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How’s my driving?

Feb 08, 2012
Driving is by far the most dangerous activity most of us experience in our everyday lives and although casualty rates are falling in the UK, around 2,000 people are killed every year on our roads - over 20,000 are seriously injured. Here, David Jordan, Deputy Editor of The Mover, offers ten tips for staying alive.

People who drive for business are particularly at risk, so improving driving skills can have real benefits in improving driver safety and avoiding the nightmare of an accident.

How's my driving?

Many sales people, for example, are expected to drive long distances on unfamiliar roads, often under work pressure, frequently with limited experience and with no additional training. So, if you want to stay alive long enough to make Sales Manager, here’s what to do.

Get your head right

Safe driving on the road has a lot to do with your mental attitude, there’s no place for aggression or the competitive spirit - that’s for the race track. Expect others to make mistakes and learn to anticipate them rather than reacting aggressively.  If someone acts aggressively towards you, try to ignore it, the cost of getting even can be very high.  Use the horn to warn others who may not have seen you: not to vent your anger after something has gone wrong.  Top drivers seldom complain about others, they’ve already anticipated their actions and prevented a dangerous situation developing.

Following distances

Keep plenty of fresh air between you and the car in front - at least one metre for every mile per hour.  Remember the two-second rule: as the car in front passes a stationary object say, ‘only a fool breaks the two second rule’, and make sure you don’t pass the same point before you’ve said it. In wet weather you should double the distance. If someone is following too closely, create a bigger gap to give you more time to stop and avoid being hit from behind in an emergency.

Roundabouts

Accidents often occur at roundabouts, especially shunts after waiting at the give way line.  The trick here is to make sure your last look is forward and not to the right, that way you’ll be sure the driver in front really has moved off and not changed his mind at the last minute.  If you are the leading vehicle, don’t dither around – when it’s safe, go!

Observations

Take a good look around before moving off and consider giving a signal if appropriate.  Look as far ahead as possible then switch to the road directly in front of you and check the rear-view mirrors; repeat the routine every few seconds. Remember, the faster you go the further ahead you need to see.  You must drive so you can stop within your seeing distance.  When overtaking, check your door mirror then take a glance over your shoulder before pulling out to check there’s no one in your blind spot.

Signalling

Give clear signals before turning or changing lanes and allow time for other drivers to react to them. Many drivers give signals after starting the manoeuvre, especially on motorways - give three flashes before changing position.  Remember to check behind you before signalling, not afterwards.  When leaving a motorway signal early at the 300 metre sign before the off slip.

Bad weather

Check the weather forecast for all the areas you’ll be travelling through and consider whether it’s wise to make the journey by road at all.  Some modern cars, especially those with rear wheel drive, are particularly difficult to drive in icy conditions. Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter, carry a spade or shovel to clear snow in an emergency and make sure you have warm clothing in the car in case you’re stranded and have to walk.  Keep your mobile phone fully charged so you can call for help if necessary.

Keeping awake

Falling asleep at the wheel is a common cause of accidents, especially at night and on long featureless roads such as motorways. If you feel yourself dropping off, stop at the earliest opportunity and take a short knap for about fifteen minutes. If possible take a high-energy drink such as Red Bull or sweet tea or coffee and take a brisk walk for about five minutes before continuing your journey.

Good manners

It’s important to be considerate and courteous to other people on the road, especially in urban areas during peak times when everyone is under stress.  Allow traffic to join your lane from minor roads but take care not to beckon other drivers or pedestrians forward, give them space but let them make their own decision.  If other drivers beckon you forward check carefully that it’s safe before moving off, don’t assume they’ve checked for you.  However, always acknowledge courtesies from other drivers.

Planning your journey

Be realistic, don’t attempt to drive too far in one go. Take a break every two hours to reduce fatigue and boredom and avoid driving at night if you can.  If you have an early morning appointment a long way from home, consider travelling the day before, you’ll be in better shape when you arrive and won’t be exhausted when you get home. Be particularly careful on very familiar roads and try to avoid known accident black spots, most accidents happen within three miles of the driver’s home.

Avoid distractions

It’s amazing what people do and try to drive at the same time. Texting, reading, shaving, eating, drinking coffee - not to mention map reading, setting the satnav or fishing for another CD. Of course, everyone knows it’s a bad idea to do any of these on the move, but most will have been guilty of some or all of them at one time or another. Just consider though, at 60mph your car will travel around 30 metres in one second, so if something happens ahead while you’re looking for your latest Beyonce CD, it could be curtains.

Why not take an advanced driving course?

We all like to think we’re great drivers, but the sad fact is most of us are not.  Taking a driving assessment with the Institute of Advanced Motorists or RoSPA will give you a true assessment of your driving and highlight any areas you need to improve.  If you wish, you could go the whole hog and take an advanced driving course in preparation for an advanced test.  Apart from making you a better, safer driver you could also benefit from reduced insurance.

To find out about advanced driving assessments and courses visit:

www.roadar.org        (RoSPA)

www.iam.org.uk        (Institute of Advanced Motorists)

M5 CRASH

The crash on the M5 in Somerset that killed seven people and injured 51 on5 November, 2011 developed over a period of 17 minutes.  34 vehicles were involved, meaning the last was around 20 miles away when the first collision occurred.

Source: Police road safety seminar NEC Birmingham, 25 November.

David Jordan

Before becoming Deputy Editor of The Mover David Jordan was a motorcycle test rider for Triumph Motor Cycles and a professional riding instructor with over 1.5 million miles experience.  During his time as a professional rider he never had an accident, despite riding all-year round throughout Europe, through all kinds of weather.  David is also a qualified advanced motorist with RoSPA.

 

 

 

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