Guide to good driving

Guide to good driving

Brush up on good driving tips in order to stay safe on the road and help cut car insurance and other motoring costs.

Did you know...?

Do you consider yourself to be a good driver? We'd all like to think we are, but it can be easy to slip into habits which might mean we're not as safe on the roads as we should be.

Not concentrating for just a fraction of a second could be all it takes to cause an accident.

This could lead to points on your licence or another motoring conviction, not to mention the harm caused to yourself or another person.

And, depending on the circumstances, your car insurance provider might raise your premium or even decide that your actions have invalidated your policy and refuse to pay out for a claim.

We all know the basics of good driving but sometimes we need a quick refresher...Fuel cost calculator

Plan ahead

Sometimes when we're running late, it's all too easy to jump in the car and put our foot down without really preparing for the trip ahead.

But spending five minutes planning your journey might make all the difference to your safety. Check the weather conditions, which might be icier or wetter closer to your destination.

Traffic jams or accidents ahead might also mean diversions are in place. Using a route planner or getting traffic updates can help you avoid a trouble spot, which in turn might reduce the risk of you getting impatient in a queue and making a careless mistake.

Don't be distracted

Loud or fast music can be a real distraction; better options might include soothing music, the news, a podcast or audio book.

Similarly, distractions such as pets and noisy children can cause you to lose concentration. Make sure pets travel in secure baskets or cages, and keep children entertained with books or games to prevent them becoming too fractious.

Stay alert

Driving whilst tired is a big cause of accidents. As well as the danger of losing concentration in the first place, slower reaction times might cause the accident to be at a higher speed than otherwise.

It's recommended that all motorists take a 15-minute break for every two hours of driving and this is particularly true when you're tired or drowsy.

Make sure you have plenty of fresh air in the vehicle and a bottle of water close at hand. If you need to, pull over and have a 15-minute cat-nap (but never on the hard shoulder) or get a caffeinated drink. Try to avoid driving through the night, or getting up unusually early to start a long journey.

Remember that certain medication can cause sleepiness, too, so read our article on medical conditions and driving and chat to a pharmacist or your doctor if you have questions about the medication you're taking.Advanced driving courses

Be safe, not sorry

Many motorists accept the dangers of drink driving - and even drug driving - but the question of how much alcohol is 'safe' is a grey area.

Being under the influence could land you with a drink-driving conviction and could also invalidate your insurance. Alcohol affects people differently depending on factors such as their build and what they have had to eat, so, if in any doubt at all, don't drink anything.

Ringing the changes

It's illegal to drive whilst using a hand-held phone in the UK, yet many motorists still risk answering a call or reading a text whilst driving.

According to the Department of Transport's Think! campaign, drivers using a hand-held mobile are four times more likely to crash and their reaction times are 50% slower.

If you are caught using a hand-held mobile, you risk incurring penalty points or even having your licence taken away. A conviction could cause your car insurance premiums to go through the roof, so don't make or take calls whilst behind the wheel.

In control

It might sound obvious, but take time to familiarise yourself with the controls before you drive a new or hired car.

Make sure you know where essential controls such as indicators and headlamps are before you set off, as well as things you might need such as screen wash, fog lamps and hazard lights.

Also spend a few minutes tuning into your favourite radio station or choosing your music before setting off, as trying to do this when you're cruising along the motorway at 70mph isn't a good idea!

High maintenance

Carrying out basic maintenance on your car can prevent problems whilst you travel. Checking your water coolant levels, for example, can prevent your engine overheating, while a lack of tyre pressure could cause your tyres to lose their grip on the road.

Basic car maintenance can keep your vehicle in a roadworthy condition and can even save you money. If you do break down, read our article on what to do to keep you and your passengers safe.

Expect the unexpected

Don't take the view from your windscreen at face value. The motorist approaching a junction ahead might not be indicating, but he or she might be about to brake suddenly and turn.

The quiet country lane you're zipping along nicely might have a tractor or horse rider around the next corner. Don't get lulled into a false sense of security. Keep your distance and stay alert to potential hazards.Driving licence theory test quiz

Know the code

As learners, we pore over the Highway Code before our theory test - and then tend to quickly forget about it as soon as we take off our L plates.

We don't necessarily remember what we've learnt. A fifth of drivers don't know what the national speed limit sign is, whilst one in three drivers don't recognise the sign for 'no stopping', according to research by Co-operative Insurance.

Hang on to your Highway Code. Keep it in your glove box for easy reference and refresh your memory every now and again with a quick read through. Being able to identify signs quickly and knowing the rules of the road will reduce hesitation and make you a safer and more aware driver.

By Rebecca Lees