IAM RoadSmart checklist: Before you start the engine

Blog post posted on 31/03/22 |

Welcome to the first in IAM RoadSmart’s new series of expert driving tips from Head of Driving & Riding Standards Richard Gladman. Over the coming weeks we’ll cover everything from safe motorway driving to how to navigate a single-track road, a steep incline or preparing for driving abroad. This week Richard talks us through what we need to think about before we’ve even left home.

The most important consideration, and something not enough people think about before they jump into their car, is…is it actually fit for the road?

We advocate that you check your vehicle every time you go to drive it. Of course, realistically not everyone is going to do a full check every time, but you’ll find that advanced drivers will have a walk around their car, each time before they get into it either at home, or if they’ve left it parked somewhere; there’s no point driving off if you’ve got a flat tyre.

Some members might be familiar with the POWDERY Check:

Petrol – or diesel – and today, of course battery charge – check you have plenty for the journey.

il – also brake, gear box, clutch fluid and power-steering fluid all need regular checks

ater – including your screen wash reservoir, which if empty could cost you a penalty notice

amage – is there any fresh body damage – is there anything hanging down below the vehicle?

lectrics – are all your lights – interior and exterior, working and don’t forget the reversing light? Does your horn work?

ubber – regularly check your tyres, pressures treads and make sure there are no cuts and bulges. Always include the spare and keep it at the highest pressure you may need. Also make sure your windscreen wiper blades are ok – not nicked or cracked.

ourself – if you were drinking the day or night before, are you fit to drive now? Not only should you think about how much you have to drink, but also what time you stopped drinking. You may need more than just overnight  for alcohol to be out of your system.

The reality is though that non-advanced motorists in particular are unlikely to do a full POWDERY Check, but at the very least you need to ensure you have enough fuel for your journey – important at the moment when prices are so high. You definitely don’t want to get onto the motorway only to realise you’ve got 20 miles worth of fuel in your tank and need to fill up at a motorway services!

It’s also increasingly understood that alongside these physical vehicle checks, it’s also important to consider the human aspect of driving. This relates to the Goals for Driver Education Matrix, which examines driver psychology before and during a journey.

For instance, what is the rationale of your journey; if you’re going for a drive across the Yorkshire Dales to take in the scenery and enjoy the sunshine, that’s a very different rationale compared to driving to sales meeting, which you might already be late for – and you need fuel.

Time constraints will change the way you approach that drive; if you’re in a hurry, you may take unnecessary risks. Your focus isn't on the drive, it is on getting to the meeting.

Equally, you might have plenty of time, but before leaving the house you’ve had a row with your partner or you’re your child has forgotten their lunchbox. It’s these wider world influences that we should recognise influence how we drive.

For motorbike riders your influence might be your friends. When you’re riding on your own, you’re not a reckless rider, but if you go out with a group of people who are lunatics, the peer pressure might mean you also ride like a lunatic.

So, alongside those important physical checks to ensure your car, bike or van is roadworthy, it’s also important to be conscious of your state of mind before you begin your journey.

To help you think more like an advanced motorist, take a look at our selection of courses.