Congratulations to Nathaniel, on a first time pass with just 3 minor driving faults at Sevenoaks . Well done !
Passing horses safely
Despite clear guidance in the Highway Code and publicity campaigns by the British Horse Society ( BHS) there continues to be fatalities and serious injuries of both horses and riders on our roads. Horse riders are particularly vulnerable road users as no matter how well trained the animal is it can and will react when frightened and may cause the rider to fall off, and it’s a long way down ( I speak from experience)! Horses can weigh up to 800 kg and are very strong and have very quick reactions and can lack self preservation when panicked. The above statistics are from the BHS covering 9 years .
So how do you know as a driver or rider of a motorcycle or cycle ( the rules and advice applies to all) when you will come across horses and riders . Well I can’t even say it completely depends on the environment you are in . You can still get working horses in towns and cities ( Mounted Police , Cavalry, Dray horses ( still used by some brewery’s) and inner city riding schools and clubs. In more rural areas, racing stables, riding schools and hunt and pleasure horses. However , where there is a known riding establishment,there has been an incident or a bridleway crosses a road there is usually a warning sign .
If you see these signs they are warning you of increased risk ahead . Think what other observation links horses provide ….. horse pooh . They do lots of it on the road and if it looks fresh there are very likely to be horses ahead. So be aware of following vehicles by checking mirrors, consider your speed, is it appropriate for the environment you are in and conditions, can you stop in the distance you can see that’s clear ahead. Anticipate that around every bend there could be a horse or horses in the road.
The advice to horse riders or if leading a horse is to wear high visibility clothing (both horse and rider/handler). The majority of riders and handlers do so . Therefore seeing flourescent clothing ahead ,through a hedge or by looking across a bend and seeing this maybe the first hint and observation link that a rider is ahead . If you see this check your rear view mirror for following vehicles, slow down, begin assessing the situation. Consider the type and width of the road, what can you see ahead . Also assess the horse and rider, so is the horse calm, are there more ahead . If there are two horses abreast it is possible the outer horse is escorting a nervous horse or rider or both or one is in training. Do they know you are there? This is especially important in electric vehicles and cyclists . If this applies do not rev the engine or sound a horn or bell . Horses are animals of flight and are easily frightened, so sudden noises will cause a reaction. If they don’t see you, consider calling out from a distance to gain the attention of the rider or handler, they will appreciate that.
Follow at a safe distance.
When you prepare to overtake/pass, turn down any loud music in the car. Check mirrors in case a following vehicle has begun overtaking. Consider a signal. Pass wide and slow, no more than 10 mph ( under new Highway Code regs. ), previous Highway Code advice was 15 mph or less . Allow a minimum of 2.0 metres or a car width if possible.
Be aware that the rider or handler may signal to you to wait. They maybe about to turn off or across the road or have seen something that may cause the horse to react ahead (rubbish being blown around or workman using power tools for instance). So be patient. If that was your friend or son or daughter riding the horse you would expect others to keep to the rules, so must you.
If a rider or handler waves you on, ensure you know it is safe to do so , it is your responsibility to assess the situation behind and ahead. The rider may not be a driver and not appreciate how long it will take you to pass safely .
You are passing at a slow speed so it will take some time and distance to get well past before moving back in. Ensure you are well past the horse(s) before moving back in . Do not accelerate harshly. You must be able to pass and move back in in plenty of time before the approach of oncoming vehicles or hazards ahead such as blind bends, hump back bridges, junctions .
Approaching, passing and moving back in safely showing consideration to the rider(s) will be appreciated by them. They may wave to you to thank you but if they are having to concentrate on riding their horse this may not be their first priority . So just take pride that by being aware and using the correct techniques to pass you helped to keep them, yourself and other road users safe. Stay safe and avoid the situation below happening to you .
Overtaking other road users or obstructions is the manouvre that is a major cause of road traffic incidents. Overtaking carried out incorrectly creates substantial risk due to the fact you will be positioning and driving on or towards the opposite side of the road possibly towards other road users.
You must not overtake where to do so would be illegal , such as when a sign prohibits it, or by doing so you exceed the legal speed limit, the lead motor vehicle on the approach to a pedestrian crossing , within a solid white line system *, on the approach to a school crossing patrol , or level crossing . There is an extensive list within the Highway Code .
In addition some places are never suitable, such as if your view ahead is blocked by a road feature ( hump back bridge ) or obstruction, if other drivers might not be able to see you , not enough room , road narrows ahead, approaching a junction and / or if there is ‘dead ground’ ahead such as a dip in the road which might hide an oncoming vehicle.
Only overtake if it is necessary . There is no point in overtaking if you are turning off that road shortly afterwards .
Judgement of speed and distance and good planning are very important to carry out a successful overtake. So the actual speed of the vehicle you intend to overtake must be assessed correctly on your approach , it may take you more distance than you thought to be able to complete a safe overtake. The smaller the speed differential with the vehicle you are overtaking the longer it will take to get past and move back in safely .
If you realise there is a slower moving vehicle ahead , let’s say a tractor, then the following are the steps DVSA advise you to take :
Mirror be aware of the situation behind and look well ahead.
Signal give a signal if it will help drivers behind, the road user you are overtaking and oncoming road users.
PSL (Position ,speed, look). Position near enough to the vehicle ahead to gain the best view and be able to begin the overtake at the right speed in the right gear ( you may need to change down to get enough power) . Ensure you have enough reserve speed to carry out the manouvre . If you position too close you will limit your view ahead and also cause concern to the driver in front and cause danger . It maybe advantageous to position slightly toward the centre line If safe to do so , to gain extra vision ahead , so what I’d call a hold back position ( you can always get back in if need be) .
Look , assess ahead and the vehicle you are overtaking, has anything changed ? So the speed of the vehicle you are intending to overtake, hazards ahead , road conditions , presence and speed of oncoming vehicles . Check your mirrors and if necessary check to your right with a sideways glance to cover blindspots.
Overtake on a smooth easy line as promptly as you can within the legal limit for that section of road. Only overtake if it is safe to do so. If something changes you need to reassess and start the process again.
Ensure you are well past the vehicle you are overtaking by using your mirrors then signal to move back in and do so smoothly and without affecting the vehicle you have overtaken . Keep aware of what’s ahead.
If you are being overtaken, never speed up or take it personally . If need be you may have to slow down to allow the overtaking vehicle back in if they have misjudged the situation ahead. Be a defensive driver.
If overtaking cyclists allow as much room as if you were overtaking a car when possible . If you are not able to give sufficient room then consider holding back and wait for the situation to change ( road widens, no parked vehicles). Remember if there is no footpath pedestrians could be in the road ahead on your side as they should be facing oncoming traffic especially on rural roads . On approaching pedestrians you will either be able to pass safely or not . If it is safe move out early and signal as the pedestrian(s) will then know you have seen them . Special advice applies to passing horses (I will cover in my next blog ) but suffice to say pass wide and slow ( 15mph or less), and stop if required to or the rider requests this please . All of these examples are vulnerable road users and as a driver it is your responsibility to deal with passing them correctly and safely. There are many deaths of vulnerable road users every year due to thoughtless and dangerous drivers. The roads are for sharing .
On multi lane roads such as motorways and dual carriageways other hazards can occur . If overtaking a line of vehicles especially HGVs avoid being next to one and having to stay there. You may well be in their blind spot. So hold back until you can completely overtake .The illustrations demonstrate some scenarios to be aware of. Some roads have a centre overtaking lane. These roads are now rare but overtaking on them needs careful consideration.
To reiterate overtaking should only be carried out when necessary. It should not be your intention to carry out as many as you can or try your luck or overtaking to be used as revenge on another driver. That attitude will end in disaster in due course. Every gamblers luck runs out. Observation , planning and good decision making , positioning and safety are key . Stay safe .
*Rule 129 Highway Code ‘you may cross the solid white line if necessary ,provided the road is clear , to pass a stationary vehicle, or overtake a pedal cycle , horse or maintenance vehicle if they are travelling at 10mph or less”.
Dealing with emergency vehicles
The following link will take you to a Youtube video ‘Blue Light Aware’ which I show to new drivers, but there are some points that experienced drivers may not be aware of . Watch the video and then read my additional advice below .
Not all situations were covered in the video . Firstly, whilst you should avoid doing so, there maybe times when you do have to drive onto the kerb or verge to enable an emergency vehicle to pass. If this is necessary be very careful as you don’t want to damage your vehicle or the surface being used.
In the video they advise that you should pull over and stop. Stopping isn’t always necessary especially on faster wider roads . Moving out of the path of the emergency vehicle safely should be your first priority and also assessing if slowing down is sufficient to enable the situation to evolve safely or whether you need to stop due to the circumstances. Look ahead and assess whether you need to maintain a gap for the emergency vehicle to use . It maybe the emergency vehicle needs to use the opposite side of the road to drive around a keep left island or similar. In this case you would need to stop well back from the central island to allow the vehicle to do so easily with room to spare.
The video doesn’t cover moving off once the emergency vehicle has passed. Remember to look and listen throughout for a second or multiple emergency vehicles . Be ready to move off or accelerate if safe. When moving off from stationary use a mirror sweep and check across into your blindspot. If accelerating mirrors and glance across but not over your shoulder as this may affect your control of the vehicle. A following driver maybe impatient and begin overtaking you as you go to move off or a vehicle could be turning into the road from opposite . Be aware on multiple lane carriageways as drivers in other lanes may be travelling much faster . Look at their positioning and any indication of a change of direction .
Be aware that on faster roads such as motorways and dual carriageways it’s quite likely you will see the emergency vehicle before you can hear it especially if you are distracted and/or have loud music on . Regular mirror checks will ensure you are up to date with situations developing behind .
Sometimes emergency vehicles do not use sirens when on a ‘Blue Light call’ . In the case of an ambulance this could be due to having someone on board with a head injury or needs a quiet environment due to mental illness. For police vehicles they may not want to advertise their approach to certain situations in order to have more chance of apprehending suspects , such as a burglary in progress. It could be deemed unnecessary due to the time of day .
Stay safe help save a life.
Improving observation, awareness and planning ahead
How often have you had to brake hard or had a ‘near miss’ due to not identifying a hazard early enough or been a passenger in a car when you’ve been quite relieved to actually get to your destination in one piece!
Sufficient observation is key to identifying issues ahead . Only if this happens can the driver anticipate how the road situation is or could develop ahead. I probably should have added concentration to the title as a driver who doesn’t concentrate won’t carry out sufficient observation . To improve observation let’s look at the definition of a hazard .
A hazard is anything which is an actual or potential danger . They can be defined in three ways :
1. Physical features( e.g. junctions , bends, road surface).
2. The position or movement of other road users , drivers, cyclists, pedestrians , horse riders.
3. The weather , anything that affects visibility which can include bright sunlight , ice, rain, fog etc
Also look out for Road signs and markings ( such as hazard warning lines ) , prohibitive ( circular ) hazard signs ( triangular) and route and directional signs . Whilst driving we also look briefly at the speedometer , the mirrors , sat nav, in car audio touch screens and some ,the ultimate distraction, the mobile phone! But more on that later.
To observe effectively the driver needs to scan the road ahead , both sides and ahead . If you just focus on one particular area ahead you will be over focussed on that spot and may well miss seeing a hazard . always look well ahead in order to see the far distance (especially on faster roads) , middle distance and the area immediately in front . Late reactions can often be caused by not looking far enough ahead. By ensuring you do effective observation, anticipation will improve as you gain additional reaction time to developing situations and identify hazards early.
You may have to prioritise which hazard out of a number of hazards presents the most danger , for instance a child within a group of pedestrians or loose dog whilst at the same time assessing the position of approaching vehicles. Driving is very situational so you must continuously scan the road ahead and begin to assess each situation as it comes into view .
Around 95% of your observations will be visual but you should make use of your other senses such as hearing (for instance approaching sirens) , smell ( such as newly mown grass indicating a slow moving grass cutting machine maybe ahead ) and physical sensations ( such as juddering from the road surface indicating a poor road surface).
Observation links play a key role in improving anticipation . If you anticipate that something could happen you will be more ready to deal with it when it does happen .
Other observation links to be aware of :
If a cyclist looks over their shoulder …..about to turn or swerve that way
A pedestrian looks over their shoulder close to a pedestrian crossing …..they are likely to cross .
Rubbish bags outside houses …..expect to come across the bin men and lorry .
Circular mirrors on grass verges / in hedges …..concealed entrance opposite.
Bus stops …….you are driving on a bus route ….expect buses and the hazards around a stationary bus at a bus stop ( pedestrians walking from blindspots in front , or running across the road to the bus). Also buses aren’t always able to use the bus stop correctly due to parked cars.
A car turns left out of a junction ahead on your side then slows……could be about to turn or looking to pull in .
Fresh horse muck on the road …..horse or horses ahead .
Delivery van pulls in and stops ……what will happen next…..drivers door may open .
There are plenty more .
Physical features can also assist with observation :
Spotting Hazard warning signs and speed limit signs are important to be able to anticipate and plan ahead . Did you know the common double bend sign will depict the direction of each bend .
In rural areas take note of warnings for both wild animals and accompanied horses . Wild deer signs are only placed where an incident has previously happened Or very likely to happen. Next time you drive along the A21 see how many deer signs there are and consider how you would deal with such a fast moving situation. You may feel your right foot easing off the gas pedal as you consider that.
Observing speed signs and being aware of your environment will assist with your anticipation and planning. For instance if you are driving along a rural national speed limit road and see a village name sign ahead you can expect a mandatory speed reduction sign to follow . Likewise upon leaving the village expect the speed limit to increase if returning to the rural environment. Always consider whether your speed is appropriate . 30 mph in a 30 limit may not be the suitable speed in certain situations .
So you have observed and anticipated a hazard now it’s planning time. Your plan of action should ensure your safety and that of other road users at all times , taking account of :
What can be seen
What cannot be seen
What might reasonably be expected to happen
Which hazards represent the greatest threat
What to do if things turn out differently than expected ( a contingency plan)
Will deceleration be sufficient , will I need to brake , steer and change gear
If you plan your driving by using observation to gather information and anticipate you should be able to make timely decisions in a methodical way at any moment without hesitation. The key is looking well ahead .
Next time you drive try and do a commentary on your drive paying particular attention to road signs and markings, the road ahead and other road users . Telling yourself what you are seeing and what could happen but also what you are doing about it. If you find that hard then initially just spot the signs and road features and build on that. It’s a very useful technique and you will find it makes you look further ahead. As you increase your skills your driving will become smoother safer and more eco friendly .
Do you move away safely ?
So you are late for work, you jump in the car , it’s early no traffic in your road , you start the car , select 1st gear go to move off and then look in the drivers side mirror ….Bang ! Too late you’ve started to move off without sufficient observation and Fred on his bike was riding his bicycle in your blind spot ! He’s now laying in the road next to his bike and not best pleased !
So what’s the correct procedure ?
Remember the cockpit drill ?
Doors check they are secure , by looking along the sides of the car in the side mirrors . Give your drivers door a tug .
Seat check your seat position is good and comfortable . Is the head restraint in the best position for you ( top should be level with top of your head).
Steering if adjustable check it’s at the correct position for you, check it’s secure.
Seat belt check it works? Give it a tug ( it should lock up under pressure). Are there any cuts or frays ( if so it needs replacing ). Check it isn’t twisted as you put it on . If it’s adjustable on the door pillar is the belt in the correct position for you. Never tuck the belt under your arm unless you want lots of broken ribs and a punctured lung in a collision .
Mirrors Are they adjusted correctly . It’s too late once you are on the slip road or turning left when you go to use a side mirror and you realise someone has knocked it out of position .
Remember take a head check , how do you feel , note how rushing affected the scenario above . Have you considered weather, road and traffic conditions and how they may affect your driving and journey.
Now you can do the mechanics …get the car ready to go , check for warning lights and there’s enough fuel for the journey.
All this has probably taken you less than a minute or two and could potentially prevent injury/ damage to you or another road user and reduce the risk of an unexpected break down .
So back to moving off . Ensure you are ready to move off . Can you see ahead ? It may be necessary to reverse first to increase your vision ahead around other parked vehicles . If so ensure you include physically looking behind before and during reversing in addition to the following .
Check the left or right blindspots as you complete a mirror look (sweep ) from left to centre to right or right to centre to left depending on which side of the road you are on . If it appears to be clear do not move off until you have checked over your shoulder looking where the most danger is …..the way you are moving out, so left shoulder moving away from the right side of the road, right shoulder for moving away from the left .
WHY ? You must cover the blindspot . This will stop you from hitting Fred ( presuming you look and see) . If it’s safe off you go . If you can’t go then re do the routine . If it’s a wide road or you are having to edge around another vehicle do further looks as you move out . Once on the move check your centre mirror for an update of what’s behind
The mirrors don’t see everything !
A further ‘danger’ would be road users crossing / turning within/ into the blindspots.
Moving off straight ahead in traffic / traffic light junctions , keep aware of your surroundings , who could be next to you or approaching ? Cyclists, pedestrians, mopeds , so use side mirror checks . You don’t want any surprises !
Pre driving checks
How often do you carry out essential checks to your car? Many people tend to overlook even the most basic of checks until it’s too late, often because they think special knowledge is required. But it’s actually pretty simple to do and to help you remember what checks to carry out remember the word FLOWER:
Fuel : ensure there is sufficient fuel for your journey . you don’t want to end up stranded on a deserted country road or at the side of the motorway. Avoid buying fuel at motorway service areas the price is extortionate !
Lights: check all the lights work correctly . There’ s more than you think, headlights ( check all 3 settings) so positional , dipped and main beam , check lenses for cracks to prevent water getting in , indicators , brake lights, fog lights , reverse lights . Brake and indicator light bulbs aren’t expensive and are easy to fit , so it’s a good idea to have some spare ones in the car .
Oil: check this weekly . Too little / worn out oil can seriously damage the engine . Wear some disposable gloves .Find the dipstick, pull it out wipe the end , replace and wait a few seconds then check it again, you should be able to see the level at the end. Do this when the engine is cold and the car is on a level surface. Be careful to use the correct oil for the car and don’t overfill it as this can cause problems too.
Water the engine coolant tank should have a min/max marker , again check this when the engine is cold . This isn’t normal water. You can buy ready mixed coolant at Halfords .
Check the windscreen washer reservoir . You can add washer cleaner/ fluid to this . In winter you need to put as much or more washer fluid in as water to help stop it freezing . It’s a good idea to carry a plastic water bottle in the boot with some pre prepared mix .
Electrics : the battery should be secure and most have a visible light that indicates wear . Check for loose connections and that any visible belts and cables are in good condition.
Rubber it’s vital that the tyres are in good condition and are at the correct air pressure . Different loads/uses require different pressures, for instance if you drive to the airport with passengers and luggage the Car is a lot heavier so the tyres will need more inflation. returning empty you may need to adjust them to a previous level. Check the handbook for info. Under or overinflated tyres will seriously affect the stability of the car under braking , acceleration and normal driving . Check for uneven wear , this could be due to under/ over pressure as above or a problem with the suspension. Also check the outside of the tyres for cuts and bulges as these will affect the strength and safety of the tyre. Remember if there’s a spare tyre check that as well .
Check your wiper blades. Regularly wipe the edge of the blade on a cloth with some diluted washing up liquid . This will get rid of grease and grime on the blade. If your wipers are smearing the windscreen and they still do it when the screen is clean it’s time to buy new ones.
There’s one additional check to make before you set off and that’s You. How do you feel , are you tired, feeling stressed, or running late . Any of these will affect your driving mindset so be in control of your emotions and make allowances with your driving for how you feel . If you don’t feel well should you be driving at all ? If you are tired allow a bigger safety gap with vehicles in front and drive slower than you would do if you were feeling 100%. Give yourself more reaction time. If you are running late it’s better to be late than not get there at all ! Can you contact where you are going to let them know the situation . Take your time !
Learner Driver Insurance
Hope everyone is ok . Some of you will have insurance in place already for practice outside of lessons . A couple of you have asked about this so here are the contact details for the companies I am affiliated with. I can’t give recommendations you will need to find out what they offer and find the best deal that suits your needs.
Learner Driver Insurance can be used for driving when supervised and acts as a separate policy .
Supervising drivers must be 21 or older and hold a full UK/EU licence for a minimum of 3 years for that class of vehicle. You must display legal Learner plates front and back and the person supervising you should have a temporary rear view mirror in place ( available at Halfords) .
Ensure you pre plan practice , discuss where to go, how you feel , only use a suitable route/area for your ability . Do some reflection during and at the end. You could keep your own log.
Goes without saying please follow Government advice….don’t go out if you or another member of your family are displaying symptoms of CV19 . Keep the car well ventilated.
Marmalade : tel 0333 358 3441 or visit wearemarmalade.com
Collingwood Insurance Services : 0345 470 0014 or visit http://www.collingwood.co.uk/learner-Driver-insurance
NLD Insurance http://www.nldinsurance.com
Please quote both my name and my instructor number ( 731478) when purchasing . I do get a small commission but you should get an additional discount as well.
Any questions do let me know.
Stay safe and see you all soon