We spoke to the Driving Instructors Association’s Carly Brookfield, who gave this advice to new drivers: “Learning to drive does not stop with the driving test, and passing the test itself doesn't make you a good driver. A good driver invests in the right number of lessons with a qualified instructor, takes their test at the right time for them to progress to a full driving license and then focuses on how they can develop their driving post-test - and throughout their driving lifetime. A good parent will support that process by helping their child find the best instructor, focusing on the value of the learning in keeping their child safe on our roads (rather than seeking out the cheapest lessons) and refreshing their own driving skills and knowledge, before they even think about passing them onto the learner via accompanied practice. Driving is an important life skill, and one that can mean the difference between life and death - take it seriously both before and after test.”
1. Get insurance
We know that insurance for young drivers is expensive, but driving without insurance is a serious offence and you could end up with a fine of up to £5,000 and/or lose your licence altogether. In some cases, the police may even seize and destroy the vehicle being driven uninsured. And without insurance, you won’t be legally protected if you have an accident.
2. Be aware of driving conditions
Driving on a sunny day can be very different from driving in the rain. When driving on wet roads you will need to allow at least double the distance between you and the car in front as grip is significantly reduced. The rain can also reduce your visibility, and while we all love the sunshine, driving into the sun when it’s low in the sky, can also cause blinding glare which seriously impairs visibility too. Driving on snow and ice has its own challenges and latest government statistics show that the number of crashes that occurred in the snow in 2012 (of all severities) rose by 14 per cent from the previous year.
3. Follow the rules
Statistics from the Department of Transport reveal that younger drivers are more likely to have collisions than older ones due to factors such as speeding, recklessness or vehicle control. If you see other road users breaking the rules don't follow their bad example. Value your licence, your life and those of your passengers. Breaking the rules combined with inexperience can result in fatal crashes so don't put yourself or others at risk.
4. Be aware of other road users
You need to be aware of everyone around you at all times, so good concentration is essential. Other road users sometimes get it wrong, so by anticipating their actions you can avoid the danger they may place you in. Have a good plan as you approach any hazard, particularly the danger areas that catch many other drivers out - road junctions, sharp bends and unfamiliar roads – and take more time and care when approaching them. Also, be aware that familiar roads can lead you to become complacent and off your guard, making you vulnerable.
5. Avoid distractions
After passing your test, your friends are likely to want lifts and rightly you will want to take them. However, when travelling with passengers it is easy to be distracted from your driving. Don’t be afraid to ask them to be quiet - they should respect your request and understand why. Even when you do not have passengers in the car there are still distractions. Loud music makes it more difficult to hear traffic around your car, and changing radio stations, cds or lighting a cigarette can take your eyes, momentarily, from the road at a potentially critical point. Eating and drinking should be avoided while on the move and do not look at, or use, your phone to read or reply to texts or make calls. Not only is it illegal, you’re four times more likely to crash while using your mobile.
6. Resist peer pressure
Your friends may try to encourage you to drive faster or even tell you you’re fine to drive after you’ve had a drink, but it’s essential that you understand the risks to you, your licence and other road users. Provisional figures show that the number of deaths in drink-drive accidents in Britain soared by 26% in 2012 and alcohol as a factor features more prominently in young drivers’ accidents compared to those involving older adults. Don’t put yourself, your friends, and other road users’ lives at risk just because of peer pressure. Generally, it is those who don't have a driving licence that are most vocal so don't be pressured by them. There is a good chance you will kill your best friends if you get it wrong. The responsibility lies with you.
7. Don't drive if...
The Highway Code gives a list of reasons why you should not drive and it is up to you to ensure you are fit to drive. Only drive if your journey is necessary and be aware of weather warnings. Driving after an argument can mean you’re less likely to focus solely on the road and you certainly shouldn’t drive after drinking alcohol. Be aware of any warnings given about driving when taking prescribed drugs. Non-prescribed medication can also cause drowsiness. These are all factors that can increase your risk.
8. Take regular breaks
As a new driver, it’s likely that you won’t have driven for long stretches at a time, so try to avoid doing this straight away after passing your test. Research suggests that almost 20% of accidents on major roads are sleep-related and men under 30 have the highest risk of falling asleep at the wheel. Though you may feel ready to take longer trips, plan your journeys well to include regular breaks. The Highway Code recommends that all drivers should take a break after two hours of driving. Be aware that you may need more regular breaks than this as a new driver. Allow plenty of time for all journeys - rushing is unlikely to get you there quicker and leaving earlier is a better option.
9. Continue to improve your skills
Driver development should not stop once you pass the test. There are many reasons for improving your driving skills. It could save your life and will also save you money. If your vehicle control improves, there will be less wear and tear to your vehicle. You will use less fuel if you drive more efficiently, and that doesn't mean just driving slowly everywhere! Pass Plus is a practical training course aimed at helping new drivers improve their skills and drive more safely. It typically takes around six hours and it could help reduce your insurance costs. You may also consider working towards an advanced driving qualification such as the DIAmond Advanced Test. Being a better driver will make you lower risk and less likely to get involved in crashes – it is a challenge but good fun too.
10. Keep the essentials close by
Anything can happen on the roads and even older and more experienced drivers find themselves in unforeseen situations. It’s important to have essential items in your car that can help you during difficult moments. Take a look at our young driver’s car checklist to find out what you should be keeping in your car at all times.
Download our infographics
Thousands of young drivers take to the road for the first time each day and form one of the most vulnerable groups of road users. See stats and information about young drivers' road safety with our Facing the Facts About Young Drivers infographic!
Excited about driving your first car? Before you get on the road, take a look at what every car owner should have on hand with our Car Checklist infographic!
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