How to become a better driver

Last updated March 03, 2022

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 individual responsibility to drive carefully to protect themselves and others.

Everyone must pass their driving tests 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.

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How to be a better driver

  • Keep to the speed limits and adjust your driving accordingly

    Speed limits are a maximum, not a target, so make sure you stick to them when you are driving. Speeding is against the law and can put you at risk of points on your licence. Aside from this, speeding will eat up the fuel in your tank, so it can cost you in more ways than one.

    Speed limits are there to protect you, as well as other drivers and pedestrians.

    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. A good driver can react to different conditions and adjust their driving accordingly.

  • Drive smoothly

    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 if you can help it. 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 slightly, 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.

    Additionally, take care when entering a bend. Lower your speed before you come to a corner and accelerate only once you’re out the other side. If you brake mid-bend, you could risk putting your car out of balance which could cause you to lose control.

  • Know your car and how to take care of it

    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.

    To take care of your car properly, you should know your vehicle inside out. If you read the manual, then you’ll know exactly what maintenance needs to be performed and when. Reading the manual and understanding how your car works will allow you to improve how you drive it too.

    Aside from maintenance, it’s important to develop a good driving routine. When you get into your car, you should check your mirrors to ensure they are adjusted appropriately. Taking a few moments of your time to learn how to adjust your mirrors properly can make a difference in staying safe.

  • Keep your distance, and your eyes on the road

    Tailgating is a 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. You don’t allow yourself for any reaction time in the event of an emergency stop, for example, putting both yourself and the cars around you at risk.

    As well as ensuring you don’t tailgate other drivers, be sure you aren’t driving too slowly either. If you are constantly being tailgated, you could well be the problem; if this is the case, assess your driving habits and brush up on your Highway Code if necessary.

    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, adjust your sat-nav and radio appropriately 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.

  • Stay in your lane

    It can be tempting to switch lanes frequently to try to beat traffic, but this can be both a dangerous and 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 be 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.

  • Know the Highway Code and keep up-to-date on new laws

    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.

    It’s also important to be aware of any changes to the law itself. The law is updated frequently, and you could find that a common practice for you is no longer legally acceptable. Legislation is often reviewed, and it’s up to you to make sure you’re aware of this.

  • Respect the road

    As a general rule, it’s important to remember that your car is a heavy piece of machinery, and 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 many more risks. Treat driving with the respect it deserves and try not to take the responsibility lightly!

    You should also take responsibility for other drivers. Whilst you can’t fix anyone else’s bad habits, you can ensure that they don’t negatively impact you. For example, being aware of a car weaving between lanes and tailgating other drivers can allow you to avoid pulling out in front of them. This could in turn prevent an accident from happening.

  • Use your indicators effectively and remember to use your lights

    Using your indicators to indicate your next movements, whether that’s changing lanes, taking a turn, or pulling up on the side of the road, is the best way of keeping other drivers on the road safe. 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. Too frequently, drivers are seemingly unaware that their daytime running lights aren’t adequate for use after it gets dark. Be sure to use the right lights at the right time, especially in fog. This rule goes for all other car controls, too. Be sure you know how to use other features, such as windscreen wipers and the heating system because this will enable you to stay 100% focused on driving.

  • Take care when driving in the city

    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 note your surroundings.

    Aside from this, driving in the city is more stop-start than consistent driving. This requires you to be completely aware of your surroundings. Watch out for any pedestrians or speed bumps, as well as for stop signs and crossings.

What makes a good driver?

There are many traits a good driver should display. Drivers must be tolerant of other road users, whether this is 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.

It's a common misconception that a driver should be able to drive without thinking – however, a good driver should be constantly assessing the world around them. They should be aware of their surroundings as well as of any warning light.

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.

How to be a more confident driver

As with anything, confidence often takes time and practice makes perfect. Start off with small journeys and build up to 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.