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How to become a better driver

Kwik Fit | Tuesday 24th October 2017 2:00pm

Black Volkswagen Golf

Whether youíre new to driving or youíve got years of experience behind the wheel, there are probably steps you could take to make yourself a better motorist. So, if you want to improve your skills and ensure youíre as safe as possible when youíre out and about on the roads, itís worth paying attention to the following tips.

Always travel at a safe speed

It might seem like an obvious point, but one of the most important things you can do to drive well is stick to a safe speed at all times. This means looking out for speed limit signs and knowing your highway code. Itís especially easy to be caught out in urban areas now, with a rising number of towns and cities introducing new 20mph restrictions. So, it pays to always be on the lookout when youíre driving in unfamiliar places. 

Also, donít make the mistake of seeing speed restrictions as targets. Theyíre a maximum rather than something you should aim for - and often itís not safe to travel at the specified limits. For example, if roads are wet or icy, itís foggy or the sun is low in the sky, youíll need to adjust your speed to suit the conditions. 

As well as increasing your risk of accidents and potentially landing you with a fine and points on your licence, driving fast costs more. The harder you press the accelerator, the more fuel you burn. This means that by sticking to sensible speeds, you stand to save yourself money.

Take regular breaks

Research suggests that nearly a fifth of accidents on major roads are fatigue-related, and these crashes are more likely than other categories of accident to result in serious injury or death. With facts like these, itís not hard to see why itís so important to avoid driving when youíre tired. If youíre feeling sleepy before a journey, the best thing to do is delay it and get some rest. Meanwhile, on long trips, make sure you schedule enough time to take regular breaks. Giving yourself a chance to get some fresh air, stretch your legs and have some refreshments should help to keep you alert when you get back behind the wheel. 

If you start to feel tired when youíre on the roads, pull over at the first available service station, have an energy drink or cup of strong coffee and, if you can, take a 20-minute nap. This should help you to concentrate for the rest of your journey.

Drive as smoothly as possible

Driving smoothly makes journeys more pleasant for you and your passengers, and itís safer. By decelerating and accelerating in a controlled manner and anticipating the road ahead to avoid having to make sudden stops or swerves, you can minimise the risk of accidents. This non-aggressive style of driving can also help you cut your fuel bills by as much as 20 to 30 per cent. Itís good for your car too. By braking progressively (which means applying slight pressure to your brakes, gradually increasing the pressure and then finishing with light braking), you can reduce wear and tear on your tyres and brakes.

Slow down before bends

If you brake when youíre in the middle of a bend, thereís a danger that youíll lose control and have an accident. To reduce the risk of skidding, make sure you always lower your speed before you enter bends and corners and slowly accelerate once you emerge at the other side. This is a good rule of thumb in all weather conditions, and itís especially important if the road surface is wet or icy.

Donít get too close to the car ahead

If youíre in a rush or the car in front of you is travelling frustratingly slowly, you might be tempted to get too close to it. However, tailgating is dangerous and itís something you should avoid in all situations. Being too near to the vehicle in front of you gives you very little stopping distance - and thereís also a risk that youíll antagonise the driver and provoke a road rage incident. 

For these reasons, it pays off to always keep the Ďtwo second ruleí in mind when youíre following traffic. This means that as the car in front of you passes a fixed point, you should be able to count at least two seconds before you pass the same point. This is exactly how chevrons work on motorways. If you see painted chevrons on the road surface and signs advising drivers to Ďkeep 2 chevrons apartí this is to maintain the two second rule.

Remove distractions

Distractions can lead to disaster when youíre behind the wheel, so do your best to remove them. For example, unless you can use your mobile hands-free in your car, consider putting it on silent and placing it in your glovebox so youíre not tempted to answer calls or read messages while youíre en route. Also, if youíre using a sat nav, programme it before you set off so you donít have to take your eyes off the road. If you need to re-route after youíve set off, find a safe place to pull over before you do this. 

A top tip if youíre driving with kids is to give them a tablet or good book to keep them busy so that they donít try to get your attention too much during the journey.

Do your car safety checks

No matter how diligently you drive, your safety and that of your passengers and other road users might be at risk if you donít do regular car safety checks. For example, every couple of weeks or before long trips, take a look at your tyres, making sure the pressure and general condition is OK. Pay attention to the tread depth too. The legal minimum is 1.6mm, but many safety experts recommend a minimum of 3mm. 

Itís also important to make sure your windscreen washer fluid is topped up, your lights (including your indicators, brakes, fog lights and reversing lights) are working and your windscreen doesnít have any signs of chips or cracks. Check the condition of your windscreen wipers too, as well as engine oil levels and coolant levels. 

If you spot any problems with your car or itís time for its service, you can contact your nearest Kwik Fit centre to get it checked over.

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