We all like to think we’re brilliant drivers, but the reality is that we all slip into bad habits after ditching the L-plates. If you were subjected to a driving test today, how confident are you that you’d pass?
We’ve picked out five of the most common driving faults that many of us make.
1. Incorrect mirror settings
Our car’s mirrors are a vital safety feature, but most of us aren’t using them correctly. They should be set so that only a tiny sliver of your car’s doors are visible, leaving the rest of the mirror to see other motorists. Remember, too, to adjust your mirrors when parallel parking to avoid kerbed alloys.
2. Hogging the middle lane
Part 264 of the Highway Code clearly states: "You should always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear. If you are overtaking a number of slower-moving vehicles, you should return to the left-hand lane as soon as you are safely past.”
With undertaking (passing to the left) strongly disapproved of in the UK, it means the left-most lane is out of commission for anyone attempting to pass someone sitting in the middle lane. This reduction in usable road causes congestion – and flared tempers, which can prove especially dangerous at 70mph.
If you find yourself stuck behind a middle-lane hog, move into the outside lane when safe and overtake. Tailgating is dangerous and can similarly earn you points on your licence. And flashing your lights is poor road manners and could distract the driver from pulling across safely.
3. Driving distracted
There are lots of potential distractions competing for our attention at the wheel. The dangers of using a mobile phone at the wheel are well-documented, but dashboard-mounted touchscreens that control everything from the radio to the air conditioning settings can now be found in many models.
Where possible, set your perfect soundtrack and plan any sat-nav destinations before setting off. And if you need to make adjustments, wait until you come to a standstill at a junction.
But they're not the only distractions. Driving while emotional is rarely a good idea (tears at the traffic lights is not a good look, and can limit your vision), while loud music – and particularly in-ear earphones – can eliminate one of your senses.
One we’re almost all guilty of. If we see something dramatic happening ahead of us in the road, or on the oncoming carriageway, the temptation to slow down and get a good look at what’s happening is strong; in fact, it’s human nature.
The danger is that you’re likely to be looking at something that isn’t immediately in front of you. Traffic bunches up and causes needless tailbacks. To help alleviate the problem, be ready to drop into a lower gear and accelerate away quickly when you get to the front of the queue.
5. Not using the handbrake at junctions
Sitting at traffic lights, many of us leave the car in first gear and simply keep the clutch and brake pedals pressed. But this can prevent your car’s stop-start function (a standard feature on most new MINI models) from working properly. Instead, you should be moving the car into neutral and using the handbrake.
This also mitigates the effects of an accident if you’re hit from behind; on impact, your feet are likely to jump off the pedals – stalling the car while removing any braking force, and pushing you further (and faster) into the car in front… or crossing traffic if you’re at the front of the queue.
Fortunately, MINI safety innovations can help mitigate the effects of an impact if the worst happens. Speak to a member of the team at Cooper MINI today to learn about the latest technologies.