Driving Tips for Students
Passing your driving test was all you could think of and now you are proudly displaying your N plate! You have reached the giddy heights of driving on your own and suddenly you are a little unsure. The good news is that because you have passed your test you are obviously capable, and with practice and some smart choices you will enjoy a calm and safe driving experience. Or maybe you think you know it all? Great! Check out our tips to see if you really are road-ready!
Adjust your mirrors
Every time you get into your car, you must adjust your mirrors to suit your line of vision. This is especially true if you share your car with another driver. Ideally you should be able to see your entire rear window in your rear-view mirror. Your side-view mirrors are also important because if they aren’t adjusted correctly, a blind spot appears. This means that you might not see a car driving overtaking you in an adjacent lane. In order to eliminate blind spots, adjust your side-view mirrors so that you can’t see your car in the mirror. This will give you a clear view of any cars approaching from behind.
Even the most seasoned drivers run the risk of being involved in an accident if they become distracted. To maintain your focus on the road, leave your phone out of reach and put it on silent. Do not attempt to eat while you are driving. If you are very new to driving, don’t have your music blaring and avoid transporting any screaming babies or excited puppies until you become more confident.
It’s vital that you are familiar with the features of your car to ensure your drive is as comfortable and as safe as possible. This includes the fog lights, seat controls, horn, radio, hazards, defrosters, heaters, air conditioning, windows, indicators, locks and windshield washer. If you are not sure what the gauges mean on your dashboard, look up the owner manual or ask a mechanic. It’s important you know what the issue is when a warning light comes on and don’t make the mistake of ignoring it.
Running on empty
Before you head off on a journey, always fill up your fuel tank to avoid being stranded miles from a petrol station. This is especially true if the warning light comes on, then you should drive to the nearest fuel pumps and fill up your tank. Don’t wait until you are running on fumes, because without warning your car will stall when there isn’t a drop in the tank and you will have a long walk home. Don’t make a rookie mistake.
Pack some essentials
No one wants to be left standing out in the cold, so it’s important to have these essentials in the boot of your car when you have a breakdown or a puncture.
- Inflated spare tyre, jack and lug wrench
- Hazard triangle
- First aid kit
- Warm blanket
- Hi-Vis clothing
- Anti-freeze/ Coolant
- Car fire extinguisher (dry powder extinguisher)
- Duct tape (you’d be surprised at how useful this will be in an emergency until you get to a garage)
Changing a tyre
When you are driving your own car it’s vital you know how to change a tyre. In the movies an able-bodied person will come to your rescue, but if you have a puncture on a back road in Ireland you could be waiting a very long time. Ask someone to give you a lesson and make sure you practice on your own to perfect your technique, otherwise that blanket in your boot will be coming in handy.
If possible, pick a route that you are comfortable with and stick to it. If you have to go an unfamiliar route, avoid doing it during rush hour or at night time. If it helps, take a trusted calm companion who knows the route and can offer guidance. If you are dreading navigating your first big roundabout, remember everyone had a first time and don’t be bullied by the beeping car behind you.
Avoid getting points on your license or being involved in a potentially fatal accident by sticking to the speed limit. Even if your friends are egging you on, remember it’s easier to lose control of your car when you are going too fast. If you’re on an unfamiliar road and need to drive below the speed limit, indicate and pull in to allow the tailgaters to overtake you. You will feel calmer if there isn’t a queue forming behind you.
Get the big picture
While it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the car in front of you, it’s also important to look as far ahead down the road as possible. This gives you an idea of any traffic jams ahead and will alert you of any potential obstructions, such as a truck merging into your lane.
It might go without saying but we’ll say it anyway, don’t drink a drop of alcohol if you are going to drive. We have all heard of lives being destroyed by drunk drivers, so don’t be one of them. Your life would never be the same again. You don’t have to explain why you’re are not drinking, but if you feel self-conscious have a non-alcoholic beer or a glass of tonic and lime.
This can be tricky to get used to, especially merging onto a busy motorway. Your heart is racing and your palms are sweating but just remember to indicate and merge when it is safe to do so. Practice merging onto quieter roads and you will become more confident before you attempt the M50 on a Friday evening.
Obviously our vision is the most important of our senses when we are driving but allow your other senses to play a part too. Noticing and reacting to smells and sounds could alert you to potential problems or dangers. Is that the smell of burning oil from the engine? Is the engine making a funny noise? Are those sirens you can hear? Listen to your music at a reasonable volume will keep you in tune with your surroundings.
The RSA (Road Safety Authority) estimates that driver fatigue contributes to as many as 1 in 5 driver deaths a year in Ireland. You may have a destination to get to but you also want to arrive alive.
The RSA have the following advice for tired driver:
- Pull your car over, park in a safe place and take a nap for 15 minutes (set your mobile phone alarm).
- To really make the most of the break, take a caffeine drink before the nap (150mg of caffeine e.g. 2 cups of coffee). After the nap, the caffeine should have started to take effect.
- Then get some fresh air and stretch your legs for a few minutes.
- By following all of the above advice you should be able to drive for another hour or so.
Dealing with flood waters.
Firstly, make sure the floodwater is not too high for you to drive through. If you are about to drive through large puddles or if a section of the road is flooded, it’s best to slow down your car before you drive through the water. Don’t wait until you are driving through the water to hit the brakes. If you drive too quickly, water may get into the ignition system and cause the engine to stall. Also you don’t want to run the risk of the car aquaplaning (when a layer of water builds between the wheels of the vehicle and the road surface, as a result the tyres cannot grip the road leading to a loss of traction and the driver loses control of the car). Once you have driven through the water, don’t alter your speed, instead the next step is to dry your brakes. Do this by pressing the gas pedal and the brake pedal gently a few times, as the friction will cause heat, allowing the water to evaporate from the brake pads.
You may feel a little awkward asking your friends to put on their seatbelts in your car but do you want to be responsible for their deaths? Or if they end up in a wheelchair? That’s what it will come down to if you get into an accident and they are not wearing seatbelts. Simple as that.
For the passengers
Never get into a car with someone who is under the influence of drink and drugs. They are not capable of driving and their reaction time will be slower. It will be difficult to say no to peer pressure so just walk away. Equally, if they are not drinking but you know the person to be a dangerous driver, do not put your life in their hands by getting into their car. If you trust their driving and know they are not under the influence, then hop in. But don’t forget to belt up.
Once you have ticked all the boxes, remember to enjoy the experience and the world is yours to explore! If you want a trusty partner on your travels get a car insurance quote online today.