Tag Archives | speed
More haste, less speed
As you gain driving experience, you’ll discover that one thing other motorists can’t stand is loitering. A dawdling, indecisive driver who brakes for every kink and panics at every roundabout is guaranteed to annoy. In short, don’t unnecessarily hang around if the road is clear, keep rolling. This is not to encourage breaking the speed limit, rather to keep a moderate sense of haste when necessary. Let’s not forget, learners can fail their practical test for ‘undue hesitation’. If another driver is being over cautious be wary. They are either lost or under stress and either way not likely to be fully concentrating. There’s also a good chance that the driver in front of you may be driving to their own abilities simply to keep their independence. It may be frustrating, but the best advice is to give them some space in case they react unpredictably, and only pass them if it’s safe to do so.
Focus after dark
When travelling at night, new drivers in particular should keep an eye on their speed. As visibility deteriorates, you’ll need to reduce your speed to give yourself extra time to respond. As a learner, you’ll probably tend to stare at oncoming headlights and feel dazzled. With practice, you will learn to turn your gaze away from oncoming high beams and instead look to the left-hand side of the road and follow the white line marking the edge (if there is one) to keep track of your position. If the glare is so bad that you can’t see anything, slow down but don’t stop completely as this could cause a car travelling behind to run into the back of you.
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.
Cars are now so powerful and comfortable they give you little sensation of speed, so it’s easy to exceed the limit without realising it. This is particularly true when coming on to a lower speed road after driving on a motorway or dual carriageway. It can feel like a snail’s pace when you reduce to 40mph or 30mph. In reality these are still substantial speeds and the only way to check you have reduced sufficiently is to check the speedometer regularly – never rely on ‘feeling’ your speed. You may be able to improve your judgement by regularly comparing how fast you think you are driving with what the speedometer says.
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.
Your speed triggers
We all have our ‘speed triggers’ that make us more likely to speed up and perhaps exceed the limit unintentionally. This could be feeling pressurised into keeping up with other drivers, or feeling stressed by a driver too close behind. Being tempted to overtake a vehicle in front may also mean exceeding the limit to complete the manoeuvre. Distractions, such as listening to loud music, can also pick up your speed or it could be something as simple as going down hill.
Learning to recognise your own ‘speed triggers’ will make it easier to avoid being ‘pushed’ into speeding. It will also make driving less stressful. Many cars now have speed management devices that allow you to set certain speeds and receive a warning when they are being exceeded. If your car has a pre-set speed function, set this to flag up if you creep over certain speeds without realising.
Reading the road ahead
A good, safe drive is about a mixture of techniques, and high on the list is using your car’s brakes in a smooth and progressive way. To do so you need to develop observation and anticipation, so that you begin your braking at an early stage and always leave a decent margin for braking more heavily if the need arises.
Many drivers tend to brake too late and too hard. Arguably less dangerous, but equally annoying, is the habit of ‘comfort braking’ – when a driver touches the brakes to feel better, even if they have no intention of slowing the car to any measurable degree. They do so in the belief that they are being careful drivers.
It is better by far to learn to read the road ahead. Not only do you get early warning of developing hazards, you can respond by adjusting your speed. Have you ever seen a cascade of brake lights ahead of you? A good driver will judge the speed and distances involved and, having left a decent gap, be able to follow in safety by letting the speed ‘fall away’ and avoid abrupt braking.
Know your speed
Modern cars are so powerful and comfortable they give drivers little sensation of their speed, so you could be exceeding the limit without realising it. This is particularly true when coming on to a lower speed road after driving on a motorway. It can feel like you are moving at a snail’s pace when you reduce your speed to 40mph or 30mph.
In reality, 30-40mph is still a substantial speed and it is misleading to rely on a ‘feeling’ of speed. The only way to be sure of your speed, and to check you have reduced to an appropriate speed, is to check your speedometer regularly. Try and improve your judgement by regularly comparing how fast you think you are driving with what the speedometer says.
Many cars now have speed management devices that allow the driver to set certain speeds and receive a warning when they are being exceeded. If your car has a pre-set speed function, you should set it.
Driving too slowly?
Although there’s no minimum speed limit on the majority of UK roads, you can still be fined for driving too slowly if you’re a hazard to other road users. For instance, on motorways or dual carriageways, excessively slow speed effectively creates a hazardous obstacle that other motorists must avoid. Drivers may not correctly assess a much slower vehicle’s speed in time, resulting in abrupt braking or evasive overtaking.
Hogging the centre lane while driving rather slowly is another form of inconsiderate and infuriating driving as it can force other drivers to illegally undertake rather than overtake. It’s also dangerous to drive too slowly on single carriageway roads where overtaking is difficult. Following motorists will likely become stressed and impatient, leading to the possibility of dangerous overtaking manoeuvres and erratic driving.
While there’s no specific penalty for driving too slowly, penalties can range from a verbal police warning to being charged with driving without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users (penalty code CD30). This more serious penalty comes with three to nine points on your licence for four years, and is likely to affect your car insurance.
Driving too slowly may originate from an incident that has knocked your confidence, or the erroneous belief that it’s safer or to save on fuel. Quite simply, if weather, road and traffic conditions allow, drive at whatever the speed limit is on that particular road.
Third gear advice
If you struggle to keep your car within 30mph when driving in a 30mph zone try driving in third gear. If you can comfortably travel at 30mph in third gear without feeling the engine is laboured, then adopt ‘no higher than third in 30mph’ as a principle.