Most of us like to think that we’re good drivers. This is why it could come as a surprise to know that you may be making quite serious driving mistakes on a daily basis, without even realising it. This doesn’t mean that you’re a bad driver, especially if you’re observant, cautious and respectful of other road users while on the roads, but it is still important to make yourself aware of these mistakes.
Here are just eight of the most commonly made driving mistakes that many people have no clue they’re making.
1. Incorrect indicating at roundabouts
Do you forget to indicate at roundabouts or struggle to know exactly when to signal? This is a familiar situation for many of us, often because knowing when to indicate without misleading other drivers can be tough. What you should be doing is waiting until you’re halfway between exits and then signalling left to let others know your intention to leave the roundabout at the next exit. If you’re taking the first or last exit, you should signal appropriately when entering the roundabout and then remember to signal left as above, just before you leave the roundabout.
2. Mirror-singal-manoeuvre in the wrong order
Not everyone has it clear in their minds which order to do these in. It should go like this:
- Check your mirrors to see that it’s safe to make a manoeuvre such as changing lanes or pulling away after being stationary.
- Once it’s clear, put your indicator on to let everyone know your intentions.
- Only then should you start the manoeuvre.
It’s amazing how many people only signal when they start to move, or signal their intention to change lanes on a motorway even if the adjacent lane isn’t clear yet so there’s no possibility of starting the manoeuvre. If you fail to check your mirrors before you do anything else, you’ll be putting yourself and other road users in danger.
3. Failing to plan your route
If you set off without a clear idea where you’re going, it can lead to all manner of driving errors. You could be distracted by poking at a sat nav device, or rush because you’ve got lost and are now late. You could also change lanes, brake or turn off erratically because you aren’t sure where exactly you’re going. Take just a couple of minutes to plan your route and your journey will be much calmer and safer.
4. Driving too fast when it’s raining
Some people only change their driving habits in severe weather conditions, such as snow or ice when it’s sensible to slow down. But did you know that you should also be driving more slowly when it’s raining? Even a gentle drizzle can wet the road surface, and a wet road surface can as much as double the distance it takes to stop. As well as slippery surfaces, visibility may be poorer in the rain. This means that your thinking distance – the time it takes you to react – may also be slower. With all this in mind, slow down when driving in the rain and leave yourself more distance between you and the car in front.
5. Not drinking enough water
This one may sound like it has nothing to do with driving, but it’s actually really important. If you get dehydrated, your concentration can drop significantly. If you aren’t concentrating when behind the wheel, you could easily cause an accident. Unfortunately, we often don’t realise that we’re dehydrated until it’s far too late or we’re mid-way through a long stint on the motorway. This is why it’s always a good idea to take a bottle of water with you in the car.
6. Hogging the middle lane on the motorway
This regularly tops surveys as one of the most irritating driving habits. It is admittedly more annoying than it is dangerous, but it can cause congestion and perhaps even road rage in other drivers. The Highway Code says that you must drive in the left-hand lane whenever its clear and return to the left-hand lane after overtaking. Not everyone realises this, and many people stay in the middle lane far longer than they should even when the left-hand lane is completely clear. When the motorway is busy, doing this can cause congestion as it reduces the number of lanes that traffic can move through.
7. Not keeping both hands on the wheel
You may feel comfortable and confident driving with one hand, but this is a classic driving mistake. Have you considered how it might go if something happened unexpectedly, such as a sudden obstacle in the road? If you slow the hypothetical situation down to split seconds, which really matter when you’re travelling fast in a car, you’ll see why this is a mistake. In the time it takes you to get your second hand on the wheel, you could be making the vital adjustment that allows you to swerve around the obstacle and manoeuvre the vehicle safely. It may only take a second or less, but this time could save your life. Two hands allows you to manoeuvre and steady the car in a controlled way, so it really is important.
8. Neglecting basic but essential maintenance
When was the last time you checked your tyre pressure? How about topping up your oil or windscreen washer fluid, or replacing your wiper blades? We’re all guilty of neglecting these basic steps of car maintenance, but these mistakes could actually be more serious than you think. For example, you may have less grip or be more prone to blowouts if your tyres are incorrectly inflated, while old wipers could slow your reaction time to obstacles right down. It’s also vital to ensure you pay attention to the level of grip on your tyres. The legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm, but many experts recommend replacing your tyres once the tread depth falls below 3mm.