Tag Archives | driving tips

Fog factor

Fog and mist can take you by surprise. Make sure you know how to operate your front and rear fog lights and don’t confuse these with your ‘full-beam’ setting.

Your headlights should be dipped at all times and don’t attempt to navigate using the car in front’s tail lights. Instead, follow the ‘two-second rule’ to leave sufficient space between you and the car in front.

If visibility is very limited, wind down your windows at junctions and crossroads to listen out for approaching traffic.

Think T and T in traffic

During your practical test, if the examiner asks you to park on the left behind a specific vehicle, remember the tyres and tarmac rule, often referred to as ‘T and T’. This means you should be able to see the back tyres of the vehicle in front and around a metre of tarmac at all times, hence the saying ‘tyres on tarmac – plus a bit’, usually one small car space. If you can’t see the back tyres of the car in front, you’re too close and put yourself at a disadvantage. There are good reasons to follow this rule, especially in slow moving traffic. For instance, you reduce the risk of running into the car in front should you be hit from behind. Again, if the car in front breaks down and you keep to the T and T rule, you’ll have space to manoeuvre around it and carry on. Alternatively, if you’re on an incline and the vehicle ahead has poor clutch control, they could roll back into you. If you’ve maintained a T and T gap, you can warn them with your horn and cut the risk. Another reason for maintaining this gap is cyclists and motorcyclists who can momentarily tuck in from other traffic. Don’t begrudge them this space and make yourself a better driver in the process. By keeping to the rule you’ll see more of the road, especially if there’s a large vehicle in front. While not a precise science, T and T offers you a useful technique to gauge a safe stopping distance in traffic.

Herbal tea caution

We all know that driving with too much alcohol in our system endangers lives as can driving while dehydrated, but there are other surprisingly common things that can affect your driving ability which you may not be aware of. Most of us love a cuppa, but did you realise that some herbal teas can make you feel drowsy? Herbs such as chamomile, lavender and valerian are known to have mild sedative properties to help you relax. While these teas may be good for helping you to nod off at bedtime, they are not recommended if you’re about to get behind the wheel. Those of you who like a brew in the morning before driving off should stick to beverages with caffeine and avoid adding honey. According to the RAC, research has shown that because honey contains glucose, this hinders the production of orexin, a hormone that makes us feel awake and alert.

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.

Concentration booster

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.

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.

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.

Speed control

Extended separation distances between yourself and the car in front are crucial in poor conditions where the road is slippery and tailgating irresponsible. It’s not just grip on the road that can alter things, but visibility can be hugely affected when driving in fog or heavy rain. You see obstacles much later and this impacts on your ability to assess how to respond. Always match your speed to visibility: the less you see, the slower you need to drive. A reasonable rule to apply with good dry road conditions is a gap of one metre per mph of your speed. Remember, if you reduce your speed by just one mph, your chances of being involved in an incident falls by five per cent.

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.

Pay the old-fashioned way

Paying for food using your phone at a drive-through is an offence under the current mobile phone driving laws. With the increase in popularity of Apple Pay and Android Auto many drivers are opting to pay for their meals with these services, however, doing so can attract an on the spot fine of £200 and up to six penalty points if you touch your phone while driving on a road. This fine can be increased up to £1,000 if your case goes to court. According to the police if your engine is off, your handbrake applied and you are parked then you can use a smartphone payment app, but if your engine is on no you can’t.