clever driving


I’ve spoken before about using the full circle of a roundabout to bypass traffic but that’s not the only trick i use to keep me moving smoothly and safely…

Use the car beside you as a shield

This is really only an option when on two lane roundabouts. The secret is to take the inside lane and stay slightly behind the car in the outside lane. Let them enter the roundabout first and mirror their movement. They move, you move.

roundabout shield

That way if they get smashed when coming on to a roundabout, they act as a natural shield for you as they’ll absorb all of the impact 🙂 If you happen to be beside a bus or a lorry, happy days…

Use the car in front as a snow plough & lamp at night

Depending on conditions, driving at night can be a pain. If it’s a wide open road on a dry night with cats eyes lighting up your path, not a problem. If it’s a narrow, unfamiliar, winding road, that’s a big problem. It requires more attention and brain power. There are more risks & more danger.

One trick i like to use to follow a car in front of me. If it’s going at a reasonable speed but i’m losing sight of it too much, i’ll catch up whilst at the same time not catching up so quickly that it could be seen as intimidating or aggressive. Much like the shield on a roundabout technique, the car in front acts as a snow plough and a lantern. You can anticipate corners better, animals or people walking on roads etc… if you have a car in front to follow. Basically all of the driving is done for you and the risk of an accident is significantly reduced, you just have to mirror the car in front’s movement and speed without of course acting as a nuisance or using car body language which may suggest you’re looking to overtake – that’s just being annoying.

Adjust speed to merge safely

This is one of the biggest problems i see every day. People can drive and they can get from a to b and pass tests but driving is more than that, it requires more intelligence & awareness. There’s nothing worse than *trying* to merge on to a motorway because the car in front of you is doing 80km/hr when there’s a string of traffic on the motorway doing 120km/hr. Had the car in front been doing 120km/hr to start with whilst merging, you could have done the same and both cars and anyone behind you could all merge without causing much hassle to cars already on the motorway.

Rush Hour
Creative Commons License photo credit: feelmystic

It’s the same on roundabouts and at junctions… If you merge forcing other drivers to brake, that’s not merging safely. You’re not being considerate of other road users. I love to see people merging whilst matching speed and slotting in to traffic beautifully and safely without any hassle or frustration to anyone… it’s almost an art form. I’m not quite sure what skills are involved, but i know it’s a lot… you need good spatial awareness, the ability to judge speed / distance, analyse risk factors, recognize potential danger & be able to react to it appropriately… and that must be almost instinctive as you can’t *think* about that stuff whilst driving, it must come with experience or with great thought outside of the car or with games etc… i’m not sure why some people have it & others don’t.

Anyway, merging sounds so simple but for many it isn’t. For me, merging at the speed of traffic flow whilst causing zero danger or frustration to other drivers is ultimate reward, which is why it’s one of my favourite bits about driving.

Anyway, that kind of stuff can’t be tested in a 40 minute trip around town. Do i support ‘NCTs’ for drivers? Absolutely (driving tests every few years to keep people in good habits). And our driving test should test more skills, perhaps even in a simulator to see how people cope with real danger and pressure. No amount of training is ever enough…

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