Last updated April 22, 2021
In 2020 there were around 38.8 million licenced cars in the UK. This means there are roughly this many drivers behind the wheel, each with an individual responsibility to drive carefully to protect themselves and others. Everyone has to pass their driving tests in order to get on the road, but over time bad habits can form and knowledge can fade. Therefore, it is up to every driver to ensure that they are always up to speed by updating their skills and being considerate on the road.
It’s completely natural for some skills to slip over time. So, if you want to improve your knowledge to make sure you can keep yourself and others as safe as possible on the road, there are plenty of tips and tricks you can adhere to in order to maximise your driving potential. We’ve composed this guide to help you become the safest driver you can be.
Speed limits are a maximum, not a target, so make sure you stick to them when you are driving. Speeding is wrong for a number of reasons; it’s also against the law and can put you at risk of points on your licence. Aside from this, speeding and accelerating quickly may eat up the fuel in your tank, so it can cost you in more ways than one.
It’s important to adjust your driving based on your environment – be wary especially around school zones or parks. It might be safe to drive at the maximum speed on the motorway when it’s a clear and dry day, but you need to be able to adjust your speed when conditions dictate. If it’s wet or foggy, it’s best to slow down. Speed limits are there to protect you as well as other drivers and pedestrians.
You should try to be as smooth as possible in all your driving actions. This means not stamping on the brakes or accelerating too quickly. This will also help you to increase your fuel economy so that you can maximise your mileage on a tank, as well as helping to keep your car in good condition.
If you try to focus on driving more smoothly, it will allow you to perfect the art of progressive braking – begin slight, increase with pressure, and finish lightly. This will not only help your driving but will also allow other motorists on the road to react to your actions. This will put less pressure on your brakes and tyres too.
Keep on top of car maintenance by doing routine checks such as checking and correcting tyre pressure and tyre depth, and monitoring oil levels. There are some quick checks you can perform that will take hardly any time away from your day and will help to keep your car in good shape. Always keep the car clean and make sure your registration plates are visible.
Tailgating is the dangerous practice of following too closely to the car in front of you whilst on the road. No one likes a tailgater – it’s incredibly unsafe and it can be antagonising. If you’re not keeping your distance, you don’t allow yourself for any reaction time in the event of an emergency stop, which is putting both yourself and the cars around you at risk.
It’s also important to keep your eyes on the road and to look beyond the car in front of you. This means minimising any distractions – put your phone somewhere you can’t see it, set your sat-nav and radio to how you want them before you set off, and make sure any children in the car have something to keep them occupied. You can’t prevent all distractions, but you should try to limit them where possible.
It can be tempting to switch lanes frequently to try to beat traffic, but this can be both a dangerous and a counterintuitive practice. Switching lanes can cause the traffic to slow down, so you should only change lanes when you absolutely have to.
When driving on motorways, stay in the inside lane unless you’re overtaking and don’t hog the middle or outside lanes. Always make sure to look in the rear view and wing mirrors before indicating and moving across lanes, as well as staying in the lane as you turn corners.
Familiarise yourself with road signs and what different pedestrian crossings mean. Know the road markings in your local area to make sure that you know who has right of way. Keep up to date with updates to the Highway Code, to make sure you’re never working with outdated information.
As a general rule, it’s important to remember that your car is a heavy piece of machinery, therefore if it is misused it has the power to cause serious damage to you and those around you. Treat both the road and driving in general with respect. Our cars might be safer than ever before, but with more drivers and distractions there are also risks that weren’t there in the past. Treat driving with the respect it deserves and try not to take the responsibility lightly!
Using your indicators to indicate your next movements, whether that’s changing lane, taking a turn, or pulling up on the side of the road. It should never be unclear to other drivers what your next move is going to be.
It’s also important to know how to use your lights appropriately. Some drivers may be seemingly unaware that their daytime running lights aren’t adequate for use after it gets dark. Be sure to use the right lights for the conditions, especially in fog. This rule goes for all other car controls too, including knowing how to use windscreen wipers and the heating system, because this will enable you to stay 100% focused on driving.
Driving in the city demands slower speeds – generally, you’ll be driving at 30mph or less, and some cities are reducing this further to 20mph. Be careful to note the speed limit of the area you drive in and always remember to be aware of your surroundings. You should always be on the lookout for any pedestrians or speed bumps too.
There are many traits a good driver should display. Drivers must be tolerant of other road users, whether this be other vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians. They should be calm and confident in their abilities, stick to any speed limits and obey traffic laws in place. They should know the Highway Code, understand road signs and should never drive under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or whilst they are fatigued. Additionally, it’s important to remember that no matter how good you may think you are, there is always room for improvement.
As with anything, confidence often takes time and practice makes perfect. Start off with small journeys and build up on roads that increase in speed limits or traffic density until you are confident driving in all conditions.
When you set off on a journey, know the route that you will take. You can use a GPS system or look up the route in advance so that you can avoid busier or narrow roads, for example. If you’re nervous, you may want to force yourself to drive new routes early in the morning when the roads are less busy.
Display P plates if you would like – they show other drivers that you have just passed your test and need extra time and space on the road.