Preparing To Drive In Different Weather Conditions

Preparing To Drive In Different Weather Conditions

Being able to drive in different weather conditions is an essential skill for any good learner driver. Weather conditions, especially heavy rain and bright sun, will often take even the most experienced drivers by surprise. Below we have put together an essential guide to driving in different weather conditions to help students just like you.

Driving in foggy conditions

When we talk about bad weather, we typically think of snow and rain; however, there are a lot of other weather conditions that can cause difficulty when driving. In fact, fog is probably one of the most dangerous and difficult conditions to drive in and requires a lot of care and attention.

Firstly, you should take some time to prepare your vehicle for the journey. In foggy conditions this should include ensuring that your windows are de-misted and that you are familiar with the different headlights in your vehicle.

During fog, the most appropriate headlights to use are your fog lights (often referred to as low beam) rather than your full beam; this is because your full beam can actually reflect back against the fog and cause a glare.

When visibility drops to below 100m, The Highway Code states you must use your headlights. As with all adverse weather conditions you should slow down and increase the stopping distance between yourself and the car in front of you.

Special tip: Watch out for patches of fog. When fog is patchy it can often appear as if the fog has cleared and you can see again, only to reappear again and take you by surprise.

You can combat this by maintaining a reduced speed until you are sure the fog has cleared.

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Preparing to drive on snow and ice

Roads covered with ice and snow can be very hazardous. When driving in these conditions, you should exercise caution and maintain a low speed at all times.

When preparing your vehicle, ensure that your windows are de-misted, you have your low beam lights turned on and that you have switched on your window wipers to the appropriate setting.

It is also important to ensure that your wiper fluid is topped up, as snowfall can leave marks on your windscreen which can cause problems with visibility.

Melting snow can act as a lubricant on the road and icy surfaces will make your vehicle difficult to manoeuvre. When braking, it is essential to use them gradually and slowly.

It can feel like an instinct to brake harshly in order to keep control of your vehicle, but this will actually cause you to further loose control and skid.

When turning, you should follow the same procedure – moving gradually and slowly at all times. The key to remaining safe during snow and ice is to remain calm and steady!

Tips for driving when it’s raining

By following simple measures such as reducing your speed and leaving more distance between other vehicles, driving in the rain will quickly become second nature to new drivers. As with all adverse weather conditions, ensure that you once again take the time to prepare your vehicle.

When driving in rain, this will usually include ensuring that your car windows are de-misted and that your wipers are set to the appropriate speed.

The most important thing to remember when driving in the rain is that your stopping time will increase on wet ground.

You should leave at least four seconds between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. If the rain is distorting your view, you may need to turn on your dipped headlights. If you have severely reduced visibility you should find a safe place to pull over and wait for the rainfall to slow or reduce.

Driving when it’s sunny

As we usually welcome bright sunshine with open arms, we often overlook how this can impact driving conditions.

However, just like extremely cold conditions, extreme amounts of sunshine can also be something a driver needs to prepare for. It is very important that your windows are clean during sunshine; the glare from the sun can reflect from dirt on your window and make it extremely difficult to see.

When driving, wear dark sunglasses and use your sun visor in order to reduce the glare as much as possible.

Also remember that vehicles left in the sun can become particularly hot to touch, so exercise caution when touching your steering wheel or seat belt.

Preparing to drive in different weather conditions can be made a lot easier by taking the appropriate precautions. The most important think to remember is to take the time to prepare your vehicle and reduce your speed.

What’s The Difference Between Zebra, Puffin And Pelican Crossings

Zebra Crossing A Road

A common problem for new motorists can be how to recognise the different types of crossings in use on UK roads. Sometimes, when we’re driving it can be easy to momentarily panic while we rack our brains as to how we should react when faced with each one so it’s essential you’re familiar with the rules.

The three most common types of road crossings we will encounter when driving are the Zebra crossing, the Pelican crossing and the Puffin crossing. Even if you’ve watched hours of David Attenborough documentaries, it can still be difficult to distinguish each one and understand why they’re named after each animal.

Zebra Crossing

The Zebra crossing is the easiest to recognise because it consists of black and white stripes that form a path across the road. Zebra crossings also have a flashing yellow Belisha beacon at either side of the carriageway.

Zebra Crossing

A fun fact, the Belisha beacon is named after Leslie Hore-Belisha who was the Minister of Transport responsible for them being introduced in the 1930s.

Pedestrians have priority at Zebra crossings so you must stop and let them cross. It’s important that you recognise a Zebra crossing when approaching it and scan the pavement for anyone waiting to use it. It is expected that pedestrians do not cross until they’re sure the driver has spotted them, though this doesn’t always happen.

You should use a mirror, signal, manoeuvre technique when approaching and stop before the dotted white line. Zebra crossings have white zigzag lines on their approach and you must not park or overtake in this zone.

Pelican Crossings

It’s helpful to remember that Pelican is short for Pedestrian Light Controlled Crossing. This will help you remember that these types of crossing are operated by the press of a button on the side of the road. Approaching vehicles are halted by traffic lights and pedestrians are notified to cross by a visible ‘green man’ displayed opposite and an audible signal.

Pelican Crossings

When the red traffic light shows, you must stop. When the traffic light displays a continuous illuminated amber one you must be prepared to stop. When a flashing amber light is displayed you need to give way to any pedestrians still using the crossing and when it turns green you can proceed but always check for anyone in the way.

Puffin Crossings

Puffin crossings are identical to Pelican crossings but they’re a little smarter. Puffin stands for Pedestrian User Friendly Intelligent crossing because they’re fitted with sensors which can tell when the crossing is clear or if there are pedestrians taking a little while to cross the road.

Puffin Crossings

Note that on Puffin crossings, the signal to tell pedestrians when to cross is beside them and not opposite. You should apply the same principles when approaching a Puffin crossing as you do the Pelican crossing. Look out for anyone at the side of the road when approaching, apply your mirror, signal, manoeuvre routine and prepare to stop. Puffin crossings do not use the flashing amber traffic light.

Using A Phone Or A Sat Nav When Driving

Technology has become a huge part of everyday life and even when you’re driving, it can be useful if you need to find your route or speak to someone at work or at home.

Yet your focus must always be on driving safely, and so there are a few laws that you need to be aware of when using a phone or a sat nav while behind the wheel.

The Law On Phones And Sat Navs

It is illegal to hold a phone or a sat nav while you’re driving or riding on a motorcycle. This doesn’t mean you can’t use them of course, but you must be able to do so hands-free.

For phones, this may include a Bluetooth headset or voice commands, while you’ll need a dashboard or windscreen mount for any tech, unless you’ve got sat-nav built into your car.

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What’s vital is that any device doesn’t block your view of the road. And you can’t allow yourself to get distracted either – the law states that you must be in full control of your vehicle at all times, and you can be prosecuted if the police stop you and believe you’re not focused on the road.

The law applies at all times when you’re driving, even when you’re queuing in traffic or you’re stopped at a red light.

As tempting as it is to quickly check that text, you need to wait until you’ve safely parked in an appropriate space.

The only time the law does not apply is if you need to dial 999 or 112 in an emergency and it isn’t safe or practical to stop.

The Penalties Available

If your sat nav or phone is blocking your view of the road, or you don’t have complete control of your vehicle, you can be given thee points on your license and you could be taken to court.

If you use your phone or sat nav in your hand, you could get six points and a £200 fine.

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Not only that, but if you only passed your driving test within the last two years, you’ll lose your license.

The penalties are hefty, but these pale in significance to the tragedies you could cause if you drive while you aren’t fully paying attention.

It’s never worth the risk, so always follow the law with regards using sat navs and phones while you’re driving.

Legal Obligations Of Any Driver

Legal Obligations Of Any Driver

There are several legal obligations and things to consider before you drive any car or motorbike in the UK. Before making any attempt to drive, you should have a valid driving licence and your vehicle should be registered, insured, and taxed, and also possess a valid MOT.

Legal obligations of UK drivers

Once you meet all the above requirements, legal obligations before driving your vehicle on UK roads include:

  • you must be at least the minimum driving or motorcycle riding age
  • you should have the right kind of driving licence
  • your eyesight should be good enough to meet minimum sight rules

If you are a learner driver, you should also:

  • be constantly supervised by a driver at all times you drive on UK roads, unless you are riding a motorbike
  • ensure “L” plates are prominently displayed at the front and rear of your vehicle. In Wales, these are “D” plates

Legal requirements for UK vehicles

Any vehicle which is to be driven on UK roads should:

  • hold a registration document to prove it is registered with DVLA
  • possess valid vehicle tax
  • be MOTed, unless your vehicle does not require an MOT
  • driver and any passengers should always wear seatbelts
  • be suitable for driving and roadworthy
  • the vehicle should be insured for you to drive, this must be at least third party insurance cover

Further obligations for drivers

If you are stopped by police at any time, you must be able to show the officer your driving licence, insurance cover certificate, and a current MOT certificate, if your vehicle requires one. You will usually be able to take these documents to a local police station within seven days of the police officer’s request.

You should also be aware of the permitted level of blood alcohol content within your locality, as police officers can stop your vehicle if they suspect you are drink driving.

You can be fined up to a maximum of £5,175 and could also lose your licence if you are caught driving while under the influence of alcohol. If you take drugs on a regular basis, you should check the legality of driving on UK roads.

Texting or using a mobile phone while driving is also banned, and phones can only be used when vehicles are parked.

The only exception to this ruling is if you are in an emergency situation and need to call for emergency assistance. Although you are permitted to use hands-free mobiles, there is a risk you could be stopped by police if they feel that use of your hands-free set is causing a driving distraction.

There are lots more legal requirements and driving tips for new drivers, your driving instructor can give you information if you’re unsure about anything.

Local Driving Test Centre Pass Rates

Pass Rates

Learning to drive can be one of the most exciting yet stressful times in your life, so it’s only natural that you want to find not only the best driving instructor, but also the best local test centre with high pass rates.

Looking at pass rates across the country, these can vary dramatically. However, the average for the last year is 47.1%, which has increased year-on-year since 2014. Over 17,000 tests were passed with zero faults at all.

Within the East of England, including Essex, the average pass rate is the same as the whole of the UK, 47%.

When it comes to Essex test centres, results for the year 2016/17 show they rank in the following order when it comes to pass rates:

  • Chelmsford (Hanbury Road) 49%
  • Brentwood 49%
  • Chelmsford (Hoffmans Way) 47%
  • Clacton on Sea 45%
  • Loughton 45%
  • Colchester 41%
  • Basildon 37%

 

Statistics show some of the highest pass rates across the country are in rural areas, including Scotland and North Yorkshire, but this isn’t always a given, and it’s not always black and white. Some test centres are always going to have advantages over others.

There’s a couple of important things to take into consideration when it comes to pass rates, which can be applied when learning to drive in Essex.

Junctions observation

Gov.uk details observation at junctions as being the top reason for failing a driving test in the year 2016/17.

This isn’t surprising, and having a tricky junction right outside of a test centre may throw some people off as soon as they start.

When researching a test centre, it can sometimes help to avoid those which have very busy junctions straight away, unless you like a challenge!

Response to signals (traffic lights/signs)

Response time is vital to get right, so if you turn out onto a busy road straight away, your response time could be impacted, especially if you’re not a very confident driver.

For those test centres near to lots of traffic lights, or other signal-heavy areas, remember to practise the route carefully so you don’t get caught out.

Steering control

Again, vital for not only passing your test, but also being a good driver, steering control needs to be flawless.

For those test centres which could encounter tricky turns and manoeuvres early on, or last thing, ensure your steering control is up to scratch so there’s no room for unnecessary mistakes.

For more information on pass rates and test centres in Essex, just get in touch.

What Driving Test Time Is Best?

What Driving Test Time Is Best

When it comes to taking the UK driving test, studies show that you may need more than good driving skills on your side.

The time you take your test could also make all the difference between a pass or fail.

The research, conducted by Dayinsure and the DVLA, revealed that pupils taking their driving test later in the day are more likely to pass than pupils who take their test earlier. Let’s delve a little deeper into those findings.

The best and worst times to sit your test

Before we look at the research in more detail, don’t panic if you already have a test booked for earlier in the day. These statistics are compiled from a small section of data and shouldn’t be taken at face value.

Many people believe that the worst time to take your driving test is during the school run and the evening rush hour. However, according to data compiled by Dayinure, a test slot between 11 am and 1 pm is statistically the worst time to take your driving test.

The statistics show that only 48 per cent of pupils passed during these times. And the best time? Well, according to the DVLA, those who take their test between 7 pm and 9 pm are most likely to pass. Pupils taking tests at this time had a pass rate of 65 per cent.

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It’s also worth noting that if you want to take your test in the evening, there is a premium to pay. The cost of an evening driving test is £75 compared to a daytime test rate of £62. So, let’s crunch some numbers. By paying an extra £13 for an evening driving test, you have a 15 per cent higher chance of passing your test.

Final thoughts

The greater success rate for evening driving tests certainly makes for fascinating reading. The difference in pass rates is possibly down to the lack of rush hour traffic and pupils being in a calmer state than they would be first thing in the morning.

Nerves are the most common reason for failing a driving test, so if you want a quieter and calmer drive, you may wish to consider booking an evening test.

If you want to save money and book a normal daytime test, but are worried about nerves, why not book some lessons during rush hour times so that you can get accustomed to the heavier traffic flow and higher levels of observation that are required?

Why Go To A Driving School?

Why Go To A Driving School

Many adults enrol in driving schools every day for different reasons. Some need to learn how to drive so that they can drive themselves to work or school. Below are some reasons why you should go to driving school.

Build confidence

Attending a driving school will enable you to become confident in your driving abilities and skills. A professional tutor will train you and help you understand what you should look out for while driving.

Pass the driving test

When applying for a driver’s test in the UK, you have to sit for an exam first. Oftentimes, this exam involves basic traffic lingo and signs. If you pass this test, you’ll be required to take an actual driving test.

An official from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) will sit with you in the same car, as you drive. He/she will grade you to determine whether you’re fit enough to be behind the wheel, or not.

You may be nervous and confused during your driving test if you don’t undergo proper training. A driving school will prepare you for the test. It will also help you familiarise yourself with the different features of a vehicle.

Minimise the risks of accidents

Too many people die every year due to traffic accidents, some of which can be prevented through safe driving. Overconfidence, ignorance of road safety rules, and lack of proper driving skills are the main reasons these accidents occur. Driving schools teach learners how to become safe drivers.

Lower your insurance premiums

Many insurers give discounts to new drivers. To take advantage of these discounts, you’ll need to provide a certificate of completion to prove that you’ve successfully completed your driving course.

The certificate will also prove that you’re able to abide by all traffic rules and regulations. Driving schools offer certificates of completion as a form of recommendation.

Learn road rules and procedures

You only have to drive a few meters to see how careless many drivers are. They put the lives of other road users at risk because they don’t pay attention to road signs. To avoid breaking traffic rules, you may want to go to a driving school. Driving school teachers inform learners about the rules and procedures of the road.

The take-home message

Cars are a convenient means of transportation. However, they can be dangerous if they’re placed in the hands of untrained individuals. Enrolling in a driving school can help you identify hazardous situations and become a safe driver.

Are Driving Crash Courses Any Good?

Are Driving Crash Courses Any Good

Crash courses are intensive courses of driving lessons which aim to teach you everything you need to pass your practical driving test in just a few days.

Usually, crash courses run from Monday to Friday, with six hours of learning each day and your driving test happening on the Saturday.

But, are these intensive courses a good idea?

The average learner driver in the UK will have 47 hours of lessons with a driving instructor before taking their test, as well as 20 hours of private practice with, for example, a parent.

With the cost of driving lessons growing more and more, these lessons can easily cost in excess of £1,500, even before paying the test fees.

With intensive crash courses often coming in at less than half of that cost, it’s easy to see why they are an attractive option for cash-strapped teenagers looking to get on the road fast.

Crash courses are also very useful for older learners who have a pressing need to get on the road quickly.

For example, someone who is about to start a new job where they need to drive – or need to be able to drive to get to the office – may only have a few days or weeks in which to go from non-driver to fully-fledged motorist.

But, is it really possible to become a safe and legal driver in just a week?

Well, legally, yes. If you pass your driving test – no matter how much time you have, or haven’t, spent learning to drive – then you are legally allowed to drive solo on the road. Whether it’s a safe thing to do, though, is another matter.

As we’ve already seen, the average learner spends 67 hours on the road – usually over several months – developing their skills, knowledge, and confidence as a driver. The weeks and months between lessons are also valuable in that they allow knowledge and skills to become embedded and the opportunity to cement learning over time.

By contrast, a one-week crash course might promise to turn you into a fully-legal motorist in less than half that time: just 30 hours. Whether or not you feel that’s enough time to develop your skills and learn to be a safe driver is a question that requires very careful consideration indeed.

Intensive Driving Courses Vs Normal – What’s The Difference?

Intensive Driving Courses Vs Normal

When learning to drive, one of the biggest decisions is if you want to learn gradually, having lessons and spreading out the cost week-on-week, or condense everything into a week-long, intensive driving course.

There are pros and cons to each, but first, it’s important to understand the difference before making a decision.

Remember: just because one option suits a particular individual, it’s unlikely to be the same for everyone else.

Cost

It’s no myth that learning to drive can prove to be expensive in some circumstances. Although the reward greatly outweighs the cost, when learning to drive it’s key to understand what costs are involved, and which method is best suited to you.

It all depends on the individual, but some may find investing upfront in an intensive driving course is more cost-efficient than spending money on weekly lessons, which can sometimes stretch over a longer period of time.

Review your options and see which is likely to work best for you, considering factors such as time off college, university, or work if you were to opt for the intensive course.

Learning

Everyone has their own way of learning, but there are several differences between how information can be absorbed during normal and intensive courses.

Intensive courses condense information tightly together in the space of a week, which works for some, but others could find themselves unable to take so much in over such a short period of time.

Regular courses mean the information is spread out, so you have longer to digest it, but having to refresh your memory each week may prove more difficult for some.

 

Conditions

When learning as part of an intensive course, weather and road conditions are likely to stay very similar throughout the week, which means you could learn only in beaming sunshine, or heavy rain, each day.

Partaking in weekly lessons, which span across several months, means conditions will vary week on week, and you’re likely to experience multiple seasons and weather conditions.

Again, it’s all based on the individual, but some may benefit from one more than the other.

 

Pressure to pass

We all want to do our best when it comes to learning to drive, and many of us put pressure on ourselves to do so.

While tests can be stressful for everyone, before deciding which option to take consider how you’d feel if you passed or failed in either scenario.

Some of us may think a week of intensive learning would feel more of a blow than several months, but everyone is different, so make the right decision for you, and try not to worry too much!

How To Pull Over For Emergency Vehicles

How To Pull Over For Emergency Vehicles

If you’re a new driver or even an experienced one, it can be a stressful experience having to pull over for emergency vehicles. The sirens are blaring, the blue lights are flashing, and you may not be in an ideal position to stop.

But as long as you remain calm, aware and focused when driving, it doesn’t have to be quite so stressful.

Here are a few key points to be aware of when pulling over for emergency vehicles:

1) Listen and look
As soon as you hear the sound of a police, fire or ambulance siren or you become aware of the flashing blue lights of an emergency vehicle, be prepared to stop. This will give you time to think about your planned stop and allow you to begin preparing to pull over safely. The sooner you begin to think about pulling over, the safer your stop will be. This thinking time will also allow you to identify a good place to stop.

 

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2) Slow down.
Slow down, but don’t emergency stop. Though it’s important to come to a complete stop as soon as you can, it’s equally important to keep yourself and your passengers safe, not to mention other drivers. And the slower you’re going, the easier it will be to identify a safe stopping area.

3) Watch.
Watch what other vehicles are doing. Often there won’t be an obvious place to stop, so be guided by other vehicles. For example, if everyone is going left, don’t swerve suddenly to the right. Follow their lead.

And remember, you only need to make sure the emergency vehicle has enough room to proceed – you just need to give them enough space to manoeuvre and proceed to their destination. This means you don’t have to find the perfect place to stop (which doesn’t always exist!), just somewhere safe. And don’t pull over on the kerb – this could put pedestrians in danger.

4) Anticipate.
When you see flashing blue lights in your mirror, take a moment to anticipate the route they are going to take. It’s much better to slow down and judge the situation – if you slam on your brakes you could be endangering other drivers on the road for no reason.

If you do need to stop because the emergency vehicles is heading your way, make sure you indicate to let your fellow drivers know that you intend to stop.