With lockdown measures easing across the country, meaning we can start to get back to work and gain a bit of normality again, before you get behind the wheel, there are things you can do to refresh your skills and make you feel more confident to hit the road again.
Back to basics
If you’re a relatively new driver, or even just passed before lockdown, a good first step is to re-acquaint yourself with the Highway Code. Particularly handy if you are unable to remember what certain signs mean, or speeds on certain roads, we would recommend that you go back over materials associated with the driving Theory Test.
This step may seem like an unnecessary waste of time to some but may be invaluable to others when they jump back behind the wheel of their car. Much of driving is about confidence, so help yourself by re-learning all of the essential signs, speeds and everything in between.
Indicators, wipers and everything in between
We can imagine that most of you know the controls of your car like the back of your hand, but sometimes a break away from driving can make you forget some of the essentials. We recommend spending a few minutes to help jog your memory – make sure you know where to turn your lights on, how to work your windscreen wipers (hopefully you won’t need them this summer), and know the difference between your indicators and flashing your headlights.
It is important that you aren’t panicked because you can’t work out what those symbols on your dashboard or driving paddles mean. It may seem like a very simple message, but it can be a potential difference-maker, so spend a minute or two to help you remember.
If you start making your way through the Highway Code textbook or online test and realise that you may not be ready to solo drive – don’t worry. Take everything at your own pace. There are a range of refresher courses available with DVSA-approved instructors nationwide who offer a chance to hit the road under their watchful guidance.
You may have thought your driving lessons were behind you, but there is no shame in ringing up your old driving instructor and explaining your situation, it’s more common than you think.
Keep in mind though, we continue to face a ‘new normal’, even after lockdown, so make sure this type of contact is allowed under the Covid19 guidelines. Alternatively, you can start by going for a ride with a more experienced driver in your household.
Practice makes perfect
Once you have re-affirmed your knowledge, you may be eager to jump back into your car and head out on journeys – but take it slow. It may take a short period for you to get back to your former abilities, so try and practice driving again at quieter times, or even in a local car park, if that is what you feel most comfortable with. There is no point stretching your comfort levels to the extremes right away. The roads will be very busy once business gets back to usual, with potentially more cars and cyclists than normal out and about, so try and ease yourself back into the routine of driving.
Once you’re ready to re-join the roads, try not to overload yourself straight away – if you do not feel comfortable with other members of your family or pets in the car, then leave them at home – while you may feel confident once behind the wheel of your car, it is best to avoid any unnecessary distractions to keep both yourself and other safe while driving.
We don’t mean wait a month before you start driving your prized pooch around, or listening to your favourite anthems, but just make sure you’re ready and feel back-to-normal in your own car. Only you will know when this happens!
If you do feel a little out of sorts whilst behind the wheel, you can always go into the garage and dust off those p-plates you used shortly after you passed your driving test. These will make other road users more aware and considerate with you on the roads – well that’s what we hope anyway. Don’t be embarrassed about adorning these plates on your boot and bonnet – we think you should feel safe and secure behind the wheel, and if this step helps, then we would definitely recommend considering it.
Keep an eye on your car
If your car has been sat out in the sun whilst you have been stuck indoors, and has barely moved – the car, not you, then you may want to look out for a few things. Older vehicles in particular will often refuse to start up if they have been sat for long periods of time, so test your car is up and running before you really need to use it – there’s nothing worse than your car not starting when you really need it.
Check your fuel and engine oil too – basic maintenance checks are mandatory, especially when you haven’t been able to give your car the TLC it deserves. Go around the vehicle and check all four tyres – if your car is left for long periods, it may have lead to your tyres feeling a little deflated. So start looking and grab a pump if needed.
Mirror, Manoeuvre, Signal?
No – Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre. Come on, you can remember it. Coming out of hibernation means you need to be extra careful and remember all the rules of the road – and all of the acronyms you learned in your driving lessons. Firstly, keeping your speed to the limits is essential– your driving abilities and reaction times may have dipped since you’ve not been driving, so remove the risk and drive at the right speed for the road.
Secondly, check your mirrors. Make sure you are highly observant of the road ahead and what’s behind, beside and near to you. Actually – double check your mirrors for good measure. Keep in mind that many have taken to their bikes during the lockdown so you’re likely to share the road with more cyclists than normal. Driving safe is always important but right now it’s crucial to help ease the pressures on the emergency services – police don’t want to pull you over, but they will if they have to. So make sure you don’t give them a reason.