Archive 2014

Tips on Driving Abroad

This article is probably aimed at those of you who have been driving for a while and have an adventurous streak. It could also be that you intend to take a holiday in Europe and want the freedom of a car. It doesn’t matter if you intend to take your own car, or hire one; rules and regulations for driving in Europe can differ in a huge way compared to those in the UK.

So, in the following few words we aim to give you some handy tips and advice on what you should consider if you’re about to use the roads abroad.

Getting to Know the Basics

The one thing that seems very obvious to point out, but it is easily forgotten is that many countries in Europe drive on the right and not the left, so this is the first thing you have to consider. You have to think about not just being able to handle your car correctly, but get used to everything being on the “other side”.

For example, it can take a bit of getting used to when you have to reach for the gear stick with your right hand instead of your left (let alone all the other controls you’re used to). You will also have to think about how you use your “mirror, signal, manoeuvre” as well. If you’re worried about doing this, there are driving instructors out there that can help, so it might be a good idea to give one a call.

Also bear in mind that whilst we’re used to MPH (miles per hour).  In Europe everything is KM (kilometres) instead. So, if you see a sign that says 30 KM to the next town, it will be a lot closer than you’re used to.

The country you choose to drive in will have some basic warning signs that don’t look that much different to those we have in the UK, but again, it’s worth getting a handbook so you can familiarise yourself with those that might cause some confusion.

Safety

It’s now compulsory to have reflective jackets in your car along with a road assistance kit, and in some countries you have to make sure you have jackets for both the driver and passengers which should be on show. In Spain for instance, it’s not uncommon to be stopped by traffic police just so they can take a quick look inside to make sure you’ve adhered to this rule.

Drinking and driving goes without saying – don’t do it! However, if you intend to drive in France (even if you’re just passing through) you will have to make sure you’re carrying a personal breathalyser kit. In fact, it may surprise you to know that Spain, Italy, and France are very hot on drinking and driving. The police will think nothing of stopping you at random so they can make sure you’re not over the legal limit which incidentally, is much lower than the UK.

Overall

If you’re taking your own vehicle, make sure it’s had a proper service before you leave and if you intend to hire a car, take all the safety information you can lay your hands on. Driving abroad doesn’t have to take the fun out of your trip as long as you follow the rules.

Do I Need Glasses for Driving?

This is a question many people don’t ask, and the main reason for this is pride! As silly as it sounds, lots of us don’t like to admit that our eyesight might be failing however, this could be a very dangerous thing to do if you often spend time on the roads.

The trouble with eyesight issues is they don’t tend to happen overnight. You might notice that you have to draw in closer so you can read a map or road sign (or indeed move away so you can see it more clearly). If you think this might be you, you’re not alone! Statistics show that at least 26% of drivers in the UK haven’t had an eye test in the last 2 years.

Legal Requirements

Unfortunately, the DVLA has yet to tighten up the laws on how healthy your eyesight is when you drive. In fact, the only real test you have is during your practical driving test when you have to be able to read a number plate from 20 metres away without any trouble.

If you already wear contact lenses or glasses when you have to take this test, it’s not a problem. After that, there is little in the way of regulation. In fact, the DVLA relies upon you and to some extent, insurance companies so they know you can see properly when you drive.

How to Recognise the Signs

Aside from having trouble not being able to read various road signs when you’re out driving, there are other signs to look for. Perhaps you don’t notice vehicles coming up to junctions very well, or you find it hard to see what type of vehicle is about to overtake you (motorcycles are a great example of this).

Don’t Be Embarrassed!

You shouldn’t let your pride get in the way. After all, millions of people have eye problems that vary in severity from slight long or short sightedness to more complicated issues. The fact is you’re not alone, and if someone close to you has expressed some concern, take this “on board”!

Visiting an optician isn’t taboo, and if it’s been a while since you saw one you might find you’ll have to book well in advance because so many other people are ahead of you in the queue. If you are told you need glasses especially for driving, make sure you wear them! Studies have shown that about 9% of drivers who are advised to wear glasses when they’re driving either forget or don’t bother.

There is no shame in admitting your eyes are not working like they once used to because this is one of the most common problems anyone can have, so make sure you visit the optician if you’re in the least bit worried.

It could save your (or someone-else’s) life. What would be worse? Reaching for the case that contains a pair of glasses you need for driving or having to deal with the fact that you or someone-else was severely inured in an accident that could have been avoided!

Older Drivers Should You Be Concerned?

The title to this post may seem offensive to some people however, there is no getting away from it because we all age. If you’re in the prime of your life and you’re reading this with anything but sympathy in your heart because you’ve recently come across and elderly person on the road, I suggest you think again!

Respecting our elders is sadly lacking these days and instead of showing some patience for people who are driving a little slower than you would like, or take more time at junctions is not something that should be met with rude gesticulations or a tooting of your horn.

The fact is the person that’s in front of you has been on this planet an awful lot longer than you, and it’s worth remembering you could actually learn a thing or two especially when you are out driving. However, there are some points that older people should think about if they’re still driving.

Fatigue and General Frailty

You may be 21 in your mind, but unfortunately your body is less than inclined to agree with you. If you do start to feel tired when you’re driving even if it’s just a short trip to the local supermarket, don’t be afraid to pull over and take a rest. You’ll feel better for it, and it may just stop you from getting into an accident.

Avoid longer journeys if you can. It’s tempting to think you can still do a 2 hour trip up the motorway, but as you’ve probably noticed times have changed on the roads since you learned to drive. People move much faster than they once used to, and a long car journey will not only take its toll on you physically but mentally as well.

The points above are incredibly important because if you are unlucky enough to be involved in an accident that lands you in hospital, broken bones or other injuries will take longer to heal.

Your Licence and Being Fit to Drive

Once you reach the age of 70, the DVLA requires you (by law) to reapply for your driving licence, and this will have to be done once every three years from now on. Whilst you won’t have to re-take your test or undergo a medical, it’s up to you to be responsible enough to disclose any new health concerns that may have arisen.

For instance, if your eyesight is worse than it was, or you’ve been diagnosed with a condition that could affect your ability to drive – disclose it! If you don’t, it could land you in trouble. This is because the DVLA does have the right to make further investigations if they want to when you reapply.

Finally

Youngsters! Keep an eye on elderly family, friends and neighbours. If you’re in any way concerned about their ability to take to the roads safely, you must act upon it. This can be a delicate situation and if you’re having trouble getting through to someone, you could consider speaking to a professional driving instructor who has trained in the art of dealing with senior drivers. You never know, it might just save a life!

Long Car Journeys –Stay Safe!

We all know that every-time you get into your car, you’re taking a risk. However, for most of us we will breeze through our “driving lives” without any issues at all or at the very most the odd minor one here and there. Because driving does eventually become second nature (and if you’re currently learning believe us when we say it will), you can become a little complacent about the risks involved.

For those of your that drive long distances all the time, you could consider yourself a seasoned “pro”, but for people who don’t drive a long way very often the points made below are something you should really think about before you embark upon your journey (or, indeed during your journey).

Preparing

If you intend to take a route that’s new to you, preparation is vital! OK, so no-one ever came to any real harm by getting lost but it doesn’t exactly help your stress levels so having a good idea of the route you intend to take is the one of the first things to think about.

The internet is a great place to start and there are many websites that will help you map out your route, and you can then print off a copy so it’s with you in the car. Of course, you shouldn’t forget to take a road map with you anyway just in case things do go wrong and you’re lost with the instructions you brought with you.

Satellite Navigation systems are something many people will turn to these days, however they’re not fool proof and can act as a distraction from what’s happening on the road so use these with care. In fact, in our opinion you should never rely solely on a SatNav system.

The Night Before

The very last thing you should do is go out with friends the night before, especially if alcohol is involved. Even one drink could still be in your system the next day, and you might feel OK but your faculties might not be what they should be. Instead, make sure you get an early night so you’re refreshed the next morning.

On the Day

Avoid having a large breakfast. The reason for this is a full stomach can make you feel sleepy pretty soon after you embark upon your journey, and this won’t help concentration levels. Consider a light breakfast, and then you can take a well earned break at a local service station for some refreshment no more than 2 hours into your trip.

Speaking of breaks, these should be something you take as often as you feel the need to. One of the biggest causes of accidents with long distance driving is tiredness, so if you’re concentration starts to wane, or you feel a little stiff it’s time to pull over for a while and take a break.

Above all, take your time! Being in a rush can cause all sorts of problems. Day-to-day life is stressful enough so treat your journey like a day out and you’ll be just fine.

Learner Drivers and Car Insurance

So you’ve finally got your provisional licence and you’re all set to start learning to drive. If you’ve just turned 17, this can be a very challenging time in your life. However, the one thing that many learner drivers overlook is the small matter of car insurance and to some degree you can be forgiven for this. After all, the world of driving is very new to you. So, in the following few words we aim to give you an idea of what you should be doing.

Using a Driving Instructor

If you intend to use a qualified driving instructor, they will ALWAYS have insurance to cover you when you drive their vehicles. In fact, this is one thing you should check when you’re looking for someone who either works alone or is part of a driving school. Check to make sure the cover is fully comprehensive and should (God Forbid) there is an accident, you won’t be held liable.

Using a Friend or Family Member’s Car

This might be trickier than you think, and it’s worth having a conversation with Mum or Dad before you decide what you would like to do with this. You see getting some practice in when you’re not due an official driving lesson can help you become more adept with your driving skills a bit quicker.

This means you might not need to spend as much money as you first thought on lessons (although it’s highly advisable you at least take a few with a qualified instructor). When it comes to insurance, it all depends on the type of policy your parents have. Sometimes it’s just a case of making a phone call and adding you to the policy however, there might be instances when an insurance company won’t accept you because you don’t have a full driving licence yet.

In the case of friends, they can do the same but again there will be stipulations. You won’t be allowed to drive unless you’re supervised by the insurance policy holder, and this person has to be at least 21 years old and has had a full driving licence for 3 years. Some car insurance companies will stipulate the age of the policy holder should be 25 simply because of the risk that’s involved.

Your Own Car Insurance

If you’re lucky enough to have your own car, or you would just prefer to take out your own insurance, there are many large insurance companies on the market that offer all types of policies. Some will let you take out a policy for as little as 7 days and others will insure you for 12 months.

Lots of them will also offer you incentives when you take a policy out with them when you’ve gained your full driving licence, so this might be a good idea if you want to save some money once you’re allowed to drive on your own.

The upshot is that you WILL need to make sure you have car insurance when you take to the roads no matter if it’s with a friend, family member or an instructor so make sure you’re covered.