, so take a map and keep your eyes open for surprises.

Know your load limit

If you’re planning a trip or taking more things than usual in your car it’s worth considering how you’ll load it. Many drivers think that a heavy load is acceptable providing the view through the rear window remains unobstructed, but being unable to see out of your rear window is not illegal. Instead, make sure you know your load limit as exceeding it not only puts a strain on your car and tyres, but could invalidate your insurance. It could also attract the attention of the police along with a £300 fine and three penalty points. The maximum allowed weight for your vehicle should be detailed in the manufacturer’s manual and will include passengers and other items. The limits for a small hatchback may be lower than you think, with many limited to around 500kg. Even larger vehicles can have surprisingly modest payloads. A premium 4×4 with passengers in all seats may reach payload before any other items are loaded. Best advice, check your vehicle’s payload before going anywhere.

Pothole advice

Whether you don’t see them in time or there’s no way to drive around them, sometimes potholes can’t be avoided. They are a common hazard and how you drive is important in minimising their potential damage to your tyres, steering and suspension. As long as it’s safe to do so, one way to lessen damage is to slow down if you spot one, keeping an eye on your rear-view mirror. The slower you are driving, the less impact on your tyres and suspension if drive over it. Remember, always maintain enough space between you and the vehicle in front so you can clearly see potholes ahead.
If you do drive over one, make sure you keep a firm grip on the steering wheel to remain in control of the car. The dip in the road can cause your vehicle to change direction suddenly. Straightening your wheels will also mean you hit the road defect head on, which is better than making contact at an angle as this can cause more damage to your wheels. Braking directly over the hole is not recommended. If you haven’t managed to slow down beforehand, try to continue at the same speed over the pothole rather than braking. It’s also important not to swerve at the last minute, even though this may be your natural reaction, as it’s dangerous to veer into another lane. If you think your car has been damaged, pull over in a safe place and check. By practicing good driving habits, you stand a much better chance of reducing pothole damage.

Dust hazard

While wintery conditions are known to play havoc with your car’s bodywork, it is misleading to think that hot summer weather offers a respite. Ultra-violet light seeks to destroy your car’s protective paint, reducing the protective qualities it offers to the underlying metalwork and fades its colour. Invariably, visible dust will also settle on the surface. While you may wish to brush the dust away with a cloth, or a hand, resist the temptation. Ultimately, dust is abrasive and it will act like fine sandpaper against the paintwork, creating minor scratches that will dull the finish. A better solution is to use plenty of water to wash away the dust, followed by a wash with a car shampoo and dedicated wash mitt. The car shampoo will provide a suitable lubricant between the wash mitt or sponge and paintwork, that should reduce the risk of scratching. To help protect against further scratches, as well as UV radiation, apply a separate wax product to the paint afterwards.