Safe driving really does save lives

Driving responsibly helps to make our roads safer for everyone.

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  • Take responsibility

  • New rules apply

  • Changed priorities

  • Safety first

Driving safely can stop serious injuries and death

The way we drive impacts on other people’s lives, and the law has now changed to give other road users better protection. Find out more, along with some useful advice for driving safely on our roads.

What you need to know

  • The law now gives other road users priority when crossing at junctions
  • Changes also give more protection for pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders and motorcyclists
  • Safe driving starts with us all taking responsibility
  • This includes the condition of your vehicle
  • Different areas and driving conditions are also important factors

Important new rules

  • There’s now a new hierarchy of road users
  • Those who can do the most harm have the greatest responsibility
  • Drivers and riders must give way to pedestrians crossing a road

In more detail

  • Pedestrians and cyclists have priority when turning in and out of junctions
  • Drivers need to give plenty of space when passing others. At least:
    • 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at up to 30mph
    • 2 metres and under 10mph for horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles
    • 2 metres and a low speed when passing pedestrians walking on a road
  • Cyclists can ride in the centre of the lane, or two side-by-side for their own safety
  • In a vehicle, the door should be opened with the hand furthest from the door, helping to make drivers look over their shoulder to see cyclists or pedestrians nearby

Your attitude to driving matters

Safe driving is a skill for life – and having the right attitude can make all the difference. It’s always important to stay focused and know your limitations. There are a few other things worth keeping in mind.

  • Know what your vehicle is capable of
  • Be aware of the road conditions
  • Stay alert and know what’s going on around you at all times
  • Remember that you’re responsible for your actions
  • It’s your skills that control your vehicle
  • Some extra training is always an option if you need it
  • Think about your journey when it’s over i.e. were there any distractions or did any dangerous situations arise

Is your vehicle in good condition?

An important part of being a safe driver is keeping your vehicle in good condition. If you look after your car, it’ll give you a lot less trouble.

A few regular checks should include:

  • Tyre tread depth and pressure
  • Oil level
  • Coolant level
  • Brake fluid level
  • All lights, horn, windscreen wipers and washers
  • Keep your vehicle and windows clean

Stay safe when driving

Driving alone in an unknown area can be quite daunting – especially if you’re a new driver. Here are some simple steps you can take to stay safe.

  • Let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to arrive
  • Put your route into the Sat Nav and set it up before you drive off
  • Or, take a map so you won’t have to ask a stranger for directions
  • Make sure your phone’s charged, in case you get lost and need help
  • Never give any strangers a lift

Road rage

A lot of people are quick to get annoyed by mistakes that other drivers make. A simple way to try and calm the situation is to hold up your hand and say sorry if you’ve made a mistake. A few other tips:

  • Avoid eye contact with aggressive drivers
  • If a driver gets out and approaches – and you can’t safely drive off – flash your lights and sound your horn
  • Remember to keep the doors locked and windows up
  • Leave space around your vehicle and try to get away quickly without speeding or driving dangerously

Parking safely

It’s illegal to park on pavements, at drop kerbs and to double park in Scotland. From 11 December 2023, local authorities can begin enforcing this law. It means you will face a penalty charge of £100 for obstructive parking (reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days). Even if you think you’ve left enough space, only parked two wheels on the pavement or you won’t be parked for long, pavement parking risks harm to people who use the pavement.

To avoid a fine of up to £100, ensure you park in a way that keeps everyone safe. There are some exemptions to the rule, you can read more about them here.

Driving in a town or city centre

Driving in more congested areas can be quite stressful if you’re not used to it. Try to give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination, as there could be unexpected delays. This is especially true if it’s an important appointment that you’re travelling to. Some other things to keep in mind.

  • Plan your route and check if there are any roadworks or diversions
  • In traffic queues, it’s good to leave room between you and the vehicle in front
    • Just in case they breakdown and you have to go around them
    • As a rule, if you can see their rear tyres touching the road you should be able to pass without having to reverse first
  • Use the vehicle stop-start system while in queues. If your vehicle is not equipped with stop-start and you are waiting for a while in a queue, you could switch the engine off manually
  • Motorbikes are allowed to filter between lanes (if done properly) – so be aware of them moving slowly between the lanes of traffic

Think about pedestrians

  • A lot of pedestrians cross roads in towns and cities
  • People often run between slow moving vehicles, especially children and young adults
  • Always stay alert and be ready to stop
  • Look out for large groups of pupils crossing roads near secondary schools at key times

Know about bus lanes

  • Always read the signs at the start of the lane for the operation times
  • Some are for just for peak times
  • Others are from 7.00am until 7.00pm
  • Buses, taxis or cyclists may be travelling faster on your left-hand side
  • Always use your mirrors before turning left across a bus lane

Driving in the country

There are lots of hazards to look out for when you’re on country roads. As a rule you should always try to slow down on corners and bends – and even be prepared to stop. The main hazards you’ll need to look out for are:

  • Farm vehicles

  • Farm animals

  • Horses

  • Cyclists

  • Motorcyclists

  • Pedestrians

  • Debris like mud and grass on the road

Driving at night

It might seem obvious, but driving at night is very different to driving in the daytime. Less visibility means it’s difficult to judge things like the speed and distance of other vehicles. Here are a few useful tips.

  • Keep your lights clean and check they’re working properly
    • This includes your hazard lights
    • It’s a driving offence to have faulty lights
  • Windscreen wipers and washers are important at night
    • Use a cloth to clean your wiper blades
    • Give your windscreen a wipe to check it’s clear
    • Make sure there’s water in the windscreen washer reservoir
  • If you’re feeling sleepy, stop and take a break
    • Make sure you stop in a safe place (i.e. not the hard shoulder on a motorway)
    • Get some fresh air, stretch your legs and drink a caffeinated beverage
  • Drive at a speed where you can stop safely in the distance that you can see in your headlights
  • When you’re overtaking, remember it can be more difficult to judge speed and distance in low light conditions
  • Don’t try to use fog lights if there’s no fog
    • It won’t help you to see the road any better
    • They’ll simply dazzle other drivers

Driving in bad weather

If the weather suddenly changes, it can cause problems even for experienced drivers. You always need to take extra care. If the weather’s extreme, you should ask yourself if you really need to make the journey at all.
Good preparation always helps, so check the local forecasts regularly and follow advice on whether it’s safe to drive. Here are some other useful tips.

  • Fully clear ice and snow from all your windows and lights
  • Use your dipped headlights as sidelights won’t be seen in poor visibility
  • Lower your speed so you have more time to react safely
  • If it’s wet, leave double the distance between you and the vehicle in front.
  • In snow and ice you should leave at least ten times the normal braking distance
  • Don’t brake too quickly in snow or ice
  • Remember, your brakes and tyres won’t work as well on wet or icy roads
  • If conditions are really bad always use public transport instead
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