Tag Archives | safe driving

Cold caution

Be aware that getting behind the wheel with a nasty cold can be as bad as drink-driving. Research by Cardiff University’s Common Cold Centre has found that concentration levels when driving with a bad cold or flu drops by more than 50 per cent. Shockingly, that’s the equivalent of downing more than four double whiskies. The symptoms of a cold, including runny nose, headache, tiredness and eye irritation all tend to reduce awareness. The researchers also found that reaction times dropped significantly and sudden braking became more frequent as drivers with bad colds were less aware of their surroundings and less capable of judging distance.

Intelligent speed

Don’t allow other drivers to pressure you into going faster. If you are driving at what you feel to be the right speed for the road conditions, be it at or below the speed limit, you are in the right. Just because a speed limit states 60mph, for example, this doesn’t mean it’s always the right speed. Snow, ice or rain can dramatically reduce your car’s braking and handling abilities, and limit visibility. The right top speed for those conditions is that at which you feel safe, in control and able to react in time to anything up ahead. That could be 40mph or 0mph.

Dogs and windows

Most dogs like travelling with their head out of the window but this isn’t a good idea. Apart from the possibility of a passing vehicle striking your dog’s head, any air-borne debris will be blasted at your dog’s head. Even the most innocent object, like a grass seed, can cause serious eye infections or damage when propelled at 70mph. You don’t want to imagine what a piece of gravel could do. If you want to provide a safe breeze for your dog, then open the window an inch or so, or buy a window guard that will prevent your dog sticking its head out.

Pick your passenger

As a new driver you’ll have to take a passenger of your own age for the first time at some point. Just remember that driving with your instructor doesn’t prepare you for chatting with a mate and driving, so your first passengers can help by being quiet and not encouraging you to drive in a way you don’t want to.

Best advice: build up, starting with one responsible friend before carrying multiple passengers.

Again, you’ll probably have kids or a pet as passengers at some point and they are a distraction, so it’s best to wait a while until you are 100% confident. If you do have to drive a child or animal somewhere, remember they’re unpredictable. Make sure they’re securely settled and if in doubt how to do this check online for regulations.

Traffic light basics

As we know green means go, red means stop and contrary to popular belief, the amber light doesn’t mean that you should speed up to squeeze through the lights. Remember, the amber light is there to tell you to slow down and stop because the red light is on its way, unless you’ve already driven over the line. Occasionally traffic lights will breakdown so be prepared when this happens. If you suspect that the traffic lights aren’t working, always proceed extremely carefully. Roads without rules are dangerous (which is why you are learning) so drive very slowly and keep your eyes peeled.

Eyes on the road

As you get in your car you’ll have every intention of driving safely, but within minutes you may have checked your makeup in the mirror or fiddled with your car radio. You might not realise it, but you’re a distracted driver. Distractions are common and appear harmless, from talking to passengers to turning around to check a toddler or pet, but driving is a complex task and requires complete attention. All it takes is a glance away for two seconds and you can get into trouble.
Distraction comes in three forms: visual, causing you to take your eyes off the road, manual causing you to take your hands off the wheel and cognitive, such as listening to the radio. Some distractions can’t be eliminated, but most can be managed. For example, turn off your mobile or silence it before you start the engine, secure your pet properly, and don’t eat or drink while you’re moving. After all, research shows that if a texting driver takes their eyes off the road for just 4.6 seconds over a six-second interval at 55mph they would travel the length of a football field without looking at the road. Draw your own conclusions

Hydration check

If all you do before getting behind the wheel is visit the cloakroom and check you have your wallet, keys and enough petrol, you’re missing a potentially life-saving step. Research shows that not drinking enough water is similar to driving while drunk in terms of how many mistakes you could make on the road. These range from lane drifting to late braking as your brain doesn’t function optimally when you’re dehydrated. Dehydration also negatively affects all sorts of important skills necessary for proper driving, like mental clarity, reaction time, focus, concentration and even your mood. While there’s not a magic amount of water each driver should drink to stay hydrated, looking at the colour of your urine is a good shortcut. The darker it is, the less hydrated you are.

Stop worrying

As long as you believe you are driving safely, it doesn’t really matter what some other motorist thinks about you. Say, for example, you’re doing the speed limit on a two-lane country road and some pushy driver is tailgating. Do you worry about it? You shouldn’t. Even if you speed up, that same driver would probably still be tailgating. After all, do you really care what somebody you don’t know thinks about your driving? The important thing is to keep driving safely. Tailgating happens most in 20 and 30mph zones – precisely the places where speed limits are most important because they are usually built-up areas, school zones or rural roads. Some unknown driver trying to pressure you into driving at an unsafe speed in an area with lots of potential hazards is not worth your time.

Shoes for the road

The Highway Code states you must not use footwear that prevents you from using the foot controls in the correct manner, so although it’s legal to wear whichever shoes you like, as the driver you are responsible for control of the vehicle. Wearing inappropriate footwear can result in unwelcome incidents. For example, driving in high heel shoes or boots can be dangerous as the heel of your foot is not resting on the floor of the car which allows you to move from the accelerator to the brake faster and easier and to apply pressure on the pedals. High heels will slow down your reaction time.

Flip flops or similar sandals are even more dangerous. Pedals can easily get caught between the sole of your foot and the flip flop leading to a reduction in control and an increase in braking time. Driving in nylon socks or tights should also be avoided as they reduce traction between your foot and the pedals making them slippery.

The best option is to wear flat shoes that will not slip off such as plimsolls. Plimsolls are securely tied, have excellent rubber grip on the underside providing good traction with the pedals, and the sole of the shoe isn’t too thick. Good driving shoes allow you to feel the pedals through the sole providing you with an indication of how much pressure you are exerting. Avoid shoes with a very hard or thick sole (Ugg boots, Timberlands, Dr Martens) as these reduce the feeling you have with the pedals, and ditch platform shoes or wide soles as you can easily press the brake and clutch at the same time without realising.

Parcel force

There is a lot to be said for packing your car with care – even if it means delaying your journey. One of the main problem areas is the so-called parcel shelf at the back. Drivers who actually use the shelf for parcels may not realise they are storing up potential trouble. Firstly, you are restricting your rear view by obstructing the rear windscreen. On a motorway, where use of all your mirrors is so important, you’ll be reducing your all-round visibility. Secondly, should you have to brake suddenly, anything unsecured on the parcel shelf will fly forward.

You do not want to be struck by a gift, however carefully wrapped. The worst culprits for this are not seasonal – it is the drivers who store a ‘handy’ umbrella on the back parcel shelf in case it rains. If you stop abruptly, that loose umbrella could cause an injury. Drivers of HGVs and vans have to take particular care when they are securing the load, and the principle applies to car drivers too. Even a box of tissues acquires the approximate weight of a house brick at a mere 30 mph.