Whether you’ve just passed your test or have years of motoring under your belt, there’s no such thing as a perfect driver. But check out these 11 small things you can do to make your driving that little bit better.
1: Look in the direction you want to go
It sounds daft, but instinctively we drive in the direction we’re looking. Get distracted by a nice car in the outside lane of the motorway? You’ll start drifting towards it. Lose control in icy conditions and look towards that ancient oak tree? Chances are, you’ll hit it.
2: Use lower gears
Modern cars will often tell you to change up a gear very early, in a bid to improve fuel economy. There is sense in this, but sometimes it’s better to use lower gears. When going downhill, for example, lower gears will reduce your speed without the need for brakes. And in urban areas, using third gear will make you less likely to accidentally stray over 30mph. Sure, it won’t help fuel economy, but it could save your licence.
3: Do everything on the motorway really slowly
When you’re driving at higher speeds, it’s natural to assume you do everything more quickly. But slowing everything down will make for a smoother drive. Indicate for a few seconds before changing lanes, to give yourself chance to double-check what’s going on around you. Be steady with the brakes and steering to give your passengers a more comfortable ride.
4: Look out for signals
There are a number of things that might hint about what’s coming up ahead. People standing at a bus stop on the right-hand side of the road? There’s a bus coming the other way. Bins left out? Expect a bin lorry around the next corner. Fresh horse poo? You get the idea.
5: Think about your road position
How much do you think about where your car is in the road when driving? Consider how you could get a better view – move to the left when approaching a right-hand bend for a better view, and to the right for a left-hand bend. This is especially useful if you’re wanting to overtake – but be careful, don’t put yourself in a dangerous position for oncoming traffic.
6: Stop in the distance you can see
This might sound a little over-zealous, but it’s a wise idea to drive at a pace that gives you enough room to stop in the distance you can see. It doesn’t need to be pretty – emergency braking is part of the driving test for a reason, but if you come around the corner to be greeted with a broken down vehicle or a tree in the road you must be able to stop. If you’re driving down a narrow country lane, you need to be able to stop in half the distance you can see. Otherwise it’s only a matter of time before you’re involved in a crash.
7: Expect the worst
If you expect the worst, occasionally it will happen. Pootling past some parked cars at 10mph because a child could run out will make you feel all fuzzy when a child does run out and you can stop. Similarly, imagine everyone else on the road is an idiot. That car you’re wanting to overtake? Yes, it is likely to turn into that side road without indicating. Wait until it’s absolutely clear.
8: Give it some gas
But, when conditions allow, don’t be afraid to give it some gas (within the speed limits, of course). Good drivers can recognise when it’s safe to do so, and making progress will get you thinking more about your surroundings. Driving along a quiet, clear A-road at 40mph might be more dangerous than driving faster as your mind starts to wander.
9: Look as far ahead as possible
When you’re sat in a line of traffic it’s all too easy to stare at the car in front and react to their actions. But it’s much smoother to look up, see what’s happening and respond earlier. Challenge yourself – can you react to hazards before the car in front? By lifting off the accelerator earlier or being gentler on the brakes, your driving will be smoother, safer, and more efficient.
10: Don’t indicate
This sounds like a strange one. But if you indicate all the time, you can too easily become oblivious to what’s going on around you. It’s almost like you expect people to react to your indicators. Rather than indicating automatically, ask yourself who would benefit from it. If the answer is nobody, what’s the point? If the answer is someone, indicate knowing that you’re aware of them.
11: Use your horn
The horn is seen as an aggressive way of expressing yourself when someone makes a mistake. But the Highway Code says you should use the horn to alert others of your presence. If you suspect someone hasn’t seen you, don’t be afraid to give a short horn signal to make them aware that you’re there. It might be wise to follow it up with a smile and a wave of thanks to show that you’re not being aggressive.