It’s a great feeling when you pass your driving test. Ahead lies opportunity – and plenty of open road. But, as they say, you never really start to learn until after you pass, so until you’ve settled in to your newfound freedom here are some top tips to help you make the best of your new start to the world of motoring.
1. Research your car
While it may seem like a good idea to get the coolest, fastest car possible, the reality is that many new drivers suffer in a car that overpowers their abilities. If you start with something small, you can then build up your power as you build up your skill and experience. We know it might be a bit boring, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Once you’re sure you’ve got the right car for you, make sure you keep it in good running condition, with tax and insurance. If you have a second-hand vehicle, find out when it last had an MOT and service and make a note of the dates – that way, you’ll know exactly when it’s due again, and when to call your local Trust My Garage member for Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) consumer code approved service. You’ll also want some breakdown cover – but depending on which insurance provider you use, you may be able to get this as part of your cover.
2. Don’t be too confident
Once you’ve passed your test you no longer have an instructor, friend, or family member watching over you as you drive.Naturally, most people will test their confidence while driving as it helps build skill and experience, but try not to push yourself too hard!
A prime example of this is motorway driving. As a learner you aren’t allowed to drive on the motorway, so unless you enroll in additional, post-test motorway lessons, your first time on these fast paced roads is as a fully-fledged driver. It’s a good idea to have a more experienced driver in the car with you for your first few attempts – even if you’re only driving from one junction to another, any practice is good practice ready for longer journeys in the future.
3. Remember your theoretical knowledge
The driving theory test is there for a reason. It can be difficult once you’ve passed your test to remember all of the information at the drop of a hat, but it’s always good to keep the most important rules clear in your head. If you aren’t sure about a certain piece of information, you can always refer to The Highway Code for more details and a clear explanation.
4. Stick to speed limits
You’re finally allowed to let your hair down and drive freely – and that’s great! But remember, speed limits have been designed to keep drivers and other road users safe, so stick to them. With the new changes to speeding penalties, which you can read more about here, a new driver could have their licence revoked and a big fine after being caught over the speed limit just once.
To help combat this if you’re travelling in an unfamiliar area, keep your eyes peeled for any speed limit signs, and if possible do some research beforehand so you know what kind of speed limits to expect.
5. Have a good time!
Driving is a great experience, so take it easy, follow our top tips and have lots of fun exploring the world in your car!
Remember, if you want to keep your car in tip-top condition you can take it to your nearest Trust My Garage member using our handy Find a Garage map. Our Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) approved consumer code means that you can put your trust in our members to do a great job, and ensure you have the best experience on the roads – Just keep an eye out for the Trust My Garage shield!
In the news lately, there has been a great deal of coverage surrounding mobile phone use at the wheel. Although illegal, many motorists are still opting to use their hand-held devices whilst driving, despite the damaging implications this could have. It has now been proposed that the punishment for being caught with a mobile whilst in the driver’s seat is set to rise, with offenders receiving tougher penalties and larger fines. Although many still have a seemingly brazen attitude towards this illegal act, despite the implications it can have, there are some more common habits that many motorists are guilty of that could also potentially land you in a great deal of trouble too.
Remember, in the eyes of the law, ignorance is no defence, so it’s best to clue yourself up on these motoring illegalities, before you find yourself in trouble.
- Driving whilst on prescription drugs
It probably goes without saying that driving under the influence of drugs and hallucinogens are completely unlawful. But, we bet you didn’t know that your over-the-counter prescription drugs could lead you onto the wrong side of the law too. Some household medications come with cautionary notes suggesting that the drug could cause the user to feel drowsy and thus affect their ability to drive or operate heavy machinery. In this case, getting behind the wheel is strongly advised against and ignoring such caution could lead to a one year driving ban, an unlimited fine, up to six months in prison, and a criminal record. Always remember to read the advisory leaflet that comes alongside your medication, to keep you from having a run in with the law.
- Using phone whilst supervising learner driver
Now, we know that the law dictates against drivers using handheld devices behind the wheel, but did you know this rule also applies to driving instructors too? Anyone supervising a learner driver is considered to be in primary control of the vehicle and thus is required to give the roads their full attention. Being caught on a phone in these circumstances could lead to fines of up to £300, and up to 6 points on the supervisor’s licence. Subsequently, any driving related convictions and charges could further lead to loss of work for offenders who instruct for a living. Quite like the laws regarding drivers using their mobiles, this law does come with one exception; this illegality is only considered acceptable if the driver/instructor needs to call 999 and is not able to pull over in safe place.
- Using your horn
When you find yourself driving behind a slow motorist, it may be tempting to sound your horn by way of prompting the driver to speed up. Not only is this considered aggressive driving – it is also punishable. Actually, the rules regarding horn use are considerably refined.
Whilst in a moving vehicle, the horn should only be sounded if you need to warn other road users of your presence, such as on a blind bend. The horn should not be sounded whilst the car is stationary on the roads, or when driving in a built up area between 11.30pm and 7.00am except for extenuating circumstances, such as another road user posing a danger. Doing so could lead to a fixed penalty notice and a fine.
In more severe cases, the council may choose to take action, and charge a horn offender under the noise pollution law. If this is the case, hefty fines may be issued with up to £5000 being fined on domestic land, or up to £20,000 on commercial premises. Given this, it’s probably better to resist the temptation!
- Having a dirty number plate
We know how it can get in winter. Over the summer months, you spend hours on end, preening and presenting your motor so that it gleams in the summer sun. When it comes to winter, however, the misery and chill can make this process a little more tedious. Nobody likes having to stand out in the cold and rain; so sometimes, the car washing, waxing and cleaning process can occur very few and far between. However, such understandable neglect could see you being penalised if it affects the visibility of your number plate.
According to legislation, your number plate must be readable at all times and not covered in dirt. Failing this, you could end up with up to a £1000 fine. It is also a requirement that the number plate is fixed to the vehicle; is of the correct size, colour, font and spacing; and follows the British standard including the trademark of the plate supplier.
- Driving too slowly
With all the extensive laws regarding driving currently in place, it may be tempting to err on the edge of caution and drive a little more guardedly. However, where your intentions may be good, in this scenario, such excessive consideration could actually land you in a spot of bother. Not only is driving too slowly likely to wind up fellow road users, which could subsequently encourage potentially dangerous aggressive driving on their behalf, it could also land you with three to nine points on your licence and a potential disqualification. Why? Because holding up traffic can be considered to be driving without reasonable consideration for other road users. So, if you find yourself with a queue building up behind you, and you’re not yet at the speed limit, it may be worth speeding up a little, to avoid such punishment.
- Driving with fog lights on
Of course, this only refers to situations when it is not foggy. Sometimes, you may see other road users with their fog lights on during clear conditions – it seems it may have become a bit of a cool trend to keep them on. However, the Highway Code dictates that this is in fact not allowed. Headlights and fog lights may only be used when visibility is seriously reduced, and you generally can’t see for more than 100 meters. Should you regain a clear vision field, it is important you turn your lights off immediately. Failing to do so could dazzle other road users which could lead to further problems or fatalities, which certainly isn’t cool.
- Driving the wrong way on a one-way street
It can sometimes be a really easy mistake to make, driving the wrong way down a one-way street. Sometimes, the no-entry sign just isn’t clear enough and you find yourself driving in the opposite direction to parked up vehicles. You may think that this simple mistake is forgivable; that you could just do a quick turn-in-the-road and you’ll be fine; but actually, should you be caught by an officer, you could face a penalty or charge for driving without due care or attention. Be sure to stay extra attentive to road markings and signs to dodge such penalisation.
- Not clearing snow off the car roof
In the height of winter, when snow is all around, the last thing you want to do is stand out in the cold for longer than necessary. When it comes to setting out on a journey, you may be tempted to try and get away with just giving a section of your windscreen a quick scrape to remove any ice and condensation from your direct eyeshot. However, such a botched job could lead you into trouble with the police.
Not only are you required to completely clear all of your windows of snow and ice, but it is also imperative you remove any snow from your roof and bonnet too. Snow on the roof could slip forward onto your windscreen and obstruct your vision of the road, which could be incredibly dangerous. Not only this, but the falling snow could also cause problems for other road users too.
Anything that can fall from your car is considered a hazard which could lead to a £60 fine and three penalty points – in more serious cases, you can be charged with offences of careless or inconsiderate driving. So, it’s probably worth spending a few more minutes scraping in the morning, and investing in a good de-icer and scraper
- Driving with hazard lights on
Based on the rules dictated in the Highway Code, hazard lights should only be switched on:
- To warn others that your stationary vehicle may temporarily obstruct traffic
- Whilst on a motorway or unrestricted dual carriageway and you need to warn drivers behind you of a hazard or obstruction ahead
In both cases, it is recommended that motorists switch off the hazard lights once they have been observed by other motorists.
However, it is becoming increasingly common for road users to opt for hazard lights in other circumstances too. In many cases, motorists are using their hazard lights whilst parked in a place they shouldn’t be, under the assumption that the hazard lights will subsidise their illegal parking. Of course, this is not the case, and will be penalised. Not only that, though; aside from the aforementioned circumstances, driving with hazard lights on can cause confusion amongst other drivers and pedestrians, which could lead to potential hazards and conflicts, and thus is worthy of a penalty.
Avoid the risk of your motor becoming a hazard to other road users by keeping up to date with your car services and MOTs. Remember, there are over 2,100 Trust My Garage members around the country, all qualified and willing to conduct these necessary checks. Be sure to find your nearest trusted garage on the Trust My Garage website.
- Leaving the engine running while the car is left unattended
During the wintery weather, it may be tempting to leave your car running to warm up before you head out on your morning commute to work. However, unless you’re doing so on a private driveway or garage, this is actually a punishable offence. It is recommended that motorists do not leave their vehicles unattended with the engine on, as such actions could lead to theft or damage; both of which could further lead to subsequent danger or injury.
- Sleeping in a car whilst drunk
After a heavy night out, you can sometimes find yourself waking up in a variety of unexpected places. If, for some reason, you find yourself locked out of your own home, it may be tempting to have a kip in your car instead. It may seem like a perfectly reasonable solution; it’s warm and cushioned, and can keep you safe like a protective bubble. But, it could also see you being penalised.
If you fall asleep in a car whilst under the influence of alcohol, you can face punishments not too dissimilar than those linked to drink driving. Although you may be curled up in the back seat with the engine off, you are still considered in control of a vehicle. Even if you have no intention of driving the vehicle whilst under the influence, simply being inside it whilst drunk could land you in trouble.
In many cases, penalisation for these cases are at the discretion of any officer present. If they consider you to be out of control of your vehicle, or posing a potential danger or hazard to other road users, they are well within their rights to issue fines, penalties and points. For the safety of yourself and other motorists, it is important to take extra consideration whilst driving, and we recommend staying extra attentive! Which of these habits didn’t you know about?
The UK driving test looks set to witness the biggest changes in almost 20 years as the government plans to update the test in mid-2016 to reflect changes that have taken place in regards to both driving habits and driving technology. The plans are being introduced to help increase pass rates, which currently stand at just under 50 percent. Future driving tests will include more real life situations and conditions, it is hoped this will not only increase success rates but also prepare drivers more comprehensively for the reality of independent driving, creating more confident, proficient drivers. Trust My Garage takes a look at some of the changes learner drivers will be expected to face before they can rip up those L plates for good.
The use of satnav
One of the biggest changes to the driving test will be the inclusion of the satnav, now a commonplace navigation tool for drivers. Drivers will soon be expected to use a satnav for the first part of their test and be required to navigate their way to a specified location.
Removal of the three point turn
The three point turn, more properly called the ‘turn in the road’, and a staple of the UK driving test, could be about to disappear. According to the DVSA, it is no longer a common procedure, and will be replaced with more challenging, everyday skills instead. In addition to the removal of the three point turn, reversing around corners could also be a thing of the past under new plans.
With the removal of two manoeuvres comes the inclusion of two additional moves, including the requirement to drive forwards into a car parking space and stopping, and then reversing back out to the left or right when leaving a car park. This will replace the traditional reverse bay park and is being introduced due to the increase of trolley lanes in supermarket car parks, for drivers to take their shopping to their vehicle to store in the boot. It is thought that reversing into bays makes it difficult to open the boot when a driver reverse parks in the bay opposite. Another new manoeuvre is pulling up on the right side of the road in a convenient place, and then reversing back two car lengths, and then driving on when you are ready.
Those who have already passed their test will be familiar with the current use of show and tell questions before the test begins, however under plans to make this more realistic, drivers will be required to answer questions on the move, including describing how they would perform basic maintenance checks, with the aim to create the feel of real life situations drivers will have to face.
Raising the age limit
Currently once a driver reaches the age of 70 they are asked to re-apply every 3 years to renew their licence. Plans are now underway to increase this to 75. Reaching 75 does not mean you should stop driving, it simply means you will have to decide if you are fit to drive by renewing your licence and every three years after that.
Tips for older drivers
Being an older driver certainly doesn’t make you an unsafe driver, in fact with the experience and knowledge that comes with many years of driving, older drivers are well equipped to face the challenges of the road. However with ageing, inevitably there does come a time when our reactions may become slower and health conditions may have an impact on our ability to drive as we once did. Monitoring your health and being realistic about how this may impact on your driving, making changes when needed, will ensure you keep yourself and others safe on the roads.
Health checks should include regular hearing and sight tests. Be aware of possible side effects of any medications you may be taking and the impact this could have on your driving abilities, if you are unsure, always seek the advice of your doctor.
If you believe your reactions are slower than they previously were, plan your routes in advance, you may also decide to avoid driving at night or during times of high congestion, such as rush hour. You may also need to change your vehicle as you get older, and opt for a car with larger mirrors and windows to improve visibility. Knowing your limitations and making changes as a result is the sign of responsible driving and will ensure you remain a safe driver.
Tips for newly qualified drivers
Research from RoSPA has reported that drivers are more likely to have an accident during the first two years after qualifying than at any other time. Passing your test is just the start of your journey, a journey which will see you build up confidence, knowledge and experience. Passing your test is an exciting time but it doesn’t mean you now know all there is to know about driving; there will still be plenty of scenarios and situations you’ll have to face for the first time. Once you’ve passed your test taking an additional qualification such as Pass Plus, while not compulsory, is a great way to build on your newly acquired skills and knowledge in a safe and controlled way. There are a total of six modules covering topics including driving at night and on the motorway.
Driving requires a huge amount of concentration, regardless of experience. As a new driver, maintaining concentration and focus is a skill that needs honing, so reducing distractions is a must. Avoid carrying other passengers if you can, as you build up your confidence, as they can be the biggest source of distraction. Leave your car stereo and mobile phone switched off, eliminating the risk of interruption from a call or your favourite song.
Whether you’re an experienced driver or newly qualified, Trust My Garage can provide expert help and support to ensure your vehicle is in its best possible condition.