It’s natural that new drivers don’t know everything there is to know about life on the road. After all, knowledge comes with experience and you’ll only gain that experience as you spend more time behind the wheel.
To lend you a helping hand, we’ve pulled together some rules of the road and top tips that you might not know as a new driver.
1. Using full beam headlights
If you live in a rural area, the chances are that you’ll regularly drive down roads without any streetlights. Full beam headlights provide the extra light you need in these scenarios, but they’re really powerful so it’s important to use them correctly.
As soon as an oncoming vehicle approaches, make sure that you dip your headlights until they’ve passed so that you don’t dazzle them. If you don’t, you could disorientate them with your full beam and cause them to lose control of their vehicle.
The same is true if you’re following another car – full beam headlights reflecting in wing or rear-view mirrors can be blinding and dangerous, so dip them before you get too close.
2. Switching the mode of your rear-view mirror
That last point ties in perfectly with our next one: how to switch the mode of your rear-view mirror. The standard mode, often known as ‘day mode’, is ideal for daytime driving as it provides a crisp and clear view. Switching to ‘night mode’ gives you a dimmer reflection that’s ideal for dealing with the bright lights of other cars at night.
So how do you switch the mode? In most cars, all you need to do is flip the switch that’s on the bottom of the mirror. In others, the mirror will respond to changing conditions and automatically dim when required.
3. Queue jumpers
Let’s get it out there: queue jumpers can be kind of frustrating. Particularly if you’ve been sitting in the left-hand lane for what feels like 10 years and they pull across in front of you at the last minute. But the truth is that these so-called queue jumpers are actually in the right.
According to the law, when two lanes of slow-moving traffic merge into one motorists are supposed to use both lanes up until the merge point. They should then take turns to merge into the remaining lane. The principal mimics how zips work, which is why it’s sometimes known as ‘zip merging’.
Merging before the point where the lanes converge can actually cause further tailbacks as more cars will be caught up in the queue. So the next time you approach a point where the lanes are merging, feel free to stick in the right-hand lane – you’ll actually be helping rather than taking advantage.
4. Driving in the middle lane on a motorway
‘Middle lane hogging’ is when someone remains in the middle lane of the motorway for a prolonged period, even though the left-hand lane is empty.
It creates a frustrating and potentially dangerous situation, where faster cars that are coming up from behind in the left-hand lane end up having to cross several lanes of traffic to overtake. It also only leaves a single lane available for overtaking, which can cause the traffic to build-up.
The Highway Code states that you should keep to the left lane unless overtaking. In order to enforce this, police can hand out on-the-spot fines of £100 and three penalty points. So, make sure you keep to the left-hand lane and you’ll help to make it safer for everyone and less expensive for you.
5. Clearing ice from your windscreen
Stepping out of your house and being confronted by a frozen windscreen is a hallmark of British winters – but that doesn’t stop the scenario from being inconvenient (particularly if you’re running late).
De-icing a windscreen takes a bit of patience and it can be tempting to only clear the driver’s side. However, this doesn’t only reduce your visibility during already challenging conditions, it could also land you with a fine of up to £60 and three points on your license.
Make sure you fully clear your windscreen instead (de-icer can really help here) and you’ll be in a much better – and safer – place.
6. Playing loud music
We all like a good old car sing-a-long. But having your music turned up too loudly could be dangerous, as it could stop you and other road users from hearing approaching cars or emergency vehicles.
The same is true of wearing headphones. While there’s no specific law making it illegal to wear them while behind the wheel, it blocks your ability to hear and could cause you to become distracted from what’s happening on the road around you.
In fact, you could be charged with driving without due care and attention in both cases if the police feel you’ve been distracted by your music. Better to be safe than sorry and keep the volume to a sensible level.
7. Splashing pedestrians
We’re famous for getting a lot of rain here in the UK (most years anyway!) and that means puddles on the road. Driving through them can cause water to spray up onto the pavement and if that water splashes a pedestrian you could end up getting into trouble.
That’s because, unlike with wearing headphones behind the wheel, splashing pedestrians is actually illegal according to the Road Traffic Act 1998. It’s judged to be driving ‘without reasonable consideration for other persons’ and could lead to a fine.
Thankfully, it’s an easy one to avoid. Just take care when you’re driving through puddles, particularly if there are pedestrians on the pavement.
Time to head out on the roads and gain that experience! And don’t forget to stop by Halfords.com for all of your motoring needs.