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Rusty Drivers: Your guide to getting back on the road

DON’T rely on your mirrors to check blindspots, always think twice before overtaking and never pull out just because another motorist ‘flashes’ you.

Our complete survival guide for rusty drivers could protect the safety of you, and all road-users in the UK.

As the COVID-19 lockdown begins to ease across Britain, many owners will be venturing out in their cars for the first time in weeks.

But not all out-of-practice motorists are happy to be behind the wheel.

Experts from leading UK car leasing firm Select Car Leasing have canvassed their motoring experts to reveal some crucial hints and tips in a bid to reduce this increased accident risk.

This follows a new survey by manufacturing giants Hyundai which found a fifth of motorists are struggling since getting back in the driver’s seat, making basic errors and failing to complete manoeuvres.

Mark Tongue, Director of Select Car Leasing, said: “If you haven’t been driving regularly during lockdown, it’s very easy to feel nervous, overwhelmed and slightly rusty when you do return to busy roads.

“It’s also easy to fall into bad habits - like failing to indicate - if you haven’t been used to doing these things routinely over the past few months.

“But it’s important to remember just how crucial it is to have your wits about your when you’re behind the wheel.

“Those who’ve just passed their test are often warned that driving a car is a bit like handling a loaded gun - you’re in charge of a 1.5 ton weapon. That’s an important message for everyone right now"

“And we’d advise everyone - whether you’re a nervous driver or not - to really assess your competence before even starting your engine.”

Here’s Select Car Leasing’s run-down of driving hacks - some you might not have considered before - to steer you clear of danger:

Shoulder check your blindspots:

Mark says: “It’s easy for motorists to assume that so long as their mirrors are adjusted correctly, they can eliminate any blind spots in their vision. But that’s not necessarily the case. And we’d recommend a ‘shoulder check’ - a quick look to the left or right through your side windows - to ensure you’re truly clear of any danger, particularly if you’re about to change lanes. This is something motorcyclists call a ‘lifesaver’, and they’re drilled to get into this good habit when they’re learning to ride. It’s a trait that motorists need to really embrace, too.”

Don’t assume it’s safe just because someone flashes you:

“The Highway Code states that you should only flash your headlights in order ‘to let other road users know that you are there’ and advises, ‘Do not flash your headlights to convey any other message or intimidate other road users.’ Another well-meaning motorist might give you a quick flash of the headlights to tell you that it’s fine to pull out into a road before them, for example. 

But how do they know it’s truly safe for you to do so? Rest assured that if you pull out blindly into the road based on another motorist’s advice, it’s you who is liable for that action were it to cause an accident. You need to assess the situation fully yourself. Don’t be swayed or hurried by the actions of others.”

Pay close attention to the number of road markings:

“It goes without saying that road markers are there to warn drivers about imminent hazard or obstacles. And a simple - yet overlooked - rule of thumb is that the more white paint there is on the road, the more hazardous the area, even down to the dashing of the centre lines. If you notice more and more white stuff on the road, it’s crucial you’re paying close attention to your own driving as well as what’s going on around you.”

Leave a bottle of water in the car at all times:

“Most motorists would be lying if they said they’d never run out of washer fluid for their windscreen wipers. And they’re no doubt all-too familiar with the harrowing moment your dirty windscreen becomes almost impossible to see through thanks to the blurry smudges of dirt and grime. If that happens, you’re going to need to clear your windscreen immediately. And unless you’ve got some emergency water in your car, that isn’t always going to possible. Keeping spare water in reserve is a really important habit to form.”

Look ahead at roundabouts:

“When it comes to rear-end collisions, queues at roundabouts are one of the key danger zones when it comes to these sorts of collisions. The issue here is that, quite rightly, motorists fixate on looking right at roundabouts, so they can see any vehicles or cyclists approaching. But if you’re not looking ahead of you when you set off, it puts you at risk of hitting the car in front - particularly if they go to set off but then stop abruptly.”

If in doubt, turn your lights on:

“If you’re in two minds about whether or not you need your lights on, you almost certainly need them on. Remember that increasing your visibility can reduce your chances of having an accident as other drivers are simply more aware of you. And don’t make the mistake of simply turning your sidelights on in wet conditions - you need to have your headlights on. A general rule of thumb should be that if your wipers are on, your lights also need to be on at the same time.”

Crack a window at tricky junctions:

“Sometimes you might approach a tricky junction where you haven’t got a great view. You might be pulling-on to a fast road with a limited knowledge of whether another vehicle is approaching or not. Our advice would be to supplement your sense of sight with the sense of hearing. Turn off your radio, and open your windows slightly - so that you’re potentially able to hear any approaching traffic. You should also turn off your stereo when performing slow speed manoeuvres, as it might alert you to any cyclists or pedestrians before you see them.”

Don’t drive angry:

“This is easy to say, harder to truly put into practice. But it’s crucial you keep your cool in the face of other drivers you perceive to be acting in a reckless way. It comes down to treating every other motorist on the road as if they’re trying to harm you, and then to really make allowances for them - putting slack in the system, as it were - to cater for errors and to stop you coming into harm’s way. That might be putting extra distance between yourself and the car in front if you’re being followed by a tailgater, just in case you do have to brake. And you should also try to treat other ‘idiot’ drivers as simply another challenge to overcome by safely applying your own skill. Never allow yourself to feel intimidated or angry. Everyone makes mistakes - even you - so try to be considerate. And never, ever, ever ‘brake test’ a tailgater - all outcomes in this scenario are bad ones.”

A decision NOT to overtake is never a bad one…

“Only overtake another road user when it’s absolutely safe to do so - and that includes cyclists. Don’t feel bad if you hold back and give yourself more thinking time, because a decision not to overtake is never a bad one, while a decision to go for an overtake at the wrong time can be absolutely catastrophic. Also remember that if someone goes to overtake you when there isn’t enough room, back off and let them in. They may be in the wrong, but you being complicit in a crash doesn’t make you right.”

Always assume pedestrians will cross the road you’re turning into:

“If a pedestrian has already started crossing the road you’re about to turn into, remember they have the right of way and you need to wait for them to finish. Failing to signal for pedestrians could also get you in trouble with the law, with fines of up to £2,500 and potential disqualification if you’re charged with ‘driving without due care and attention’ in the event of an accident.”

Check your tyre pressures:

“If your tyres are over or under inflated, you’re essentially an accident waiting to happen. You run the risk of blow-outs and a complete loss of control under heavy braking or turning. Check your tyre tread depth, too, to ensure it’s within the legal limits - a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm in a continuous band around the central three quarters of the tyre. And also remember that warm wet weather - as we’re experiencing now - is the perfect storm when it comes to skid risk.”

Be prepared to meet yourself coming in the opposite direction:

“If there have been occasions in the past where you’ve driven poorly, keep those bad decisions at the forefront of your mind - and you’ll be able to anticipate things like dangerous overtaking manoeuvres, risky roundabout pull-outs and roads where there’s a risk you’ll encounter motorists flouting the speed limit."

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Sunday, 29/05/2022