Mama Life - Collaborative Post
If you’re just setting out on your motoring journey, then it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, and slightly disconcerted, by all the things that you’re expected to pick up on. There are certain things that you can learn outside of your driving lessons – and in many cases, you can speed up your progress dramatically by picking up on a few pointers ahead of time. This year, I'll have been driving for 20 years and after driving through all kinds of weather, all over the country, I thought I'd share some tips for beginners.
Get Familiar with the Car
If you’re comfortable with your car, then you’ll have a much easier time driving it. Different cars have a different ‘feel’, and come with different controls and functions on the dashboard. Learn what they all do before you start using them, starting with the steering wheel and the pedals! The part of driving that’s arguably most difficult to get into muscle memory is changing gear. You can practice this in a stationary vehicle – in fact, the more time you can devote to getting your clutch control and stick-shift up to speed, the easier a time you’ll have. It's also important to get to grips with where controls are for things like fog lights and window cleaning, so that you can use them on the move without having to look away from the road ahead.
Find a Comfortable Seating Position
There’s a good reason that car seats can be easily adjusted and it makes a HUGE difference to your driving comfort. Your driving position is incredibly important. If you’re too far forward, then your legs won’t have the mobility necessary to control the pedals. If you’re too far back, then you’ll be stretching – which isn’t ideal. It's super important to get this right before venturing out on long journeys, not only for safety but also so you don't find your legs or back getting sore from over stretching or being too cramped.
Get your Documents in Order
To drive, you’ll need a few items of paperwork to hand. These include your driving licence, your V5C certificate (or log book), and the service book. Then there are certificates to prove that the vehicle is taxed, insured, and MOTed. In the UK, an annual MOT test is a legal requirement. Fortunately, you can easily book an MOT online.
If you’re nervous, then your driving experience will suffer. The only way to become confident, really, is to rack up miles behind the wheel – so get practicing! You can also do something like a 'Pass Plus' course, which will give you experience of the motorway and faster roads that you may not have experienced as a learner. This then gives you the practise, whilst having the support of a qualified instructor to bridge the gap as you venture into the driving world.
If you’re trying to drive while talking, texting, or checking your emails, then you’re asking for trouble. Focus on the road ahead and make sure things like music are kept to a sensible volume so that you can still hear the engine, as well as other vehicles. When driving with friends in the car, remember you're the boss and make sure they are sensible and wear their seatbelts when you're driving. You may find at first that it's easier to have just one passenger until you get used to driving a little more, before adding extras in the back seats!
Check your Speed
Once you’re comfortable behind the wheel, it’s easy to lose track of how quickly you’re going. Watch your speed, and keep it under control. Try and get into the habit of glancing every now and then to monitor your speed and get used to things like engine breaking too to slow you down gently.
If you’re too close to the vehicle in front, then you’ll be unable to stop when called upon to do so. Tailgating is extremely dangerous; don’t do it. Similarly, if someone behind you is tailgating you, then don’t be tempted to speed up. Instead, maybe even reduce your speed to make things safer, and when following someone else leave a good gap, so that if they were to stop in an emergency or skid in bad weather, that you'd have the time and space to stop your car safely.
Learn basic Mechanics
If you know a little bit about how your car works and what might potentially go wrong with it, then you’ll be able to look after your car more effectively, and avoid disaster before it strikes. In Winter, cars tend to be a lot more vulnerable, so be sure to have a few essentials in the car in case you break down, as well as some breakdown cover to get you going again if it's something you can't sort yourself.