That first drive without your instructor after passing your test is a thrilling but also pretty nerve-wracking experience. This is why it’s a good idea to consider our tips to ensure you keep your cool and that your time out on the road is fun, as well as making you a safer driver.
If you choose to have a black box installed in your car, safer driving means you could potentially pay less for your car insurance. These devices monitor four elements of driving: how sharply you brake, how fast you accelerate, what time of day/night you drive and whether you stick to the speed limit. Do all these well and you could save money on your car insurance over the year – as well as become a better driver by keeping track of how you are driving. If you don’t perform in these behaviours well, your insurance price may increase – but if this happens, WiseDriving will help you get back on track with our handy hints and tips. So, as well as potentially saving you money, black boxes can make you a better driving by allowing you to review your driving behaviour.
In 2017/18, 795,892 people passed their driving test - so if you’re one of those new drivers, read on to find out how you can improve your confidence on the road, including how having a black box can help.
Tips for new drivers
Here are our top tips to ensure you get from A to B with no problems.
Get to know your car
- Learn what everything means on your dashboard
- Ensure you know where things are and when to use them
- Check your oil and washer fluid levels before long journeys
Understanding how your car works is important for any driver but more so for those new to driving.
Take some time to learn everything about your car, from how it sounds normally when the engine is on to where the fog lights are. Here, we’ve broken down these tips for new drivers to help you when prepping for that trip out on the road.
Understand your dashboard
A flashing dashboard warning light can be scary to see but most of the time it’s nothing to worry about.
Some cars let you know when you’re too close to the edge of the road, others will ring alarm bells if someone isn’t wearing a seatbelt. All of the lights and sounds are important and understanding what they’re trying to tell you will ease your mind, cause less panic and ensure you fix whatever issue they’re highlighting straight away. If there’s anything you’re not sure of, refer to the car’s handbook or look it up online.
Check where things are and that you can use them
It’s so important you know where essential features are, such as the windscreen wipers and horn. Here’s a quick checklist of things to wrap your head around before you even start the engine.
Windscreen wipers - Check that you know how to use these and their settings. Also worth checking that they’re in good condition and clearing the windows properly. Horn - While it’s not essential for letting your mates know you’re outside, it is essential if you need to make another vehicle aware of your presence to avoid a collision. Wing mirror buttons or toggles - Learn where the button or toggle is to move your wing mirrors into a position that works for you. Full beam headlights - If you’re driving at night and there are no streetlights you may need to use your full beam to safely navigate the road. Ensure you know how to quickly turn them on and off to ensure you don’t blind oncoming traffic. Fog lights - It’s really rare that you’ll need these (a lot of the time people put them on when normal headlights would be fine) but it’s still important to understand where they are in case of very reduced visability. Heating system - Car heating systems usually come with their own little quirks and it may take time to find the right settings for you. Ensure you know how to clear misted windows, how to open and close fans and how to work the air con in hot temperatures. Hazard lights - Check where your hazard lights are in case you need to make other drivers aware of you if you become a hazard. Day and night mode on the central mirror - Most central mirrors have a toggle that allows you to change its angle. This is good for driving at night, as it reduces the glare from drivers behind you.
Check your levels
Before longer trips and on a weekly basis, pop the bonnet open and check everything is in order before driving. If you don’t know where to check these, take a look in your vehicle handbook which should contain information on where these levels can be checked. Ensure your oil is at a good level and that your washer fluid is topped up (it’s an MOT requirement so really important!).
Before you head off
- Ensure the seat is comfortable and that you can reach everything
- Check your mirrors
- Pick out the playlist before you turn on the engine
- Know your route and choose easy roads
- Sort out your sat nav
Being comfortable in the driver’s seat ensures you aren’t distracted when out on the road. Position your seat so that you’re sat upright, with your feet comfortably able to reach the pedals. The steering wheel should be easy to reach but not on top of you.
Check and position your mirrors
Ensure your central mirror and wing mirrors are positioned so that you can see clearly behind you and to the sides. This ensures you can safely reverse when necessary and also regularly check what is behind you while on the road.
Choose the right music before you set out
It’s really important you aren’t distracted while driving, so ensure you’ve chosen your music and it’s something you want to listen to for the whole trip. It’s illegal to use your phone while driving - even if you’re just quickly changing a playlist. While it isn’t illegal to change the radio while driving, if it distracts you and you have an accident because of this, you can be prosecuted for careless driving.
Plan your route and roads
If you’re not comfortable on the motorway yet, choose a route that avoids it. Take some time beforehand to find a route that gets you there in good time but that you’re comfortable driving on.
Set up your Sat Nav
It’s illegal to operate a sat nav or mobile phone navigation app while driving, so ensure you set this up before you head out. If you need to change your route or replan, park in a safe place, turn off the engine and make your changes.
- Stay calm
- Take it slow
- Don’t be intimidated by other drivers
- Keep an eye on taller vehicles
Breathe. Many new drivers panic and this can lead to you losing focus on what’s happening on the road. Breathe slowly if you’re feeling stressed behind the wheel and even stop somewhere to take a moment before carrying on. If you’re lacking in confidence when it comes to driving, take a look at our guide featuring tips on how to boost your self-esteem and navigate the roads without worry.
Stick to the speed limit
Driving is not a race and speeding is definitely illegal. Plus, if you speed, your driver score may increase, which may affect your premium - so, stick to the speed limit and focus on the road at all times. It can be easy, especially if you’re lost, to just keep driving in a panic but checking you’re keeping to the speed limit and re-evaluating can get you back on track.
If you need a moment, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, find somewhere safe to pull over. However, it’s important to ensure you are not stopping on the hard shoulder, on double yellow lines or in a no stopping area (look for a round blue sign with a red cross through it, this means you are not allowed to stop on the road).
Remember, if you have a black box installed and you stick to the speed limit, this can help lead to a better driving score, helping you to potentially save money on your insurance. It’s a win-win!
Ignore other drivers
Well, not entirely, obviously. But if another driver is being intimidating, by driving too close to you or beeping to complain if you’re not going as fast as they’d like, try to block them out. Other drivers think it’s acceptable to be pushy on the road but, if you put all your attention on simply getting to your destination and ensuring you have total control over the vehicle, you don’t need to worry about them.
Watch what taller vehicles are doing
Taller cars and vans can see more of the road than you, so if they all start changing lane, it’s likely they’ve spotted something up ahead. Leave as much of a gap as you can to ensure you aren’t braking sharply behind them and follow their lead.
Practice the basics
The first time you need to fill up or perform a parallel parking manoeuvre can be daunting. That’s why it’s a good idea to practice these types of driving situations in your own time. Ask someone to take you to the petrol station to show you how to fill up - surprisingly, it’s something driving schools don’t teach! You can also find a very quiet street to practice parallel parking or an empty car park for some reverse bay parking.
Knowing you can do it on your own can give you a confidence boost, ready for those situations where you have to carry out manoeuvres.
Tips for new drivers when on the motorway
Motorway driving can seem scary but really it’s not that much different to a dual carriageway. Here are a few tips for new drivers who need to go on a motorway:
- Ensure you pick up speed on the slip road - Try to match your speed to the cars already on the motorway to ensure your merge is smooth. Cars on the inside line should move over to make a gap for you but it’s still important you indicate to let them know you’re moving into the lane.
- Keep to the inside lane - Try to keep to the speed limit (65-70 is ideal for the motorway) and stay on the inside lane.
- Overtake then move back in - If you need to overtake (and you will if there are any lorries on the road) or move out to let merging traffic onto the motorway, move into the middle lane then back into the inside lane. Don’t drive normally in the middle lane if you don’t need to.
- Avoid the fast lane - You’ll likely see some drivers pushing their speed to the limit in the far right lane, but avoid this and avoid them. With any luck, a traffic officer will spot them!
- Take regular breaks - Motorway driving after a while can get a little boring and it’s likely you’ll be on there a while. Stop off at a service station if you start to feel tired or distracted.
Ready to get out on the road? Life as a new driver is exciting, with a shiny set of wheels and some newfound independence to enjoy - so make the most of it!