Articles

A few top tips on how to be a safe driver

5 minutes

Driving and owning a car can be overwhelming at times, so we’re here to give you some top tips on how best to look after yourself and your car 

  • Lockdown has taught us a lot about caring for our cars
  • Follow our experts' plan to becoming a more confident driver
  • Discover how to control your car in challenging situations

How well do you know your car? Getting to grips with the ins and outs of it could help you be a safer driver

Here’s what we’ve learned during coronavirus (COVID-19)


How to properly clean your car 

According to gov.uk, this is the best way to clean an area if you’re concerned that it has been contaminated with coronavirus (COVID-19) or any other virus or infection. So, why not apply the same logic to our cars? 

Here’s how…

  1. Wearing disposable gloves use a disposable cloth to clean hard surfaces like your dashboard, inside of your doors and the glove compartment with warm soapy water. 
  2. Disinfect these surfaces with the cleaning products you would normally use. Pay particular attention to frequently touched areas and surfaces, such as door handles, the steering wheel and the gear stick.
  3. Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds after removing your cleaning gloves and discard of the gloves 

No more bare hands at the petrol pump 

We all know how unhygienic a petrol station pump is, and we all know we should wear gloves…but do we always remember? Maybe not, but if coronavirus (COVID-19) has taught us anything, it’s that these little changes in our approach to hygiene can literally save lives. IAMROADSMART say that while petrol pump nozzles are cleaned every day they can’t be cleaned after every use, so pump handles could pose a real risk. So, let’s make a promise that from now on, we will use gloves when putting petrol in our cars. Some petrol stations provide disposable gloves, but it’s always worth carrying a box in your car. Remember to discard of the gloves safely once you’ve used them to avoid spreading any germs your gloves might have picked up.


What to do with your car if you’re not using it

During coronavirus (COVID-19) many of us have stopped using our cars all together, in favour of walking to the shops for our daily exercise. However, neglecting your car for a prolonged period of time can often cause a flat battery. We’ve pulled together a handy guide on how to stop your battery going flat when you’re not using it.

Another route some of us chose to take while not using our cars is to declare a SORN. This means officially taking your car off the road and not using it at all. This is a tricky one though, because although your car is not being used, it’s still possible that your car could be damaged or stolen, so you should think twice before cancelling your car insurance when declaring a SORN. 


Using our cars in the most efficient way

We've all travelled less during coronavirus (COVID-19) and many of us have realised just how many unnecessary trips we were taking in our cars before. So, we reckon tying errands into one round trip, offering to do the food shop for our elderly or vulnerable relatives, and opting to share lifts with friends and neighbours is something we should take forward into life after lockdown. It means less time in the car, less money spent on petrol, fewer cars on the road… and a little bit more of that community spirit we’ve found during the uncertainty of 2020.

Looking into the future at life after lockdown...

Our experts’ 12 point plan on how to be a safer driver should be a good start:

 

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, so with an instructor, you may want to give it a go. 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. 

How to be a more confident driver 

It’s pretty straightforward once you know; 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. 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. Completely new to driving and looking for more tips? Here's what you should consider when you're just starting out.

 

This article contains links to other sites, and we're not responsible for the contents of any of these websites.


All content is approved by our in-house advisory board of experts.