MOST UK drivers might be off the road at the moment due to the coronavirus pandemic – but plenty will still be worried about navigating busy city centres and fast motorways when the crisis eases.
All but key workers are restricted to using their vehicles only for trips to the supermarket by the strict government lockdown rules.
But despite the majority of motors sitting idle at present, when the social distancing regulations relax around two fifths of drivers will be worried about getting back behind the wheel.
A survey by car manufacturer Nissan last year found that 23 per cent of Brits admitted to feeling anxious about using motorways. A further 39 per cent said they felt generally “scared or uncertain” when in charge of their vehicle.
That’s led experts at Select Car Leasing to come up with a handy list of tips to help nervous drivers stay calm and safe when UK life returns to normal.
Select Company Director James O’Malley said: “Confidence behind the wheel can come from many factors, the main and obvious one being sheer driving experience. Clocking up the miles means drivers have been exposed to a greater variety of situations, giving them a greater knowledge of how to handle them."
“But as the number of vehicles on UK roads grows year on year, and the state of our highways deteriorates – be it due to potholes or miles of roadworks – then we are seeing a larger percentage of motorists lacking the basic confidence needed to become a competent driver.
“Add to that a length of time off the road – bar short trips – due to the coronavirus lockdown rules and there are bound to be even more anxious motorists out there.
“These practical tips should stand nervous drivers in good stead and help anyone who feels fearful to stay calm behind the wheel.”
Avoid rush hour...If possible, don’t make journeys through the centre of larger conurbations between the hours of 7-9am and 4-6pm as this will make a huge difference to your driving confidence.
It’s not just the increased volume of vehicles on the roads, but the impatient and stress-fuelled style adopted by many drivers at these times of day.
Until you’re feeling able to cope with this, try to travel during other time periods.
Get in lane as early as possible...Being in the correct lane when navigating busy city streets will help immensely. Two lanes can quickly become one and before you know it you’re in a bumper to bumper queue with no-one letting you in.
Take the time to prepare and check your route so you have some understanding of the way traffic moves through different junctions.
If you do find yourself in the wrong place, stay calm, indicate clearly and take comfort from the knowledge you're handling the situation in the best way possible.
Turn down the tunes...Listening to your favourite music at a loud volume may be relaxing for some, but it will also block out important traffic sounds that could give you a heads-up on something that’s about to happen.
It can also create a ‘bubble effect’ within the vehicle, giving you a feeling of detachment from other drivers and pedestrians.
So if playing music does take your mind off the fear, make sure you keep it at a sensible level to ensure beeping horns and revving engines are still audible.
Don’t hog the middle lane... the middle might seem like the best place to be on the motorway as you’ve got options either way, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sitting in the middle lane is not only illegal – it’s filed under ‘careless driving’ by the police – it’s also a sure-fire way of infuriating other drivers.
Some will undertake you – not against the law, but highly dangerous – while others will swerve into the outside lane and possibly offer some curt advice in the form of angry hand gestures.
View the inside lane as your friend and stick to it, until it’s time to overtake – within the speed limit, of course.
Give lorries and trucks plenty of space...The ‘big beasts’ of the highways are aplenty and often move in vast numbers at certain times of day. Because they are limited to a top speed of 56mph, trucks should not go into the outside lane. The same goes for coaches, which have a legal maximum speed of 62mph.
Even if they are in the correct lanes, be aware that if a larger vehicle has to pull out you will have a longer distance to travel to get past them. So give them some extra space and more time to make their manoeuvres.
Look at least four cars ahead... Due to the high speeds cars and trucks are travelling on motorways, if you’re only focused on the vehicle in front it may not give you enough time to react to any unfolding incident.
Stopping distances on motorways are far longer than on regular A and B roads, so try to be aware of what’s going on at least four vehicles ahead.
Motorway driving is all about awareness... Knowing what’s happening up ahead – as well as where the vehicles are around you and the speed they are moving at – will make the whole experience much less stressful and, more importantly, much safer.