Your guide to getting back behind the wheel
Whether you have given up using your car in recent months, to help in the collective effort to stop the spread of Covid-19, or have passed your test some time ago and recently got back behind the wheel – we can help you hit the road once again in style.
Driving is a combination of confidence, abilities and knowledge – so we have composed a simple, yet effective guide to help even the most-experienced driver harness these aspects, and quickly get back behind the wheel:
Learn the basics
Where do you start?
The best way you can recover from a long period away from your love and joy – your car, is to re-acquaint yourself with the Highway. Before hitting the road again, it is essential that you understand what each road sign means, what speed to drive on certain roads and how to perform basic tasks, like coming onto a roundabout.
If you still have your practice materials from your Theory Test, then we would recommend dusting these off and re-affirming your knowledge until you feel confident enough to hit the road.
Much of driving is about confidence, so strong-arm yourself with the proper knowledge and be ready for anything put in your way.
Get to grips with your controls
Some of you know the controls of your car like the back of your hand – from the perfect volume for your car to the best gear to drive in.
But sometimes a break away from driving can make you forget the essentials. So once you have successfully learned the basics from your theory test, it’s now time to re-associate yourself with your car.
Make sure you know where to turn your lights on, how to work your windscreen wipers (hopefully you won’t need them this summer), and know the difference between your indicators and flashing your headlights.
If you have read all the materials and jumped inside the hull of your car, but still feel massively under-confident, then you may want to take a refresher course. It is important that you take everything at your own pace – don’t rush yourself and increase your risk of an accident if you are not ready.
Taking a refresher course couldn’t be easier – there are a range of courses available with DVSA- approved instructors nationwide offering the chance to get behind the wheel with their expert guidance. You could even text your old instructor.
One thing to note is that driving lessons are currently suspended throughout the UK due to the outbreak of Covid-19, so there may be a wait before you are able to complete a refresher course. An alternative is to go for a ride with a more experienced driver in your household – they can help impart their wisdom, and metaphorically steer you away from making the wrong decision.
Practice, practice and practice some more
Perhaps you do not feel as though you need to take a refresher course, or are too eager to start driving again – whichever reason, it is our recommendation that you practice driving before you start making long trips.
Maybe start in an empty car park, or at off-peak times where the traffic is likely to be lighter – regardless of which you choose, it may take a short period for you to get back to your former abilities.
Don’t be discouraged if this takes more time than you thought it would – practicing in lower traffic levels can help you adapt once business resumes. We would recommend taking a number of shorter trips for practice – slowly working your way up to busier times.
Much of driving is knowing how to react in certain situations, so while drives on empty roads will help you with your confidence, you need to experience a breadth of scenarios – especially so in the upcoming months where an influx of cyclists, horses and everything in between will start using the roads again.
You don’t necessarily need to do this alone – ask a family member to come with you on a drive.
Dust off those P-Plates
If you are building your confidence, and remain slightly unsure about driving, then it may be time to find those p-plates, dust them off and start using them again – if you used them in the first place.
These plates help indicate that you are a relatively new driver, and are a great way of telling other drivers to be ‘more’ patient with you – while this is not guaranteed, the vast majority should treat you with a little bit of caution.
These are only a temporary fix for you, but it will allow you to gain real road experience and allow for a slight margin of error, if you are as rusty as you think.
Behind the wheel
Just a quick note before you jump behind the wheel – we need to be extra careful on the roads at the moment. There has been a rise in speed recently, so keep an eye out for reckless drivers, as well as carefully watching your own speed.
Taking a break from driving may have given you the much-needed break from society you deserved, but it may have also effected your reaction times, driving abilities and perception of speed. So the message is simple, keep below the speed limits.
Also, don’t forget those mirrors. Unless you are an owl who can keep a watchful eye of 360 degrees, please remember this important rule. Pretend you’re back in your driving test – making it seemingly obvious to the examiner that you are looking in all your mirrors.
Sitting outside in the sun may sound glamorous, but being sat outside for long periods without movement can be highly damaging to your car. No, we don’t mean melanoma – you don’t have to lather it in a layer of sun cream.
But you may have to lather on some much-needed TLC.
Firstly, turn the ignition on, to make sure your car is still up and running. If it has a pulse, then you’re almost ready to go.
Check each and every tyre on your car, and find out their pressure – a common side-effect of having your car sat in one place is deflation, which may mean one or two wheels are much lower than the minimum requirement.
Also, get under the bonnet and check your engine oil – it’s a critical component of helping your car perform well and run smoothly.
Finally, please make sure you have enough fuel to get off the drive – if you are one of those people who wait till the last minute to fill up (Don’t worry, we are the same), then make sure you have enough fuel to get to the station.
You don’t want to be stranded on the side of the road.
Whether you have 5 years behind the wheel or 5 weeks – a long break away from your beloved car can take a toll on your driving abilities and confidence getting back up and running.
You are not alone. Lockdown in the UK has forced many people to stop driving for some time, so you will not be the only person feeling a little rusty.
Follow our guidance and safely get back on the road at your own pace – it’s not a sprint. Learn your road signs, practice at lighter traffic times and most importantly, remember what you learned on your driving test – do not drive recklessly.
Please do note, social distancing rules are likely in place for some time, so please adhere to the Government advice.