Hi, it’s Kate again, your newbie driver with the top tips! Since I passed my test, my Dad has been trying to give me advice to help make me a better driver… but I tend to go blank whenever he starts talking about it. So I’ve taken all his advice and sorted it into what I call the ‘deadly sins of driving’ – the emotions that lead to bad driving, and what to do to improve your reactions and stay safer.
Distraction – don’t get complacent at the wheel
I turned up at my friend’s house the other day and realised that I couldn’t remember any of the drive. I could recall day-dreaming about something – but not physically pushing the pedals or changing gear. We know that young drivers like me are particularly at risk from getting distracted behind the wheel. I have a tendency to make every drive in to a film by blasting out whatever soundtrack suits my mood. But my Dad told me research shows loud music makes people drive aggressively. As much as it hurts, I’ve started turning the music down – if you’re looking for a new car, choose one with a voice-activated infotainment system and centralised controls to help keep your mind on the road.
Anger – keep calm to avoid collisions
We’ve all been there, right? A nice old lady who can’t remember how to get past second gear pulls out in front of you, a pointlessly large car cuts you up on the dual carriageway or some fool forgets to turn off his full-beam headlights and dazzles you. I’d rant, rave and then often have to slam on the brakes to avoid something that I hadn’t noticed. The risk of driving when angry just isn’t worth it. Do something practical to help your emotions – turn on climate control to cool down or even your seat massager if you’re in a top spec model. Actually, driving at the speed limit and knowing you’re well within the law have both been shown to reduce stress.
Confusion – stay ahead of the ticket inspector
I still haven’t figured out why parking signs are so vague and very rarely point towards what they’re talking about. So I checked what the best ways of avoiding a ticket are:
- Scope the area for signs before you park
- Watch your wheels: they must all fit well inside any marked bays
- Make sure your ticket is clearly displayed on the dashboard (if pay and display)
- Beware private parking (e.g. supermarkets, hospitals, etc.) as tickets here can be bogus, so check all rules – remember the Government has tried to crack down on excessive parking fines.
Top tip: if you’ve received a ticket and think you could challenge it, but don’t know where to get started, there are options online to help you appeal against the fine.
Loathing – Learn to love your fellow road users
I apologise in advance: I loathed cyclists, not vehicle enough to be on the road or pedestrian enough for the pavement. But I’m learning to love them for safety’s sake, and what’s really changed my mind is the stuff I’ve learned about cyclists, so here’s my favourites:
- They were there first to own the roads by 96 years.
- Bikes save you money and help keep you fit.
- They helped the feminist cause and might just be the reason why your great-great-grandparents could meet from different towns.
Also, for some practical advice on driving safely around cyclists, this info from TfL has really helped me.
Envy – The grass isn’t always greener in the other lane
I used to get really impatient when I was in a hurry and tried to get in to the fast lane even if it was packed. My Dad saw me on the verge of losing it, and would tell me to take some deep breaths and relax.
That really didn’t help, until he explained how, even if you change lanes constantly, you’re unlikely to make up any real amount of time. Plus, it’s now illegal to hog the middle lane on the motorway, so I can take solace knowing that habitual lane changers could receive a fine. Remember that to help cap lane-envy!
Fear – Avoid unexpected surprises on the road
Well, no-one told me how scary some driving is, like during the pitch dark or through walls of British weather. But taking a Pass Plus course made sure I was up to speed.
It’s an add-on to your license that teaches you how to drive in difficult conditions, such as at night or in wet or icy weather. And, it helped me save a stack on my insurance! My car – good ol’ Frankie Fiesta – was a second-hand starter model, but young drivers interested in a new Ford can save money on their insurance across the Fiesta and Ka ranges by proving they drive safely.
The further I get from passing my test, the more I realise how hard it is to keep emotions calm behind the wheel. But, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that you get from driving what you put in, and the more I pick up safety tips like these, the better I’m getting. Hope they help you too. And for more advice, or help with a new car, contact the nice folk at your local Perrys dealership, they’re very helpful!