In this article, we’ll cover some basic driving tips that even novice drivers can apply. If everyone behind the wheel can embrace them, we’ll make our roads safer for everyone.
Plan your trip ahead of time
Know your destination before you get behind the wheel. Find the safest route and know what lane you’re required to take before you begin your trip. Lack of planning can cause distraction and unnecessary pressure, which often leads to accidents.
Before getting into the vehicle, walk around it and keep an eye for any damage or object that could be blocking the car. The last thing you want is an accident to occur before you even begin your journey. A circle check helps to ensure the coast is clear before you start driving.
Maintain a steady speed
There’s no award for over speeding or changing lanes the most. Changing the lane constantly doesn’t get you to your destination much faster than the rest. You’ll only end up braking more often.
Scan the road ahead
The safest drivers maintain Minimum Eye Lead Time (MELT). When driving in urban areas, scan the road 12 to 15 seconds ahead. When on the highway, scan the road 20-30 seconds ahead or as far as you can see. This helps to anticipate hazards and reduce accidents.
Keep a safe distance
Avoid following the lead driver closely. When driving in the city, maintain a following speed of two seconds. On the highway, it’s 3-4 seconds. Following too closely can increase the risk of rear-end collisions.
Throw quick glances, don’t look
Move your eyes every few seconds. Glancing helps drivers to be aware of the surroundings without focusing on one direction only. A lot goes on the roads and throwing quick glances can help you to take the right safety steps.
Check the mirrors
Develop a habit of checking the rear and side mirrors every 5 to 8 seconds. Before slowing down, while stopping, before and after turning, check your mirrors.
Lock the doors
Ensure all the doors are locked properly before beginning the journey. A car door opening unexpectedly in the middle of the road can be confusing and contribute to accidents.
When parking, drive slowly through one spot to park in the other while being conscious of the blind spot at the rear of the vehicle.
Don’t argue with trucks
If a truck does something discourteous or dangerous, don’t argue, just signal and get out of the way. Trucks are bigger than most cars and forcing your way through will only end up causing an accident.
Learn how to control your anger and respond to others on the road. Traffic problems shouldn’t be taken personally so learn how to keep your emotions in check. If being tailgated by an aggressive driver, drive to the nearest police station at the correct speed limit and report the matter.
Know how to handle tailgaters
If being tailgated, drive slowly before stopping. Change lanes to avoid tailgaters or slow down enough to encourage the driver behind to go around you. If none of these strategies work, check to ensure it’s safe and pull off the road to allow the tailgater to pass.
There are several ways to communicate with other road users. Use the horn when necessary to avoid a collision. Avoid honking if it’s safe to slow down or stop to avoid a collision. Appropriate use of turn signals, brake lights, hazard lights, and horn makes it easy for other drivers. Also, communicate using hand signals what you intend to do.
Blind spots are the areas to the sides of the car that cannot be clearly seen on the side or rear mirrors. Before changing lanes, one has to ensure the spots are clear and this could mean physically turning around and looking. Drivers should know where the blind spots are for their own vehicle as well as other driver’s vehicles. Don’t stay on another driver’s blind spot for more than 3 seconds. This can help protect you and other road users from easily avoidable accidents.
Avoid running a red light
Statistics show that running red lights, stop signs and other traffic control devices greatly contributes to urban crashes. In some urban areas, green lights are timed for vehicles that go at or a little below the speed limit. Driving within the required speed limits can help you get to your destination more efficiently. When approaching the red light, wait three to four car lengths back if there’s no vehicle behind you.
If you’re in a multi-lane road, use the signals to get in the left lane. Avoid turning left from a right or centre lane unless there are markings to show that it’s a left turn lane. Turn the left-hand signal at least 100 feet before you make the turn. Look both ways for oncoming traffic, not just cars, but motorcycles, cyclists and pedestrians too.
If you’re preparing for a road test, keep in mind the following tips:
- Look left, centre and right before going through an intersection
- Check your mirrors every 5 seconds or as often as possible
- When pulling out of the parking spot, remember to turn on the signals
- Remember to maintain the right lane as much as possible especially if you’re about to make a turn.
Relax and put into practice all that you’ve been taught by your instructor. The examiner is there to help ensure your safety on the road.