The 17 things your driving instructor never taught you

WHEN your examiner says you’ve passed your driving test a door opens to a whole new world.

But driving instructors don’t have time to teach you everything. Here’s 17 things you may not know…

Driving instructors don't have time to teach you everything


Driving instructors don’t have time to teach you everythingCredit: Getty

1. Dealing with “queue-jumpers”

When we’re stuck in traffic queue jumpers can spark widespread road rage.

But studies reveal cruising down an empty lane that’s closed ahead actually speeds up traffic.

When you see a sign telling you the road ahead is closed in 800yds, you shouldn’t automatically dive into the open lane.

Instead you should continue and squeeze in just ahead of the closure even though it’ll earn you a torrent of abuse from other drivers.

Scientific studies have revealed early merging actually causes traffic build up by creating a long line of slow moving cars rather than using all the road available.

The same applies when dual carriageways narrow from two to one lane or motorways come down from three to two.

By contrast, late merging uses all the available road – even if it is frustrating for others – and speeds up the traffic.

The “zipper merge” technique has been found to cut congestion by 40 per cent and it reduces crashes because traffic is moving at the same speed.

2. How to clear ice from your windscreen

In the rush to get to work, plenty will simply clear off just enough ice so that they can see through a tiny portion while leaving the rest obscured.

But any driver caught with just a small window to see through, referred to as “porthole vision”, could be subject to harsh penalties from police.

If they are unable to see through the whole windscreen the car is deemed to be in a “dangerous condition”.

According to the highway code, this is what should be done before setting off:

  • you MUST be able to see, so clear all snow and ice from all your windows
  • you MUST ensure that lights are clean and number plates are clearly visible and legible
  • make sure the mirrors are clear and the windows are demisted thoroughly
  • remove all snow that might fall off into the path of other road users
  • check your planned route is clear of delays and that no further snowfalls or severe weather are predicted

3. Paying with your phone at a drive-thru

Drivers can't use their phones behind the wheel unless their car is off and the handbrake is on


Drivers can’t use their phones behind the wheel unless their car is off and the handbrake is onCredit: Alamy

Motorists stopping at a McDonald’s or KFC drive-thru for a takeaway must make sure they bring cash or a card instead of relying on Apple Pay.

That’s because the app is installed on a phone – which can’t be used at all by a driver when the engine is running.

It’s something many motorists wouldn’t even think about.

One in 10 Brits are now estimated to use their phone to pay for items at drive-thrus or petrol stations.

But once behind the wheel, using a phone in any capacity is illegal.

Anyone caught using their mobile while their engine is running faces a penalty.

And that’s still the case even if the car is stationary.

4. Using your horn

Some countries have high accident statistics, so drivers will use their car horns almost continuously while on the road – but this doesn’t apply in the UK.

According to the Highway Code, drivers should only use their horns when their car is moving and they need to warn other road users of their presence.

It’s important not to sound your horn in anger after a dangerous event has taken place – this can see a motorist get fined.

The Highway Code applies to England, Scotland and Wales, so if you’re not sure of the rules it’s best to brush up on your knowledge.

5. How to use full beam headlights

Full beam headlights can be great if you spend a lot of time driving at night on rural roads with little or no street lighting — but to stay safe on the road it’s imperative you use them correctly.

You should switch back to dipped beams as soon as you encounter another vehicle on the road ahead of you so you don’t dazzle them. It’s more than just being courteous as well, being blinded by your full beam headlights could cause them to lose control of their vehicle.

6. Switching the mode of your rear-view mirror

Car rear view mirrors already have a way of helping our eyes at night, but not everyone realises it’s there.

There’s a tab you can flick to help reflect the light from the car behind’s high beams upwards and away from your eyes.

Josh Clark from Youtube channel BrainStuff – HowStuffWorks explained the tip: “What looks like a little piece of flat mirror hanging from your windscreen is actually a prismatic wedge.”

That just means it’s angled.

The way it’s usually set is fine for daytime, but gives a glare when lights hit it at night.

Flicking the switch swaps the angle around, meaning the dazzle disappears as the excess light is reflected upward and away from your eyes.

It may look a bit strange at first and take a moment to get used to, but your eyes will thank you if the car behind flashes on its full beams.

7. How to check tyre pressure

It's UK law to have properly inflated tyres


It’s UK law to have properly inflated tyresCredit: Alamy

It’s the law to have properly inflated tyres with a tread depth of 1.6mm in the UK and Europe.

And during the winter months, it’s recommended that your minimum tread depth is 3mm.

If your tyres don’t conform to the law, you could be hit with punitive fines of up to £2,500 per tyre.

Tyres need to be at the right pressure too, or you could risk skidding or not being able to stop on a wet or icy road.

Find out your tyre pressure with an air machine check at the petrol station.

To check the tyre itself, make sure you remove the value caps and attached a pressure gauge. This should display your tyres PSI (pounds of force per square inch).

Compare that figure with the recommended PSI figure at the petrol station or in your vehicle manual.

That number can also be found on the sill of the driver’s door.

If the figures don’t match, either add more air by placing the air hose over the tyre value and keeping it as straight as possible to avoid leakage and begin pumping your tyres.

If they’re over-inflated, simply let some air out.

If you are inflating your tyres at a petrol station the screen should display the pressure so you can stop once you have hit the correct pressure or even pre-set the amount you want to put in.

Of course, don’t forget to remove the gauge and screw the valve caps back on before driving off.

8. What ‘Rubbernecking’ is and why you shouldn’t do it

Rubbernecking is when drivers take video or photos of the scene of a traffic collision.

Anyone who is caught doing it could also be prosecuted by the police, leaving you facing hefty fines, having your phone seized and even hit with a driving ban.

9. Staying hydrated

Researchers at Loughborough University revealed the impact dehydration can have on driving ability.

According to their findings, even mild dehydration could affect reaction times, decision making and focus as much as a driver who is over the legal alcohol limit.

Dehydration can have a major influence on motorists’ mental and physical state, with other symptoms like tiredness, dizziness, headache and muscle cramps also having a negative impact on driving skill.

And it seems Brits aren’t aware of the dangers of dehydrated driving.

With just under 70 per cent of accidents on UK roads being attributed to driver error, dehydration could be a major factor in motorists losing focus and being involved in a collision.

But be careful of topping up your water consumption while you are out on the road.

Drinking water or eating while driving can also be distracting and land you in trouble with police for not being in proper control of your vehicle.

So make sure you are fully hydrated before you set off on your journey.

10. Splashing pedestrians

Motorists could get a fine of several thousand pounds for doing this


Motorists could get a fine of several thousand pounds for doing thisCredit: Rex Features

Motorists in the UK face a fine of up to £5,000 if they are caught driving through a puddle and splashing a pedestrian.

You might think soaking a passerby is a bit of a laugh and just harmless fun but it could get you slapped with a public order offence, on top of the hefty fine.

Under section three of the Road Traffic Act 1988, it is an offence to drive “without reasonable consideration for other persons”.

According to the Crown Prosecution Service, this includes  “driving through a puddle causing pedestrians to be splashed”.

Typically, this will land you with a £100 fixed penalty notice and three points on your licence if you’re caught by the police.

But if you’re considered to be driving your motor in a manner that “amounts to a clear act of incompetence, selfishness, impatience or aggressiveness” then you can get a maximum level five fine, which is currently set at £5,000.

You could also face the top fine if you fail to pay your £100 fixed penalty notice or if the case is taken to court.

11. How to navigate box junctions

Eighty per cent of drivers stop while going through a yellow box junction – an area that’s supposed to be kept clear.

Two thirds of drivers also think it’s too difficult to clear the zone without having to stop at some point before it ends.

This is despite fines for the offence costing as much as £130 in London and £70 outside the capital.

Yellow hatched box junctions are important for keeping traffic flowing and anyone caught breaking box junction rules faces fines.

12. Playing loud music

Driving while playing loud music is likely to be safer than listening through headphones, and is not illegal.

However it can still land you with a penalty if it is deemed a distraction. It can result in a £100 fine and three points on your licence.

In circumstances that are deemed more extreme you can be hit with a £5,999 fine and a driving ban.

13. Hogging the middle lane

Driving in the middle lane can attract "careless driving" charges


Driving in the middle lane can attract “careless driving” chargesCredit: Credit: Matthew Chattle / Alamy Stock Photo

If there’s one thing that infuriates British motorists, it’s other drivers hogging the middle lane of the motorway.

Since 2013, police have had the power to hand out on-the-spot fines for drivers cruising along in the middle lane.

If cops see you travelling in the middle lane when not overtaking another vehicle, they can hand you a £100 fine and three penalty points.

It’s important motorists are aware the offence could be considered “careless driving” – but just 50 per cent of Brits know it’s illegal.

14. Allow pedestrians to cross

If drivers are stuck in traffic – or moving slowly – the new Highway Code rules say that you should allow pedestrians to cross in front of you.

That means those walking across the road should be allowed to do so by drivers.

This rule also applies to cyclists looking to cross the road too.

Previously, rules stated that you shouldn’t wave or use your horn to invite pedestrians to walk across a zebra crossing.

Now, flashing your lights has been added to the list, you should also not rev your engine as well as this could intimidate walkers.

15. Pouring boiling water onto your windscreen

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when de-icing your car is using boiling water.

As well as the risk of burns, the sudden change in temperature – from very cold to very hot – can cause your windscreen to smash. 

Even warm or tepid water could cause the glass to contract and crack.

Experts advise against using hot water to clear your windscreen. 

16. Watch out when opening your door

A new addition to The Highway Code for 2022 will describe the safest way drivers should be opening their car doors from the inside – or risk a £1,000 fine.

Rule 239 will stipulate: “Where you are able to do so, you should open the door using your hand on the opposite side to the door you are opening; for example, use your left hand to open a door on your right-hand side.

“This will make you turn your head to look over your shoulder.

If an accident is caused by opening a car door and hitting somebody passing by, you might have to pay a penalty.

Injuring someone by opening your car door can result in a fine of up to £1,000.

17. Using the air-con in winter

Winter promises cold weather and dark nights, but another of the season’s downsides is foggy car windows.

Apart from being annoying, you’re legally required to demist your car’s windscreen, so it pays to do it properly.

Some cars are equipped with a button which automatically starts the demisting process. Turning the heater on has the same effect – direct it at the windscreen and windows.

Note: you’ll want to start the heater on cold before increasing the temperature so you don’t add more humidity to the car.

Rolling down the windows – or blasting the air con after the heat – will also help speed up the process.

Keeping your windscreen clean will also help expedite the process – as will these demister tools below.

Shocking moment road rage driver chases motorist with a piece of his CAR after high-speed motorway smash The 17 things your driving instructor never taught you

Fry Electronics Team

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