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Top tips for dealing with hazards

Driving can be a minefield. Not only do you have to concentrate on what you’re doing, you also have to look out for what other people are doing. And then there’s the added factor of driving appropriately for the weather conditions. Whether you’re a young driver who’s just passed their test, or a more experienced motorist, take a look at our top tips for dealing with hazards on the road. 


Driving in low sun

With winter on its way, it’s time to say goodbye to sun that has treated us to those sunny, warm days and long summer evenings. 

However, when the sun does make an appearance, it can be low in the sky and usually at the busiest commuting time, which can cause glare and make it difficult for drivers to see any potential hazards. 
When the sun is in your eyes, it can be harder to see ahead of you, so leave more room between you and the car in front to give you more time to react. Be aware that the car behind you may also have poor visibility, and your signal and brake lights may be harder to see.
Sometimes, the glare can be behind you and reflects in your rear-view mirror. When this happens, be ready to adjust your mirror accordingly to avert the glare.
Driving with the sun behind you means it’s in the eyes of drivers coming towards you too, so be aware that they may not be able to see you or the road markings on the road.

Follow our advice to avoid being dazzled by the glare of the sun:

  • Drive with your headlights on when your vision is impacted, as this will increase your visibility to other drivers
  • Slow down immediately if your vision is dazzled and keep an eye on the vehicles behind in case they can't see you against the sun
  • Always carry a pair of good quality sunglasses in your car and wear them whenever the sun impacts your vision
  • Anticipate when a change of light will occur - when you drive round a bend for instance or exit a tunnel
  • Keep your windscreen clean both inside and out, making sure your windscreen wash is topped up and your wiper blades are in good condition.

Staying safe in wet weather

The UK is notorious for its rainy days, so the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has issued a five-point plan to minimise your risk of having an accident due to wet roads.
Last-minute checks
Many a sportsman has trotted out the old saying: Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. It’s the same when it comes to driving in wet conditions. So leave enough time to check your lights - including headlights - and blades on your windscreen wipers before setting off. This should not take more than a couple of minutes - a small price to pay to avoid the possibly fatal risks of negligence in heavy rain.
Do your homework
Check out the weather forecast for your own area and the destination to which you are travelling. Then you can plan accordingly. Stick to the main roads if you can, as they are less prone to flooding. If time isn’t an issue, then wait until the downpours ease before you leave.
Reaction reality check
Do you remember your stopping distances from your Highway Code? If not, err on the side of caution. You’re not driving in normal conditions, so don’t play by the normal rules. The IAM suggests allowing four seconds or more between you and the car in front to give you enough time to respond should the unexpected happen.
Get those eyes working
Your eyes are your greatest ally on the roads, whatever the weather. This is particularly true in heavy rain, which brings an increase in unexpected spray from other vehicles. So keep them peeled.
Driving through floods
Nothing can prepare you for driving through floods for the first time. The IAM suggests that you think twice before you attempt such a hazard. If in doubt, don’t. If you decide to take it on then go through the flood’s highest part with extreme caution, reducing your speed right down. Check the brakes after negotiating the excess water. Then dry them out as soon as you can. A slight touch on the brakes while still moving should do the trick.

Look out for cyclists

As the days get shorter and the weather takes a turn for the worse, it’s important to look out for people on their bikes and help reduce the number of cyclist accidents. Remember, we all share the road!

Keep your eyes peeled

  • Look out for cyclists, especially when turning left
  • Look carefully around before opening car doors

Be generous with space

  • Give cyclists as much space as possible – the Highway Code recommends leaving at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car
  • Be aware of cyclists who may stay in the left-hand lane on roundabouts and are signalling right, as they may intend to continue round the roundabout

Be considerate

  • Use your indicators so that cyclists can react
  • Avoid driving over advanced stop lines as these allow cyclists to get to the front of the queue and increase their visibility
  • Drive according to the weather conditions – strong gusts of wind can blow a cyclist off course and wet conditions may cause them to lose their grip

Learner drivers

Learning to drive takes patience and concentration. There’s a lot to take in – road signs, roundabouts, junctions – and it’s even harder to concentrate when there’s another driver getting up close and personal with your rear bumper!

It seems this is a common occurrence, with an increasing number of time-strapped, experienced motorists displaying bad attitudes towards newcomers making their way on the road.

Some of them put L-plate drivers under pressure and try and overtake at the earliest opportunity, putting themselves and other drivers in danger. But some of the harshest critics have the shortest memories.

We were all learner drivers once. Even some of the biggest motoring legends – Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton or the Stig for instance – had learner plates at the very start of their driving careers.

What to do if you come across a learner driver
  • Be patient
  • Signal in plenty of time
  • Keep your distance
  • Remember that you were a learner driver once yourself
  • Treat drivers with respect regardless of age
  • Don’t sound your horn unless it’s absolutely necessary – the learner driver in front of you will probably be nervous enough as it is

Driving through roadworks

Picture the scene...You're taking the family out for a day trip but are stuck in traffic, the kids are getting fidgety in the back and you've moved about 200 yards in half an hour. The reason? Roadworks.

Despite being filled with dread when we see the sign with a little man shovelling, we should spare a thought for the road workers, who put their lives at risk every day in order to carry out their jobs and maintain our roads.

They're at risk of drivers who fall asleep at the wheel, those who drink-drive or on the phone, and these can all result in accidents. They rely on us to drive safely in order for them to stay safe and make it home to their families at the end of a long shift.

We've put together some top tips to help you keep safe if you come across some roadworks on your travels:

  • Don't exceed the speed restriction. Slow down and keep to the reduced speed limit. Even if there's no traffic in front of you, speed restrictions are in place for your own safety as well as others
  • Pay attention to road signs and instructions. Roadworks can often involve complex diversions and lane structures, so it's important that you follow any directions or instructions as you approach
  • Get in the right lane. Don't be tempted to keep switching lanes to the faster moving one. It's unlikely to save you much time in the process and it could increase your chances of having a collision. If your lane is coming to an end, merge as soon as possible to avoid any last second lane changes
  • Don't get distracted. Pay attention to the vehicles around you and look out for workers and plant machinery, as they may have to cross the traffic lanes from time to time
  • Keep your distance. It's possible that the vehicle in front may have to stop abruptly, so leave enough space between you and other vehicles, as well as traffic barriers, construction equipment and road workers
  • Drive carefully. Temporary traffic lanes can sometimes be narrower than regular traffic lanes, so take extra care
It's always a good idea to plan ahead and allow extra time for unexpected delays during your journey. Never rush or take risks on the road.

So next time you're stuck in traffic due to roadworks, spare a thought for the workers risking their lives to make the roads safer for us. The restrictions are there for a reason.

Do you know your road signs?

There are many signs on our roads, but do you know what they all mean?
As part of the driving theory test, all learner drivers have to prove they've got a decent working knowledge of the Highway Code before they can get behind the wheel of a car on their own.

But it's understandable that our knowledge of some of the finer points of road use might fade over the years - especially the more obscure points we don't have to deal with regularly.

According to a recent poll, which questioned 2,000 adults, drivers don’t know the meaning of one in every five signs, while many others are mixed up over road markings.

For instance, just 27% of participants knew that a white sign with a red border means “no vehicles except pedal cycles being pushed by hand”.

And only 10% could identify that a broken central white line is used to denote an upcoming hazard, with 66% believing this meant road conditions are normal.

But if you think that these are among the more obscure aspects of the Highway Code, there were also blind spots in many drivers’ knowledge of more common aspects of road safety.

Eight in every 10 drivers could name the “national speed limit applies” sign – a white circle with a black diagonal line. But 4% of respondents thought the sign symbolised a 70mph limit, while 7% were under the impression that the sign meant there were no speed restrictions.

(Just for the record, if you’re driving a car or a bike on a duel carriageway, the national speed limit is 70mph. If you’re in a car or on a bike on a single carriageway, it’s 60mph).

Take our test
What do you think? Would you be able to identify what the following road signs mean from the descriptions below?
  1. A white circular sign with a red border showing a car and a motorbike.
  2. A circular sign showing a red cross on a blue background.
  3.  A white triangle with a red border displaying someone riding a horse.
  4. Traffic lights on a white triangular sign with a red border.
  5. A red car next to a black car on a white sign with a red border.
If you struggled with any of those, you might want to revisit your Highway Code, or even better, take a look at the Department for Transport’s Know Your Traffic Signs book.

1. No motor vehicles, 2. No stopping (clearway), 3. Accompanied horses or ponies, 4. Traffic signals ahead, 5. No overtaking.

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