Insurance & You

Friday, 21 November 2014

Top Tips for Safe Driving

It’s important to always feel safe and confident whenever you’re in your car. Even if you’ve been driving for many years, it’s worth thinking about your habits behind the wheel, and whether there are any changes you can make to help keep yourself and those around you as safe as possible.

Most modern cars are fantastically safe, robust and easy to drive, and many now even come fitted with technology to assist with parking, manoeuvring, braking and even steering. A large proportion of road traffic accidents are caused by human error and all drivers need to take responsibility for their vehicles whenever they get behind the wheel.

Here are our tips for a safe and enjoyable driving experience:

Wear a seatbelt – It’s such a simple thing and often done instinctively, but ensuring that you and any passengers have fastened your seatbelts is important before making any car journey, no matter how short it may be.

Roundabouts

Plan your route – Particularly if you are driving to somewhere unfamiliar, perhaps for the very first time, it’s a good idea to consult a physical or online map beforehand, rather than just relying on a sat nav system, which may lose signal or otherwise malfunction.

Avoid distractions – Distractions while driving are one of the main causes of accidents, whether it’s talking on the phone without hands free, which is now illegal, fiddling with the radio, attempting to program the sat nav on the move, or even talking to fellow passengers. Always concentrate on the road and don’t let anyone or anything inside or outside the car distract you.

Drive smoothly – Avoid sudden braking and heavy acceleration as much as possible, as drivers who adopt such a style are more likely to have accidents. Give yourself plenty of braking distance when approaching junctions and traffic lights, rather than sharply braking at the last minute. Smooth driving is not only safer but also reduces wear and tear on your car and typically results in improved fuel economy.

Use your indicators – Always indicate before you manoeuvre, giving other drivers and pedestrians plenty of notice as to your intentions, minimising the risk of exasperating anyone unduly or potentially causing an accident. Not all cars are fitted with self-cancelling indicators, so remember to check that your turn signal has switched off after you’ve made a manoeuvre.

Don’t drive when tired – Driving when you’re feeling fatigued or even just slightly drowsy can prove just as dangerous as driving while under the influence of alcohol, so try not to drive late in the evening or at night unless necessary. Try to incorporate breaks into long journeys you make and endeavour to have a caffeine drink such as coffee, as well as take a few minutes to rest.

Follow motorway rules – Hogging the middle lane is now illegal and in any case, it’s much safer to drive along ‘lane one’ (the inside lane) of a motorway. Unless such positioning is impossible due to a solid line of traffic in lane one, the middle lane and the outside lane (also known as ‘lane three’ or ‘the fast lane’) should only be used if you are overtaking. Watch out for variable speed limits, clearly displayed on overhead gantries. So-called ‘smart motorways’ typically allow the hard shoulder to be driven on during busy times, but a red cross over a lane means it should not be used.

Use your lights at night – This may seem like obvious advice, but it’s very easy to forget if you’re in a well-lit car park or urban area. It’s all too common to see some cars being driven without their lights switched on, which is dangerous and also frustrating to other road users. The advent of fancy-looking ‘daytime running lights’ on the front of many cars has lulled some motorists into thinking that their rear lights must surely be illuminated too, especially if their dashboards are abundantly lit. Only use your full-beam lights when necessary, such as on unlit rural roads, and remember to dip them when another vehicle approaches or is driving close in front of you.

Pay attention to traffic lights – An amber light indicates that you must stop if it’s safe to do so, meaning that if you’re already too close to the traffic lights to be able to stop safely, then you should cautiously continue on. When approaching traffic lights that are green, reduce your speed a little and remain particularly alert, as the lights may suddenly change, the same principle applies to pelican crossings with pedestrians waiting to cross.

Anticipate potential hazards – Concentrating on the road is all about seeing what’s happening around you and what’s coming up ahead. Look out for things that might create a hazard, such as a build-up of traffic on the motorway, rows of parked cars on a busy street, children playing or debris in the road.

Avoid frustrating others – It’s common to encounter road users with limited patience, seemingly intent on breaking or gluing themselves to speed limits, tailgating both in urban areas and on the motorway. To make your journey safer, the sensible thing would be to pull over when it’s safe to do so, letting impatient drivers past.

Don’t drive if you are unwell – Avoid driving anywhere if you are suffering from an illness or injury, as anything that impairs your mobility or reaction times can increase the risk of accidents, endangering not just you but also those around you.

Carry out regular vehicle checks – Always ensure your car is fit for driving by regularly checking fluid levels, lights, tyre pressures and its general condition before setting off. If you’re unsure how to check your vehicle yourself, reach out to a neighbour, relative, friend or a local garage, who will be glad to help.

Adjust your driving to reflect road conditions - Different weather conditions affect how your car handles on the road, so always adjust your speed and driving style to compensate. Wet weather doubles breaking distances, whilst ice increases them by up to ten times, so leave plenty of extra room between your car and the vehicle in front. You should also reduce your speed and leave a greater gap when driving in fog, rain, high winds and snow. Driving in icy conditions is especially dangerous and should be avoided if possible. Browse our Driving in Winter page for additional useful advice.

Be confident behind the wheel ­– Feeling confident and relaxed is one of the most important aspects of safe driving. For many of us, driving a car today is a very different experience to when we first took driving lessons, with much more traffic on the road, faster cars and different rules and habits to contend with. If you feel you lack confidence, refresher lessons are nothing to be embarrassed about in order to keep your driving knowledge and skills up to date; in fact, it’s fashionable to take such courses. 

 

For more information and advice on various driving-related topics, visit our Drive Fit page. 

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