How to grow your confidence if you’re an anxious driver

Whether it’s getting behind the wheel at night, driving in heavy rain, or tackling a busy road you’re not familiar with, driving can be stressful.

If you’re feeling worried about getting in the driving seat, you’re not alone. In fact, a fear of driving is the fifth most common phobia in the UK, according to a survey by Anxiety UK.

Specific triggers can spark panic. Take joining the motorway, for example. Around eight million of us hardly ever drive on the motorway and around 380,000 never do, according to research from the RAC.

However, there are simple steps you can take to help you regain your confidence and reduce your anxiety while driving.

1. Joining motorways

Motorways are safer than many people realise. As they’re well-designed and engineered, they’re much safer than single carriageway A roads.

But many people are fearful of dual carriageways. Simon Williams, spokesperson for the RAC, says: “Those who are loathe to drive on the motorway often find it daunting because of the speed everyone is travelling at, while some believe they are at greater risk of being involved in an accident; and, of course, there are others who simply don’t have the confidence to do so.”

In reality, this kind of driving doesn’t need to be avoided and “with the right instruction and advice, plenty of care and practice, it is possible to overcome motorway confidence issues,” says Simon.

Motorway driving is not required in UK driving tests, but you can now practise in your lessons. There is also the Pass Plus course, which offers motorway driving and may also help with lowering your car insurance costs, although its price is usually around £200.

2. Reverse and parallel parking

Parallel parking is the trickiest of all driving manoeuvres, according to the AA, and it can bring both seasoned and first-time drivers out in a sweat.

If parallel parking or reversing fills you with dread, get out and practise as much as possible. Choose a quiet street or empty car park to start with and try out the manoeuvre as many times as you wish until you’re confident in the basics.

You can then go to a slightly busier area and keep practising, building up your confidence slowly by gradually choosing areas where there are more cars.

3. Busy cities or unknown roads

If you’re driving somewhere for the first time, the fear of getting lost may be very real, especially if it’s busy.

Ian McIntosh, chief executive officer of RED Driving School, advises taking it slow, studying the area beforehand to get an idea of where you’re going, and making sure you keep a map in your car at all times in case your sat nav or smartphone loses signal or battery.

“Give yourself plenty of extra time to get where you need to be so that you can take your time. If it’s estimated it takes an hour to get from A to B, allow 90 mins so you won’t get stressed in heavy traffic,” he adds.

4. Driving at night

Another pinch point for nervous drivers can be driving at night but, the more you practise doing this, the easier it will become.

“A good way to ensure that you feel confident when driving in the dark is to check, before you leave, that all your lights are working, and your windows and mirrors are clean,” Ian advises. “This will maximise your visibility and help you feel more confident on the road,” he adds.

5. Children in the back

If driving with children in the back makes you anxious, then make sure you’re as prepared as you can be and have done all the relevant safety checks.

This includes making sure you have the correct car seat or booster for your child.

With older children, plan activities for them in advance to keep them entertained and to stop them distracting you. There are lots of car games they can play and remember to schedule in regular breaks.

6. Bad weather conditions

Driving in bad weather can be daunting even for the most experienced driver. Ian advises being as prepared as possible before you set out.

He says: “For a lot of people, driving in bad weather, such as rain or snow, fills them with fear.

“To overcome this and to feel more prepared for your drive, before leaving the house de-ice your car and make sure that the engine is warmed up.”

Checking the route you’re taking and looking at the local weather forecasts before you set out will also help you to be more prepared for any eventuality. Also, keep in mind that if the weather gets too severe, you can always pull over and wait for it to clear.

Where can I get extra help?

If your anxiety is preventing you from getting behind the wheel, read more at anxietycare.org.uk/.

There are a number of courses designed to help motorists regain their confidence when driving, which provide refreshers on the basics.

Before you book a course, ask to speak to the instructor and explain your situation, then ask for a quote. This will give you an idea of how the course will work and if it’s right for you. It’s worth checking a few different companies before committing to make sure you’ve picked the one which best suits your needs.

www.ageas.co.uk

Unmarked HGVs to target dangerous driving on England’s motorways

Three new unmarked HGVs will be let loose on England’s motorways and A roads to crack down on dangerous drivers

The unmarked HGVs will patrol the roads to track down motorists using mobile phones and committing other offences

The HGVs have been fitted with wide-angle cameras to capture unsafe driving behaviour. They also have had flashing lights installed in case of an emergency. The lorries also have a derestricted speed limiter to allow police officers to chase down drivers who try to outrun them.

Richard Leonard, Highways England’s head of road safety, said: “Highways England has been funding a single cab for the past couple of years and we’ve been impressed with the impact it’s had on improving safety.

“We’ve found that the vast majority of drivers are sensible behind the wheel but a few have got into bad habits, or are simply ignoring the law and putting themselves and others at risk.

“We’ve therefore decided to fund two extra unmarked HGV cabs to continue to target dangerous driving on England’s motorways and major A roads.

In total, 28 police forces have taken part in the HGV cab safety initiative since it began in April 2015, pulling over 4,176 drivers in relation to 5,039 offences in its first two years.

The cabs allow police officers to film evidence of unsafe driving behaviour by pulling up alongside vehicles. Drivers are then pulled over by police cars following behind.

Nearly two thirds of the drivers who were stopped were illegally using a mobile phone while driving, despite the latest statistics showing that mobile phone use is a factor in an average of two deaths on the roads every month.

Offenders were also caught watching DVDs, brushing their teeth, reading books and even boiling a kettle.

Town Driving

As you know, most incidents that do take place do so in built up areas where the density and variety of road users are more likely to create potential “conflict” areas. Also, not surprisingly, it’s where speed limits tend to be lower…

Often, road users are having to deal with a combination of hazards almost simultaneously and it’s little wonder that a “hazard overload” can afflict drivers in particular. Correctly prioritising hazards tends to come with practice and experience but we shouldn’t forget that there are around a million new drivers on UK roads each year who don’t have this experience. And neither do certain other groups:

  • People who rarely but occasionally venture into towns
  • Foreign nationals and tourists (can you spot a hire car at a hundred metres?)
  • Children and teenagers in particular

Fortunately, the majority of “around town” incidents are relatively low speed but they do account for the lion’s share of insurance claims, with even a fairly small “bump” with no injuries being sustained probably costing somewhere in the region of £1,000 to repair the bent metal. And of course, even a “low speed” impact with an unprotected road user (cyclist, motorcyclist, pedestrian) can have devastating consqeuences.

We all make mistakes around town; not least navigational ones. If you need to make a manoeuvre that’s perhaps a little unexpected by other road users, ask yourself three questions before carrying it out: Is it safe? Is it convenient or necessary? Is it legal?

From your own perspective, it’s worth bearing in mind that generally road users don’t crash into other road users who they know to be there. It’s normally those of which they are unaware who become the victims. So, one fairly easy trick is to try to make yourself as obvious to other road users as possible. For example, we associate the colour red with danger – so it’s no surprise that that’s the colour chosen for brake lights, is it? Other road users react to red – in just the same way you do – so you can use this to your advantage, for instance when trying to prevent yourself from being rear-ended while sitting in a traffic queue (mind you, better still not to be in a queue in the first place but we’ll come to that later).

Imagine you are sitting in a queue of traffic and the brake lights on the vehicle in front go off. What is your first thought or reaction? With most of us, we’re self-programmed from experience to assume that the vehicle ahead will start to move off… so quite often we do too; only to get a sudden “surprise” when it becomes clear that they’re going nowhere! This is particularly true at roundabouts and we have yet to find the driver who has not, at some point in his or her driving career, been led into making the assumption that the vehicle ahead has gone, when, in fact, it’s still right where it started!

If we didn’t have junctions around town, we wouldn’t have so many accidents. But we do; and we do. There are two main reasons for crashes at junctions:

  • One road user did not see the other road user
  • One road user misinterpreted the actions or communication of the other road user

You’d think therefore that it should be fairly easy to overcome this problem but experience tells us otherwise. We tend:

  • To be impatient at junctions
  • To make assumptions about the intentions of other road users
  • To look at vehicles rather than their drivers
  • To not look thoroughly enough (particularly with regard to cyclists and motorcyclists)
  • To arrive at junctions without planning for the “what if?” occurrence
  • To be led by others rather than making our own decisions (for example by relying on indicator signals)

And don’t forget, any joining point for vehicles or other road users with the road you are on constitutes a “junction”, so be wary at petrol stations, supermarket/car park entrances/exits, pubs, etc.

Try to be prepared for the unexpected and a way of doing this is to anticipate the daftest action by the other road user you can imagine and take your own compensatory action before it becomes a reality. Is he going to pull out on me and if he does have I time and space to react?

Will this truck on my left have sufficient room to negotiate this roundabout without moving into my lane? No. Oh! I’m in the wrong place!

KEEP MOVING! A moving target is always more difficult to hit than a stationary one, so try to keep those wheels turning. If you make this an aim in itself, you’ll very quickly hone your anticipation skills to a fine point. Try to avoid joining other people’s queues and think instead of creating your own (not by holding others up but by creating your own space in front that you can move into). You can use “observation links” (the clues along the way that will tell you what to anticipate) to build a picture of the ever-changing driving environment and you may find reflections and shadows give advance warning of other road users’ presence.

From a control perspective, when driving around town select a gear that gives you most flexibility at any given speed. “Flexibility” in this sense means the ability to speed up or slow down in roughly equal measure by using “acceleration sense” and relatively small adjustments on the accelerator pedal. You’ll probably find this means you use a lower gear than you used to but you’ll very soon get used to it and enjoy the relative “freedom” that changing gear less often brings with it. Don’t worry too much about fuel consumption; modern engines are at their most efficient further up the rev range than used to be the case and in fact will often use more fuel if they are being laboured in too high a gear.

 

Driving Licence Checking tool

Need to view your own driving licence?

This free online vehicle enquiry tool will check your licence against the DVLA database, and display any endorsements or disqualifications. You can also generate a one-time code to share access with an employer, rental company or other party. view my driving licence

Need to check someone else s licence?

This page lets you enter the one-time code from an employee or rental customer to check the validity of a licence, and display any endorsements or disqualifications. Check a Licence

External links on this page will redirect you to official DVLA services

Summertime Driving Challenges

Summer is finally here?  The kids are out of school, families begin to plan and leave on holidays and a whole new list of challenges present themselves to drivers.

What challenges does summertime driving present on and off the job?

Kids are out of school and can be anywhere…they are excited to be out in the sunshine playing and may not take care to look both ways before entering the street

Many more cyclists can be expected.  These include: those little ones just learning and wobbling around with or without training wheels, experienced cyclists touring the countryside loaded with camping gear, racers training for the next event, recreational cyclists on mountain bikes

  • Slow moving recreational vehicles driven by folks who are less than experienced in these larger vehicles
  • Tourist drivers unfamiliar with roads and possibly driving slow and lost
  • Pedestrians of every type and description
  • Tourists, if you are in an area where there are attractions, campgrounds or resorts;
  • Sightseers around landmarks or parks
  • People out for a cool evening stroll
  • Excessive heat can affect drivers in negative ways

Summertime can also create challenges for vehicles.  So if you are planning, plan to have your vehicle checked.

What are the best ways to manage these challenges?

Children

Anywhere that there may be children around, slow down and take extra care to think and look ahead.

Anticipate where children may be coming from and cover your brake if you are in doubt at all about where they may come from.

Remember, we all teach our kids to be safe around traffic, but some learn faster than others!

Cyclists

Dealing with cyclists can be frustrating, particularly if they are slow and in your lane where you don’t have room to pass.

Every cyclist has different skill levels and capabilities and a different attitude towards traffic.  When you encounter a cyclist on the road, remember to SHARE THE ROAD responsibly.  They are not permitted to ride on the sidewalks and gravel shoulders are difficult and dangerous for most road bikes; they are required to be on the roadway and it’s everyone’s responsibility to share.

Take a breath, be patient and wait till you can pass safety.  NEVER crowd a cyclist as you pass.

Recreational Vehicles

You may be in a hurry to get to your destination, but remember these motorists are on holiday!  They may be less concerned about time and speed.

The driver may not be experienced in this size vehicle.  Watch out, particularly for rentals/Motorhomes, often these drivers have no experience at all!

If you are driving in mountainous areas, you may find that many Motorhomes are underpowered, overloaded and SLOW!  Be patient with these drivers as they are likely going uphill as fast as they can!

If you are the Driver, take every opportunity to pull over if you are holding up traffic and let others pass.  This is much safer than waiting for the guy behind you to attempt an unsafe pass.

Tourists

Maintaining patience behind a lost tourist is challenging but it’s the only option.  Give them a break and time to figure out what they are doing.

When you are traveling, check your maps first and use a satenav.  Pull over if you are lost or uncertain to re-orient yourself.  Avoid last minute turns or lane changes.  It’s safer to go around the block or come back if you miss a turn.

Don’t ruin your holiday with an accident!

Pedestrians

Pay particular attention in summer for pedestrians.

Scan intersections and make sure that you should check before turning.  In heavily trafficked tourist areas, keep your speed very low.  Be aware that around lakes, beaches and parks, some of the pedestrians may have been drinking and taking chances.

Vehicle Preparation

Check your vehicle to make sure that it’s ready for summer driving.

One of the most common failures is the cooling system.  Check your coolant levels regularly and top up when needed.

If you are towing a trailer, make sure that your vehicle is rated to tow the weight and has the capability to slow and stop it on the downgrades.

Make sure that you secure camping or recreational equipment in the vehicle so that it doesn’t move around or obstruct vision.

Have a great holiday!

www.fleetdrivingsolutions.com

Commentary Drive A Proven System for Preventing Accidents

A commentary drive is where you describe what you are doing as you are driving. It’s a technique used by advanced drivers such as the police. This video shows a high speed commentary drive by a police officer through urban streets. Watch it a couple of times because the first time you’ll find that the officer is talking about things happening on the road that are far further up the road than you are looking, and you’re not even driving!

The purpose of a commentary drive is to train the driver to take in and process much more information than usual, and to anticipate danger. Once you start doing a commentary drive you will realise the enormous number of things that our brains process automatically every time we drive. By learning to process these distractions and potential dangers in a more efficient way you will be able to drive more safely.

At Fleet Driving Solutions our advanced driving instructors will be able to fine-tune where you are looking so that you are taking consideration of the most important things that are up ahead and you are choosing the correct speed. It will also teach you to ignore things that aren’t of importance so that you can remain focused on the things that are important.

The only way to get good at commentary drives is to practise. When you first start you it will seem like you are inundated with things to describe, but over time you will become fluent, like you would when learning a language.

For more details call 0203 633 4682 or 07919 193299

Choose your Attitude

Even the best of drivers can let their driving deteriorate when their attitude starts to slide.

What attitudes can turn a normally good driver into a risk-taking one?

  • A feeling that everyone is out to get me or hold me up.
  • Judgements about other driver’s actions ‘everyone else is a lousy driver‘ that leads to frustration.
  • Angry feelings that may have no connection with driving until you are behind the wheel like a fight with the boss, spouse, kids or co-worker.
  • A need to be right or ‘WIN‘ in a situation
  • Can you think of more?

These things are called personal factors and they influence our driving behaviour if we let them.

Attitudes are a combination of what we are thinking and feeling. These are things that we have control over at least to some degree. Someone, when regularly cultivates strong negative feelings and thinking including anger and blame, will often have what is called a ‘bad attitude‘ but this is just a reflection of their emotional state

What kind of driving behaviour can result from negative attitudes?

  • Aggressive driving like speeding or cutting others off.
  • Retaliation and road rage
  • Vehicle abuse
  • What others can you think of?

Taking personal responsibility for our thinking, feelings and attitudes is key to safe driving. When you are behind the wheel, it’s your responsibility to drive defensively regardless of the pressures that may invite you towards negative thinking and emotion.

If you believe yourself to be a good driver, realize that most others are not as skilled as you and give them a break!

Don’t expect perfection; in fact, expect poor driving from others and take the high road by not reacting negatively. Remind yourself about everything that you have to be grateful for in life. It sounds simplistic but if we forget that we have so much to be grateful for, and start focusing on the negatives, we can easily get caught up in an attitude slide.

  • Give the other person a break regularly and make sure that if someone gives you a break to return a friendly wave.
  • Remind yourself regularly that you are in control of your own emotional weather and that it’s your thinking that most determines if you have a sunny disposition or a stormy one!

Fleet Driving Solutions, providing fleet and advanced driving training services to companies throughout the UK. Call 0203 633 4682 or 07919 193299

 

Fuel Efficient Driving Tips

Switch off your engine

  • Many newer cars automatically turn off when stationary in neutral. If yours doesn’t, turn off your engine when you’ve stopped for a minute or so to save fuel.

Higher gear

  • Driving at lower revs reduces fuel consumption so change up a gear at around 2,000 RPM.

Drive smoothly

  • Assess the road ahead as much as possible to avoid unnecessary braking and acceleration, which increases the amount of fuel you use.

Slow down

  • Your fuel costs will increase the faster you drive so keep speeds reasonable.

Windows vs air conditioning

  • If you are traveling at low speed opening the windows is more efficient. If traveling at 60 miles per hour or above, closing the windows and using the air con will save you more.

Tyre pressures

  • Under-inflated tyres increase your fuel consumption and can be dangerous on the road so check them once a month and before long journeys.

Roof racks/boxes

  • Having these attached to your car when they’re not being used will increase drag and increase your fuel costs.

Lighten your load

  • Remove excess items from your car before traveling to reduce weight.

Fleet Driving Solutions, providing fleet driving training services to companies throughout the UK. Call 0203 633 4682

The UK’s new speeding fines

Speeding fines to increase

Fines for the most serious speeding offences are set to rise in order to better reflect the gravity with which the courts view them.

Currently the minimum penalty you can expect to receive for speeding is a £100 fine and 3 penalty points added to your licence, but from April 24, 2017, magistrates in England and Wales are being directed to apply a Band C speeding fine for the most serious offenders.

What does that mean if I’m caught speeding?

A Band C speeding fine means that anyone speeding at 51mph or above in a 30mph limit – for example – faces a fine equivalent to 150% of their weekly income, and 6 penalty points on their driving licence, or disqualification from driving for up to 56 days. If you’re disqualified for 56 days or more you must apply for a new licence before you’re able to start driving again.

For anyone earning £25,000 a year, a speeding fine equivalent to 150% of their weekly income means handing over a minimum of £720 – no small amount.

You might receive a Band B speeding fine for doing between 41-50mph, in which case you’d face a fine equivalent to 100% of your weekly income (£480), and 4 penalty points on your driving licence, or disqualification from driving for up to 28 days.

A Band A speeding fine would be appropriate if you are caught speeding between 31-40 in a 30mph zone, and you can expect to receive a fine equivalent to 50% of your weekly income (£240), and 3 penalty points on your driving licence.

Disqualification from driving vs penalty points

If you get caught driving at a speed that will land you with a Band B or C speeding fine, the magistrates may believe your speeding is too serious for penalty points. In this case, you may be disqualified from driving for a period of time instead of being given penalty points.

You might wonder if you’re better off being disqualified from driving for a short time, rather than taking the 6 penalty points on your licence – especially if you’ve already racked up a handful of points with previous motoring offfences. In some instances you’d be right, especially if the addition of 6 penalty points would take you over the 12 point limit, as this would attract a six month driving ban rather than up to 56 days.

However, magistrates are aware of this potential ‘loophole’, so odds are that they would be reluctant to ban you for a short time in lieu of penalty points, especially if you have been consistently driving at dangerously high speeds.

If this is the case, perhaps you should be asking yourself exactly why it’s so important for you to get where you’re going so quickly, and consider rethinking your attitude to the laws that are, essentially, there to keep everyone safe on the roads.

Fleet Driving Solutions, providing fleet driving training services to companies throughout the UK. Call 0203 633 4682

Watch Out For Motorbikes!

As we move into summer, it’s worth talking about some of the road users that begin to appear when the weather improves. Motorcyclists are one of the most vulnerable groups to injury or fatality when involved in collisions.

When a crash happens involving a motorcycle and other vehicle, who is typically found at fault?

It’s most often the fault of the OTHER DRIVER…. SURPRISED?

In fact when it’s not a single vehicle incident involving the motorcycle, it’s usually the other driver who has made a mistake that resulted in the accident.

What is the most common place and type of collision involving a motorcycle and other vehicle?

There are certainly many places where vehicles can collide; but the most common place for another vehicle and a motorcycle to collide is at an intersection when the other driver is turning left or right and turns in front of the motorcyclist.

Why does this happen? (a driver turning in front of an oncoming motorcycle)

There are 2 primary reasons that this can happen:

  • The driver of the other vehicle simply did not see the motorcycle. Motorcycles are smaller and more difficult to see and many drivers don’t think to actually watch for them.
  • Speed: The driver of the other vehicle DOES see the motorcycle but thinks he has time to turn because he misjudges the approach speed.

Tailgating Tips:

Motorbikes are vulnerable road users; they do not have the protection that a car or Lorry has. Almost, always result in injury.

If you expect to see motorbikes, you are more likely to detect them. Often we can filter out the things we don’t expect and just not see them Always look for motorbikes especially at intersections

Motorbikes are much more lighter than other vehicles and can stop in much shorter distances. This means that when you are following a motorbike, you should leave more distance. If the rider has to make an emergency stop, the bike will stop in  a much shorter distance than your vehicle.

When you see a motorcycle approaching, realize that it’s easy to misjudge the speed because the size of the cycle and the fact that its coming towards you makes it difficult to estimate speed.

  • Keep Your Eyes Up – It’s tempting to look down and over the bonnet of the car at the centre line or the tail lights in front of you, but this can cause several problems. When your eyes are looking downward over the bonnet, steering can become choppy and require many more adjustments, and frequently you will either cut corners or run wide. It’s much more effective to keep your eyes up and this practise prepares you for the next technique.
  • Eye Lead Time – Look 12 to 15 seconds ahead of where your vehicle is at any given time. As your speed increases, so will the distance you look ahead if you always look for this time interval.
  • Move Your Eyes – This takes practice and intent. Look right, left, ahead and into the mirrors and as you look, identify potential problems so that you can decide what you will do about them. Moving your eyes is particularly important to see things to the side because your peripheral vision becomes increasingly ineffective as your speed increases.
  • See the Big Picture – By moving your eyes, you get a ‘big picture’ perspective of the traffic environment and your place in it. Pilots call this ‘situational awareness’ and it helps you to make good decisions about speed and movement such as lane changes, well in advance.
  •  Eye Contact – The only way to know if another driver sees you is to make eye contact with them. If they are looking at you and you see them making eye contact with you, you can be fairly sure (but not guaranteed) that they see you. If another driver is moving into your space and you want to establish eye contact, a light tap on the horn will attract their attention.

Practical Challenge:

For the next week, make a point of watching for motorcycles and develop a habit of identifying them as soon as you can. Be especially careful at intersections/junctions!

Fleet Driving Solutions, providing fleet driving training services to companies throughout the UK. Call 0203 633 4682