So you’ve just got your license. Your instructor has shown you what a biting point is, and you’ve somehow fooled your examiner into thinking you should be allowed out on your own. You’re all set, right? Wrong. You don’t know jack; you know less than jack, and the stats prove it. In the UK, one in five new drivers is involved in a crash in their first year of driving. Worst still, one in three drivers killed is aged under 25, and this is despite only one in eight motorists being aged 25 or under.
Clearly then, a large number of new drivers need a little extra help. With this in mind, we’ve pulled together 10 of the most useful tips we think could be of use to a newbie wheelboy or wheelgirl. Follow these and who knows, maybe you’ll live long enough to teach the next generation.
1. You’ve passed! Now get more training
You may have passed your test, but only after you pull away alone for the first time do you really start Pass Plus will teach you how to drive in busy towns, bad weather, on motorways and at night.learning to drive. Instructors tend to show you the ropes in the easiest possible conditions — usually on quiet back streets and in perfect weather — but you can bet your sweet ass you’ll be encountering plenty of less than favourable environments the minute you set off on your own.
We recommend you follow up your basic training with some further driving education in the form of the Pass Plus scheme. They’ll teach you how to drive in busy towns, in all sorts of weather, on motorways, at night and generally in environments that most learners would find stressful. It’ll make you a better driver and you’ll probably get a cheaper insurance premium as a result of completing it.
2. Get to know your car
So you’ve got a shiny new car. Don’t just get in and drive it. Sit in it. Turn it on. Look at the buttons. Learn what they do. Find the switches for the front and rear fog lights and learn to spot the corresponding warning lights on the instrument binnacle. Where’s the hazard light button? How do you turn off that annoying RDS radio traffic alert nonsense? These are all little things, but failure to instinctively know how to activate or deactivate one of these features in a hurry could cause you to become distracted and lead to an accident.
3. Get a bike or bicycle
Getting on two wheels makes you a far better driver on four. Pottering about on a bicycle, or better still a moped, will reveal just what absolute douchebags drivers can be, and what insufferable idiots cyclists are. With this knowledge, you’ll be far better equipped to predict the behaviour of said douches and idiots and avoid colliding with them.
4. Go on a track day
Driving fast on the public road is just asking for trouble, so it’s a good idea to satisfy your lust for speed in a safe environment. Not only are track days a great adrenalin rush, they also teach you valuable lessons on how cars handle on the limit. Trust us, your Ford Fiesta might feel like it’s as agile and grippy as an F1 car when pottering around town, but it becomes a totally different animal when asked to respond at high speeds. Learn its limits – and yours – in a place where it’s safe.
5. Check your blind spot. Every time
Your mirrors do a good job of showing you what’s behind you, but they can’t show you what’s just outside of your peripheral vision. Your blind spot, as it’s known, is a pretty large area – big enough for bikes and cars to lurk undetected until the moment you turn right and then bang; either someone’s dead or your car’s all mangled. Do yourself and everyone else a favour – check your blind spot every time you change lane or turn right.
6. Don’t drive in someone else’s blind spot
Just because you’re smart enough to check your blind spot doesn’t mean everyone else will. The number of people who change lanes without looking properly is quite staggering, so put the onus on yourself to stay out of trouble. If you notice you’re cruising along to the right of and slightly behind another car, there’s a good chance they can’t see you. Either accelerate to pull alongside or in front of them, or drop back until you’re sure you can be seen in their mirrors.
7. Use the left lane on the motorway.
It would appear almost nobody knows this one, but the left lane on the motorway is for normal driving. The left lane on the motorway is for normal driving. All others are for overtaking.All others are for overtaking. Highway code rule 238 states: “You should drive in the left-hand lane if the road ahead is clear. Return to the left-hand lane once you have overtaken all the vehicles or if you are delaying traffic behind you.”
You can argue until you’re blue in the face to try and justify why driving a steady 70mph in the middle or right hand lanes is acceptable, but the fact is it’s against the rules. Police have been given new powers to tackle middle lane hoggers and if you’re caught, you can face an on the spot fine.
8. Drive in bad weather. Now.
Sure, going out in rain, sleet, snow or icy conditions can be terrifying, but the best way to learn how to deal with those situations is to go out there and get your hands dirty. Try to feel how the inclement conditions affect the car, how braking distances are increased, how grip is reduced and try to appreciate the fact you’ll have to alter your driving style to deal with those conditions. Doing so on your own terms and at a time of your choosing means you’ll feel more comfortable and more confident when conditions take an unexpected turn for the worse.
9. Put the phone down.
Using a handheld phone is illegal, so don’t even think about it. And no, putting your handset on speakerphone and holding it just in front of your mouth as you drive isn’t fooling anyone. Even hands-free car kits aren’t as safe as you think. The mental workload required to have a conversation and process additional thoughts can slow your reaction times, causing you to miss things in front of you – like little Johnny crossing the road.
10. Kick your mates out.
An influential group of MPs has suggested novice drivers should be banned from carrying passengers aged between 10 and 20 late at night. While we think that’s a little extreme, we can definitely see sense in it. Young drivers in particular generally feel under pressure to drive in a way that impresses their mates, which often means going too fast and taking unnecessary risks. If you ever notice your driving change when you’re ferrying your friends around then do something about it. Stop offering them lifts or, better still, make sure your driving isn’t negatively affected by their presence. Speeding, spinning your wheels up and showing off isn’t big or clever.