Congrats! You’ve passed your driving test and you’re officially allowed out on the road. Being a new driver is an exciting time, but it can also be a nervous one. No matter how well you prepared for your test, there are still probably situations you’ve not encountered yet. In this article, we’ll dive into some top tips for new drivers to keep you and your car safe.
Get To Know Your Car
Whether you’re lucky enough to finally have your own car, or you’re still borrowing your parents’, being knowledgeable about your car is something that will keep you safe and ensure you’re able to look after your it.
One of the easiest things to do is make sure you know where your dials, buttons, and switches are. These are the kind of questions you should be asking yourself:
- How do I switch the dipped headlights to full beam?
- How do I put the window wipers on?
- Where is the hazard button?
All these things sound simple, but you might have gotten too comfortable with your instructor’s car.
Your car manual will tell you everything you need to know about the different dials in your car. It’s worth taking an hour out of your day to read and familiarize yourself with everything. This will save you from sticky situations.
Learn How To Drive In Bad Weather
Driving in rain, snow, ice, and wind can be a daunting challenge if you’ve not encountered them yet.
Before setting off on a gloomy day, bring an experienced driver and stick to roads that aren’t very busy. With a little bit of practice, you’ll feel much happier driving under bad weather conditions.
There are ways you can prepare for bad weather. Let’s go through them.
Make sure you’ve planned your journey and leave plenty of time to get there. If you know that areas you’re driving through might be prone to flooding, you’ll be able to allow for the time that might be needed for diversions or slower (and safer) driving.
Make sure you’ve taken time to clear your windows, mirrors, lights, and roof of snow. Driving with snow on your car could result in breaking the law. You also need to make sure you clear the inside of your windscreen. Much like the snow, not driving with full visibility could mean you’re breaking the law.
Check your wipers. If you have your auto wiper control switched on when you turn on the ignition, you could blow the fuse if your wipers are stuck to the screen.
Check your tyres too. You need adequate tread on them to make sure you can grip the road properly when it’s snowing and icy.
Lastly, check your screen wash and use screen wash that is good quality. You want one that protects down to at least -35 to prevent water freezing. If you’re not careful, your windscreen wipers could be rendered useless in extreme conditions.
Learn The Two-Second Rule & Four-Second Rule
The two-second rule is to remind you that two seconds is the minimum amount of time there should be between you and the vehicle in front.
This goes up to four seconds during wet weather, so remember to slow down and keep your distance.
Pack Your Car
Your car should always have a number of things with you in case you run into trouble.
Something as simple as a blanket will mean you’re able to keep warm if you have to stop at the side of the road. Here are some other recommendations:
- Ice scraper
- Phone charger
- First aid kit
- Warning triangle
Something that won’t take up space in your car though is the number of your breakdown provider. If you want to be extra careful, have it written down somewhere and stored inside your car.
The Motorway Can Seem Scary, But You’ll Be Okay
Lots of people (even beyond new drivers) may try to avoid the motorway because they think it’s more dangerous than other roads, or they’re just nervous.
There are post-test motorway courses available for new drivers and since 2018, driving lessons have been allowed on the motorway. This doesn’t always mean you’ll still feel fully prepared though, so here are some tips.
If you’re worried about breaking down on the motorway, below are some things that are worth checking:
- Tyre pressure/tread depth
- Engine oil
- Brake fluid
- Windscreen wipers
- Engine coolant levels
Taking this extra bit of time can calm your nerves as well as prevent any breakdowns.
Remember to adjust your speed for slip roads. People are often tempted to slow down or stop when it’s time to join the motorway. But it’s much safer to use the slip road to match the speed of the vehicles traveling in the left-hand lane.
Don’t fall into the bad habit of thinking there’s a ‘fast lane.’ You should always travel in the left lane unless you’re overtaking.
If you’re still worried about driving on the motorway, read up on motorway signals in your spare time so you feel more prepared.
Polish Your Parking
Parking can still be intimidating. Busy car parks, narrow streets, or driveways can make you second guess yourself. If you need a refresher, keep reading.
Bay parking means manoeuvring your car into a parking space. The two types are reverse and forward bay parking. As with every car manoeuvre, you need to check all around you for pedestrians, cyclists, or anyone else that could be nearby. This is even more important when you’re in a busy car park.
To forward bay park with reference points, you should always know if your car will fit in the space before you begin. This helps you avoid any nasty accidents.
Position the car on the left-hand side of the road across from the parking space making sure you have a wide turning circle. Check your surroundings and use your indicators.
You need to move forward enough (slowly!) until the right-hand line of the bay lines up just below your right wing-mirror. Then, you can steer to full right lock. Moving slowly forward into space. Straighten up your steering when the dashboard is in line with the horizon.
Reverse Bay Park
To reverse out a parking bay, make sure the car is in reverse. Then, you can check all your blind spots.
Once you’ve deemed it safe, reverse slowly but be prepared to stop if another road user approaches suddenly. When you’re almost a third of the way out, steer full lock in the opposite direction you need to turn.
Continue to reverse slowly on full steering lock until you’re sure you can drive away safely. Don’t forget to move into first gear.
You can also reverse bay park with reference points. It might seem tricky, but it can be easier as you’ll avoid reversing into traffic.
Parallel parking is also something people are often worried about. But if you practice, you’ll be a pro in no time.
Make sure, as always, the space is big enough for your car. Indicate and then pull up alongside the space. You’ll need a minimum of two feet on either end so you can get out later (and to stop others bumping your car).
Move forward slowly until the center of your passenger window is lined up with the front of the car in front of your space. If it’s not facing the same way as you then you can line up the window with its back bumper.
Check your mirrors again and your blind spot. When you’re happy you can start reversing. Line up your back tyres with the back bumper of the car in front of your space. Put your handbrake on and check your blind spot.
If it is safe to do so, turn your steering wheel one complete turn to the left. Be steady and concentrate on achieving a full turn. Reverse slowly until you can see the curb in your nearside mirror and you’re clear of the car in front of you.
Now, turn the steering wheel full lock to the right, moving the front of your car towards the curb. Straighten up your position on the road, and then you’re done!
Don’t Let Yourself Feel Pressured
If you’re one of the first to get your license in your friend group, you’ll likely be asked to play taxi driver. Not only is it annoying, but it’s also expensive if they don’t have the money to help pay for petrol.
Pressured drivers often tend to break rules which are influenced by people who don’t have a license and don’t know the roads. Nothing is worse than a backseat driver, but being told to break the speed limit or skip a red light could mean at best you’ll get a fine. Or, at worst end up in an accident.
You’ll also need to take breaks when you’re driving, not only to stretch your legs but for safety reasons. Being tired at the wheel can be dangerous. Friends might not understand that if they’ve been planning a fun-filled road trip.
We recommend driving on your own or with a qualified driver until you feel completely comfortable.
Set Yourself Goals
Just because your ‘L plates’ are gone; doesn’t mean you’ve finished learning.
Eventually, you will have to face a situation that you aren’t comfortable with. But with this guide, we can help you feel a bit more prepared.
It’s a good idea to set yourself small, achievable goals that you can stick to.
Keeping a copy of the Highway Code can also help to prompt your memory and stop yourself from picking up bad habits.
Our Final Thoughts
It can be tempting to feel like you’re an expert once you’re a new driver, but it’s important to remember you still need the experience to become a great driver.
Practice will be your best friend, so make time to try things you were nervous about.
Speaking to someone who has been driving for a while about your worries or asking questions can help to reassure yourself. Also, they can help you put together an emergency kit for your car.
Keep in mind that being prepared is the best thing you can do to be a safe driver and taking the step to read this article is working towards that.
Also, whilst you’re here, why not check out our guide on What To Ask When Buying A Used Car? Or When Is The Best Time To Buy A Used Car? These guides can help you to feel more confident and assured when buying your first car.
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