Archive 2014

Oh Those Frosty Mornings and Driving Lessons!

With recent reports in the news about how the UK is finally entering a season that can only be described as, well, chilly! Seeing bright frosty mornings is going to become the norm. Now, we know many people organise their driving lessons for the morning or the afternoon (after all there are other things to be done during the day).

If you’ve never encountered icy roads, bright sunshine low in the sky or even having to de-ice a vehicle before you drive it, this is something you should really pay attention to before you’re put forward for a practical driving test. Of course, any instructor worth their “weight” will make sure you take advantage of learning how to handle a car in colder weather. Just to give you an idea of what you’re up against below are some tips to help you:

Black Ice or Icy Roads in General

You’ve probably already worked out that keeping control of your car is the first thing any driving instructor will teach you, but black ice is something that catches even the most seasoned driver out. This is because (obviously), you can’t see it! Some things to be aware of when dealing with what is an incredibly real danger on our roads are:

Don’t Speed! Not that your driving instructor will let you do this anyway, but if you’re lucky enough to get some practice in before your next lesson, keeping your speed down in icy weather is of the utmost importance.

If you do encounter some black ice, the very last thing you should do is slam your brakes on (easier said than done, we know but this will only cause your vehicle to go out of control). Instead, tap lightly on the brakes or “pump” them. If you happen to encounter some black ice unexpectedly, the best thing to do here is take your foot off the accelerator immediately.

Make Sure You Can See!

One of the biggest problems in bright weather during winter is the position of the sun in the sky. Sure, all cars have sun-shades but they don’t always offer the right amount of protection. The best thing to combat this problem is to make sure you have a pair of sunglasses with you. If you’re unsure of the type you should use your driving instructor can advise you on this.

It’s not just your own eyesight you should protect, you also need to make sure your field of vision isn’t obscured and this will involve making sure all windows are properly de-iced and the water tank is topped up. Don’t think you’ll just get away with water at this time year with this one because that’s likely to freeze the minute it hits the screen. Again, your instructor will ensure all of this is taken care of, but it doesn’t hurt to ask if you can see how it’s done.

Above all, stay safe! There is no need for speed and if you’re careful you’ll be an expert at those frosty morning driving lessons before you know it!

Anyone for Driving Lessons in the Dark?

So, we’ve reached that time of year again when the nights are drawing in. In fact since the clocks went back, in some areas of the UK it’s probably dark when you leave home in the morning, and come home at night. For learner drivers, this can be a VERY intense time especially if you have to organise lessons early or late in the day.

If you’re just starting out with driving lessons, it might not be such a big deal because you’ll very quickly get used to the idea of driving at night. However, for those of you who started your lessons when it was still light outside the mere idea of taking to the roads in the dark can send you running (literally) for the hills!

But, Fear not because we have some advice for you:

Talk to Your Instructor

When you’re learning to drive, the instructor you’ve chosen should be your best friend. That doesn’t mean you have to talk to each other on Facebook every-day! It just means you need to be comfortable enough on a professional level to talk to them about your concerns.

It takes some-time for a person to become a driving instructor, and they’re trained to deal with just about all (if not ALL) eventualities that may crop up. Tell them you’re feeling nervous about driving in the dark even if it means setting some time aside during your next lesson.

Remember, they’ll be more than happy to help you out.

Start in Daylight

Wherever possible, take a driving lesson so its light outside when you begin and gradually gets dark as you go along. This way, your eyes will adjust to things like headlights and street lights appearing. It will also help your senses of perception catch-up with you as day becomes night.

Take an Intense Night Driving Course

This is possibly one piece of advice that will help those of you who are close to taking a practical driving test, but have never driven in the dark. After all, you don’t get to choose when you take the test and it could very well fall right at the end of the day.

Again, it’s worth talking to your instructor about this because they may be able to put a package together so it doesn’t cost you a load more cash you weren’t expecting pay out. If that’s not possible, there are plenty of driving schools around that will be more than happy to help you. Plus, they have some pretty good deals on price if you book several in one go.

Don’t Go Backwards!

The one thing to remember, even though you’re probably feeling like you’re about to take your driving test is to not let driving in the dark send you backwards. Everything you’ve learned so far will stand you in good stead for this little “hurdle” you have to get over.

After all, the more prepared you are when you finally get your full driving licence, the safer you’ll feel once you’re allowed on the roads without someone by your side.

Driving in The Countryside is More Hazardous than You Think!

When I was learning to drive, my instructor told me I had a natural ability. In fact, he went as far as to say there weren’t too many vehicles I wouldn’t be able to drive. Now, I’m not blowing my own trumpet. After all, it took me 3 times before I passed my test.

My instructor put this down to nerves, which is a story for another day! However, I digress because this article isn’t about how many times it takes to pass a driving test, or even how confident you are in a vehicle. Well, it might have a little to do with confidence and how that could be your undoing!

You may (or may not) have noticed that the Government has recently started a THINK campaign, and this is all about the hazards you can come across when driving in the country. They have pointed out that a massive 60% of fatal car accidents happen on quiet country roads. This equates to three people PER day dying!

If those statistics aren’t enough to make you sit up and THINK, take this for an example. 11 times more people die on country roads than on UK motorways! This might you lead you to ask (as it did me) why when there is so much more traffic on a motorway and it’s travelling a lot quicker.

Well, you’re about to find out.

How Country Roads Differ to Motorways

I could start by going on about the fact that motorways have more than one lane etc, but that would just be an attempt at teaching you to “suck eggs”. What you need to think about is that country roads have lots of twists and turns and not just that, they hide potential hazards.

This includes the following:

  • Concealed entrances or junctions
  • Dips in the road
  • Blind bends and summits
  • Overgrown hedges or trees
  • Debris on the road that can cause your vehicle to skid such as wet leaves.

OK, so you might get wet leaves on a motorway (just like you do on a train tracks)! However, the other hazards mentioned are VERY real, and as mentioned above can cause you to lose your life.

How to Be Safe On Country Roads

It goes without saying you should never speed when you drive in the country. In fact, you shouldn’t speed anywhere! The Government has explained any speed limit that’s set on this type of road isn’t something to aim for. For instance, the National speed limit is 60mph but this doesn’t mean you have to drive that fast!

When you approach bends, pay heed to the signs (you should know what they are) telling you how sharp it is. Plus, you should never break ON a bend but before it. Oh, and the biggest no-no is impatience! Overtaking shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially where cyclists, horse-riders and slow moving vehicles are concerned.

You may think the information above is obvious, but given the statistics pointed out here, it’s also obvious not every driver pays heed to safety on country roads. The message is don’t become a statistic!

Just Because You Have a Disability It Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Learn to Drive

As you know, we often give advice on how to go about learning to drive. This might include how to look for a driving school, what’s required of you at your theory and practical tests, and of course, how to deal with those nerves! We’ve even given you advice on many of the driver learning resources there are out there.

If you’re someone who suffers from a disability (mental or physical), it might seem that gaining a full driving licence is a very small light at the end of a tunnel let alone being able to get a provisional licence so you can learn!

However, it’s not as difficult as you might think although there are certain rules and regulations that need to followed. If you try to apply for a provisional licence and don’t declare a disability (no matter how slight) the DVLA will want to look at more closely, it could mean a fine of £1,000 and you may have more difficulty being accepted in the future.

So, with that aside what types of disability should you declare?

What the DVLA Say

There are a plethora of medical conditions mentioned by the DVLA (too many to mention here) however, to give you an idea below are some of the more common:

  • Epilepsy or any other illness that can cause blackouts or fits.
  • Diabetes which has to be controlled with medication.
  • Various heart conditions that could affect your ability to drive safely.
  • Parkinson’s disease.
  • Any form of sleep apnoea or narcolepsy.

As mentioned, there are other conditions you’re required to report but we’ve decided to list the most obvious for you. As you can see from the list, the DVLA are quite fair about this. Basically, any illness that may cause an interruption in concentration or the ability to control a vehicle should be registered.

You Can Still Learn to Drive

Just because you might be diagnosed with a condition the DVLA needs to know about, it doesn’t mean you can’t still learn to drive. In fact, there are many driving schools that specialise in helping people with all sorts of conditions gain their full licence.

Some schools are equipped with specially designed cars for those of you who have a physical problem. There are also expert driving instructors who have gone the extra mile whilst training, so they can help people with mental issues finally gain the freedom that driving a car can bring.

If you think you’re going to be singled out when it comes to expense and driving lessons think again! You’ll be treated just like anyone-else, and in fact there are many deals on “block” driving lessons to be had simply because lots of driving schools realise it may take you a little longer to learn.

Remember!

As long as you’re honest and follow the proper channels required by law, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t join many other thousands of people who are in the same situation.  Before you know it, you’ll have the “road” freedom you’ve always wanted!

It’s True People Do Make Excuses for Not Paying Car Tax!

I can hear scoffs at the title to this article as I write these words. However, for the more law abiding people who have just gained a full driving licence, this is where it all begins!

Not only have you been deemed legal to drive alone and in your own vehicle, you now have the added responsibility of making sure your car isn’t going to land you in hot water with the authorities. We could discuss insurance, MOT’s and such like but today we’re sticking with road tax.

First of all….

Changes You May Not Be Aware Of

As most drivers will be aware, the law currently states you have to display your tax disc in the bottom of your windscreen. However from 1st October this all changes because you will no longer need this valuable piece of paper.

In an effort to streamline the process, the DVLA has introduced a system that works online. This means you will no longer have to display the disc. Even if you have a few months left to run (road tax runs for 6 or 12 months), you can still do away with the paper version.

You won’t need to pay more as the system will already know you’ve “paid up”. Anyone who needs to renew their road tax or take it out for the first time will need to complete a form online. Don’t worry if you don’t have internet! Your trusty local Post Office will still be able to do it for you.

Some drivers agree with the new system, others don’t but that’s a discussion for some other time. What you do have to remember is you CAN (and probably will) get fined up to £1,000 for not paying regardless of how the process works.

Now, on to why some people think it’s OK not to pay…..

Non-Payment of Road Tax Excuses

So, some of the excuses below may seem like they’ve been made up but in fact they’re quite the opposite:

  1. I had every intention of paying my road tax but on the way, I noticed a horse race was on with one of my favourites running. I couldn’t resist and had a bet! Unfortunately, it lost and I didn’t have any money left.
  2. I fell out of a tree whilst picking fruit and broke both my arms!
  3. I was unable to go to the Post Office because I had “man” flu.
  4. I was away for a few months and forgot where I parked my car.
  5. I was informed by my accountant that I was due a tax rebate, so I thought I didn’t have to pay.

These are just a select few of the excuses various people come with, and if you’re thinking of using one of them forget it! All of the people responsible for any of the above ended up with a fine.

The fact is, as a new (or well accomplished) driver road tax isn’t something you can get away with. After all, can you imagine the state of our roads if this system wasn’t in place!

You’re Never Too Old to Gain That Full Driving Licence

When you reach a certain age, there are many things you can come across that may leave you saying “I’m just too old now”. Perhaps you always wanted to climb a mountain, but never found the opportunity and now you’re afraid your body just won’t deal with the physical stress.

It could also be that you thought about travelling the world, going white water rafting or even doing a bungy jump but never found the time. The list can be endless especially when your thirties are behind you and you feel you’ve reached a “certain age” where sense should prevail.

It can be the same if you’ve never learned to drive, and there are also many reasons why this might have happened. Perhaps you’ve spent most of your life living in an inner city and a car just wasn’t something you ever needed? Or, maybe you had a bad experience learning to drive when you were younger and that’s left you feeling too nervous to give it another go.

Whatever the reason….

It’s never too late!

OK, so the thought of jumping off a bridge with only a piece of elastic to keep you safe might send a shiver down your spine, but so can the idea of finally learning to drive when you’re older. After all, there is a certain stigma attached to gaining this skill, and that’s the fact most people do this in their late teens or early 20’s.

However the one thing to remember is, (unlike bungy jumping) learning to drive is for EVERYONE! There are no age restrictions to speak of except for the fact that you need to be at least 17 years old (and that probably doesn’t apply to you if you’re reading this). Plus, you will find that if you’re aged from 30 upwards, you’ll be met with a little more respect simply because you have more life experience.

Points to Consider

When you first start looking for a driving instructor (and it is best that you do), think about how you’re going to feel about the person sat next to you. Some people may not be bothered by an instructor who is younger than them, but for those of you who are don’t be afraid to ask for someone who is more your age bracket.

If, in the past you decided to give up on the idea of learning to drive because it was all just too much for you it can be a struggle dealing with the nerves. Again, you can speak to a driving school about this issue and the experts they have will be more than happy to help you through this.

Above all, don’t worry about the fact that you’re a “mature student”. You’re not the only one and it will surprise you when walking into a test centre how many people are the same age as you. As said, it’s never too late to gain a full driving licence and although it can be a nerve racking time there are plenty of driving schools out there who will welcome you with open arms.

Driving Anxiety Is a Real Issue But How Do You Deal With It?

Let us start by saying that if you have a problem with learning to drive because it makes you anxious (to say the least), you’re not alone! Millions of people across the globe suffer from this condition and it is something that can be diagnosed by a professional.

Of course, there are many reasons you might be in this situation. Perhaps you already hold a full driving licence and were originally quite happy to “potter” about in your car, but something happened and you’re now worried about suffering a panic attack whilst driving.

If you’re in the bracket of people who are afraid to learn to drive, the same applies. It could be that you were involved in an accident, witnessed an accident on the road or it could be something a little more complicated.

Symptoms of Driving Anxiety

Symptoms of this condition vary from mild to severe. Perhaps you’re fearful or get a feeling of claustrophobia when stuck in traffic? You flinch when another vehicle suddenly appears at a side junction or you could even start to feel anxious before you actually get behind the wheel.

In some cases, symptoms can be quite serious resulting in difficulty with breathing, pains in your chest and in rare cases people can pass out!

Recognising You Have Driving Anxiety

For anyone reading this that already knows about (or has been diagnosed) with this issue, you might think it’s a little obvious to point out how you recognise driving anxiety. However, for people who are not aware of it, this can be a very worrying time and it’s not always easy to understand that driving is the root cause of the problem.

Think about when you start to feel anxious. Is it the mere thought of driving? Does your heart race when you have to take to a motorway, or you need to take a route that’s unfamiliar to you? Have you noticed some of the symptoms mentioned above sound like you? If so, the best thing to do is seek some professional help.

Help Is There For You

Lots of people will simply give up on the idea of either learning to drive or turn to another means of transport instead. But, you must remember that help is out there for you. There are many ways in which you can deal with the problem from speaking with a counsellor to psychiatric help.

There are even professionals who will be more than willing to give you some ideas on self-help methods. The trick is to understand that you’re not alone, nor are you going crazy! The brain is a complex thing and although, right now, you might feel like everything is against you it doesn’t have to be that way.

Overall

Don’t be afraid to speak to your doctor about anxiety when you have to drive, he or she will be far more understanding than you might think. The trick is to accept you need some help, and although it may take some time you will be back on the road eventually!

Some Quick Tips on Difficult Driving Manoeuvres for Learner Drivers

As a learner driver, you will come across a few manoeuvres that will just baffle and frustrate you. What you have to remember is you’re not alone! Practically every learner has something they find hard to master, so there is no shame in spending more time practising if you need to.

Today, we’re going to centre on a couple of the most common:

Hill Starts

The best way to approach a hill start is to recognise that if you can pull away on flat ground without any trouble, you’re already half way there with a hill start. The main problem many students have is the fear of rolling back and this is perfectly understandable.

Of course, you’re driving instructor will take the time to ensure you’re happy with this part of the learning process before they move onto anything-else. However, just in case you want to get a head start on how to go about it, here’s how:

  • Make sure you understand what the “biting point” is when using the clutch in a car (your instructor will be able to teach you this).
  • The next thing to do is select first gear (your engine should be switched on) AND your handbrake should be on.
  • When you’re ready, bring the clutch up and press the accelerator until you hear the biting point. This will make the engine sound a little more robust than normal. Once you’ve made the necessary safety checks, release the handbrake.
  • One point to think about when you’re going through the process above is that you SHOULD NOT move your feet once the biting point has been reached.
  • If you do find the car rolls back slightly, simply put the handbrake back on and start again until you’re comfortable.

Over-Taking

This may not seem as if it’s a particularly difficult manoeuvre to make however, it’s one of the main causes of accidents on the road today so it’s important you understand when and how you should over-take. In most cases you will have to make sure you pass another vehicle (which is moving) on its right hand side. But there are a few exceptions:

  • If you’re in a lane that’s used only for left-hand turns.
  • If you’re in a queue of traffic and you’re lucky enough to be in the one that’s moving more quickly. Incidentally, you should never change lanes just because the other queue is moving faster, it’s just dangerous!
  • If a vehicle in front of you has indicated to turn right and you can pass without causing a hazard to you or other road users.
  • Finally, one way streets may allow you to pass vehicles on either side.

Overall

These are just a couple of examples you’ll come across when learning to handle a car properly prior to taking your practical driving test. As said, if you feel more nervous trying these compared to other things such as a three-point turn or gearing down when you need to slow a vehicle don’t be afraid to ask for more help.

Benefits of an Intensive Driving Course

Often, when we talk about learning to drive it’s aimed at teenagers who have just reached 17 years of age. This can be a very exciting time in a young life because you’re at last legally allowed to send off for your provisional driving licence. Once that’s received you can start learning how to drive however, people of many ages may decide the time has come to get behind the wheel!

Perhaps you’ve moved further away from where you work and public transport just isn’t an option anymore or your circumstances have changed and you just can’t do without having your own vehicle. Whatever the reason might be, there are various options open to you when deciding which is the best way to go about gaining that all important full driving licence.

For the purpose of this article, we aim to deal with the benefits of an intensive driving course. Let’s, first of all, take a look at the “traditional” way of learning:

Signing Up With a Driving School over a Number of Weeks/Months

Doing this can have its benefits for many people. It could be that you can’t spare the time to take more than one lesson per week, or that you would prefer to take your time when learning because you would like to build up your confidence over time.

It also means that you won’t have to cram in a lot of information all at once, and as long as you make sure you study properly (remember, you do have to take a theory test as well) in-between lessons the chances are you’ll do just fine.

Driving Schools and Intensive Courses

This is a whole different “kettle of fish” and it’s not for everyone. However, it does have its benefits especially if you’re a fast learner. Lots of driving schools offer intensive courses that span over say, a week or two and in that time you’ll be put through your paces.

You will have to ensure you can make time for lessons every-day, but for a lot of us this can be done by using some annual leave (if you work). It also means you can keep the cost down. The last point may seem a little confusing but when you think about the fact that if you decide to take just one lesson per week, you will spend time in your next lesson going over what you learned last time.

This results in more lessons, hence more money spent on learning to drive. An intensive driving course will allow you to keep everything fresh in your mind, and for many people it means being able to pick-up driving skills much quicker.

Sticking with cost, when you decide to take an intensive driving course you will normally only pay a bulk price at the beginning which also helps to save money.

Overall

Of course, as said an intensive driving course isn’t for everyone but if you’re looking to gain your full licence as quickly as possible, and want to save some money in the process this just might be the best way to go!

How Learning to Drive Has Changed

As we all know, the name Henry T. Ford comes up time and time again when we talk about the motor car (a bit of an old fashioned way to put it, but then that’s the way Mr. Ford would have liked it)! We first saw cars come to our roads back in 1903, and back then there was no such thing as a driving test.

In fact, if you had the money (and you needed plenty) you could simply buy one, switch it on (or wind it up) and take to the roads. However, in the summer of 1935 the driving test was introduced, and I’m sure anyone reading this will understand why. At that time, there were fewer than 1.5 million cars on the road in the UK which is a far cry from the 38 million we see today, and that number is growing!

So, what is it that’s changed about learning to drive since then? Let’s take a look.

1935

Unfortunately, the driving test was not well received when it first came out, especially for people who had already been “merrily” using the roads. So, the Government issued plenty of film to let people know it was nothing to be afraid of but was indeed, compulsory.

Or course, back then there were no such things as indicators so the learner was taught various hand signals so other drivers knew what they were up to. Other things such as an eyesight test, knowing the Highway Code and general road safety were also tested. Interestingly, learner plates (as we know them today) were also in use.

1975

Technology had already moved on when cars were being produced at this time, but hand signals were still in use when learning to drive for people who were yet to afford one with this “new technology”. If you’re interested, you may want to ask a grandparent or even one of your parents about this.

By now however, the driving test had changed. The mirror, signal, manoeuvre was put in place plus, you were also tested on an emergency stop.

Present Day

Anyone who is currently learning how to drive will probably be a little shocked to learn how simple it was to gain a driving licence in years gone by however, given the number of vehicles there are on the roads these days we do have to respect the lengths the DVLA goes to.

Today, (as you probably know) there is a theory test as well as a practical driving test. If you are new to the whole world of learning to drive it can still be daunting but unlike in the 1930’s there is plenty of help available both online and in your local book shop.

It is true that learning to drive has changed an awful lot, but as we all know moving with the times is what matters. Just remember that even though you might wish it was easy as it used to be, there are very good reasons for the safety measures that are in place today.