A lot of time, effort and money is spent learning to pass your driving test. But often, the skills you went to so much effort to learn are quickly forgotten once you’ve passed.
Since I became a driving instructor, the test has become progressively harder. I’m sure this has been done to improve driving conditions and make the roads safer for everyone. However, standards of driving seem to be getting worse. I’ve observed, particularly since lockdown, people being more impatient, less observant and generally more aggressive in their driving. So, it’s important to keep the skills learned during lessons in mind and apply these to everyday driving.
Checking mirrors is a safety fundamental. If you don’t know what is going on around the car, it’s more difficult to make good decisions. How many times have you had somebody drift into your lane because they haven’t checked if anyone is there?
On any change of speed or direction, you should be aware of what’s behind and alongside you. At some point in your driving career, you’ll be about to turn left and suddenly realise there’s a cyclist shooting through on the inside. Just the sort of surprise you don’t need. If you’re coming into a junction with someone tailgating you, you may want to slow down a little sooner than normal.
To be able to make good decisions, you need to check your mirrors for information.
Blind spots and reversing
You cannot pass your test without adequate observations and yet, worryingly, so many people forget once they’ve passed.
Whenever I see a car with a post-shaped dent in the back, I always make sure to point it out to my learners. What really worries me though is that could have been a child.
Blind spots should be checked when changing lanes, merging, reversing and pulling away from a standstill.
People wouldn’t dream of driving forwards whilst looking behind them. But I often see experienced drivers reversing without looking over their shoulders at all.
There’s nothing more annoying than pulling up to a roundabout, slowing down and waiting for someone who then turns left without a signal. More importantly than that, it can be dangerous.
If you’re going all the way around a roundabout without a signal, people won’t know to stop for you. Using appropriate signals is important — it lets other road users know where you’re going, which gives you a greater chance of completing the manoeuvre safely. Sadly, there seems to be a culture of not bothering to signal and it’s getting worse.
Pedestrians are especially vulnerable to a lack of signals. I’ve lost count of the number of stories I’ve heard of people nearly getting hit by a car that suddenly turned into a road without signalling. Imagine that was a member of your family.
People are in such a rush. A light turns red, and two or three cars jump through. People pull out into gaps that aren’t sufficient. Cars overtake on roads they have no business overtaking on. These are just a few examples of driving behaviours I observe on a daily basis.
We can’t prevent other drivers from behaving badly. What we can do is minimise the risks to ourselves by:
- Being observant
- using mirrors
- checking blind spots
- giving appropriate, timely signals
- generally adhering to the rules of of the road!
This of course includes speed limits. Good drivers will always consider road, weather and traffic conditions, so remember it’s a limit not a target. Good driving does not mean fast driving.
So, what can we do? Look after your licence!
Avoid distractions in the car; turn your phone off and tell your passengers that when you are driving, they need to keep the noise to a minimum.
If you are caught holding and using a phone, sat nav or tablet whilst driving, you are liable for a £200 fine and six points on your license.
Remember: for the first two years after passing your test, six points will lose you your licence.
The Highway Code tells us we shouldn’t drive when tired or ill. However, real life doesn’t always work like that. If you are tired or feeling under the weather there is all the more reason to be on top of your observations, mirror and blind spot checks. These tend to be the first things that go when you’re tired. Be aware of any bad habits that appear when you’re not at your best.
Planning a journey
One of the ways to ensure you safely arrive at your destination is to plan your journey and leave yourself plenty of time. Even when I know where I’m going, I’ll use a sat nav to check traffic conditions along the route. It really does help to prevent rushing and taking driving shortcuts because you’re running late.
A speeding ticket will not only cost you money but three points on your licence. If you get caught twice, they will take your licence off you.
It’s important to keep your car well maintained. Aside from ensuring it’s taxed and MOT’d, ongoing checks and maintenance are very important.
If your tyres are bald, you can receive three points and up to a £2,500 fine per tyre. Remember the show me tell me questions from your test and perform regular checks on your car. Most good garages are happy to do tyre and brake checks if you are unsure. Check out our checklist that will help you perform regular checks.
One thing that could help you focus on good driving practises is to have a black box installed. There are various options available, so talk to your insurance provider. Basically, you will need to adhere to speed limits and drive smoothly without sudden breaking or acceleration to achieve good results, which will then feed back to your insurance company and reduce the cost of your insurance over time.
Remember to keep your insurance up to date, as not having valid insurance will cost you six points. Put a reminder on your phone for the month before your insurance is due for renewal so that you don’t forget.
Be the best driver you can
All those skills that your instructor helped you develop whilst preparing for your driving test are there to keep you and those around you safe. It may also be worth considering further development through taking Pass Plus courses or working towards your advanced driving.
Most important of all, be the best driver you can; be observant, stick to the rules and be considerate of other drivers and road users.
Most importantly, don’t forget to get some of Veygo’s learner driver insurance. Buying some will enable you to get the extra hours practice in and help you to become the best possible driver you can be. Happy driving!