Tag Archives | driving hints

Winter driving

During the winter months dark mornings are likely to make you feel more tired. Make allowances for your own abilities when driving in darkness; your eyes take time to get used to the dark. And be aware that other motorists might not be as careful as you, and cyclists or pedestrians might not be wearing reflective or bright clothing as they should do. The best advice: take on the responsibility of looking out for others, and your journey should make you feel good – even if it’s chilly outside.

Cyclists at lights

To get a better understanding of the risks cyclists face, perhaps you should consider a cycle ride yourself? One important point to remember is never drive into the ‘advanced stop area’ for cyclists at traffic lights – it is against the Highway Code and specially designed to allow cycles to be positioned ahead of other traffic. You must stop at the first white line reached if the lights are amber or red. You should also avoid blocking the way or encroaching on the marked area at other times, for example, if the junction ahead is blocked. If your vehicle has gone over the first white line as the signal goes red, you must stop at the second white line even if your vehicle is in the marked area. When the green light shows always allow cyclists time and space to move off safely.

Parking at night

Parking your car at night could become an issue if you don’t comply with certain rules. On a 30mph road cars are permitted to park without leaving lights or parking lights on, but never park against the traffic flow unless you’re in a parking bay. Your vehicle should be at least 10 metres (32 feet) away from any junction and must be closely parked to the kerb. If you park on any road or lay-by with a greater than 30mph speed limit, you must display parking lights and not park against traffic flow. Parking at night on the right-hand side of the road against the traffic flow is only permitted on a one-way- street.

Six point check

Before any manoeuvre always perform a 360 degree observation or six point check. For example, imagine you are parked by the side of the road. Before you drive off you should be aware of everything around you. If you are parked on the left side of the road, you should look over your left shoulder first, then your left door mirror, then look ahead. Then you should check your interior mirror, right door mirror and then finally before releasing the handbrake you should look over your right shoulder. The right shoulder is the most important check and on your practical test this is the critical observation the examiner will be looking out for.
If you are reversing, then you would normally start with looking over your right shoulder and finish looking over your left shoulder as this is the direction you want to look as you move backwards.

Always an eagle eye

The habit of scanning repeatedly and regularly is the sign of a good driver. This means using your eyes in a scanning motion that sweeps the whole environment – the far distance, the middle distance, the foreground, the sides and rear of your car -– to build up a complete picture of what is happening around you. Scanning should be a continuous process, so when a new view opens out in front of you, you quickly scan the new scene and know where the areas of risk are.

It’s worth noting that what we see depends to a large extent on what we expect to see. You may have pulled out and missed seeing a bicycle or motorbike coming from the direction in which you have just looked. Mistakes of this kind are common because you’re generally looking for cars or lorries, not other road users. We find it easier to detect objects that we expect to see, and react more quickly to them, often failing to see objects that we don’t expect. For this reason it’s important to give as much attention to observation and anticipation on routes you use every day as on journeys you’re making for the first time.

Perfect your position

The next time you’re behind the wheel, think again about your positioning on the road. Can you maximise your forward view by putting your vehicle in a slightly different position on the carriageway? This should not be an abrupt repositioning, but a smooth change in your line to enable you to see ahead that little bit better.

Better with a torch

An unexpected stop on a cold, dark winter’s night is infinitely worse without a torch. Things like your car’s bonnet catch and filler caps suddenly become incredibly difficult to find in the dark, no matter how well you know your car. Worse still, if your battery dies, you’ll be sat in a dark car on a dark night: not an easy-to-find place to be. Be safe and keep a torch in your glovebox, just in case.

Follow the line

The white lines along the centre of roads provide you with important information. On a single carriageway road, a ‘broken’ centre line indicates the opposing traffic lanes, simply showing you where the middle is. If the white line lengthens, it becomes a ‘hazard’ line, indicating you are approaching a bend, junction or something else you need to be wary of. If there’s no centre line, it’s usually because the road narrows to a point where two vehicles may have difficulty passing.

Don’t be distracted

When you’re driving, any additional activity will put added pressure on you. As a result you may become less observant and less likely to anticipate hazards as you pay attention to a second activity. The main culprits are: texting, using a mobile, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading including maps, using a navigation system, adjusting a radio, CD or MP3 player. Texting is particularly disturbing because messaging requires visual, manual and cognitive attention. Sending or receiving a text takes your eyes from the road for an average of five seconds. At 50 mph that’s driving length of a football pitch. Remember, the journey is why you are in the car.

When to indicate

If you are planning to leave a motorway or dual carriageway look out for the display markers in the form of three dashes (300 yards) two dashes (200 yards and one dash (100 yards) from the exit junction. Remember, you must indicate at the 300-yard marker.

Alternatively, if you are planning to merge into a motorway or dual carriageway, you should indicate to the right approximately half way down the slip road as you build up speed and once merged with traffic on the carriageway, cancel your signal.