Archive 24th April 2013

What Is Defensive Driving and How Can it Help Me?

When you hear the word “defensive”, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’re about to be advised to start shouting at other road users or pedestrians you think are putting your life in danger when you’re on the road.

This couldn’t be further from the truth! In fact, it’s a practice or form of training that will help you become a far better driver as a result. We’re all guilty of thinking we’re the best when we’re behind the wheel but you have to realise that you can make mistakes just like everyone-else.

Think about this as an example:

You’ve stopped at a set of traffic lights and you think you’ve left enough room in front of your car so you can adequately see the vehicle in front. However, have you thought about what might happen behind you? More accidents happen when vehicles are stationary than you might think and you’re about to find out just one reason why.

So, you look in the rear view mirror. The traffic lights are still red and the car approaching from behind is going at a fair old lick. So fast in fact, you just know they’re not going to avoid hitting you. Then, “smash”! Everything goes black and when you come too you’re surrounded by emergency service professionals who are not only trying to keep you calm but, are setting about tearing your car apart so they can get you out.

The first thing that springs to mind (after you’re over the shock and can think about how this could have been avoided) is if you had just left enough space at the front of your car, you would have been able to swerve out of the way and avoid the whole sorry mess.

This is what defensive driving is and if you’re still wondering how it can help you, the example above should be enough to give you an idea.

Basic Rules to Follow

  • NEVER start your vehicle until you and your passengers are safely secure and this includes pets as well as humans.
  • As the example above proves when you need to come to a stop but not park, leave enough room for a “getaway” if needed.
  • If the weather is poor SLOW DOWN. It doesn’t matter how good your braking system is, your vehicle will react slower.
  • Don’t drive when you’re tired and make sure you keep your eyes open for any eventuality at all times. After all, a good majority of accidents on the road are the fault of one driver, not two.
  • Assume the worst at all times. Don’t trust other road users and be prepared for any eventuality.
  • The rules of the road are there for a reason and you should adhere to them at all times.

Is Training Available?

In short, yes. However, you can start practicing the very next time you get in your car just by following some of the rules above. It might be hard in the beginning because you’re going to change your attitude towards the road in general and how it works but, if you practice enough it will soon become like second nature.

Do’s and Don’ts of Learning to Drive

So, you’ve finally reached the age of 17 and you’re dead excited because you’ve got your provisional driving licence. It’s time to do away with taking trips on the bus or train, and start to learn how to drive. This is one of the most important milestones in a teenager’s life, and whilst it can be daunting (learning anything new can be), it does mean that once you’ve passed your test, you can finally get out on the open road.

The sense of freedom feels like it’s within your reach but, I’m getting ahead of myself here. First of all, you need to know how to handle a car, and not only that, understand just how important it is that you stay safe.  You will need to learn important skills like decision making, and believe it or not, hand-eye co-ordination.

The purpose of this piece is to give you some idea of the do’s and don’ts of learning to drive. The number of cars on the road rises every single year, and congestion is a problem. This is why you have to learn not only how to handle a car but, that you’re confident enough to deal with any situation that might arise.

The Do’s and Don’ts

DO get yourself a professional driving instructor and DON’T ask you Mum, Dad or a friend to teach you. Below are some of the reasons why:

Using a Professional

  • A professional instructor is highly trained in the use all types of roads from country lanes to the motorway.
  • They also have the advantage of knowing what the local testing centre is currently looking for.
  • They are taught to stay calm in just about any situation and, believe me, there will be some close calls along the way, that’s what learning is all about.

Using a Close Family Member or Friend

  • It doesn’t matter how safe a driver is, they will pick-up the odd bad habit here and there. If you choose to go out in a car with a friend or family member these habits will more than likely be passed on to you which will not help when you come to take your test.
  • The person sat beside you probably owns the car you’re driving, and it won’t help their stress levels if you “scratch” a gear or hit the accelerator instead of the brakes.
  • People that are close to you are not trained to deal with high pressure situations on the road like a driving instructor is and this could lead to both of you getting into a panic.
  • Finally, you will probably end up arguing. It can be very irritating for you when someone is constantly saying “you don’t do it like that”.

In Conclusion

Learning to drive is exciting but it’s also vital you take it seriously. After all, you’re not just responsible for you own life on the road; you’re responsible for others as well!


How to Deal with Minor Health Issues Whilst Driving

Sometimes, we have no control over our health, it just suddenly changes. One minute we are fine, the next we have a blinding headache with no medication to hand and we are miles away from home. For many of us this can happen whilst we are driving. Whilst some of us have the ability to deal with it calmly, others experience anxiety and even panic attacks.

Not only do the health issues we have whilst driving have a profound effect on our own driving ability as we tend to lose a certain percentage of our concentration but also those using the roads alongside us. Our ability to react to incidents around us is lessened when we are not feeling 100% fit and healthy when behind the wheel of a car.

So how should you deal will health issues whilst driving?

Plan Your Journey

I suffer from both headaches and the need to stop every five minutes to use the toilet! My mother is the same and we drive my father and partner mad!  We always come out the services discussing the state of them and it has often been suggested we write a book entitled “The Toilets of the Great British Motorways”! Before we set out on a long journey, we plan exactly where the services are and allow extra time.

During the Journey

I like to have background music in the car, but I never listen to it full blast and despite my love for Jon Bon Jovi, I always choose to listen to music that is more calming whilst driving. Limiting the amount of unnecessary distractions whilst driving, not only helps prevent unwanted issues from occurring but greatly improves a person’s concentration and therefore their ability to deal with emergency situations as and when they arise.

I also always have a bottle of water in the car with which to take headache tablets.  No matter if I am alone or not I ensure, that I have my mobile phone fully charged so I can contact anyone I need. Ensuring that you have everything you want for ailments you know could crop up during your journey and having the knowledge you can get in touch with the necessary people for those that are unexpected will help toward your peace of mind if an unexpected situation should occur.

Dealing with Extreme Circumstances

On the odd occasion I have suffered a headache that has developed into a full blown migraine and I am literally unable to drive. I therefore ensure that I always have enough emergency money (or else my credit card to hand!) if I am no-where near friends or family so that I can spend an extended amount of time in comfort at the services or even book a room in a motel.

Your journey may only be local, however; each time you get behind the wheel of car it is vital that you are prepared for every eventuality especially when it comes to your health, how it affects your ability to drive and the knock on effect of those using the roads alongside you.

Driving in the Countryside

You may think that no matter where you chose to drive be it in town, in the countryside, or on the motorway that driving is just driving. You would be wrong. Each of these areas has hazards which if you are not used to could potentially cause accidents if you are not prepared. So, for those who spend most of their time driving around built up areas like the centre of town, here are a few things to consider when driving in the countryside.

Country Roads are a lot different from those you find in a town centre. Yes they are made of the same asphalt, but that is probably where the similarities end. Many of them do not have a curb and their markings may just consist of the middle white line. The dirt they attract is also very different often making the surface more slippery.

Another thing to remember is that country roads tend to have more plants bordering them. Many of them will be lined with the likes of tall hedgerows and conifers, which mean that you will experience many more blind corners. Along with this comes their width. A lot of country roads are narrower than those in built up town areas so be aware that your may need to reduce your speed considerably in order for other vehicles to pass by.

Country Vehicles can be very varied. Whilst most people who live in the country will own a car, there will be many vehicles used by companies and industries which tend to be located in the country. Take for example farm vehicles like tractors. They are extremely slow and their use means that they don’t just use the roads. You will find them entering and exiting fields whose entrances may not be obvious to you.

Remember also the type of work the likes of tractors are used for and the fact many of them do not carry their load enclosed and it is these loads that often spill over slightly onto the road and the fact that they get used in farmland, the road surfaces in the country are often much more “muddier” than those found round town. This can make for quite a precarious road surface in adverse weather conditions.

Other Road Users in the country do not just consist of vehicles and pedestrians. Bearing in mind most country settings will house various farming communities, you will often find that not only are you sharing the road with horses but also many of the farm yard animals like cows, pigs and sheep when they are being moved from one location to another. You should also be prepared for those that have decided to venture out on their own!

Driving in the country is very much a different experience altogether than driving around town. Whilst the surroundings may be more picturesque and charming, don’t be fooled that the driving conditions are just as laid back. If anything there is more dangers you could fall fowl of. Wherever you drive you need to have respect for the communities around you and all the road users these communities have to offer.