Funny, isn’t it? You spend weeks, maybe months being taught how to drive, which culminates in a successful driving test at the end. Time to rip up your L plates and enjoy the freedom of the open road. At which point you start to develop nasty habits. And there’s no driving instructor sat alongside you to slam on the dual controls and give you a stern telling off.
Fact is, even the best drivers get it wrong from time to time. Many will recognise our top 10 mistakes you’re making on the road. We only hope you’re not reading this while driving…
Being a jack of all trades and master of none
Carmakers spend millions of pounds developing cars to keep us safe and how do we repay them? By using our cars as an extension of our homes or offices. Some drivers even have the skills to juggle a phone and a takeaway coffee, and still manage to steer the car.
Come on, you’re there to do one thing – drive the car. Forget about texting your mate or reading a tweet from Katie Hopkins. Neither will be particularly interesting anyway. Government figures suggest that half a million are still driving while using a mobile phone and yet nobody will admit to it. If you’re guilty of the occasional glimpse at your phone, just stop it. Lock the phone in the glovebox.
Failing to merge in turn
If there’s one thing the Brits are best in the world at, it’s queuing. So how come we can’t manage to grasp the concept of ‘merging in turn’? The big yellow signs invite us to do just that, so why isn’t it possible?
You’ll probably fall into one of two camps. Firstly, the motorists who will move into the inside lane really, really early, causing a huge tailback in lane one. Secondly, those who hurtle down the outside lane, cutting in at the last minute. Really, if we used both lanes and merged in a polite manner, we’d all get along much better. And there’d be much less queuing as a result.
Speeding, because we all do it
Remember when your grandma pointed to a speeding driver and claimed they wouldn’t get to their destination any quicker? Well, with respect to your grandma, she was wrong. Fact is, speeding does tend to get you somewhere faster.
But it’s not recommended. For a start, the new generation of digital cameras means there’s a greater chance of being caught. And secondly, the faster you drive, the more fuel you’ll use. Which isn’t great for your wallet. So slow down.
Failing to get comfortable behind the wheel
Most cars will give you the opportunity to adjust the seating position or steering wheel, but not all of us manage to set them up appropriately.
Adopting a good driving posture will prevent pain and discomfort, so you should move the seat forwards until you can easily depress the clutch and accelerator pedal. Furthermore, adjust the angle of the seat so that your thighs are fully supported and the back of the seat provides support along the length of your spine. If you have the benefit of lumbar support then use it. Oh, and take plenty of comfort breaks. A quick 15-minute stretch every couple of hours ought to do it.
Too much reliance on daytime running lights
Daytime running lights are great and in some cases can make your car look awfully pretty. But they’re not the answer to everything. For a start, they don’t illuminate your rear-end, which isn’t great when it gets dark.
The clue is in the name. ‘Daytime running’ means they’re for just that – running in daylight hours. When it’s dark, switch to good old-fashioned dipped headlights. This will mean you can be seen from behind. And in the fog, turn your fog lights on.
Driving too close to the car in front
Contrary to popular belief, tailgating isn’t limited to drivers of modern diesel-engined Audis.
If you’re driving too close to the car in front, not only will you be annoying them, but you’ll stand less chance of stopping in the event of an emergency.
Hogging the middle lane
Drivers who ‘hog’ the middle lane on a motorway risk receiving a fine, yet many continue to do it. Why? Nobody knows. Perhaps they like having a view of both lanes either side of them.
But seriously, it’s not great. Once you’ve finished overtaking, move to the inside. Thank you.
Using the petrol station to do your grocery shopping
Once upon a time, the petrol station sold petrol. And diesel. And maybe some fuses, maps and parts for cars long since out of production.
Then, realising they were making little money from fuel, forecourt retailers added little shops. Then these shops grew to become mini supermarkets. But come on, if you’re going to do your weekly shop in a petrol station, do the right thing and park in a bay and not at the pumps. Nobody wants to wait while you stack up on loo rolls, toothpaste and cat food.
Not using your air conditioning
You don’t need to strip off to keep cool in your car – that’s what your air conditioning is for. But don’t think it’s only useful for the summer months. Sure, it’s a welcome relief on the few days when the temperature in the UK does rise above 20 degrees, but it should also be used in the winter to de-mist the windows and keep them from fogging up during wet weather.
You should also use your air conditioning at least once a month to avoid a potential system failure.
Not adjusting the mirrors to suit you
Your driving instructor went on and on at you to use your mirrors. Man, he was like a broken record. How lovely was it when you passed your test and you could ignore his or her words still ringing in your ears. Mirror, signal, yawn…
But your door mirrors and rear-view mirror act like eyes in the back of your head. Make sure you can see out of them and, just as importantly, make sure you use them.