- There are almost 32 million cars on UK roads, and their number is growing
- Follow our experts' 12-point plan to becoming a more confident driver
- Discover how to control your car in challenging or unfamiliar situations
1. Drive consciously, not reactively
Most drivers react to situations rather than anticipating them.
"Drive more consciously and you’ll be better prepared," says Chris Gilbert of Driving 4 Tomorrow, who as a former Metropolitan Police driving instructor taught Princes William and Harry to drive.
2. Know your car
Is your car front- or rear-wheel drive? Chris says that some people don't know the answer to this basic question.
"The fact is, the rear-wheel-drive car is likely to have less grip on slippery surfaces," he says.
3. Keep your eyes on main beam
Like the main beam on your car, raise your eyes from the road immediately ahead of you so that you look much farther down the road. Many drivers allow their eyes to settle on what Chris calls a "natural focal point" a few meters ahead, and don't see enough.
4. 'Talk' your drive
To ensure they're taking notice of everything, Chris advises motorists to commentate on what they're seeing as they drive.
"It teaches you to consciously interpret your surroundings," he says.
5. Mind the gap
As on all roads, you should keep at least a two-second gap between yourself and the car in front (count it from a road sign as the car ahead passes it).
However, check if someone is approaching from behind who intends to occupy the space in front, especially on a motorway or dual carriageway, and be prepared to back off if they do.
6. Study driver behaviour
Reading other drivers' intentions from the way they check their mirrors, turn their head or look to be considering an opportunity is key to being on top of events and maintaining your confidence.
7. Be skid-wise
If you find yourself in a skid, relax the pressure on the accelerator and brake pedal, depress the clutch and then, in the case of a rear-wheel skid, turn the wheels in the direction of the skid or, in a front-wheel skid, momentarily straighten the steering wheel to allow the front wheels to regain grip before steering gently back on course.
8. Beware old roads
Rally driver Phil Price, of the Phil Price Rally School, says that on worn roads with little surface texture, rain water may not drain off.
"The road looks black and glassy if it is still wet," he says. "When you see that, you should reduce your speed."
Likewise, after rain and when the sun comes out, shaded areas can still be wet.
9. Never stop driving
"You only stop driving when you turn the engine off," says Phil.
What he means is that if something goes wrong, you should keep steering and working to regain control of the car, rather than freeze like a rabbit in the headlights.
10. Take camber-care
Most roads slope away from the centre line to aid drainage, but in corners they tend to rise to support the car as it turns in, called a 'crossfall camber'. However, sometimes the road falls away, called an 'adverse camber'.
Depending on the severity of the corner, an adverse camber presents no problem taken at medium speeds, but any faster and it can be dangerous, so check your speed and on no account panic or brake harshly.
11. Steady as she goes
Driving off-road can improve your confidence as a driver. Keep your speed down, select the right gear for the conditions, keep your feet clear of the pedals and instead of using the brake pedal, use engine braking to slow the vehicle.
"If it begins to run away, dab the accelerator to get the wheels turning up to speed to regain traction," says Richard Fawcett, of Yorkshire outdoors, an off-road training centre.
12. Towing a trailer
If you're towing a caravan, load it centrally and low down, over the axles. When manoeuvring, be aware of blindspots, drive smoothly and avoid sudden braking and directional changes.
According to Luke Bowdidge, general manager of Trailer Training UK, if the trailer begins to snake, "you should lift off the accelerator to allow the outfit to straighten itself out."
Keep your speed down, occupy the centre of the lane and hold the steering wheel firmly in sidewinds.
The route to being a more confident driver is straightforward: keep your speed down, look ahead and plan your moves. A day spent in the company of a qualified instructor on a skid pan, bouncing across a field or towing a caravan will be time well spent. Finally, for further peace of mind, find out exactly what is covered by your car insurance so that if something does go wrong you know you’re protected.