Before we go into advanced driving skills, and remember, we’re not talking about racing driving skills here! It’s probably safe to say that most drivers on our roads would fail their normal driving test if taken again. This is most likely a fact and therefore you probably should start your knowledge to advanced skills by familiarising yourself again with the highway code.
Why not visit the department of transport (opens new window) for more details. Get hold of the highway code book and just flick through, you’ll be surprised at how much there is and what you have forgotten or just didn’t even know or realise.
As an ex ADI (Approved Driving Instructor), it never ceases to amaze me how many people don’t know the priorities at crossroads, the correct lane to be in and priorities at roundabouts, what the road signs are telling them and much more.
So you want to be a better driver?
Lack of concentration and awareness and driving too fast for the conditions of the road, are all factors that can cause a good drive to turn into a nightmare.
There are a number of things you can do to improve your driving skills. I’ve decided the easiest thing to do is to list them, as writing paragraphed explanations of these would be too long winded and a pain to read. In no particular order and randomly listed:
- Find a comfortable/good driving position, but don’t get into such a comfortable position that you loose your driving concentration
- Driving fast isn’t clever, nor does it make you a good driver. A good driver drives within the limits of their surroundings (what they can see and what is happening or likely to happen around them) and not how well they can handle their car.
- Get into the right mental attitude.
- Don’t take risks, is it worth it? What do you gain? learn to be patient.
- Don’t react to other aggressive drivers – difficult I know!
- Think, look ahead and plan. Be aware of whats happening around you, whats in front and to the side when moving forward and what may end up in front and to your side (adjust your speed accordingly). Watch for those coming up behind you, their speed and distance (regular mirror checks). Watch for developing hazards and possible dangers (think worst case scenario, what if and expect the unexpected).
- Drive smoothly and don’t corner/turn in too abruptly.
- Pay attention to road signs and markings and act on them.
- Pay attention to the road condition, including weather and the road surface.
- Keep a safe distance between you and the car in front, you never know what they are going to do or what may happen infront of them. Leave extra space for larger vehicles, so you can see past them and also be seen by them (if you can’t see their side mirror, they wont know you’re there).
- Watch out for the unexpected (be prepared). People leave indicators on, or don’t us them. Pedestrian don’t always watch what they are doing either. Things can change quickly. Learn to read other road users and your surroundings, try to anticipate the worst case scenario.
- Observations, observations, observations (mirrors and blind spots) – act on what you see – need I say more!
- Try to avoid distractions in the car (playing with the stereo, sat nav, phones etc). Also children and other passengers can be a distraction, so keep your eyes and brain on the driving.
- Brake in a straight line. The amount of people I see braking when going around a bend, just staggers me. You have far more control of your car braking in a straight line, you also have more control of your car in a bend while gently allowing the cars engine to pull you around with a light and neutral application on the throttle pedal (NOT Braking!). Best to brake progressively and get to the right speed before the bend. (note: as I said at the beginning this is about better safer driving – not racing, so if you are an experienced driver doing left foot braking, heel and toes and double clutch driving, then that is not what this article is about).
- You should be able to stop in the distance you can see to be clear in front of you. Think about it, if a bend is coming up and you don’t know that there could be a broken down car, a horse or pedestrian that may be in the road and you are going too fast to stop in the distance you see to be clear, what do you think will happen!
- In order to make progress, plan ahead and slot into safe gaps on roundabouts and junctions, by adjusting your speed on approach and taking effective observation.
- Learn to block change your gears and use the brakes to slow you down first.
- Help others to know what you are doing, by giving the correct signals and being in the right road position.
- When overtaking, keep your distance (it’s easier to see what’s coming), plan ahead, then when the other way is clear and no one is about to overtake you, accelerate up to speed to overtake, but wait until you’re up to speed before pulling out. Never overtake near junctions/bends or where potential hazards could arise – if in doubt don’t overtake! Also get passed don’t linger in someones blind spot.
- Don’t drive if you’re tired.
- Remember it’s not all about speed, but about many other things such as, concentration, alertness, awareness, observation, planning ahead, constant scanning, smoothness, anticipation, efficiency and your reactions, actions and decisions.
- Be seen, use lights when visibilty is reduced from either bad weather or darkness.
- Read the police book – “Roadcraft”.
- Read “The Official DSA Guide to Driving: The Essential Skills” book
- Go and join an advanced driving club/association/school. Advanced skills can be learned much more efficiently with the correct, hands on, one on one approach.
- Take an advanced driving test.
- See advanced driving orgs below.
Advanced Driving Schools/Organisations
There are a number of advanced driving schools/organisations, as well as performance driving schools. The most popular are the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) and RoSPA (The Royal Society For The Prevention Of Accidents), as well as further lessons with many driving schools.
Some of the things that you can expect to learn other than the ones mentioned above can include:
- Safe driving – observation, anticipation, pro-active driving
- Skid control/correction
- Wet weather driving
- Ice/snow control
- Efficient brake control
- Efficient cornering and steering control
- Correct vehicle positioning
- Improved overtaking skills
- Safe speed advice
- Efficient use of clutch, gears and accelerator
- Reversing, speed and overtaking control/skill
Many performance cars now come with advanced driver training, unfortunately for the owner of this Ferrari, he either had none or was likely going that little bit too fast.
IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) Roadcraft
Why not take a look at the Road Safety and Speeding article for more ideas on how to become a safer and better driver.