Archive 2013

Tips for Safe Driving This Christmas

As a new driver, the thought of going out on the roads at Christmas time can be somewhat of a worry. Not only is this one of the busiest times, people in general are not really taking much notice of what’s going on around them. Rather, they’re thinking about whether or not they’ve remembered presents for everyone, how they’re going to deal with the usual family “fallout” over Christmas dinner and a whole host of the other things.

Couple this with heavy traffic and poor weather, it’s no wonder there are more accidents during the festive season! So, we’ve decided to give you some tips on how you can stay safe when you’re out on the road.

Avoid Drink Drivers and Drink Driving

It goes without saying that if you intend to drive, you SHOULD NOT touch a drop of alcohol. Even the slightest sip can lead to your concentration levels being affected, and as we all know the police are particularly vigilant about people drinking and driving.

If you think you’re going to end up having a tipple (or two) at the office party or at the pub with friends there are a couple of things you can do:

  • If you’re in a group have a designated driver, and make sure this is someone that can be trusted not to reach for the bottle!
  • Take a taxi! This might cost you more than it does to drive but a few extra pounds for your trip is nothing compared to the devastation a road accident can cause due to driving when you’ve “had a few”.
  • If you can’t arrange either of the above, ask a friend or family member to be “taxi driver” for the afternoon or evening.

Avoiding drink drivers can be a little trickier because you’re not in control of what others do. However, there are some signs to look out for. If the vehicle in front is moving at a slower pace than expected, make sure you don’t follow them too closely.

The same goes for people who are driving at erratic speeds, or appear to be weaving about on the road. If you can, turn off and take a different route. If that’s not possible, choose a place where you can safely stop for a few minutes so you’re not driving behind or in front of the vehicle.

Get Your Car Checked

Lots of us will be making trips by car to friends or families during the festive season, so if you want to avoid any mishaps book your car in for a winter check. When you do this, your chosen mechanic will check things like the battery, lights, and wipers and anything-else that might mean you’ll be left calling for roadside assistance.

Above All

Although the tips above may seem obvious to you, you would be surprised at how many people don’t think about them. If you remain vigilant and make sure your car is in good working order, you’ll be set for a very Merry Christmas!

Don’t Stress Just Because It’s Rush Hour!

As a new driver it may surprise you to know that even the most seasoned drivers can get stressed out when they have to take to the roads during the rush hour, and with the festive period just around the corner this can make things ten times worse!

Some refer to rush hour as “stop, start driving” and with good reason! You also have to remember that this type of driving is usually done when people aren’t exactly at their best. First thing in the morning people are tired or even worse some are still feeling the after effects from the night before.

In the evening, it’s the same story. Everyone is tired after a hard day at work, their stress levels might already be up because it’s been a particularly hard day and all their concerned about is getting home to a warm house and a cup of tea.

Concentration Levels

Given the information above, it’s easy to understand that more accidents happen during rush hour than at any other time of the day. You also have to take into account the fact that you’re probably driving in heavy traffic which means you’ll generally be moving pretty slowly.

Coupled with thinking about other things and feeling like you have nothing more to do than stare at the car in front it’s no surprise that you’re concentration levels wane, and this is the one thing you need to avoid. Instead of looking at what the car in front is up to, try looking further along the line of traffic.

This will help you work out what speed everyone is likely to be doing when it’s “your turn” to move along. Doing this also helps you anticipate anything untoward that might happen.

Keep Your Patience

This is possibly one of the hardest things to do especially if you’re late for work. However, being told off for being a few minutes late instead of spending the day trying to sort out a road accident is a far better option. Avoid trying to nip into gaps that appear so you can get ahead more quickly. In fact, this isn’t going to get you anywhere! Plus, you might upset another road user and it doesn’t bear thinking about where that might end up!

Tips To Keep You Calm

Whilst we recommend you concentrate at all times, there are a few things you can do that will help to keep you calm:

  • Keep your arms and shoulders as relaxed as possible. The more you tense up the more your body will react.
  • If you do happen to stop in a traffic jam, have a stretch. Roll your head around or stretch your arms (but only when it’s safe to do so).
  • Finally, try listening to something that makes you laugh or pop on some soothing mood music.

If you follow some of the advice given above, you’ll find your drive to and from work or that trip to and from your Christmas shopping a far more pleasurable experience.

Car Tax Discs Are About To Be A Thing of the Past

Today, you were going to find some tips on how to deal with rush hour driving as we move ever closer to the Christmas shopping season. However, a headline caught our eye today that needs to be addressed!

For those of you who are still in the process of learning to drive, you might not be aware of how taxing your car works or, indeed what it even is. Car tax is something every legal driver has to pay in order to use the roads in the UK. The reason for this is so the Government can keep all types of roads, both minor and major in good condition so they’re safe to use.

However, don’t get too excited about the title to this article because we’re not about to tell you the Government has decided to abolish car tax! Instead, Mr. George Osbourne will announce in his autumn statement that drivers will no longer have to display a tax disc in their vehicle.

How to Tax Your Vehicle Currently

You can apply for your tax disc online and this is done using the DVLA website. If you’re applying for the first time, or you want to renew there are a few requirements which you will find below:

  • You must be able to prove you’re the registered keeper of the vehicle being taxed.
  • The DVLA must have your current address, correct name and vehicle details.
  • If applying for a renewal you can apply using the V11, V85/1 or V5C certificate.
  • You must be able to prove you have insurance on your vehicle.
  • Finally, your vehicle (if needed) must have a current MOT.

It’s actually very easy to apply because all you need to do is follow the on-screen instructions. Paying is also very simple by using a debit or credit card. If you don’t have access to the internet, you can still apply via post at your local post-office but this is where things are about to change.

What the Government Intends to Do

Once the autumn statement has been disclosed to the public it will include the fact that you will no longer have to display a tax disc in your car. Instead, you will have to register and pay for your tax online. This will then go into a central database and every single vehicle that passes through various road traffic cameras will be automatically checked to ensure it’s taxed.

Police officers on the beat will still play a part in making sure this tax is paid but instead of checking a disc, they will run the registration through a central database.

Is This a Good Idea?

On first glance, it’s hard to imagine that policing such a radical change in the way road tax is paid will be easier to do however the Government has announced this will save businesses across the UK about £7 million in administration costs.

Will it work? Who knows, but all we can say right now is keep an eye out for these changes should they be implemented.

Tips on Motorway Driving

If you’re new to the world of driving, going on a motorway alone for the first time can be something of a worry. However, it’s easier than you might think. One thing that puts a lot of new drivers off is the speed at which everyone is travelling, and yes, it can be a bit overwhelming if you’re not used to it.

So, just for you we’ve decided to give you some tips and other snippets of information in order to help you feel more confident about this aspect of your new skill.

Motorway Driving Is Safer

This sub-heading might shock you but statistics do show that generally, driving on the motorway is much safer than other roads and here’s why:

  • Everyone is travelling in the same direction.
  • There are not as many other potential hazards to worry about than when you’re, say, driving in town. Cyclists, pedestrians, mopeds, and various agricultural vehicles are not allowed on motorways so this removes this hazard.
  • The road is usually straight for many miles so you don’t have to worry about slowing down for tight bends.
  • There are no T-Junctions, roundabouts or traffic lights to worry about.
  • The lanes are wide and very well marked.

Joining a Motorway

This is possibly the time when you will be most nervous because the world is suddenly moving much quicker than you’ve been used to before. However, fear not! You can join a motorway from a roundabout or a main road using what’s called the “slip road”. Once you’re on the slip road, you will then join an acceleration lane.

At this point you need to keep your wits about you and using what you were taught in terms of mirror and signal when learning to drive really comes into play. Make sure you’re going with the flow of the traffic and use your indicators to let others know you’re about to join the motorway. Use your mirrors, and if necessary look over your shoulder to make sure you’re not interfering with other vehicles.

Leaving a Motorway

Motorways in the UK are incredibly well sign-posted so you’ll know well in advance which junction you need. As you approach the exit you will see a 3 countdown set of signs (see the picture above). Don’t slow down just yet. You only need to do this once you’ve actually moved into the deceleration lane.

Watch your speed once you’ve left the motorway, for novice drivers it can take a while to acclimatise back to driving on a normal road again. Also remember that you’ll more than likely come up against roundabouts or traffic lights almost immediately after leaving the motorway.

All in All

Driving on the motorway isn’t the hardest thing in the world to do. In fact, it can get to the point where you find it boring because you’re simply driving in a straight line. Make sure you’re not over tired when you take to the motorway, observe proper lane usage and you’ll be just fine.

Now Is the Time for an Advanced Driving Course

In the UK, we’re already experiencing those cold winter mornings. If you’re lucky the sun is shining, and everything looks crisp and fresh because of the layer of frost that’s on the ground. If you’re not so lucky, you start the day when it’s grey, miserable and wet! For those of you that drive to and from work you will be well aware of the additional hazards you face at this time of year.

Not only do you have to deal with ice patches on the roads (in some cases black ice which can be very dangerous), you also spend more time driving in the dark than you do at other times of the year. This is why; especially if you’re a young driver winter is the perfect time to take an advanced driving course.

Some Statistics for Young Drivers

If you think you don’t need any help with an advanced driving course, perhaps you should take a look at the statistics below:

  • There is just 1 in 8 drivers in the UK that hold a full driving licence who are under the age of 25. However, 1 in 3 of those drivers dies in a car crash!
  • During the first year of driving with a full licence, 1 in 5 drivers will be involved in an accident.
  • This is in no way meant to be sexist because it is fact. Male drivers under the age of 25 are more likely to be involved in an accident than female drivers.
  • Early mornings and late evenings are when most accidents involving just one vehicle are likely to happen.

As you see from the points above, it’s important you make sure you hone your driving skills as best you can.

What Advanced Driving Courses Offer

Possibly one of the most important aspects of a course like this is the fact you will be taught how to deal with driving conditions you don’t generally come across when it’s not winter time. Most (if not all) advanced driving course companies will offer you the opportunity to learn how to cope if your vehicle suddenly starts to skid across the road. This is especially useful when the roads are wet, or you unexpectedly hit a patch of ice.

Other aspects of a course like this can also include the following:

  • How to prepare your car for driving in winter.
  • Aquaplane awareness, and this is something that’s far more common during winter. It also needs to be dealt with differently than if you were to skid.
  • Advanced observations skills you won’t get taught with, say, a pass plus.
  • How to recognise when the surface beneath your car changes which can affect the way your tyres grip the road.

These are just a few examples of what an advanced driving course will offer, and winter is one of the few times of the year when you really need to know what you’re doing. Not only will you become a better driver overall, it may well save your life!

For more details you can visit our website.

Safety Considerations and Winter Driving

If you’re no stranger to our blog, you will know that we often pass on information about safe driving. However, the winter months require more care than you might think, and it’s not just how you drive! Your car will also need some “tender loving care” as well in order for you to avoid breaking down.

If you’re properly insured (and you should be), there will always be a professional waiting to help you if you do happen to breakdown but it’s still something that can mess up your entire day. So, below you will find some handy tips that will help you prepare for those cold winter months ahead.

Electrics and Your Battery

During winter, you will place a higher demand on the electrics in your car. Think about it? You use your wipers more often, the heating will be on, you’ll use your lights more, plus there will be times when you want to de-mist your windows.

This all puts pressure not just on items like wipers, but your battery as well. If you’re a new driver, you should know that batteries will not usually last more than five years and will need replacing. If you’re not sure how old your battery is, ask the professionals. Replacing your battery ahead of time could save you having to call for roadside assistance, taking time out of your day that could be used better elsewhere.

In order to help conserve your battery make sure you don’t leave your car idling for too long (this also saves petrol). Once your windows are free of mist turn the de-mister off, and if you’re not likely to use your car for a couple of days just give it quick burst now and then so the battery doesn’t go flat.

Vision

This is something that’s affected far more than any other time of year so try following the tips below:

  • Make sure all your windows and mirrors are free from ice, snow and dirt so you get a clear view of what’s going on around you. If you have snow on the roof of your car, don’t drive off without removing it first. You could end up with a pile landing on your windscreen which will not only surprise you, but might cause an accident as well!
  • Keep your windscreen washer fluid topped up and make sure you use a detergent that’s made for vehicles, and definitely DO NOT use antifreeze because this will damage your paintwork.
  • In the case of antifreeze, you may need to add this to your water cooling system and if you’re not sure ask a professional.
  • The sun sits very low in the sky during winter so it’s a good idea to make sure you have a set of sunglasses in your car, and use the sunshield as well (its there for a reason)!

Finally

As long as you ensure you pay more attention to the internal parts of your car that can breakdown during cold weather, keep your vehicle clean and take it slowly you shouldn’t have a problem with driving at this time of year.

Driving in the City – Tips for New Drivers

Nerves! It may seem like they’re never going to end when you’re learning to drive, and to top it all off when you have managed to get a full driving licence, you’re faced with a whole host of other obstacles that can get your heart racing! If you already live in a city the chances are that’s where you learned to drive, so maybe you can take a look at our blog on “potential hazards when driving in the countryside” instead.

However, for those of you that live in the suburbs or a rural area the mere idea of having to drive in the city may seem like something that should be avoided at all costs. But, you’ve learned to drive not just so you can add a new skill to your list but so you can gain greater freedom with when and where you travel. So, below are some tips to think about when driving in the city.

Plan a Route

Big cities can be confusing if you’re not used to them, and the pace of life is much faster. You will come across people who use the roads in a city all the time, and they know all about the little shortcuts and generally how other road users go about their daily routine on the roads.

This is why you should plan your route in advance. There are all sorts of tools to help you these days. You can go to various websites on the internet that will give you detailed instructions on how to get from A-B. If you’re meeting someone at your destination, ask them for instructions. After all, they will know the area well.

You could and should take a map with you just in case you get lost however; it’s not recommended you attempt to read this while sitting at a set of traffic lights or when you’re in traffic. If you must use a map, find somewhere safe to stop.

Take It Slowly

Once you’ve set out on your journey and finally enter the world of city driving, don’t be tempted to act like you know it all. This could lead to an accident, you getting lost or even upsetting another road user. Instead, observe the speed limit and make sure you take note of all the signs (warning or otherwise).

Other Useful Tips

  • If you get in a pickle about which lane you’re supposed to be in, don’t panic! Changing lanes at the last minute is one of the biggest reasons accidents happen in the city.
  • Show some respect for other road users, and don’t be tempted to react if someone waves a fist at you.
  • Keep a special eye out for other types of vehicles. There will be all sorts that you don’t come across normally. This might include motorcyclists, buses, cyclists, Lorries and of course, the dreaded taxi!

Overall

If you plan in advance, take your time and keep your own safety in mind, driving in the city won’t be as daunting as you think. In fact, once you’ve done it you may even find you like it!

The Potential Hazards of Countryside Driving

It doesn’t matter of you’re new to driving or if you consider yourself to be a veteran, it’s very easy to think that a nice drive in the country is much easier than say, driving in the city. However, as with all forms of driving the countryside has its hazards as well and these really need to be considered, especially if you’re used to the city.

The mere thought of stunning scenery and the wind blowing through your hair as you travel the open country roads sounds like the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and it can be as long as you think about the points made below:

Bends

Unlike urban areas, the countryside is often littered with potentially dangerous bends you’re not used to and one of the biggest mistakes any driver can make is taking them too quickly. If this happens the most natural reaction is to hit the brakes, and this is something that could land you in a ditch or even worse hitting an oncoming vehicle.

Look well ahead when you’re approaching a bend. Are there warning signs telling you how steep the bend is going to be? Can you see around the bend? Warning signs are there for a reason and you should make sure you take in what you’re being told. Keep your speed down, and if your view is obscured by trees or bushes take things especially slowly.

Other Vehicles

This may seem like an odd sub-heading. After all, there is far less traffic in the country than in a city however, the types of vehicles you may come across in this type of environment can be bulky and slow moving. For instance, as you come round a bend you may be faced with a tractor or some other form of farming vehicle, and these move at a snails pace. Again, we go back to bends and why you should be especially careful.

It’s also tempting to overtake a vehicle like this because they’re larger than you, obscure your view and of course, they move very slowly. But, this can be very dangerous. Instead, keep your patience. The person driving the vehicle in front of you will know the area very well, and you’ll be surprised at the amount of them who will either move over or wave you around them when it’s safe to do so.

Animals

Unfortunately, there are times when we come across small animals like squirrels or the odd fox in urban areas, and they do get run over but in the countryside you have bigger “fish” to think about. Imagine coming around a bend only to be faced with a herd of cattle or sheep? Any farmer will be less than happy that you’ve just ploughed through their precious animals.

You also run the risk of coming across other woodland animals that can do an awful lot of damage if you can’t avoid them. Deer for instance can appear from nowhere so be aware of this.

The fact is you can enjoy a drive in the country, just take it slowly and be aware of the potential dangers.

Getting Back Behind the Wheel after a Road Accident

Sadly, road accidents are on the up in the UK and there are a few reasons for this. One is there are more vehicles on the road than ever before, and each year many thousands follow. Another reason is the amount of people who take to the roads without any thought for their own or other drivers’ safety.

If you’ve been in a road accident, getting back behind the wheel can be a very traumatic experience. For some, it’s something they will never do again and this is quite understandable, especially if you’re accident was serious and has left you with physical scars that will never go away. However, for those of you that suffered a minor accident, you can feel like you’re expected to just “get back on the bike and ride it”!

People who haven’t been in a road accident find it hard to understand what you’re going through mentally. This is because they cannot see what you’re going through. For example, if you have a huge pimple on your face, you will get far more sympathy for it than you would if it was somewhere no-one can see. You get the idea.

So, on to how you can get over those nightmarish jitters once you’ve returned to full health again.

The First Time

It could be that you look at you car sat in the driveway, and it immediately fills you with horror (and I speak from experience with this one). The one thing to remember is you should take this as slowly as you like. Even if you just start by approaching your car and taking a peek through the window you’re making progress. It might not fee like it, but you are.

Once you’ve mustered up the courage to open your car door, just sit behind the wheel for a while. Get used to how it feels, and if you start to feel anxious simply get out again. Trust me when I say this, you will find each time you sit in the driving seat it will be easier to spend more time there.

Once You Feel it’s Time to Drive

One word of warning here: DON’T attempt it on your own. Take someone with you that you trust. You don’t even have to go out on the open roads. You could just take a quiet back route around the area you live so you don’t come across many other drivers.

It may take time. For some people its weeks, for others its months so don’t rush. If you do, this will send you backwards.  Over time, you will get over this and if you’re having real trouble with getting back behind the wheel there is no shame in speaking with a councillor, that’s what they are there for! You could even ask a driving instructor to help you. There are many professionals out there that are not just about teaching people to drive, they can also help you get your confidence back with driving again.

Why Driving is a Skill Everyone Should Have

For some people, learning to drive is just too much to bear in terms of anxiety, and they shy away from it. For others it’s a skill they can’t wait to learn. Now, this isn’t a psychology lesson but there are personality traits that run through both brackets of people. Those that find it too much in terms of stress tend to be shyer than the average person, and those that can’t wait are, well, a little more outgoing.

So, why is driving a skill everyone should learn? Below are some reasons that might get you thinking:

Freedom with Life

When you learn to drive, pass your test and get your own car the doors open to you are endless. It’s much easier for you to get about so you’re not tied to bus or train timetables or the expense of taxis (unless of course you intend to drink alcohol). If you’re currently thinking about learning to drive but are too nervous, think about what your life would be like if you could?

You won’t have to worry what time you can go to the shops. You can set times to meet friends and family that suit you, and you have the freedom to visit places that would otherwise not be as accessible.

Confidence

It’s hard to imagine, but being able to drive does actually help your confidence. Why? I hear you ask. Well, think about this. When you’re in charge of a vehicle you’re in control. What happens on the road is largely down to the decisions you make and not others. This sub-consciously helps you in other areas of your life.

Perhaps you’re the type of person who takes their time over making a decision, or you find it hard to do so. When you’re driving you don’t have this option. Making a turn in the road, crossing a set of crossroads safely is something you need to know and understand, and that’s what decision making is. In fact, this is a skill that many driving instructors are able to instil in you without you realising it.

Maturity

If you’re not what you would call a “spring chicken” anymore, you might think this side of the argument doesn’t include you and that might be true to a certain extent. However, being able to drive teaches you how to respect what’s going on in the world around you, and with that you “grow-up”. Maturity isn’t just about age, it’s about knowing when to be sensible in life (among other things), and you will learn this when you decide to become a legally accepted driver.

Overall

Learning to drive isn’t just about knowing how to safely operate a car. It’s not even about knowing how to spot the danger signs so you can avoid an accident. It actually has many other benefits that can help you in other areas of your life. That’s not to say you can’t learn these skills without learning how to drive, but it certainly will help!