Top tips on driving safely and reducing risk

It really goes without saying, but if you drive safely, you’ll be less likely to be involved in an accident and injure yourself and other road users.
Being a ‘safe driver’ means that you drive to the conditions of the road, that you’re aware, alert and not distracted, and that you respect all other road users. It also means that you’re clued-up on road signs and laws, and refrain from pulling any manoeuvre or taking any risks that could jeopardise your safety or the safety of others.
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And when you do get back on the road, you won’t want to make the same mistakes again. Here are some top tips to help you reduce risk and stay safe behind the wheel.

Safety first – don’t take risks

Speeding, overtaking, tailgating, not wearing a seatbelt, pulling out of a junction when there’s a vehicle approaching… these are just a handful of the many risks drivers take every day.
As road safety charity Brake explains, studies show that young drivers are most likely to take serious risks. This, together with their overconfidence and inexperience on the road, is partly why there is a higher risk of them being involved in an accident than older motorists.
It’s simple: don’t take risks on the road. Before executing any manoeuvre, ask yourself, ‘Is this 100% safe?’ If it’s not, it’s not worth it.

Pay attention and limit distractions

Driving requires your undivided attention – after all, you’re in control of potentially lethal machine weighing several tonnes. It’s therefore important that you keep distractions to a minimum – as the Highway Code states, you should avoid things such as:
  • Loud music (as it may mask other noises)
  • Reading maps (as this requires you to take your eyes off the road)
  • Tuning a radio or manually switching tracks
  • Arguing with passengers and/or other road users
  • Drinking and eating
  • Smoking
Of course, using a phone behind the wheel is a big no-no and is against the law. But equally, it’s illegal to hold a sat nav when you’re in control of the car. If you’re using a sat nav, it can’t block your view of the road or traffic ahead, and the law applies whether you’re moving, stopped at traffic lights, queuing in traffic or supervising a learner driver.
If you get easily distracted, then remove all possible distractions. Switch off the radio, turn your phone to silent and store it away so you don’t get distracted if it rings or flashes, and don’t be afraid to tell your passengers to be quiet so you can concentrate on the task at hand!

Abide by the speed limit at all times

According to data from the Department for Transport, 48% of cars exceeded the speed limit on motorways during 2017, with 12% exceeding the limit by over 10mph. On 20mph roads, a whopping 86% of cars exceeded the speed limit, dropping to 52% on 30mph roads.
Many drivers will admit to speeding in the past – or at least, feeling the urge to drive faster than the limit. Sometimes, especially on 20mph roads, the limit can feel too slow, but that limit is there for a reason – for instance, there may be a school nearby. Just take this example shared by Safer Roads:
If someone is hit by a car travelling at 40mph, there’s a 90% chance they’ll die.
If someone is hit by a car travelling at 30mph, there’s a 50% chance they’ll die.
If someone is hit by a car travelling at 20mph, there’s a 10% chance they’ll die.
And another thing to remember: speed limits are limits, not targets! If you’re driving on a country road in adverse weather conditions, it would be extremely dangerous to drive as fast as the speed limit. So, use your common sense and drive at a speed that suits the road and conditions.

Follow the two-second rule

Tailgating can be extremely dangerous, whether you’re in front of a tailgater or you’re the one behind. It’s risky because the car in front may spot a danger the driver behind can’t see – if they brake suddenly and/or unexpectedly, there’s a good chance there will be a crash.
The two-second rule is a good one to apply when on the road. It essentially means that you remain at least two seconds behind the car in front. As Driving Test Tips explains, a minimum two-second gap will provide a distance of one car length per 5mph, regardless of the speed you’re driving. This rule can significantly reduce accidents and collision damage if an accident did occur.
Other surprising benefits of the rule are that it can help to save fuel with less harsh and sudden braking, reduce brake wear and even prevent paint damage caused by stone chips flicking up from the car in front.
If roads are wet, you should apply a four-second rule instead, and a ten-second rule in cases of extreme weather, like frost, ice and snow.

Remember: mirror, signal, manoeuvre

It’s something all drivers are taught by their instructors, but many forget – or at least, don’t bother following – after they’ve passed their test. The mirror-signal-manoeuvre (MSM) process is fundamental to safe driving, and should be used whenever you’re planning to change either your speed or position on the road. Here’s the rundown:
  • Mirrors – Take a look in your mirrors to evaluate the speed and position of the traffic behind.
  • Signal – If necessary, signal to let other drivers know what you’re planning to do (i.e. put on your right indicator if turning into a road on the right).
  • Manoeuvre – When it’s safe to do so, make the manoeuvre.
These tips will help you to drive safely and responsibly on the road, reducing the chance of being involved in a collision and injuring yourself and other road users.
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