Date Published: September 13th, 2019
If you are new to being behind the wheel, then you might be looking for some advice on how to get better at driving. You could be trying to pass your driving test or already have your driving licence. There is always room for improvement to ensure that you build on your skills to drive safely. Getting better at driving will give you more confidence on the road and reduce anxiety about driving. Read this list of essential skills to learn how to become a better driver. These skills can also help you in the rest of your life if you learn to apply them in other areas.
Top of the list when it comes to crucial skills for driving and road safety is concentration. You must be able to focus on the road at all times. This means concentrating not just on what you are doing, but also on what other drivers and pedestrians around you are doing. You should always pay attention to traffic lights and to the distance between your vehicle and the ones in front and behind. It is important to be able to resist distractions when driving so that you are not driving carelessly. Keep your music at an appropriate volume so that it does not distract you. It is also necessary for you to be able to hear any emergency vehicles approaching you.
The phrase “practice makes perfect” is a cliche for a reason. Practising techniques and habits ensures that you will get better at them over time. It also allows you to get into a routine for you to follow every time you are behind the wheel. For example, if you always check and adjust your mirrors, controls, or seat before you set off, then you will never be caught out while driving. Sitting up straight with both hands in the proper position on the wheel will encourage you to concentrate on the road ahead. Practice makes you more familiar with manoeuvres, which will definitely help you to prepare for your practical test.
One of the best ways to fit in smoothly is to keep pace with other drivers. Stick to the speed limit. Patience really is a virtue, and you need to be able to slow down in time for traffic lights and other vehicles. Being patient when waiting for pedestrians or other drivers will help you to reduce stress levels while driving. It also keeps you on the right side of the law if you avoid speeding and overtaking when changing lanes. Be patient with yourself if it takes some time to get the hang of parking properly; the more relaxed you are, the more confident you will be.
Say no to road rage! If you are fairly new to driving, or you want to know how to get better at driving, then you will know how difficult it can be for learners and new starters. You were in their shoes once, so lay off the horn and let them be. It’s rude and also unsafe to drive aggressively if you are trying to get around other vehicles or pedestrians are trying to cross the road in front of you. Slow down and practice patience again. Everyone has bad days sometimes, even you, so treat others on the road the way that you would want them to treat you. Let little mistakes go and learn from them instead.
Similarly, it is important to respect other drivers and the rules of the road. Always follow the law. Use the appropriate lanes for the turns you want to take and never try to beat a traffic light, especially at an intersection. Remember to indicate with your lights to communicate to other drivers and pedestrians what you are doing. Not indicating properly can be massively frustrating for everyone around, so don’t be the person who forgets to do it. It will be safer for everyone if you do. Have respect for others and look out for them when reversing or parking. Never block another vehicle in or cut somebody off to steal a space; have common courtesy.
As with most things in life, preparation is key. Make sure that you have the appropriate equipment in your car if you absolutely need to use a hands-free device, and set this up before you set off. Have a copy of your insurance information in your car just in case you need it. Also make sure that you have equipment to prepare for changes in weather, like sunglasses to reduce light glare or an ice scraper. When it comes to wearing sunglasses while driving, follow legal advice from the AA and wear filter category 2 lenses for driving during the day. If you have eyesight problems, always wear your prescription glasses or contact lenses and keep a spare set in your car. Instead of relying on satnav, plan your route ahead of time so that you will know which turns to take and when to be ready to make them.
You might be used to driving with other people in the car, whether it was your instructor or family or friends. However, the best way to learn how to get better at driving is to be able to drive alone and rely on your own skills and driving knowledge. This means not depending on technology like cameras when it comes to parking, or satnav when it comes to finding and following a route. If you try different routes and driving at different times of the day, it will build your confidence up when you realise that you can do it. Driving alone increases your independence and will take some of the pressure off you if you don’t have to deal with any backseat drivers either.
Road safety is vital to protect yourself and others around you from harm. Driving can be very dangerous if you don’t follow the rules and perform the necessary safety checks. Make sure that everybody in your car uses seat belts and booster seats as appropriate. Never drive if you are tired or have been drinking. Take breaks on longer trips to rest your eyes (and to relieve your bladder if you need to). Kevin Clinton, the Road Safety manager of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, told the Telegraph that not paying attention is the cause of thousands of road accidents every year. Drink-driving in particular causes around 250 fatal accidents every year. Avoiding fatigue or the influence of drugs while driving is the best way to stay safe on the road. Make sure that your vehicle itself is also safe with MOTs.
An underrated skill is the ability to drive smoothly. Being confident in your use of controls and direction will help you to fit in as a seasoned driver. Steering with purpose and an assertive attitude behind the wheel helps you to stay confident and in control, even in an emergency situation. Making abrupt manoeuvres can be a safety risk to yourself and the other people around you. It can also end up wasting fuel if you are constantly accelerating or decelerating too suddenly, which is bad for the environment and your bank account. Drive smoothly and it will not only be more pleasant and less stressful for you, but you will be a much better driver.
Similarly, there is no need to brake harshly. You will end up damaging your tyres by making your car work too hard to come to a stop. It is better to use your skills of concentration and preparation to tap the brakes a little earlier, when you still have enough time and space to slow down enough to stop smoothly. Progressive braking is key, so learn to predict the road rather than being taken by surprise and risking an accident. Decelerate and accelerate carefully when you are driving around bends in particular. As well as being a better driver, it will also help you to save money by reducing wear and tear on your vehicle and saving fuel.