Unless you’re a key worker, it’s likely that your car usage has declined significantly since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, many drivers haven’t used their car at all since lockdown was announced. It’s not surprising, then, to find that some may feel uneasy about driving. Given that a big part of being a driver is having confidence in your driving ability, this is slightly concerning. So, how do you get used to driving after lockdown?
If you haven’t been behind the wheel in months, we’re here to help set you straight. We’ve compiled a list of top tips to help you get your driving mojo back and take to the roads like a pro. Get the full lowdown below!
Getting back behind the wheel
In a survey conducted by Hyundai, a fifth of UK motorists revealed that they “found it difficult to get used to driving again after being off the road during lockdown”. Despite being full licence holders, these motorists found themselves making errors they would have never struggled with prior to lockdown. You can see examples of these errors in the table below.
|Top 10 errors made by drivers since lockdown|
|1. Stalled||6. Not checking mirrors when pulling away|
|2. Struggled to parallel park||7. Forgot where the filler cap was|
|3. Forgot to indicate||8. Forgot to turn the ignition key|
|4. Scraped wheels on kerb||9. Not shut the door properly|
|5. Had to think carefully about what each pedal does||10. Not put their seat belt on|
It’s clear that taking a long break from driving can lead us to forget some of the most basic driving principles. Even a month off from driving can cause our muscle memory to deteriorate a bit. This is something that many drivers are worried about—Hyundai found that over half of the motorists they surveyed displayed concerns over the standard of other road users’ driving now that restrictions have been lifted. We’ve got a long way to go until everyone feels safe and comfortable on the roads again.
With many in the UK eschewing public transport in favour of private cars, however, it’s important that those returning to driving after lockdown are prepared. The influx of new road users means you need to be even more vigilant than you were prior to lockdown.
Tips for driving after lockdown
1. Make sure your car is roadworthy
First things first, you won’t be going anywhere if your car isn’t in good condition. This means that you’ll need to carefully inspect every inch of it. Okay, maybe we’re exaggerating just a tad—but there are several key areas that you’ll need to look at.
- Car lights: you won’t be able to see far, or be seen by other road users, if your car lights are damaged, loose or blown. So, give them a good clean and then turn them on to check if they’re working.
- Tyres: if your car has been sat on your driveway or road for months, it’s likely that your tyres are underinflated. You’ll need to check their pressure and also look for any cuts or bulges. Their tread depth needs to be at least 1.6mm. If any need replacing, sort it out ASAP.
- Fluids: lift up the hood of your car and check your fluid levels carefully—this means engine oil, windscreen washer and brake fluid.
- Windows and mirrors: you will need a clear view of the road around you. So, make sure your windows and mirrors are all clean. You’ll also want to make sure that your windscreen wipers are working.
(If you need extra help, have a gander at our top maintenance tips!)
Once you’ve made your way through the steps above, get behind the wheel of your car and turn on the ignition. Next, check your dashboard warning lights. You can’t just ignore any warnings that crop up—these are serious issues that need to be fixed. With the MOT extension scheme coming to an end, you’ll also want to check that your MOT is up to date.
If there are any problems at all, take your car to your local garage (make sure you ring ahead first, though). It’s not just your safety and that of other road users that you have to think about here. If you’re driving your car in an unroadworthy condition, you could be fined up to £2,500 and end up with 3 penalty points.
2. Familiarise yourself with your controls
It might sound a bit silly, but you should take some time to reacquaint yourself with your car’s controls. When you’re doing something every day, it can become second nature. Once you’ve taken a long break from it, however, you can start to mix things up and make mistakes left, right and centre. While we don’t want you to panic too much, we do want to remind you that mistakes on the road can lead to serious accidents. With that in mind, we think that taking 30 minutes to look over your controls is a small price to pay for safety.
Start off by looking at your pedals and reminding yourself which one is which. It might also be handy for you to imitate the action of using the clutch, brake and accelerator pedals with your feet. Next, make your way through each of the controls—from your windscreen wipers to your headlights. If you fancy a walk down memory lane, you can try answering the show me, tell me questions to see if you can easily locate your controls.
3. Reaffirm your theoretical knowledge
One of the best ways to get your confidence levels up is by updating your theoretical knowledge. If you know the rules of the road, and how to prepare for any eventuality, you’ll be able to adapt to anything that comes your way post-lockdown. Trust us—you’d be surprised how many drivers forget about basics like speed limits and how to approach a roundabout. Long breaks often have the effect of leaving us with the memory of a goldfish with things that used to be an everyday habit.
Start things off by reading the Highway Code again. Even a quick skim read will help you reacquaint yourself with the rules of the road. To really make sure you’re ready to take to the roads again, refresh your knowledge with our theory test revision resources and our top YouTube channels for learner drivers.
4. Remember driving 101
It’s all well and good reading up on the theoretical side of driving, but you also need to remember how to put it in action. As the Hyundai survey shows, some drivers are forgetting basic driving principles like fastening their seat belts, signalling, and even looking around for other road users when completing manoeuvres. While it might seem basic at a glance, these principles are the backbone of safe driving. So, here are a few things you need to keep in mind:
✓ The cockpit drill. If you want to make sure you’re not setting off with your door still open, or without wearing your seat belt, go through this drill before you head off: check your doors are shut and adjust your seat, steering wheel and mirrors.
✓ Signalling. Though it might seem obvious, make sure you read through when you should (and shouldn’t) use your indicators on the road.
✓ Observations. You should not be pulling away, changing lanes, completing a manoeuvre, or anything else on the road without first checking your mirrors for your observations.
✓ Manoeuvres. Even the best drivers can struggle with manoeuvres. So, if it’s been a while, brush up on them before trying them out again: pulling up on the right, bay parking, reversing around a corner, parallel parking and turn in the road.
Remember, this is all in the name of keeping you and other road users safe. Take your time and make sure you’ve got the principles sorted before heading out. If you need more tips, head over to our blog or driving advice resources.
5. Drive around the block
Before you head onto the motorway, we’d recommend taking things at a slower pace by driving around the roads in your local area. You’ll want to get used to using your car again before you head onto busier roads. Start off by familiarising yourself with your car’s biting point and the pedals. You don’t want to end up stalling on the road because you’re missing the biting point or you’re being to heavy-footed with the pedals. If you need extra help with this, read up on our clutch control tips.
Stick to quieter, residential roads at a quiet time of day to start with. Make sure you’re checking your mirrors frequently. Many people are opting to cycle and walk over taking public transport nowadays, so you might encounter more than you’re used to. If the roads aren’t too busy, have a stab at practising the manoeuvres. Once you’ve gained a bit more confidence, flex your skills by driving on a dual carriageway and, when you’re ready, the motorway.
6. Take a refresher course
If your confidence still hasn’t returned, don’t worry! We’ve got the perfect solution to help you feel like a driving pro again: a refresher course! As lessons have now resumed, you can get behind the wheel and listen to the advice of a professional.
With PassMeFast’s refresher courses, you can refresh your driving knowledge and get some much-needed guidance on how to drive confidently and safely once more. You can also rest assured knowing that our instructors have likely helped dozens of drivers in your exact position regain their confidence.
Your course choice will depend on how much work you think you need. We have 5 hour, 10 hour and 15 hour refresher courses. Once you book on, we’ll match you with one of our experienced ADIs in your local area. They’ll help you sharpen up your skills and prepare for driving after lockdown. If you’re interested, check out our course prices or book online today!
For a look behind the scenes at PassMeFast, check out how our team are coping with the coronavirus pandemic!