You’ve just passed your driving test and the L-plates are finally gone, so you’ll need our essential list of tips to help you stay safe on the road and start enjoying your new-found freedom.
1. Get to Know Your Car
Before setting off on your first trip, get acquainted with your car’s bells and whistles. Do you know how to switch on your full beams, or turn on the hazard warning lights? Have you adjusted your wing mirrors? Spend time on these details so your reactions are on point when it matters most.
2. Check Your Blind Spot
As a new driver, you’re probably tired of hearing the words ‘check your blind spot’ over and over again – almost certainly from your instructor. But deep down, we all know it’s good advice. A quick check could mean the difference between an uneventful drive to the shops, or a nasty accident. This is especially important when watching out for cyclists and motorbikes who can seem to appear out of nowhere. Don’t take the risk. Check your blind spot.
3. Practice Alone
Get used to going it alone. Flying solo without new driver anxiety takes practice, and the more confident you feel on the road, the safer you’ll be for yourself, your future passengers, and other road users. Take short trips at first and avoid the rush hour to really build your confidence!
4. Do a Dry Run or Two
Exploring a new route beforehand means you’re more prepared when the unexpected hits and you’re suddenly facing a diversion, a road closure, or heavy traffic. Don’t rely on your GPS to avoid problems, planning your route gives you peace of mind and a calm journey. Plus, it’s a great way to practice all your new skills!
5. Tackle Motorways
We know what it’s like when you’ve just passed your test. You’ve never driven on a motorway before, but to get to your job, a friend’s house, or even the airport, your route might include a dreaded ‘M’ road. For some, it can be scary at first, but don’t shy away from new challenges. How else will you learn? Stay in the left lane, and always check your blind spot before changing lanes. Breathe, and stay calm – it’ll soon become second nature. Thankfully, there’s not long to wait until you can practice your highway skills: motorway driving can now be included as part of your lesson plan.
6. Driving In Bad Weather
Brush up on what to look out for in all types of weather to make sure you’re prepared for when it inevitably changes during your journey. Be aware that braking distances differ in dry, wet, and icy conditions, and make sure your screenwash is always topped up so you’re not caught out by a sudden splash of mud from a passing lorry.
7. Turn Down the Tunes
We all love a road trip playlist, especially if it includes some serious karaoke classics. While there’s no solid evidence that listening to loud music in the car causes accidents, it can certainly be a huge distraction. A good rule of thumb is to turn it down when in difficult conditions, or when you’re starting a tricky manoeuvre.
8. Your Car, Your Rules
While we’re on the subject of distractions, make sure you stay focussed on the road and all its hazards in spite of what’s going on with your passengers. It’s exciting to finally ferry your friends around in your new ride, but make sure they know who’s boss. No looking at phones, fiddling with the radio, or obscuring your vision – for obvious reasons!
9. Stash the Phone
It goes without saying – using your mobile phone while driving is illegal, not to mention dangerous. The penalty for doing so is six points plus a £200 fine, and a new driver will lose their license if they passed their test in the last two years. If you don’t have Bluetooth capability, get yourself a hands-free set, or better yet, store your phone out of sight when you’re on the road to avoid temptation.
10. Watch Your Speed
Speeding kills, so stick to the limit or just under. This also goes for driving too slowly – for example, casually travelling at 30mph in the fast lane of the M25. It’s a good idea to assess the road in all conditions to ensure your speed isn’t a hazard to yourself or others.
Don’t forget, if you’re ever in doubt about your abilities on the road, there are a multitude of advanced driving courses available to help boost your confidence. Take some time to explore your new-found independence, and remember to enjoy the ride.