By: Lisa Harper
If you have started the New Year with plans to be a better you, be it eating healthier or hitting the gym more regularly there may be one resolution that you’re missing out on, challenging yourself to be a better driver. Don’t worry though, as we have some top tips to help you improve your driving skills so that you can be a safer and more efficient driver.
The first step to improving your driving is to understand what makes a good driver. There is no hard and fast rule about who or what type of person makes a good driver. However, as a general rule good drivers will all generally;
- Stay alert and maintain focus so that they are able to keep an eye on the surrounding environment and anticipate what other road users may do. This increases the chances of acting accordingly and means drivers can drive more smoothly and brake progressively, which can help to decrease the risk of having a car accident.
- Be aware of the rules of the road. This includes understanding road signs, road markings and having an awareness of speed limits even if there are no signs. For example, in areas with street lights, the speed limit is generally 30mph unless a sign says otherwise.
- Not be overly confident. This is important as reports suggest that the majority of accidents occur on roads close to the driver’s home. This is thought to be because drivers are more comfortable on roads they are used to. This can lead to complacency and increased risk-taking.
In addition, good drivers will;
- Not drive when overly tired
- Take regular brakes when driving long distances
So now you know what makes a good driver we take a look at how you can be a better driver by following a few tips.
Stick to the speed limit – It is important that you stick to the speed limit as ultimately they have been put in place for a reason – to keep motorists safer. Remember breaking the speed limit is against the law which can result in you getting a fine and points on your licence. It can also have a knock-on effect on motoring costs as it may result in an increase in your car insurance premium as you are viewed by the insurer as being a greater risk.
In addition, the faster you travel the quicker you need to respond to changes and the more at risk you are of losing control of the vehicle. Data from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) indicates that inappropriate speed was the cause of around 24% collisions resulting in death in 2018.
On top of this the quicker you travel, the more fuel you will use. A study from the Department for Transport indicates that you use up to 9% more fuel driving at 70mph than you would at 60mph. So a great way to help reduce your fuel costs and drive more efficiently is to ease off the accelerator.
Adjust to different conditions – While it is important to make sure you don’t travel over the speed limit it is also important you adjust your speed and driving to different conditions. For example, travelling at 60mph in normal weather conditions may be perfectly safe, however, in a heavy downpour you may have to reduce this speed substantially.
It is also important to consider that you may have to increase the stopping distance between you and the vehicle in front in certain weather conditions. At 30mph a safe stopping distance is usually given as 23m however, in heavy rain this can double.
Avoid distractions – Make sure you keep distractions to a minimum when you are on the road. Many of us know it is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving unless using hands-free. However, the rules around sat-nav use are more ambiguous and if you are considered to be driving without care or attention, you may still be fined and get points on your licence.
There are a few steps you can take to help you avoid distractions. For example, if you find it hard to switch off from your phone then turn it onto silent and place it in your glovebox before you set off. That way you are not tempted to look if somebody does ring or you receive a message. Likewise, when it comes to a sat-nav, make sure you have it all set up before you set off and if you do have any problems pull over when safe to do so and sort it out.
Safe stopping distance – Remember the two-second rule when it comes to stopping distances. The car in front should be able to pass a fixed point, with you not passing the same point until two seconds after. This should leave you enough distance to react in time. However, as mentioned above it is important to adjust this timing if the weather changes so in a heavy downpour the two-second rule would at least double.
Use your lights correctly – Many cars now come with Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) which make cars much more visible in daylight. However, the problem is drivers can fall into the trap of forgetting to turn their lights on at night. This leaves the car’s rear vulnerable as it will not be sufficiently lit up. It is therefore important you understand how your lights work and when you need to switch them on. It is also important to know when it is appropriate to use fog lights and full beam so that you remain visible even in poor conditions.
Let's face it, most of the advice in this article is stuff we all already know, but sometimes it can just be good to take the time to consider why it is so important. That way we can all make sure we continue to make smart choices when behind the wheel and make the roads safer for everyone.
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