Just a few pointers to help you get started.
There is a lot to learn when you start driving, most experienced drivers do a lot of things quite naturally and so don't think to pass that on to their "L"earner driver children. Here are some basic hints and tips to help you out.
- Look high and far, not down at the road. The further ahead you look the more notice you will get of an upcoming problem. Once seen you can take control of the situation sooner and smoother rather than a last minute emergency reaction.
- Watch every vehicle, person, animal and even tree around you, looking for indicators and brake lights and things hidden behind obstacles. This will give you the ability to plan ahead and you'll start to be able to predict what's coming.
- Keep your eyes on the move. Unless there is a serious obstacle ahead of you keep your eyes moving, this will prevent tunnel vision setting in and keep your peripheral vision engage. When your peripheral vision is working you'll notice very quickly if something is out of place.
- Watch the traffic lights, if it's red or yellow take your foot off the accelerator, this slows you down gently and will save your brakes. You'll also find you actually have to stop less often. Even if it's green, ease up a little just in case it changes on you.
- Look past the car in front of you to see what other traffic is doing. You can do this by gently moving closer (but not over) the dividing line or by looking through the windows of the car in front to see what's going on further ahead.
- Keep an eye on your mirror and the traffic behind. You'll be able to see dangerous drivers approaching and can then move out of their way to keep yourself safe.
- Don’t forget to check the side streets. A quick look to see if there are any cars that don't look like they are going to stop, you should do this at level crossings, traffic lights and roundabouts as well.
- Make sure you watch for people NOT stopping or giving way when they should, stay out of their way. It's not worth risking an accident to claim your "right of way". I have seen too many cars and trucks continue through a red light after the others have already turned green.
Know your surroundings: The more you know what is going on around you the less likely you are to be involved in a crash when it happens. Think about it; accidents that involve 2 cars don't need both drivers to be at fault. So always watch for that other driver and you're less likely to be involved.
- Speed signs are a MAXIMUM limit, NOT a requirement. If the conditions are bad; raining, foggy, or the sun is in your eyes; then you should be going slower.
- Unless sign posted otherwise the speed limit is 50 in a built up area or 100 in a rural area. Speed limits are a not just a guide, they save lives.
- Do not drive faster than the car in front. It sounds like common sense driving but you'd be surprised how often the other driver will do this.
3. Road Position:
- Ideally the car should be in the middle of your lane. If you want to look past the vehicle in front then move over to the right, but do not cross the line, don't forget to come back to the middle though.
- Too far to the left will have the wheel going in the dips where the drains are or loosing traction on loose gravel at the side of the road. You also leave yourself with no way out, if another car is too close you can't move over if you are already on the edge.
- Close to the dividing line put's you too close to traffic coming the other way and prevents the car behind from looking around your car.
- REMEMBER you are now in the driving seat; you are used to seeing things from the passengers point of view. It is normal (though not health for your passenger who is probably used to the driving seat) when first getting in the driving seat to drive too far to the left, try to be aware of this and adjust your position accordingly.
- First sit in the car and move the seat so you can fully push the clutch without fully extending your leg (keeping your leg bent will help reduce muscle fatigue).
- Stretch your arms out and rest them on the steering wheel, ideally you should have your wrist resting on the wheel with a bend at your elbows, you can use the seat tilt to adjust this or you can move the seat back and forward, but remember this changes your legs on the peddles position.
- Now look into the rear view mirror, the one on the windscreen. Adjust this so you can see straight out the back window, you should be able to frame the window just inside the mirror.
- Check out the little switch underneath the rear view mirror, flick it and have another look out the back window through it. At first you may think you can't see now, but if you have a closer look you'll notice that you can still see except it looks like it's tinted. At night time this will stop the following cars headlights shining in your face, yet dark vs light, you'll be able to see quite clearly.
- The side mirrors are bit harder; you need to be able to just see the side of your car, but not much. The less of your car you can see the smaller the blind spot, but it is good to see your car to better judge what you are seeing. As for the vertical positioning you need to be able to see the road behind you in the bottom 25-30% of the mirror and see clearly into the distance behind you in the rest. One trick is to try setting the mirror so you can just see the rear door handle in the bottom corner closest to the car.
- REMEMBER to adjust your mirrors after you have positioned the seat, if you move the seat afterwards the mirrors will be out of place. You also need to make sure you are adjusting the mirrors with your head in a natural driving position, I have seen many students move closer to the mirror when adjusting it, to see better, and when asked to check it again they realize it's in the wrong spot.
- No matter how much of the blind spot you've eliminated it will still be there, you MUST always look over your shoulder when changing lanes, merging with traffic or are pulling out from the side of the road!
5. Improve visibility and be seen!
- Firstly if visibility is poor you should drive according to what you can see, if you can’t see round the corner slow down a little. If you struggle to see much in front due to fog slow down a lot and use your head lights, if you have fog lights available use them as well.
- We put our headlights on in the fog and when it's raining, not just to help us to see better, but to help other to see us! In foggy conditions your head lights will reflect off the fog back at you making the fog brighter rather than illuminating the road ahead, though not helpful to you it is useful for other drivers to see you earlier.
- Fog lights are usually lower on the vehicle and so overcome the reflection issue and are somewhat more helpful at lighting up the road ahead.
- Make sure you turn the fog lights off once the fog has cleared; it is illegal to keep them on.
- High beam is good for seeing further ahead at night time, it will also give other cars more notice that you are coming, but don't forget to dip your headlights when other traffic is approaching.