As an IAM RoadSmart poll revealed reduced levels of confidence among non-advanced riders and drivers, Richard Gladman, IAM RoadSmart’s Head of Driving and Riding Standards, shares the essential skills everyone needs for staying sharp and keeping safe.
Advanced riding or driving qualifications can better equip many riders and drivers when it comes to everyday skills – especially as we adapt to changing roads and our behaviours continuing to evolve. An IAM RoadSmart poll revealed that, while one in five drivers and riders who don’t hold an advanced qualification are more anxious about being on the road post-lockdown, anxiety levels are significantly lower among advanced drivers and riders.
Here’s how everyone can brush up on the basics.
Before you set off, check your car or motorbike. Has it got fuel? Is the tyre pressure correct? Is the windscreen clear? Take a moment to familiarise yourself with the dashboard and controls, too. A good way to remember all of this is from the acronym POWDERY - Petrol, Oil, Water, Damage, Electrics, Rubber, and finally Yourself (make sure you have the right gear and the right mindset).
For long journey, check your route on a travel site such as Traffic England, Traffic Scotland, Traffic Wales and TrafficWatchNI for up-to-the-minute alerts about delays and roadworks. Check for local information, too. Some councils have taken advantage of less traffic being on the roads to enable them to carry out roadworks, which may still be ongoing. And, of course, there may be temporary road layout changes, too, such as pop-up cycle lanes and wider pavements.
Make sure there's nothing loose in the car that can roll around. Put your phone in the glove box but don't turn it off (in case it's needed in an emergency) - use a ‘do not disturb’ mode if possible. If you have to take a brief hands-free call, limit it to, “I’ll call you when I can park safely”. And ask passengers to be quiet if you need to concentrate. Don't turn your head to check on a child in the back. If you're upset, glance in the mirror to cheque there's nothing badly wrong. If they are distressed, talk to them then pullover when it's safe.
Everyone has been using the road differently in recent months and may struggle to adapt to busier roads. Watch out for the pedestrians who may be less aware of motorised traffic, and who are stepping into the road to maintain a safe distance from each other. More people are cycling now, some of whom may be inexperienced. Take great care when overtaking cyclists (and, on country roads, horse riders) - give them at least 1.5 metres or as much room as you would a car, and reduce your speed significantly for horses.
As well as pedestrians, city roads will see you encounter high concentration of vehicles on roads that contain plenty of obstructions and hazards: parked cars, delivery drivers, buses. We all need to be even more vigilant than before. You really don't want to drive into the back of a car in front at low speed.
Be aware of your speed - don't assume you know exactly what 20 mph feels like. Look out for speed limit signs around you and look ahead. If you're in a 30mph zone and see a 20mph sign, is down your speed before you reach the sign - you may not even need to use the brakes. If there is a vehicle behind you then you may want to apply the brakes gently so the driver can see you're slowing down. Remember, brake lights come on before the brakes, so by applying the pedal very gently you can activate the lights but not the brakes. When travelling on faster roads, use technology such as speed limiter's if your vehicle has them.
Cooperate with other motorway users. If you can, move safely into the second lane to give space to those joining the motorway. Be aware of what type of motorway you're driving or riding on. Is it a smart motorway where a hard shoulder is in use as a traffic lane? When you see a red ‘X’ over a lane on a gantry sign, move out of that lane as soon as you safely can. Never move into another lane unless you have sufficient breaking space from the vehicle in front. If someone's driving too close behind you, don't begin to creep forward. If they persist, pull into the lane on your left when safe to do so.
Over the last 18 months people have been enjoying the quieter country roads, so watch for an increased number of walkers, cyclists and horse riders. Farmers in their tractors have also got used to having the roads themselves, so may be less aware of other road users. Tree and hedge growth may have obscured signs, and even if you know the road, new potholes may have appeared with the change in weather conditions.
First, ask whether you really need to overtake. If a vehicle travelling at 50mph in a 60mph zone, is it essential to get past? Almost certainly not. Of course, there are times when you encounter slow moving vehicles such as tractors. then you need to plan so you can overtake safely. Check you have plenty of room ahead so you don't force the vehicle you are overtaking to brake after you've passed. Also you must ensure nothing's coming up behind you.
Check in advance that you'll be able to park at your destination or, better still, see if you can reserve a space beforehand. If you haven't had the manoeuvre your vehicle in a tight spot for awhile, practise with empty parking spaces either side of the first.