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Driving tips

5 driving mistakes you’re probably making

  1. Flapping your wing mirrors

    Your car may be sweet as - but you don't have to be checking it out every 10 seconds. Your mirrors need to be positioned to show you the whole road across the left, right and rearview. Then they need to STAY there.

    The mistake most people make (and I'll admit I was one of them) is to have a great wedge of car visible in their mirrors. With your mirrors like this, you can't see a significant section of the road on each side. I would make a big show of adjusting my mirrors to the 'perfect' position and mosey happily on with half my vision missing.

    Wing mirror
    Try edging your wing mirrors out gradually over time so you end up with just the tiniest bit of your car is showing. It might feel weird but you'll have your blind spots covered - you still need to do a physical head-turn check though!
  2. Using brakes only to slow down

    Huh? Yup.

    Your brakes are mostly there to get your car to slow down all nice, but they have another very important use. When you're approaching a roundabout or junction, you'll obviously have started braking gently nice and early, so you have time to get a good look at any oncoming traffic.

    But rather than coast slowly up to the roundabout because you've lost most of the speed already, keep your foot on the brake. The red brake lights on your butt tell speedy McGee behind you that you're not accelerating out of his way and he needs to STOP instead of just doing his own observation and guessing you'll pull away.

    Result: no BMWs in your boot. Hooray!

  3. Rushing to get out of a stalling situation

  4. Ever stalled where you REALLY, REALLY didn't want to? One of those places where you're thinking 'Gosh, I sure hope I don't mess this one up"? That's just how it happens.

    It's instinctive to want to get out of the way as quickly as possible, but as you scramble to do that, you're very likely to chuck observation out the window and make even bigger (and probably dangerous) mistakes.

    Things like trying to pull away still in third gear and stalling again. You're only going to get more flustered and make everyone cross.

    No more driving panic
    Clutch, handbrake, neutral

    If you can feel yourself getting flustered after a mistake, the best thing you can do is put your clutch down, put your handbrake on and put the gearstick into neutral. It's a baseline from which you do everything, and it gives your brain a chance to get itself in order.

    Always remember that when you're jerking backwards and forwards down a narrow street with 6 vans behind you, you're an unpredictable hazard. If you're stopped, people will negotiate their way around you or at least know there's a problem. As long as it's not unsafe to do so (like maybe a lorry is 5 feet away from you), put your handbrake on and get into neutral before you panic.

     
  5. Skipping essential maintenance to save money

  6. Most of us get our cars serviced once a year like we're supposed to and consider our work done. But the fact is, not doing your routine checks and top-ups can lead to insanely expensive work being needed later.

    Personally, what goes on underneath my car's bonnet may as well be witchcraft. There could be tiny elves in there for all I know. But what I DO know is if I don't tick off the bare minimum of miantenance, there will be no elves paying my garage bills.

    Things that can lead to expensive repairs:
    • Not checking your oil: running it down to nothing will cause your engine to seize. That means bye-bye car unless you fancy buying a new engine for more than the value of the whole vehicle.
    • Putting off replacing tyres: driving on worn-out tyres means your wheels have inadequate grip on the road AND you're screwing up your car's suspension.
    • Ignoring your owner's manual: this bible is where you'll find the guidelines for your car's kit. Look up when things like your cambelt need changing and stick to it. There are even apps to help you remember!
    Get our guide to the minimum vehicle checks you should be doing. If you've not passed your test yet, you'll need to know these for the 2 show me, tell me questions.
     
  7. Attibuting magical powers to your sat nav

  8. Sat navs are magic, they really are. But their magic has limitations that sometimes require human intelligence to get around.

    Tapping in the address you need and then switching off your brain for 3 hours - no. That's how you drive off Brighton pier into the sea.

    If you're using your sat nav, it's probably because you're going somewhere you're unfamiliar with. That means you need to be more careful than usual, not less.

    Here's what you do:
    Sat nav
    1. Look at a map: doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose of a sat nav? No. It gives you some idea of the route you should be taking and some landmarks, so you can be sure your sat nav is still on it. Don't follow it blindly.
    2. Check the conditions: prepare for the kind of traffic and roadworks you can expect on the route with a site like roadworks.org. Your sat nav (unless it's super fancy) will only tell you about the road in its own ideal, pre-programmed world. Which you don't live in.
    3. Pull over if you need a little fiddle: minds out of the gutter kids. Set your sat nav before you get moving and if it's all going up the spout, pull over somewhere safe to adjust yourself. Oooh-errr.
    Check up on how to use a sat nav in a way that keeps you and your car on dry land.

Got any driving mistakes you made for years before realising they were wrong? Share them with the class. (Maybe use a fake name.)


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Honor joined ingenie in 2014 and is in charge of words on the Young Driver's Guide and blog. Her first car is a Peugeot 206 cabriolet, which is a very sensible choice for the British climate. Follow her on .