Brush up your skills: Tips for being a better driver

What’s the most important part of a car?

The engine? Or perhaps the steering wheel? Maybe the mirrors, so that you can see where you’re going?

Give yourself some credit; the most important part in a car, despite the best efforts of Google and Nissan, is actually you.

No matter how powerful or expensive your motor is, with no driver behind it it’s essentially a useless pile of metal. However, that also means that whatever happens behind the wheel is a direct result of your input.

With a recent rise in road deaths, plus the introduction of £100 on-the-spot fine for drivers, it’s never been more important to make sure that you’re confident behind the wheel.

We don’t want to patronise anybody, but sometimes even experienced drivers can use a couple of tips, as research has shown that sometimes those with the most years on their record can be the most complacent about their driving.

As a result, we’ve compiled a quick list of handy and helpful tips that could help you brush up on your driving abilities.

Get educated

Dab hand with your stopping distances? Know your DUIs from your DWIs? If not, it can be handy to take some time to go over the finer points of road use.

This can be as simple as dusting off your copy of the Highway Code, but you might also benefit from advanced driving courses. As well as being good refreshers for your knowledge and abilities, they could also lower your car insurance costs, which is never a bad thing.

Park up

Parking’s usually pretty easy once you get the hang of it, but you’d be surprised at how many drivers never use manoeuvres like the parallel park once they’ve passed their tests.

However, it’s also worth bearing in mind that if you’re particularly worried about your parking skills, several new cars like the new Ford Focus come with automatic parking technology to do the job for you.

Steer like a racing driver

Don’t get too carried away with this one, we’re telling you to steer like a racer and not necessarily drive like one! Have you ever noticed, though, that Formula One steering wheels often come in that odd bowtie shape, where there’s only room for your hands on either side of the wheel?

Well, there’s good reason for that. The 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock positions are the most stable positions that your hands can be on the wheel.

It used to be recommended that drivers place their hands at 10 and 2 o’clock, but keeping hands lower increases stability and control, and it’s also the most ergonomic position. Muscles are more relaxed and with the additional control on your vehicle, you’re instantly a better driver.

Get your rest

Everybody’s told about driving under the influence of drink or drugs, but what about driving without any sleep? Believe it or not, it can be just as dangerous to drive when tired as it is to drive while drunk.

According to research, being awake for 24 hours will reduce your concentration on the road to the equivalent level of having just downed a bottle of whiskey.

Other scenarios to avoid are driving while feeling sick, or even driving with a particularly bad cold. Anything that distracts you while at the wheel is a potential danger.

Know how to cope with the conditions

Even the most experienced of drivers can be thrown off by risky conditions. It’s not always the most obvious ones, either.

We all know that driving in icy conditions in the winter will pose a serious risk, but did you know that driving in the heat can prove just as deadly?

If you’re in any doubt, here’s our handy guides to surviving the bitter winter mornings , as well as some tips on how to drive in the warm weather.

Distractions, begone!

Using your phone behind the wheel  is pretty silly, not to mention against the law.

Phones aren’t the only distraction, though. Eating, fiddling with the radio and even chatting with passengers can seriously detract from your driving abilities. There’s not much to be said about this apart from the obvious: try not and distract yourself while at the wheel.

Some carmakers like Jaguar are also developing new technologies  to reduce at-wheel distractions, including new heads-up displays and a feature that can teach your car to ‘learn’.

The new tech can figure out what temperature you like the car to be and even what your favourite songs are so you don’t have to fiddle with the controls yourself.

Practice

At the end of the day, the only way to truly become a better driver is to just get out and practice. Enjoy yourself while you’re at it, too. Afterall, what’s the point in being a driver if you can’t have fun with it?!