Tag Archives | driving hints

Confused by left and right?

Spatial awareness is a skill that affects every aspect of driving. It tells you how your position relates to other things around you. On the road, it controls your ability to tell left from right, follow directions, stay in your lane, and gauge distances so you can park and overtake safely. Although you may have good, or poor, spatial awareness, a great deal of it is a learned skill, so if you struggle with visual thinking there are steps you can take to help you drive safely. For example, do you have trouble telling right from left? Do you have to pause and struggle to think when your instructor asks you to take a left turn? If so, you are not alone. Left-right discrimination is a complex neuro-psychological process and for some it is second nature and for others a challenge. One simple solution to this common problem is to look down at the back of your hands. If you stretch out your thumbs and forefingers, they’ll form an ‘L’ (for left) shape on your left hand, but only a mirror image ‘L’ on your right. Many learners find this a quick and helpful hack to remind them which side is which. Alternatively, you may find wearing a wristband or a ring on your right hand and using a mantra ‘ring, right’ a useful strategy, or thinking ‘I read text from left to right’.

Slow driver alert

Driving too slowly is rarely the direct cause of an incident but driving like a snail can be as dangerous as driving like a cheetah. Learner drivers aside, driving behind someone who is going too slowly creates frustration for other motorists and provokes dangerous behaviours. This can lead to tailgating, abrupt braking, over-ambitious overtakes, undertaking on the motorway, tailbacks and road rage. While punishments are normally associated with speeding, if you do drive too slowly you could be charged with driving without reasonable consideration for other road users or driving without due care and attention, and face a £100 fine and three points on your licence. There are a number of reasons why people drive too slowly. They may lack confidence on the road, have health-related issues like bad eyesight, poor reactions or anxiety, or think they’re conserving fuel, but getting frustrated because of somebody else’s bad driving is pointless. Better to laugh it off and see the funny side of getting riled at a complete stranger who you’ll never see again. To make sure you are driving at the right speed, use common sense, courtesy and the maximum speed limits as a guideline. If you don’t stray too far below the speed limit, you won’t put others at risk or break the law. Remember, if you do feel pressurised by cars behind you, then simply find a safe place to pull over and allow following traffic to pass. It will be less stressful and less frustrating for everyone.

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.

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.

Right of way?

There are going to be times when you come to a junction or other situations where it may be difficult to figure out who has the right of way as there may be no road signs or markings. When this happens do not assume you have priority as other drivers may assume they too have the right to go. It is best to be courteous and let them have the right of way. It may take a few extra seconds to wait, but you will still get where you are going, and you will get there safely.

Avoid being annoying

It demonstrates good etiquette and decency to let a car pull out of a junction from time-to-time, but if you get into the habit of letting car after car do it, you’ll end up with a queue of traffic behind you. The unspoken rule is to let one person out, then move on. Again, in busy car parks spaces are often limited, so when you return to your car, try to set off promptly. It’s highly frustrating when someone sits in their car for ages, sending multiple texts or generally fiddling before finally setting off, preventing others from parking when spaces are limited.

Handy de-icing tips

If you don’t have a garage in winter de-icing windows is a chore you can’t avoid. However, prevention is better than cure, so you can stop ice forming by soaking a towel in a solution of water and salt and placing it over your windscreen and front windows. Come the morning, you’ll have clear windows. Another trick for a quick getaway is to mix up a solution of three parts white vinegar to one part water. Pour it over the affected areas to instantly melt the ice. You can of course buy cans of de-icing spray from most supermarkets or automotive suppliers but these can damage paintwork if over-sprayed. If you live in a particularly cold area, think carefully when buying your next car. Lots of new vehicles come with heated windscreens, with tiny filaments that heat up and completely eliminate ice scraping.

Those mirror checks

It may be one of the first things you learn, but lack of observation and missing an essential mirror check is one of the main causes for minor faults during the practical test. While examiners are trained to look out for you checking your mirrors, sometimes being a bit over the top in your mirror checking won’t do any harm. Move your head when checking your mirrors and your examiner is less likely to give you a minor fault than if you give the mirror just a cursory glance. You could even get into the practice of saying ‘mirrors’ quietly out loud every time you check to make sure your examiner knows you are doing it. It’s all about demonstrating that you are observing the situation properly, and acting on the information received

Carry a spare bulb set

It’s not uncommon to see a car with one brake light out and if you’re the one driving, you may not realise it needs replacing. Although easily done, a faulty brake light is dangerous as it’s vital that cars behind you can tell when you’re slowing down, especially if you have to stop suddenly.
Light bulbs can go at anytime, so it’s wise to carry a spare. Also, if you are stopped by the police for having a broken light, they cannot charge you if you are able to replace the defective bulb there and then. This will save you a possible fine, points on your licence and an automatic breathalyser test. The best advice: ask someone to help you check your brake lights by standing behind your car while you apply the brakes. You should do this once a week. If you don’t feel confident fitting the new bulb yourself, your local Halfords or garage will do it for a small fee.

Harsh braking

If you find yourself braking harshly, it’s probably due to lack of observation and planning. If your eyes aren’t constantly scanning, nor is your brain, so you’ll miss potential hazards. Not observing properly means you can’t plan what you’ll do if a potential hazard develops into a situation that will affect you – and if you can’t avoid a sudden hazard quickly and safely, you’re driving too fast.

The best advice: think about the 4 Ss. Anything that has the potential to make you Stop, Slow down, Swerve or Swear should be reacted to earlier to avoid harsh braking. When you can see this is going to happen, just take your foot off the gas pedal and put your foot over the brake pedal – by doing this early you’re stopping acceleration, so the power of the engine is naturally reduced and the force needed to then slow down or stop the car is far less. You’re also saving yourself some reaction time by already having your foot over the brake. You’ll then have more time to assess the risk and avoid braking harshly.