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.






Action Plan for Learning to Drive

The forthcoming Easter holidays are a perfect time to take a break from work and studying, sit back and re-evaluate how the plans we made for this year back in January are genuinely panning out. Had you decided that this was going to be the year you were going to learn to drive but that plan has yet to turn into reality?  Has your plan taken a back seat?

If it has then don’t panic and consider the following before rushing to dial the first driving school number you come across.

Provisional License

Before you can get behind the wheel of a car, you will need to in possession of a Provisional driving license. The form you require to apply for one is called a D1 and you can either pick up a copy at your local Post Office or downloaded online. Your bank balance will require the mere sum of £50 plus a little extra for 2 x passport photographs, the cost of an envelope and a stamp!

Be sure to read the D1 form thoroughly so that you are sending ALL the required identification documentation the DVLA need in order to process your application. This will include ensuring that your photographic ID is certified by a person who is not related to you but has known you for more than 2 years. Be aware that if you decide to approach someone like your doctor then they will charge an administration fee for the privilege! It is also worth noting that the Post Office offers a service whereby they will check though your applications to ensure you send it off correctly.

Costs Involved

When I first learnt to drive I was very lucky as my own private bank (otherwise known as “Daddy”) paid for everything for me, however after having failed my first test this particular bank decided I should learn to stand on my own two feet and pay for the second time around myself! Your budget will determine how many lessons you can take per week which in turn will dictate how long you can expect to take to pass you test based on your learning abilities. You will also need to take into account the costs involved in sitting your Theory and Practical tests. (Currently this stands at a minimum of £93.00).

Driving lessons themselves will vary depending from Driving School to Driving School and whether you have the savings to bulk book a series of lessons in one go. There are often good discounts to be had if you can do the latter rather than paying as you go. Seen as Government statistics show that it takes an average of 47 lessons before you can think about taking your test, it may be prudent to plan a savings scheme before actually booking any lessons.

Driving Schools

With most things in life, when you are looking to invest time and money in something, it always a good idea to research the options available to you, it is no different with a Driving School. You will need to spend a lot of time in a car with someone who is not only teaching you but is also ensuring your health and safety. You need to consider a lot about your potential instructor including personality, temperament, and patience as well as their teaching abilities. Often recommendation from someone who has had a good experience with the results they desired is a good way to source a Driving Instructor.


Importance of a Driving License

provisional licenseBefore you can even think about getting behind the wheel of a car you will need a driving license. If you are a learner driver then you will need to apply for a provisional license. This can be done online or through the post office.  At the current time you will be required to send in with your application a payment of £50 and relevant forms of identification.

As long as all this is okay you will be forwarded your provisional license. This will now allow you to organise driving lessons. Whilst you are also able to drive with someone who is 21 years of age or over, who has been in possession of a full driving license for 3 years or over, it is advisable that you arrange your lessons with a competent professional driving instructor from a reputable driving school.

Your driving school of choice will also need to see that you are in receipt of a provisional driving license before they will be allowed to take you out on the road. Your license will show your name, date and place of birth, duration for which it is valid, your unique driver reference number, your signature, your address, the categories of vehicle you are allowed to drive and of course your photograph.

Once you have passed your driving test you will be able to apply to have your provisional license changed for a full one which will show all the same information and of course the fact that you are licensed to drive on your own. Once this information has been updated with the DVLA the information they hold will also be accessible by other companies.

Anything you do in respect of your driving such as parking tickets, speeding fines and/or other offences you receive will be recorded against your name and driver number. If the police stop you in your car for any reason not only will they check your license, but they will also be able to check if you have the appropriate insurance.

Your license will also become useful for many other instances where a company will require a form of identification. Throughout your life from banks to stores to almost anyone asking for proof of who you are, you’re driving license will almost certainly become your primary form of identification.

Your license currently needs updating every ten years with a new photograph and you should advise the DVLA every time you change address or of any other changes that may affect what you can and can’t drive. I hate my driving license and it stays firmly put in my purse and only comes out when absolutely necessary. Why? Because the photograph is awful! I think it is a pre-requisite of driving licenses that we all dislike our photo but as it is one of the most important documents I own I guess I will just have to wait until the next change and remember to put some lippy on!

For more useful information visit our website.


Driving Distractions

Driving Distractions

How often have you driven home from work or gone on a journey to see friends and family only to be stuck on the motorway at a standstill. When the traffic finally gets moving again, nine times out of ten you will eventually pass a vehicle or two being lifted onto a tow truck with the remnants of an accident still strewn across the lanes of the motorway.

I don’t know about you but when this occurs on a bright day with clear visibility I often wonder how the accident could have occurred in the first place.

For many years drink driving was regarded as the top danger for putting our road users at risk, causing accidents with the potential to inflict horrific injuries and worse, leading to the loss of life. Present day has seen distracted driving fast becoming the number one cause of accidents on our roads. What with mobile phones, iPods and Satellite Navigation Systems being readily available with many new cars having the options to use them built in, whilst they a convenience we don’t want to live without, they have the potential, thanks to the distractions they cause, to cause serious and often deadly car accidents thanks to the distractions they cause.

Studies were carried out as far back as 2003 in America, which showed that those drivers, who engaged in a long telephone conversation whilst driving, were actually worse whilst behind the wheel of their car than those who were driving above the legal limit of alcohol consumption. Whilst we allow drivers to have cordless or Bluetooth telephones in their car, some studies have shown that there is no significant difference when comparing stopping distances between people using these types of phones and those that use a handheld.

Although the use of handheld telephones is prohibited whilst driving, many people choose to ignore this and their use is still causing many accidents. Scarier than this is the fact that text messaging is probably causing even more accidents than telephone use. A study in America in 2009 showed that a huge 81% of their accidents were caused by distracted driving with text messaging being the single largest distraction.

Text messaging makes us over 73 times more likely to be involved in an accident, than if we were driving undistracted.

There are many other distractions other than just mobile phones. How our passengers behave, how we interact with them, how loud we have our music, ill health and much more can provide a distraction. The result however is the same. A driver who is not capable of giving their full attention to their driving is more likely to be involved in an accident.

Driving skills are taught right from the moment we first get behind the wheel of a car with our driving instructor, and a reputable company will ensure that all new drivers are aware of all the dangers they may be exposed to whilst driving including those they can cause themselves. Everyone who gets behind the wheel of a car owes it to themselves and other users of the road to be a responsible driver.

Teaching Youngsters Respect for Vehicles, Driving and Using our Roads

You can’t contemplate learning to drive on the road alongside other road users until you are 17 years of age and have successfully applied for and received your provisional license. Then you can look to taking your driving lessons with an approved driving instructor. Although you can be taught by a friend or family member who is 21 years of age or over and has held a full driving license for a minimum of 3 years, it is highly recommended that you use an approved driving school instead.

More recently the option to experience “off road” driving lessons without the need for a provisional driving license from as young as 14 (depending on the individual company insurance policy) has been introduced at special facilities. These facilities afford the young drivers the chance to learn and focus on driving skills without any distractions from other road users, therefore offering a safer environment for the basic skills to be acquired before reaching the required age to drive on public roads.

These lessons are being advertised with the emphasis being on being suited to those with a slightly more nervous attitude to cars and driving and to those who would like to build confidence and obtain firm foundations that can be developed further once driving on public roads.

It is important that with these options being available from an even earlier age that our children are taught and are aware of the dangers that are all around them in respect of vehicles long before they even contemplate getting behind the wheel of car.

Most children will be used to being sat in the passenger seat of a car from a very early age, however many may find they have a misconception of their capabilities. A lot of this will be due to influences like the many computer games available to children which let them race virtual cars on screen without a care in the world.

The speeds these simulated games allow to drive at, far exceed those that have been put in place on our roads for our safety, a lot of the manoeuvring capabilities of the computer cars are more sophisticated than those of the cars we drive around in every day (unless of course you happen to be Lewis Hamilton!), stopping distances don’t even come into the equation and if they crash or fail at what they are trying to achieve, all you have to do is press the “x” button and start all over again!

With all this in mind, it would be prudent to ensure that children are taught basic road and vehicle awareness. None of us like seeing the adverts on television where the show the effects a vehicle hitting a person can have on our bodies, (which even at a speed we consider to be driving slow can be devastating) however parents should not shy away from either explaining these or allowing their children to see such footage.

Schools have long since worked with each other in teaching kids such things as the Green Cross Code which remain a vital part of their education, however since the inception of games consoles and the fact our cars are far more advanced from the day they were invented, it is more important than ever that awareness of our roads and the vehicles that use them are instilled in our children from a very early age.

 My personal opinion is that these off road lessons from the age of 14 are a positive step in bridging the gap between computer simulations and obtaining the feel of the true nature of a car’s capabilities long before they are allowed to drive alongside vehicles on public roads.

Tips for driving in adverse weather conditions

driving_in_snowI am currently sat in my dining room, heating on full blast, cup of tea in hand, watching my brother “gear up” for a couple of hours fun in the snow outside with my nephews. He looks like he is ready to join an expedition to cross the Antarctic! I will be considered “boring Aunty” as I have chosen to stay in the warm. The only thing that would make me consider going outside was if someone had invited group of penguins to join in the fun!

I am lucky enough to have a job where I can work from home, but Monday morning for many will probably mean a delayed journey to work in the cold and before they even get to work, tempers could very well be frayed. It is all very well advising us all only to travel if absolutely necessary, however for many of us this is not an option as a day at home could mean no pay and many bosses will expect their staff in work no matter the weather conditions.

So… for all those that have no other choice other than using their car in adverse weather conditions, please consider the following before setting off on your journey.

 The Vehicle

It would be prudent to check items such as the tread on your tyres, water levels, oil levels etc… This will ensure the vehicle is running efficiently and prevent unnecessary breakdowns. If the weather is such that temperatures are freezing it would be practical to make sure you have plenty de-icer for both the windscreen and locks.

Check that your windscreen wipers are capable of clearing your windscreen and that all of the lights are working perfectly. You can only be responsible for your own driving; however you still need to make sure that you are doing everything possible to make sure other road users can see you.

Driving Your Vehicle

Many of us are guilty of creeping a few miles an hour over the speed limits in perfect driving conditions, however now is the time to stick to the speed limits in place. They are there for a reason. Your mind needs to be totally focused on your driving so distractions such as the stereo on full volume should be a no-no. If you have company in the car such as children, make sure they are aware that misbehaving is not an option; you need to keep your eyes on the road. Using your mobile phone, whilst driving, is an offense which is punishable by law. If you have to use it, find a safe place to pull over, stop your car and switch off the engine before doing so.

In the Event of a Breakdown.

You should make sure you have a “Warning Triangle” in your car which should be placed appropriately on the road if you have broken down. It would also be sensible to make sure you have a working torch. Most importantly your car documents including insurance details, driving license, details of the relevant recovery company and as most of us own a mobile phone, ensure that it is fully charged before leaving the house.

It would also be sensible to take in your vehicle with you a blanket and/or warm clothing in the event you find yourself waiting for the necessary services for a long period of time. If you have children with you, then it would also be prudent to bring along items that will keep them distracted and entertained in the circumstances.

If you would like more information about learning the valuable skills for driving in adverse weather conditions, visit the Passplus page at James School of Motoring.

New Year Plan for Learning to Drive

new years plan to learn to driveAs Big Ben strikes to mark the start of the New Year, many of us have resolved to achieve certain goals in our life during the year ahead. Statistics show that many of us do not succeed at our ambition and one of the main reasons for this can be bad planning, which in turn leads to us losing focus on what we have been trying to accomplish.

If you are one of many who have decided that this is the year to pass to your driving test, planning for what lies ahead is essential. Not only will it help you realise your dream but as this dream could potentially be a very expensive one, it will also allow for cost effectiveness. Unless you are lucky enough that money is not an issue, then the financial aspects of learning to drive should therefore be the first objective on your plan.

The first cost will be applying for a provisional driving license which currently costs £50. This can be obtained through the Post Office or online and you will need 2 passport size photographs will cost an average of £5.

Government statistics show that in order to be ready to take a Driving Test, you will have to have had on average 47 driving lessons. After establishing how much money per week you will have to put towards lessons, research ALL your local driving schools and work out which one can offer you the best value for money based on your finances and the time in which you are planning for it to take to be ready to take a test.

You will also need to factor into your financial plan the cost of both your Theory and Practical Test.

The next part of your plan should be when you are intending on having your driving lessons. You need to ensure it is at a time when you are not rushing around and are at your least stressed from your usual day to day activities. When you get behind the wheel of a car, your mind should be solely focused on your driving lesson and nothing else. It would be prudent to check with your chosen driving school what their cancellation policies are in the event of unforeseen circumstances.

Once your lessons are in place, it would be wise to investigate the various products available to aid in achieving success. These include books, interactive DVD’s, mobile phone applications and many more. No matter your lifestyle choice there will be a product on the market for every budget and to suit every your way of life. These will of course have an impact on your financial plan.

The final part of your plan should be how you can help yourself stay focused and overcome any nerves you may have. Again there are products available to help you relax and stay calm but remember these cannot be anything that will affect your capabilities when driving. Try researching items like relaxation CD, s or mind and spiritual classes like Yoga.

For more information to help you learn to drive, visit www.jamessom.co.uk.