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C is for Country Lanes

Country roads are also known as back roads, or rural roads! You may find that country roads are of lesser quality – due to farming machinery and lorries who use them – and often the councils do not prioritise country roads to be maintained, as they prioritise ‘main roads’ where the majority of traffic travels.

Country roads are often narrow, have more bends, less signage, and poor quality road markings – again due to not being maintained as a priority. You may also find that country roads are in complete darkness at night time – they often do not have street lights, making it harder to negotiate bends and other hazards safely.

Road markings and signs

Be aware that due to the country roads not being a priority for maintenance, there may be signs missing or damaged, and road markings that are very faded, so much so that you can’t see them. Be aware if you are approaching junctions where there are no road markings – technically no-one would have priority. Approach such junctions with caution and proceed carefully. Always be alert and aware of your surroundings.

Hidden junctions

You may encounter hidden junctions and junctions on bends. Be cautious when approaching bends – you don’t always know what’s around the corner! Junctions on bends may be well hidden and may not always have warning signs – so be aware of emerging vehicles, especially large vehicles such as tractors.

Large vehicles

You may come face to face with tractors or lorries – lorries may be delivering to local farms, or taking produce from the farm to supermarkets. Tractors and other heavy farming machinery will be out and about, especially during the summer months when they harvest their crops. Be aware of what’s around you when you see a tractor or lorry approaching you – take into consideration that they may need more room and may take up more space. Be prepared to slow down, move over if the road space allows you to, and even be prepared to stop if necessary.

Animals

You may also come across wildlife – such as dears, cows, sheep etc.

Horse riders may also be out and about.

The Highway Code, Rule 214 says – When passing animals, drive slowly. Give them plenty of room and be ready to stop. Do not scare animals by sounding your horn, revving your engine or accelerating rapidly once you have passed them. Look out for animals being led, driven or ridden on the road and take extra care. Keep your speed down at bends and on narrow country roads. If a road is blocked by a herd of animals, stop and switch off your engine until they have left the road. Watch out for animals on unfenced roads.

Cyclists and pedestrians

Always look out for cyclists, and pedestrians who may be walking or running. Cyclists and pedestrians may be alone, but may also be in groups. Again, be prepared to slow down, give plenty of room (at least 1.5 metres), and be aware that cyclists especially may suddenly swerve to avoid potholes, or may be blown by the wind into your path. Country roads rarely have paths, therefore you can fully expect to find pedestrians in the road. Pedestrians should always walk facing the traffic – for example, walking towards you on your side of the road. This is so that the pedestrian can see what is coming towards them and take action if needed (such as moving out of the way for heavy farming machinery or a lorry).

What’s the speed limit?

The speed limit for most country roads is 60mph. However, we should always take into consideration our surroundings and other factors. The speed we choose to go could be influenced by one or more of the following –

  • Your vehicle condition – is your vehicle in excellent condition, with the brakes in good working order, has your car been serviced recently?
  • The road condition – look out for dips, bumps, pot holes, the road cracking, etc. Watch out for mud or straw in the road, left behind from farming machinery or lorries etc.
  • The weather – be aware of rain (whether it’s light or heavy!), storms, strong winds, snow, ice, fog. All of these could make the conditions more difficult to drive in. They could make the road surface slippery, and make visibility more difficult
  • Who’s around you look out for pedestrians, cyclists, animals etc, especially when approaching bends where you can’t see clearly around the bend
  • The time of day – be aware that driving in the dark can be more dangerous and reduce your visibility. You may also be more tired at night. Equally, be cautious when driving in the sun, as this could blind you. Make good use of your sun visor and sunglasses. You may also find that driving in peak times (0700-1000 and 1600-1800), that it may be busier and you may have more traffic and hazards to deal with
  • Your own ability – if you have less experience, you should consider being more cautious and taking your time
  • Your own health at the time – if you are more tired, you should consider being more cautious and pulling over for a break where possible. If you have a headache or are in pain, you should also take this into consideration
  • And many other factors! Can you think of any other factors which may help you decide your speed?

Passing places

Where roads are very narrow, passing places have been made so that you can pull over to allow oncoming traffic past. We should only pull into passing places on the left. The oncoming traffic may be able to pull into one of their passing places first. Be prepared to reverse into a passing place if necessary. You could also wait opposite a passing place, so that the oncoming vehicle can go into that passing place. You should consider the size of the oncoming vehicle, their speed, and their road positioning – does it look like they are going to slow down for you? Are they making an effort to find a passing place to pull into?

Top tips for driving on country roads

  • Belt up – It could make a crucial difference in the event of an accident
  • Watch your speed – Drive at a speed that won’t affect your decision-making ability
  • Prepare for the unexpected – You might know the road like the back of your hand, but the conditions are always changing
  • Reduce your speed on blind bends – You never know what could be around the corner
  • Look out for blind summits and hidden dips – Keep an eye on road signs and slow down as you approach
  • Put away any distractions – Ignore your phone, leave your sat nav alone, and wait until you’ve arrived safely to have that packet of crisps
  • Stay in control – Drive to the conditions and be alert to unexpected hazards

Country roads are statistically more dangerous, with more deaths occurring on these types of roads. In 2017, 992 people were killed on country roads. In 2017, 77 people were killed on a motorway. You can see already, the massive difference in fatalities on country roads, compared to other types of roads. Source: RoSPA

Age of drivers who were killed or seriously injured in accidents on country roads

We’ve included some pictures of some statistics – and they are admittedly scary! More drivers are killed on country roads than any other type of road.

The likely reasons for this are –

  • Speeding
  • Not having proper control over their vehicle
  • Being distracted – possibly by passengers, children, their mates in the car, sat navs, phones, eating or drinking etc
  • Night time – drivers not being able to fully see where they are going
  • Experience – maybe the driver didn’t have the skill to negotiate the country roads, or deal with situations as they arose. Statistically, younger drivers are more likely to be involved in an accident due to their inexperience

Remember – your driving instructor would be more than happy to cover country roads with you again, and even if you’ve passed your driving test, you can still have refresher lessons with your instructor!

We hope this helps and is informative!

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B is for Brakes

Brakes are for… slowing down, or stopping! Don’t forget that there are other ways we can slow our vehicle down, such as simply taking our foot off the gas, changing gears, and using engine braking. We’ll cover this in more detail in another blog post.

Different cars can have different types of brakes – disc brakes or drum brakes.

What’s the difference?

Taken from Kwik Fit website as they can explain it better than me!

A disc brake system consists of a brake disc, a brake calliper and brake pads. When the brake pedal is applied, pressurised hydraulic fluid squeezes the brake pad friction material against the surface of the rotating brake disc. The result of this contact produces friction which enables the vehicle to slow down or stop.

A drum brake system consists of brake shoes and a brake drum. When the brake pedal is applied the two curved brake shoes, which have a friction material lining, are forced against the inner surface of a rotating brake drum. The result of this contact produces friction which enables the vehicle to slow down or stop.

Which is better?

Disc brakes

  • Better stopping power
  • You can apply quicker for a shorter stopping distance
  • Better at managing heat from the friction of braking on the disc
  • Performs better in wet conditions
  • Less hardware and easier to service
  • Self cleaning
  • More durable
  • Less pulling
  • Self adjusts as the friction material wears out

Drum brakes

  • Retains heat which can reduce the braking force/power
  • Easier to use your handbrake with
  • More complex system but cheaper to replace
  • Requires cleaning
  • More prone to pulling
  • Self adjusts as the friction material wears out

The more pressure you put on the foot brake, the more the vehicle will slow down. Slowing down under control isn’t just a matter of slamming the foot brake on as hard as you can. As with the other foot pedals, using the foot brake needs practise. Press the foot brake with the ball of your foot. Use just enough pressure to slow the wheels of the car down, without allowing them to lock.

(Driving, The Essential Skills)

Progressive Braking

Progressive braking is a safe driving technique that

  • Allows other drivers time to react
  • Prevents skidding
  • Saves wear and tear on brakes, tyres and suspension
  • Uses less fuel than harsh braking
  • Is more comfortable for your passengers

To brake progressively

  • Feel: Put light pressure on the brake at first
  • Firm: Gradually increase the pressure as required to stop the vehicle
  • Feather: When the vehicle has almost stopped, ease off the pressure so that the vehicle stops smoothly. There should be little or no pressure as the vehicle actually stops.

Dual circuit braking

Modern cars are equipped with dual circuit braking systems. These systems ensure that, in the rare event of a braking system failure, there remains some braking available when the brake pedal is pressed. Under these conditions, it may be necessary to push the brake pedal harder than normal.

Stopping in an emergency

  • Always keep both hands on the steering wheel. You need as much control as possible
  • Avoid braking so hard that you lock any of the wheels. A skid may cause a serious loss of control
  • Don’t press down on the clutch pedal until just before you stop. This helps with your braking and stability
  • Don’t use the parking brake while the vehicle is moving. Most parking brakes work on the back wheels only. Extra braking on the back wheels can cause skidding
  • Don’t give a signal – you need both hands to control your steering (and your brake lights will come on at the rear to signal to people behind that you are braking)
  • Don’t make a special point of looking in the mirror – if you’ve been using your mirrors regularly you should know what’s behind
  • Stop as quickly and as safely as possible, keeping your vehicle under full control
  • Look all around again before moving off

Anti Lock Braking Systems (ABS)

If ABS is fitted, it will activate automatically if you need to press the brakes firmly or stop in an emergency. It prevents the wheels from locking, so that you can continue to steer the vehicle while braking. ABS is only a driver aid, it doesn’t help the vehicle stop more quickly, nor does it remove the need for good driving practises such as anticipating events and assessing the road conditions.

Parking brake (also known as the hand brake)

The parking brake holds the vehicle still when it has stopped. In most cars, the parking brake operates on the rear wheels only. The parking brake shouldn’t be used to stop a moving vehicle – there is real danger of the rear wheels locking and causing the vehicle to skid. The only time you may have to use the parking brake to stop a moving vehicle is in an emergency where the foot brake has failed – but this is very unlikely with dual circuit braking systems.

Remember that when you park your vehicle, always leave it in gear and make sure that the parking brake is fully on. You MUST use your parking brake if parked and leaving your car – rule 239 of the Highway Code. You may also use it if sat in a stationary queue of traffic, if you’re on a gradient to help stop you rolling back, or if you’re sat at a junction/roundabout for some time. Whether you use your parking brake at a junction or a roundabout could depend on your confidence and skill, how busy the roundabout is, who’s behind you, whether you’re on a gradient, etc. You may want to speak to your driving instructor in more detail about when to use your handbrake.

Five good rules for braking

  • Anticipate. Think and look well ahead
  • Know your own limitations and those of your vehicle
  • Take note of the state of the road and it’s surface
  • Give yourself plenty of time and distance to brake progressively
  • Avoid the risk of skidding, rather than trying to control it

Braking shifts the weight of the vehicle forward. This can make steering more difficult. Whenever you brake, you should consider

  • The safety and peace of mind of everyone concerned, including your passengers
  • The wear and tear on your brakes, tyres, and suspension
  • The vehicles behind you, whose brakes might not be as powerful as yours

How do I maintain my brakes?

If your brakes feel spongy or slack, you notice your vehicle pulling to one side as you brake, or your brakes are starting to squeak – these could be signs that your brakes are getting worn. You should get your car checked by a mechanic as soon as possible. Most garages charge very little, or sometimes nothing, for checking your brakes. Your mechanic can advise how low your brakes are worn, and whether you need new brake pads. If your brakes become incredibly worn, they could start scoring the brake discs as you brake – this can then be very costly to replace the brake discs, instead of just the brake pads. It’s always better to get it checked sooner rather than later!

Also check your parking brake regularly and make sure that there’s no excess ‘travel’ of the parking brake lever (meaning, make sure it doesn’t lift further than it does normally), and ensure that the parking brake secures the car properly and prevents the car from moving.

Also check your brake fluid reservoir under your bonnet. If you’re not sure, ask your mechanic to help you check this. We will cover this in more detail in another blog.

We hope this helps!

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A is for Angled Start

What is an angled start?

An angled start is moving off from behind an object – usually a car.

Why do we have to do them?

The examiners on your driving test will require you to do an angled start – this is to ensure that you can move off safely from behind a parked vehicle or obstacle, ensuring that you are checking your mirrors and blind spots appropriately, signalling appropriately, and moving off smoothly whilst being in control of your vehicle. It will happen in every day life – which is why we teach you these important skills.

What other ‘starts’ are there?

Other ‘starts’ that your examiner will be looking for are normal starts – which is moving off from the side of the road, and moving off on a gradient. The examiner is again checking that you can move off smoothly from the side of the road, whilst being safe, in control, and aware of what’s going on around you. The same with moving off on a gradient – checking that you’re able to move off safely whilst in control on a hill/slope.

What is the examiner looking for?

This is the official examiners guidance – The examiner should observe whether the candidate first sees to the front, then to the rear, that the way is clear for pulling out, gives the appropriate signal if necessary, and moves away smoothly and safely. Wherever possible, ability to move off on a reasonably steep uphill gradient should be tested. A candidate starting on a gradient should be capable of paying attention to other traffic as well as moving their vehicle away without rollback and/ or excessive engine revolutions. If stopping on a hill is not possible an additional ‘normal’ stop need not be sought. However, the test must always include moving off at an angle from behind a stationary vehicle.

How do I move off safely?

The Driving Essential Skills book – our ‘bible’ for driving – says the following (I have simplified it a little to make it easier to read):

– Press the clutch pedal fully down and hold it there

– Select 1st gear

– Press the accelerator slightly and hold it steady

– Slowly and smoothly bring the clutch pedal up, until you hear the engine noise change slightly. This is the biting point.

– Hold the clutch steady in this position

– Make your final safety checks, use your mirrors and look over your right shoulder to check your blind spot

– Decide if a signal is necessary. The timing of your signal is crucial. Avoid waiting for too long with the clutch at bite point

– If it’s safe to move off, be ready to release the parking brake (also known as the hand brake)

– Look around again if necessary and keep an eye on your mirrors

– When you’re sure it’s safe and convenient to move off, release the parking brake, and let the clutch pedal come up a little more

– The vehicle will begin to move

– Gradually press your accelerator for more speed, and let the clutch come up smoothly, then take your foot off the clutch pedal

On your driving lessons, your driving instructor will help you perfect this important skill!

Where can you NOT stop/park?

Let’s be honest… if you start moving off, you’ll have to stop again at some point!

So where is it not safe to stop/park?

Double yellow lines

Single yellow lines – look at the waiting restrictions

Double white lines – including broken white lines

Blocking driveways – (occasionally an examiner may say you can block a driveway temporarily whilst you pull up, as you will not be there for long and you aren’t actually parking)

Blocking dropped kerbs – wheelchair access etc.

On pavements

Bus stops / Bus lanes / opposite bus stops

Opposite other cars/road works/obstructions

Anywhere that would cause an obstruction

Cycle lanes

Bends/corners

Brow of a hill

Junctions – within 10 metres

Pedestrian crossings, including on the zig zag lines

School ‘keep clear’ zig zag lines

Keep clear boxes

Anywhere that would prevent emergency vehicle access

Taxi ranks – as indicated by signs

Clearways / Red routes

Spaces reserved for specific people – disabled, doctors, residents etc.

We hope this helps!