Getting somewhere quickly and safely in a car when every road seems gridlocked and furthermore managing to do this with confidence and no stress may sound impossible. However, with the proper training and the right tools for the job, being a safer driver can become second nature.
Keep it smooth
Driving smoothly is a key element of safer driving: you will be less stressed, your levels of concentration will increase and the fuel economy will also shoot up. According to the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) a good, safe drive relies on a mixture of techniques, but high on the list is using the vehicle’s brakes in a smooth and progressive way.
Drivers need to develop observation and anticipation, so that they can begin braking at an early stage and leave a decent margin for braking more heavily if the need arises. Many drivers tend to brake too late and too hard. Or arguably less dangerous (but equally annoying), some drivers have the habit of ‘comfort braking’ – touching the brakes to reassure themselves, even if they have no intention of slowing the car to any measurable degree. They do so in the belief that they are being careful drivers. It is better by far to learn to read the road ahead. Not only do you get early warning of developing hazards, you can respond by adjusting your speed using only your throttle.
Get into position
Think about your positioning on the road. Can you maximise your forward view by moving your vehicle to a slightly different position on the carriageway? This should not be an abrupt repositioning, but a smooth change in your line to enable you to see ahead that little bit better. Careful adjustment of your road position improves the view ahead, particularly around corners.
Back to school
Safe driving is something that can be taught. Ideally you should aim to pass the Advanced Driving Test which is conducted by the IAM. More than a quarter of a million drivers have tried it so far, with a pass rate of about 70%. Over 500 leading British companies have put their drivers through it, resulting in lower accident rates and reduced insurance costs. First, you get a detailed analysis of your performance on the test by your examiner, who will hold a Police Advanced Driving Certificate, the highest driving qualification in Britain. If you pass, you become a member of the Institute and get a number of benefits, which include discounts on things such as windscreen replacement, tyres, car hire, hotels and airport parking, as well as special offers on a range of books, road atlases and maps.
The optimum driving posture
If you aren’t comfy in the driving seat, how on earth are you going to concentrate on the road as you should? How do you know if your seat is properly adjusted? Try these two tests:
- Pray. Sit in the driver’s seat; place the hands together, fingertips and palms touching, pointing outwards from the chest. The wrists should actually be touching the chest. In this position the hands will form a fairly accurate perpendicular to the body and it should be possible to see if they are pointing at the centre of the steering wheel. If they are not, then the wheel may be offset and will need repositioning by a mechanic
- Fist. With the seat in the normal driving position it should be possible to place the fist on the crown of the head. If it is only possible to insert the flat of the hand between the roof and head then there is insufficient headroom.