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Sue Hayward

Five ways to be a better driver


What bad driving habits have you picked since you passed your test? Sue Hayward puts driving skills to the test with a refresher lesson.

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We'd all like to think we're good drivers but once you've been on the roads for a few years it's easy for bad driving habits to creep up on us and these can prove dangerous.

I recently took one of the AA's free Drive Confident courses and asked my instructor Sarah Dean for her tips on how experienced drivers could improve their driving skills.

Remember the two second rule

Driving too close to the vehicle in front is a common bad habit.

"Always leave a two-second stopping distance between you and the car in front, and double that when it's wet," says Dean.

"And if you're driving in ice and snow that stopping distance goes up to twenty seconds."

Keeping your distance when joining a motorway is important too.

Dean adds: "You should aim to match the speed of the other traffic on the motorway which makes it easier to filter in smoothly."

I am reminded that hogging the middle lane at slower speeds is bad driving practice as other drivers may get impatient and cut in when overtaking so try to stay in the left lane unless you're overtaking.

Clean your car

Grubby windscreens and dirty mirrors can cause problems if you can't see where you're going, but the clutter inside your car like empty take out coffee cups can cause accidents too.

According to car insurance firm More Than, 20% of drivers have had an accident or near miss due to empty coffee cups rolling under the brake pedal.

What's more, 44% of women experience problems with the pedals due to driving in high heels.

Obey bus lane rules

How many of us boycott bus lanes because we're never quite sure what the rules are? 

"I've been in traffic queues which could easily have been avoided if people used the bus lanes when they're allowed to," says Dean.

Look for the blue time plates at the start of the bus lane to see when it's in operation.

It may be the case that while drivers aren't allowed to use the lane between, say, 7am and 10am and 4pm and 7pm, outside these designated times you can.

A speed limit is your maximum driving speed

"Too many people drive too fast," says Dean, with the knock-on effect that they harass other drivers.

This behaviour can then cause accidents if the driver in front feels intimidated and loses concentration.

"Speed limits are set for optimum driving conditions, so if it's dark, wet or foggy then you should adjust your speed accordingly."

And if you're being tailgated by an aggressive driver, "pull over when it's safe to do so and let them go", advises Dean.

Take a break

While it's against the law to use a hand-held mobile, even talking on a hands-free device can be a distraction when driving, as can noisy children, chatty passengers or having the radio on, so make allowances for the effect this has on your concentration.

"You need a fifteen-minute break every two hours," says Dean.

And if you're going on a long journey, make sure you know where the service stations are when you plan your stops.

Don't risk missing one only to find it's a fifty-mile drive to the next.


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