Getting back into the driving seat
If you have been following government guidance to stay at home to save lives or shielding to stay safe it may have meant taking a break from driving.
Some people are happy to start driving again, some are thinking about other ways to get about and others are feeling a little concerned at the thought of starting to drive again after taking a break.
When the government guidance says it is safe to do so and you start to think about driving again there are a few things you can do to build your confidence and make sure you are ready to take to the roads again. The Council’s Road Safety Team have created a checklist of things to think about.
- Check you have full movement and strength of neck, hands and legs.
- Check you are feeling ready and able to make the quick decisions driving requires.
- If you have a new medical condition or have been prescribed new medication please check with your GP and pharmacist if this is likely to affect your ability to drive and whether you need to report these changes to the DVLA.
- Refresh your knowledge of the Highway Code (it is often updated and is good to keep up-to-date).
- Think about the journey you are going to make, it can really help prepare you to get back on the road. Sit in an upright chair, close your eyes, visualise yourself driving a familiar route and imagine using your core driving skills:
- Accurate control of speed when manoeuvring at slow speeds.
- Early response to road signs with gradual slowing as you approach hazards.
- Mirror, signal, manoeuvre; If you are an experienced driver there can be a tendency to do things automatically; actively observe and pay attention to your surroundings as you prepare to manoeuvre.
- Be aware that other drivers driving skills may be rusty. Be prepared for the unexpected.
- Check your battery is fully charged.
- Check your fluids are at the correct levels – oil, engine coolant, brake fluid, screen washer fluid.
- Check your lights are all working properly.
- Ask a relative, friend or neighbour to check the rear and brake lights or back the car in front of a reflective surface and check in your rear-view mirror that those lights are working.
- Lift them off the windscreen to ensure they have not become stuck.
- Check the blades have no splits.
- Clean the windscreens, windows, and mirrors.
- Check no cracks or bulges have developed in the tyre’s side walls.
- Check the tread depths are a minimum of 1.6mm across the central three quarters of the tyre. If you do not have a tread depth gauge insert a 20p coin into the tyre’s tread. If the outer band is obscured, then the tyres are legal.
- Check the pressures are correct. Don’t forget the spare tyre.
- With care move the car forward and backward to make sure the brakes have not seized.
- Gently try the brakes when you first drive off to check they are working safely. In the first few miles the brakes may make a grinding noise as the brake pads clean the surface of the discs. If this noise persists then book the car into the garage for an inspection.
Driving licence, tax and insurance
- Check these are up to date.
- If this expired during the lock-down period the government has given a 6-month extension but book your car in for a MOT as soon as possible.
- Route – Your first drive should be as stress-free as possible, so planning is essential. Select a familiar 30-minute maximum route that has the fewest possible junctions.
- Day/time of the week – Choose a day and time when there will be the lightest traffic.
- Weather – Choose a day when there is clear visibility and the roads are dry.
If you are over 50 and would like to brush up your driving skills and build your confidence you could take the opportunity to book onto the Council’s Road Safety Team’s Driver Assessment Training. The informal assessments use your own car and take place over familiar local roads. These sessions are confidential and supportive. The outcome is confidential and is not shared with DVLA or insurers.
For more information please contact: Roadsafety@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk.