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U is for U turns

Written by Kathy Higgins on . Posted in A to Z of bad driving, Our Blog

Samsung Techwin

Can you think of anywhere you cannot do a u turn?

U turns can be seen as one of the most dangerous manoeuvres you can do, as you are cutting across all the lanes of traffic. Traffic around you will also not expect you to do a U turn.

The Highway Code does not give much advice about U turns except mentioning it at mini roundabouts where it states “avoid making U turns at mini-roundabouts.” However the Highway Code goes on to say “Beware of others doing this”.

If you need to turn around for any reason, it is far safer to find a side road and reverse around a corner or even do a turn in the road. If you do have to make a U turn, it is important to ascertain that there is enough room to do it safely, especially at traffic lights or junctions. Other road users may well be able to see that you are signalling right, but they may not be expecting you to do a U Turn, they will simply think you are turning right. Therefore it is vital that you take full observations and perform the U turn in a controlled way, continually watching and listening for the road user that you may have missed.

If you are making a U Turn from the side of the road you will have pulled over to the left in order to make full use of the available space. Remember any traffic around, either following or opposing, will probably think that you have simply pulled in to park on the left.

I can remember quite recently an event that happened to me. I was on the A57 travelling out ofLiverpool;the road at this point is a 4 lane single carriageway, i.e. 2 lanes in each direction. I was doing the maximum speed limit for that road, which was 30 mph, following a car in Lane 1. The car then signalled left and pulled in, I checked my mirrors and changed lanes in plenty of time, as I had plenty of space I did not need to slow down much at this point,and I justhad to ease off the gas.

Anyway, to my surprise the car that had signalled left and pulled in decided to perform a U Turn. I was forced to not only to brake but also swerve to the right in order to avoid the collision. Lucky for me I had plenty space and time around me to enable me to take this avoiding action, had I been driving a bit faster or a bit closer to the car in front I would have crashed into him. To this day I am not sure if the driver had actually seen me or not, but I do know that it could have been a lot worse.

Finally, let’s talk about taxi drivers. If you are following a taxi driver you must be aware that they may well want to make a U Turn in order to pick up a fare on the opposite side of the road. Alsohackney cabs have a very small turning circle, which means that the cab only needs a small space to perform a U turn, so they can physically make U Turns on roads that are too narrow for most cars to perform this manoeuvre. In fact Black cabs have a turning circle of only 25 feet.

Taxi drivers also do what is termed a ‘taxi turn’, this is simply a U Turn done in the mouth of a junction, again a challenging manoeuvre, especially if there are pedestrians around the junction.


T is for Tailgaters

Written by Kathy Higgins on . Posted in A to Z of bad driving, Our Blog

me-firstTailgaters are a fact of driving; there are people are out there who simply for one reason or another drive too close to the car in front. Is it the “me first” syndrome or something else? So what options do we have when we are being tailgated?

Now, I am going to group some of the ‘options’ together simply to save time. A lot of people think it is a good idea to either… “Keep tapping the brake to put the lights on and off, putting the windscreen washers on so that the care behind gets a soaking, putting the headlights and tail lights on and off, putting the fog lights on, putting the hazard warning lights or even giving unofficial hand signals! Phew.

Now all of the above will only antagonize the tailgater, even the driver who may well have just got too close accidentally, you are now engaged in some sort of psychological game with someone you do not even know, a game with no winners.

Your concentration is likely to be on the following driver and not on the road in front, you will be distracted and you might have to do the one thing you don’t actually want to do that is brake sharply to avoid a collision to the front, because something has happened that you did not notice or noticed too late, because your focus in on the person behind you. However, it has to be said that it is the one thing you really feel like doing just to simply slam on the brakes and let them “have a bit of that” but you know there could be consequences to slamming on and that you could end up with your own fatality.

Anyway, I think you get the point. One of the more ‘serious’ options I have heard someone say is to apply the parking brake, as this will slow the car down with no warning to the following driver. I hope you agree that this is not only really dangerous but just plain stupid too! Not only for the following driver but for the person being tailgated too. If you choose this option you could be hit from behind by the following driver who may not even had a chance to do any braking!

A more unusual and really stupid option was offered up from a lady who I met on a driving course who said that she throws mint imperials out of the sun roof! Imagine how this lady would feel if the following driver swerved to avoid this and knocked over a few pedestrians out in the process, all this because she was just trying to get even.

One of the most common options people tell me that they do is to speed up, well we all know that this does not work because the tailgater, more often that not will simply keep up with you. If they are an aggressive tailgater it can just anger them, if it is a habitual tailgater, they will just follow you. But in both instances the risk is going up, the faster you both go the higher the risk is going to go. It is common to feel like speeding up to get away from the risk, but it seldom works.

By far the best option will be to keep calm and carry on, but you might also have to slow down a bit, not to antagonise the following driver, but to create more time and space in front of you, so that you don’t‘have’ to do the one thing you really might ‘want’ to do, that is to simply slam on.

Another way to look at it is to imagine you are towing a trailer or caravan, anyone who has had experience in this will know that when you are towing you simply have to brake earlier and smoother, you also have to plan earlier to accommodate the trailer, and you can use the same strategy when being tailgated.

A lot of people who do tailgate do it habitually, they don’t actually want you to go faster or to get out of the way, they are in fact in their comfort zone driving this close to you, they have formed this habit because they have managed to get away with it for so long they have become unaware of the dangers or consequences, the have simply never ran into the back of anyone, yet!


S is for Speed, it get’s you there quicker, doesn’t it?

Written by Kathy Higgins on . Posted in A to Z of bad driving, Our Blog

speed awareness course

Everybody speeds! Don’t they? Well, if I was honest, I would have to say yes, even if you make full use of the car technology such as cruise control and speed meters, but and this is a big but, there is a massive difference between a driver who intends to drive well and drive within the speed limits but sometimes drifts over the limit by a few miles an hour and as soon as they notice bringing the speed back down again and the driver who habitually goes 10% + because they think they are “allowed” to do this or feel it is socially acceptable to do this.

How much we are allowed to break the law? This has to be dependent on the police force in the area. There is apparently an old guideline that mentions something about 10%; but, this was probably put in place when our speed ohmmeters were not as accurate as they are today. Any Police Force, and there are 45 in Great Britain, can set, at any time, a zero tolerance on speed limits.

So why do people break the speed limit, the bog standard answer to this question is to get there faster. Even if you don’t know the math, you will know it does not really get you there much quicker. In fact the difference between 30 and 35 is mathematically only 17 seconds a mile quicker, so over a 10 mile journey it is only 170 seconds which in my reckoning is nearly 3 full minutes, but that is a journey using a driving style of ‘hurry up and wait’.

However, you actually lose the 17 seconds advantage at the first set of traffic lights you have to stop at, and we all know what happens to the traffic lights when we are trying to get somewhere quicker, yes you got it, they all turn to red and they seem to stay on red for just a little bit longer on these days, which just to wind us up even more.
Perhaps we do it because we feel we are doing our best by trying to get there quicker or get there on time.

But look what happens on a long motorway journey can you save loads of time doing 80 instead of 70? Some people will say yes of course, “I do all the time” but I am not sure how they know this, because when questioned they never actually timed the same journey at 70 as they have always done 80.

Some people even play the Sat Nav game, you know the one, your Sat Nav says ETA 13:07 and you look at the time and think “I will make it for 1” So let’s look at the math again.

Two cars are both going to leave at the same time, Car A is going to do a constant 70mph and Car B is going to do a constant 80mph, so how long will it take for car B to get one hour ahead of car A?

It will take 7 hours and they will cover 560 miles before Car B (80mph) has gained that hour. (70mph) that is roughly from Aberdeen to Maidstone!

Finally let’s look it at another way. You are going to travel 2 miles on a regular journey, the road you go on is a 60mph road which is safe to do 60mph on, so it will take you 2 minutes to cover the 2miles, however, one day you only manage to do the first mile at 60, and then you are held up for 2 minutes at the half way point, by road works.
How fast will you have to go to make up the time you have just lost?

Well, I will let you onto a secret, I got the wrong answer too when I was asked this question for the first time, and in my defense, many other people say this too, I said 180mph. When the fact of the matter is you cannot make up the lost time, it’s gone and get this, it’s gone forever.

This is the issue with time, you cannot ‘bank’ it, you cannot work thought your lunch hour and then put that hour toward your retirement, if only! It continues to disappear, one second at a time every time. . So why do we really speed? Maybe it is just for fun?

Well, I hope not, you must really take a rain check if doing slightly over the speed limit for fun!

Looking into this a bit more, it is not the raw speed that is fun, it is mostly the acceleration, deceleration forces and cornering forces. Driving 100mph in a straight line is not fun, but getting up to the 100 could be, but if this is your bag, then please do it on a track in a controlled environment.

Another reason why people end up going over the speed limit is because we are really not that good at speed perception. The wider the road the slower you ‘feel’ you are going and if your speed is constant, for example, if you have the cruise control on it can feels slower because your body has become accustomed to the speed and is travelling at the same speed as the car. So you simply don’t feel it, even travelling by plane or train once it is up to full speed it does not ‘feel’ fast.

On the main people speed because they appear to get away with it, and mostly suffer no negative consequences. People get into the habit of speeding, they simply get into a particular way of thinking, they don’t even question until they do face a consequence, which by this time, can make them angry, especially if they get points or even end up on a speed awareness course. I am sure if they end up with some more a serious consequence they would be feeling something worse than anger.

The real reasons I feel, are two-fold, firstly it is in fact easy to drive at any speed you like on any road, so long as you feel comfortable with it, it takes a lot more skill and ability to drive within the limits. It can also be due to our fear of criticism, we are more inclined to fit in with what we feel is the social norms rather that suffer the apparent criticism of our peers on the road.


Driving into old age, when is it time to stop?

Written by Kathy Higgins on . Posted in 52 useful blogs on driving, Our Blog

kingsboroughgdnsWhen you’re older, having your own car can mean the difference between maintaining your independence and being stuck at home, lonely and isolated. Although senior citizens get free bus passes, sometimes public transport can be unpredictable, unreliable or simply non-existent, so having your own car can seem like the best option. However, there can be some problems with keeping a car into your old age.

As you get older, there could be more and more health concerns than when you were younger. Aches and pains that occur can make car journeys too troublesome and even distract you to the point that it is dangerous for yourself if you continue to drive.

There are other problems with the deteriorating health of drivers too. Deteriorating vision is a common problem in old age and can have an awful affect on driving. Additionally, as you get older your reaction times tend to slow down. In combination your reaction times and poorer vision could result in a more dangerous situation, if a child playing in the street ran out in front of you or a car pulled out on you for example.

Eyesight can deteriorate so slowly that you might not even notice, although you might feel safe on local roads as you know these well and you can possibly predict the amount of traffic in the places closest to you from day to day, unknown journeys can be made more stressful.

If you choose to give up driving when you get older, then there are certain things you need to keep in mind to stay safe as a pedestrian. If you do need to walk on the road, remember to walk towards the oncoming traffic, you will be able to see traffic coming towards you sooner and they will see you too.
Remember our reaction times, speed of walking, judgement of speed and distance can change as we get older, so take care when crossing the road either by foot or driving across.


Does your attitude affect your skill as a driver?

Written by Kathy Higgins on . Posted in 52 useful blogs on driving, Our Blog

7k0a0071Your mood and attitude can alter your driving dramatically. Try not to drive when you are angry, upset or feeling unwell. If you get angry while you are driving, pull over and calm down then continue with your journey.

A driver should always be considerate to other road users including pedestrians, cyclists and motor cycles. Try to be understanding to someone driving too slowly – it may be a new driver or someone who does not know the area well. Speeding up behind them or tailgating will only fluster them and cause them to make mistakes or brake harshly, possibly resulting in you going into the back of them!

Do not allow yourself to become agitated or involved if someone is driving badly or erratically. This will only fuel the situation. The best course of action is to pull over (where it is safe and legal) calm down and continue with your journey when you feel relaxed again.

Slow down or hold back if someone “cuts you up” by pulling out of a junction in front of you or changing lane too closely. Allow them to get clear from you – do not retaliate by doing the same to them, or tailgating and flashing your lights to intimidate them.

Our attitude can also change depending on the goal for the journey, for example we if we are simply going out with friends our driving will be different than when we are driving to work. If we are late our attitude can change and we might take a few more risks in order to get there a bit quicker.

If we get our attitude right we can influence other drivers by simply showing a bit of courtesy on the roads. I am sure you will agree that if you are late and someone lets you out, it can improve your mood, so if you let other people out or at least create a bit of space for them to get into, they are now more likely to show courtesy to other drivers. However, please do not show courtesy to the point of danger, we have all seen drivers stopping in the middle of the road to allow one driver out of a side road, while holding up the 21 drivers behind them.

Remember, we all make mistakes, so let it go! Or as a good friend of mine always says “leave them with it” Good driving is as simple as ABC. Attitude, Behaviour and Choice, make sure you are looking after yours and no one else’s. It is easy to retaliate on the road by moving from our ‘adult’, mode into ‘child’ or ‘parent’. For more information on how this works Google ‘transitional analysis or ‘parent adult child’ theory.

So please stay safe and stay in ‘adult’ :)


Bad driving habits, why do they happen?

Written by Kathy Higgins on . Posted in 52 useful blogs on driving, Our Blog

steeringWe all had to reach a certain standard of driving in order to pass our driving tests all those years ago, but since then some of us have developed bad habits when we get behind the wheel. It’s an unfortunate side effect of gaining experience, and it is definitely one that we need to try to discourage.

First of all, you need to assess whether your habits are bad, or whether they are just plain lazy. Keeping one hand resting on the handbrake or the gear stick and not replacing it on the steering wheel every time you change gear is lazy and easily fixed. Just remember it is best practice to keep your hands on the steering wheel! But other types of bad habits may not be a result of laziness.

There are many different types of bad habits. They include things like speeding, not checking all your mirrors – which includes your door mirrors and your rear view mirror, driving too close to other cars and not signalling or simply signalling too late, are also far too common. Another bad habit that many people have is putting the car into neutral before stopping.

So where do these bad habits come from? Mostly, they are caused by our bias; the “what’s worked” bias is created and fed by our superiority bias and our optimistic bias.

Our superiority bias tells us that we are better than other people; we ignore the things that show us in a negative light and concentrate only on the things that show us more positively our selective memory means that we forgive and forget the things we did badly and remember the things we have done well. At the same time we notice other people’s mistakes and failing, which means we conclude that we are much better drivers than other people.

Fuelling this is our optimistic bias; this tells us that we are much less likely to experience unpleasant events than other people. Things like health issues, crashing or being stopped by the police, so we really believe it is not going to happen to us. We are not going to lose control and have to take evasive action, so having one hand on the wheel is perfectly okay. I think you get the picture.

This brings us to the ‘what’s worked’ bias. We will simply keep doing what we have always done because it is working for us. For example if we drive above the speed limit and get to work on time and we don’t get caught, we subconsciously think “well that worked” so it goes on and on. We also learn our bad driving from other drivers. Our friends and relatives, for example we see them doing the lazy stuff and see they are getting away with it to, so it must be okay.

Once we no longer have our driving instructor in the car with us, there’s no one to correct these poor habits. There are a lot of good reasons to get rid of these bad habits, of course. Driving more skilfully can mean there are fewer collisions on the roads and can make you feel safer and more secure when you drive. It can also mean that, if you are involved in an accident, it is less likely to be your fault and you will be more likely to take the correct evasive action if you ever need to.

Keeping the good habits and skills you used to pass your driving test, will pay dividends in the long run, not only on fuel saving and less wear and tear on the car, it may also save your life. We all know how annoying a fire drill is in work or collage, but if there is ever a real fire and everyone gets out, then all the practice runs have suddenly been worth it. It is the same for driving. For example, checking the blind spot 1000’s of times without anything being there is just 1000’s practice drills for the time someone will be there and you have avoided a collision just by looking, so you will be glad you practiced!


Satellite navigation systems – love them or hate them?

Written by Kathy Higgins on . Posted in 52 useful blogs on driving, Our Blog

MapSatellite navigation,  more affectionately known as ‘Sat Navs’ – are now a common feature of modern-day cars. They are extremely useful if you do not have a map handy, if you cannot read a map or have no one to help you navigate. However, they can also be distracting and misleading, so you need to make sure to use them wisely and in the right ways.

First of all, drivers need to be aware that there are different types of Sat Navs available and that not all of them have the same features. The most up to date models will have features that will point out safety cameras to the driver and even what it thinks the speed limit is. Knowing the speed limit is a vital skill for a good driver, but relaying on the Sat Nav can lead you into hot water as they don’t always get it right. In fact, it is best not to trust your Sat Nav and to use it rather as advice to be taken rather than strict rules to be followed.

So why use a Sat Nav? It can be a great tool to get you round new places that you are not too familiar with, and can save you the fuel you might have used if you get lost. Also, it is safer than trying to read a map at the same time as driving. Simply programme in the route before you get underway, and follow the spoken directions. Occasional glances to the screen are fine, but it you are distracted by this put the Sat Nav where you cannot see if, but still hear it. If you take a wrong turn, do not panic! The Sat Nav will recalculate the route and tell you the right direction to go in.

However, there are reasons not to use a Sat Nav. They are considered to be a distraction so if you are distracted by the Sat Nav, if might be safer not to use it all, however they’re becoming so normal to use that some cars have them fitted as standard, and they are part of the new driving test which, at the time of writing, is being trialed. Whether or not the use of the Sat Nav will become part of the driving test, diving instructors should show their learners how to use one correctly and allow them to gain some experience on using one on a driving lesson.

Remember that Sat Navs can cause additional blind sports so putting them in the middle of your windscreen is really not a good idea, since they can obscure your view of the road. Latest crash tests have shown that in the event of a collision the Sat Navs can simply come off the windscreen on impact.

Finally one thing to always remember is that Sat Navs are not always right, especially when it comes to speed limits, they are only as good as the last bit of software that was put on them and they are no defense when issued with a speeding ticket.


Driving in the Dark – how safe are you?

Written by Kathy Higgins on . Posted in 52 useful blogs on driving, Our Blog

Samsung TechwinWhen you are driving at night you can’t see as far ahead as in daylight. You can get help from illuminated and reflective signs, reflectors between white lines (cat’s eyes) and the glow of other vehicle headlights. Be aware of the hazards of driving at night such as misjudging distance, speed, cyclists, animals and pedestrians can be harder to see.

Never drive so fast that you can’t stop in the distance you can see to be clear in your lights. To enable you to see further you can use main beam on unlit roads unless you meet oncoming traffic or are following another vehicle. On lit roads you should use your full headlights. If you are on an unlit road and have main beam on, avoid dazzling others by switching it off during passing and then returning to full beam.

At dusk you may want to put your side lights on before “lighting up time” (when the street lights come on). Don’t be afraid to be the first driver with their lights on. Likewise at dawn the opposite applies. Don’t switch off your lights until you are sure it is safe and you can be seen easily. Why not be the last to turn off your lights, but the first to turn on. A lot of cars now have daytime running lights.

Your eyesight also plays a big part in your ability to drive at night. Have your eyes checked regularly. Keep your windows clean – clean windows cut down dazzle as they are not full of grease which can make it harder to see, straining your eyes can also lead to fatigue.

You’ll need to take extra care when overtaking at night. Only overtake if you can see the road will remain clear until after you have finished the manoeuvre and are safely back on your side of the road. Don’t overtake if there is a junction, bend, brow of a bridge or hill.

Remember to keep your distance. On a dual carriageway or motorway where it is possible to overtake, if you are overtaking on a dual carriageway only pop your full beam on when you are alongside the car you are overtaking. Don’t use full beam in the face of oncoming drivers, this will cause dazzle. If you’re being overtaken, dip your lights as soon as the vehicle has passed you.

If you are dazzled by another vehicles lights, slow down and if necessary stop. Don’t look directly at oncoming lights and don’t retaliate by leaving your lights on full beam to dazzle them back! On a left hand bend you should dip earlier as your headlights will cut straight across the eyes of anyone coming toward you temporarily blinding them.

When parking at night the same rules apply, you must not park within 10 metres of a junction, on a blind bend, and you should park facing the direction of traffic.

If you have to park on any other type of road, you should never leave your vehicle without side or parking lights unless signs indicate otherwise. You must not park on the right hand side of the road unless it is a one way street.

If you are going to stop at the side of the road for a short time always switch your headlights off even if your engine is still running, you can always leave sidelights on. If you leave your headlights drivers coming towards you will not be able to see to the side of your car properly.


Mobile Phones while driving, is this a modern epidemic?

Written by Kathy Higgins on . Posted in 52 useful blogs on driving, Our Blog

Driving OffencesAs you know it is against the law to use your mobile phone for any purpose when driving unless of course you have a genuine emergency and can prove this, being late for work does not count as an emergency.

If you do need to make a 999 call and it is unsafe to stop i.e. if you are being followed, you may use your phone whilst driving but you will have to prove you where being followed, better still it would be better to keep driving until you find a populated place like a supermarket car park to stop in.

The same applies if you are supervising a leaner driver, you are legally in charge of the vehicle as the full licence holder, this includes professional driving instructors, it is illegal for them too.  I would also go as far as to say talking on hands free is not good business practice for professional instructors.

If you need to use your phone then pull over where it is safe and legal to park, turn off your engine and have your parking break applied.  I stress ‘parked up in a safe place’.  Stopping at traffic lights does not constitute parked up, it is illegal to use your phone there too. 

So why do so many people talk on the phone when getting a hands free kit is so easy, also a lot of new cars have blue tooth enabled.  But having a conversation on hands free is proving to be no safer. 

Talking on the phone is not like having a conversation with someone in the car with you. Whether we like it or not our passengers help us with the driving task. How many times have you, as a passenger, shouted “watch this pedestrian”, cyclist etc. or even gone for the imaginary brake?

Your passengers are sharing the same constantly changing, dynamic environment with you, so will always help or shut up when they feel the driving task is becoming demanding, a person on the end of the phone will not know what is happening outside the car. 

Also having a remote conversation takes a lot more cognitive ability that speaking to someone in your presence, we start to picture the things we are talking about.

Studies have shown that we simply cannot do two ‘thinking’ tasks at the same time effectively. We will ‘toggle’ task, our concentration will move from one task to another, and if your concentration is on the phone call when something capital happens the delay in your action can have fatal consequences.

Lets face it how many of us turn the radio or music off when lost or parking up?

So if we feel compelled to shut down a bit of background noise so that we can concentrate more, then how distracting can a two way conversation actually be?

Nobody has ever been killed or injured missing a phone call.


Driving in Fog – when do you use your fog lights?

Written by Kathy Higgins on . Posted in 52 useful blogs on driving, Our Blog

liverpool-20130121-00298When do you and when don’t you use your fog lights?

Well think about why you use them, are they are more to help other vehicles see you? or are they to light the road up ahead.  We think it is a bit of both.

The general rule of thumb is to use your dipped headlights and fog lights if visibility is less than 100 meters. In daylight these won’t dazzle other drivers but will show them that you are there. Remember to adjust your lights according to the changing conditions. Using your lights is not enough remember to use your demisters to keep the inside of the windows clear and your wipers for the outside, you might not even notice that it is the mist on your screen that is preventing you seeing and not just the fog.

Do not use your main beam in fog as this can dazzle others and create reflection off the fog so will impair your visibility further. As soon as you are out of the fog, turn your fog lights off. It is an offence to use them unnecessarily.

As we all know don’t follow others too closely by hanging onto their lights as their vehicle is displacing the fog so you may get the impression that the fog is not as dense as you thought.

Increase the distance between you and other road users as the roads may also be wet. If you have to overtake take extra care as the fog may be hiding oncoming vehicles that can’t see you either, after all the car in front could be heading for a collision and there is you following them!

Fog can also come with ice and snow, which can create freezing fog, your windscreen washers might not work in freezing conditions, it would be wise to avoid driving at all in these conditions.

Remember, also look for the coloured reflectors on the motorway, red is used along the hard shoulder, amber on the central reservation and green to highlight slip roads.  

If you can avoid driving in fog then do so, stay safe out there. 


Wow on a Wednesday... Another driving test pass for Jackie, Well done Jack, keep the skills and always enjoy...

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