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Is one driving test really enough for 50 or more years of motoring?

Most of us pass our driving test when we are in our teens. It's a rite of passage and is seen as one of the major steps towards independence.

Once passed it's only natural that a driver develops their own driving habits, based on their ongoing experience, amount of time spent in the car and the types of road driven on. However, the adoption of any habit (good or bad) and the assumption that a driver will not need another driving test means we can be on the road over 50 years without any additional training.

The problem with no additional training is that road conditions and technology are constantly changing and creating new challenges for drivers to deal with. UK road traffic density, by vehicle miles, has doubled since 1979 to 323bn miles pa* but how many drivers can honestly say they continue to actively seek to improve their driving skills, or even try to maintain their standards? Perhaps it's worth challenging how often we should be examined on our road knowledge. Is one test when we were teenagers really enough?

As an exercise in road awareness, next time you drive down a familiar stretch of road consciously look for all road signs. Did you notice any signs that you've never seen before?

Clearview have looked at some of these issues in previous articles on inattentional blindness. This is when you fail to see an object because attention is not focused directly on it, and with the proliferation of technology inside the car, this is getting worse, not better over time.

What can we all do?

Awareness of the road is a subject very much at the centre of advanced driving schools and tests. These are extensions to the standard driving test in that they expect you to know the basics of road use but then take this to the next level with the need to become very aware of your surroundings and the potential dangers that may or may not happen.

These courses concentrate on techniques that 'lift your vision' through the skills of observation. They don't necessarily improve driving techniques but they do look to improve your powers of observation and anticipation.

One of the best techniques to increase road awareness is to practice commentating on the road ahead by saying out loud what you see and are thinking. Verbalising what you see ahead, around and behind you reduces inattentional blindness and makes you look harder and anticipate what could happen on the road.

Test yourself

As a bit of fun, let's take a look at a typical town centre road. What dangers can you see or anticipate might happen as you drive down it? Can you name as many or even more than the answers given at the bottom of this blog?

Then into the country side -- what dangers may need to be anticipated in this picture?

Again, answers below.

Clearview is committed to improving road safety through our range of SolarLite Road Studs and junction safety solutions. These help delineate the road edge and provide advance warning of up-coming junctions or dangerous stretches of road. New road features such as these combined with an increase in driver awareness and driving skill would undoubtedly help reduce road incidents and casualty rates across all types of road in the UK.

If you'd like to explore further how we can help reduce incidents on motorways, trunk, urban or rural roads contact us or ring us on 01869 362800

Town centre road awareness answers:

1. A built up area with street lighting means a 30mph speed limit -- check your speed.

2. There is a left turn visible on the road. This could mean emerging or turning vehicles. Pedestrians may also be stepping into the road to cross without looking.

3. White zigzag lines indicate there is a pedestrian crossing on this road that you may need to respond to. Note it is an offence to stop a vehicle within the lines except when stopping for pedestrians using the crossing.

4. There is a sign giving information on the approaching roundabout. You should anticipate there may be cars slowing down or accelerating from the junction.

5. The roundabout is not visible yet and there is a sharp left bend (shown on the sign) in the road before it arrives. This could mean unsighted queues of traffic or a sudden slowing down around the corner.

6. There is a concealed entrance on right hand side for the pub, which may mean emerging or turning traffic.

7. The road appears to run slightly downhill. Speed need to be carefully monitored and increased stopping distances to be applied. If the road is wet, then there is the increased chance of skidding.

8. There is a post box on the left-hand side which may mean a Royal Mail van could stop or be needing to stop in the road ahead.

9. Parked cars on the left-hand side means keep an eye out for cars about to try and reverse into a space or leave from a space. Car doors may open unexpectedly, people may step onto the road. Cars may move suddenly into the centre of the road when avoiding or passing parked cars.

10. There are small shop signs on both sides of the pavement. Pedestrians may step onto the road without warning to avoid these.

11. At busy periods the shops along the road may lead to pedestrians stepping off the pavement to avoid busy shop doors.

Country road awareness answers:

1. The road runs downhill and provides for a decent view ahead. This may encourage extra speed or overtaking to occur so check mirrors and monitor your speed carefully.

2. The sign indicates there is a crossroads ahead. This is backed up by the SLOW on-road marking and the change from solid to dotted road edge markings on the junction. Be ready for emerging or turning traffic. Check your speed is appropriate and slow or ease off the accelerator on approach.

3. There is a broken dotted centre line which means overtaking is permitted both ways. Also, coming towards you are overtaking arrows on road, indicating that oncoming traffic are being guided back into their own lane. Check oncoming traffic and your mirrors for any overtaking about to happen.

4. There is large tree overhanging the road. Make sure to check the road surface any leaves or debris. This could also provide a skid risk in wet weather.

5. There is a Speed Check sign on the left-hand side of the road which indicates a history of speeding vehicles in the area. Check your speed is within the legal limit and appropriate to the conditions

6. The house on left hand side will most probably have a drive way. So be ready for any emerging or turning cars onto the main or side road.

7. You can visually see that the road ahead is slightly winding so check your speed before and through the bends.

8. Further along the road is a dip. It is not clear yet how deep the dip is so there may be cycles or small vehicles hidden from view. You should also check your speed on approach to the dip.

9. A solid white line marks the edge of roadway with no pedestrian pavement in sight. Be ready for pedestrians to be walking on the road.

10. This is not built up area and there are no street lights, which means the national speed limit applies. Note the national speed limit alters according to vehicle type.

11. It appears there is a sharp bend taking the road out of view in the far distance so be ready to slow down for any unsighted vehicles or obstacles.

12. From the buildings visible in the far distance it looks like a built-up area is approaching which means a reduction in the speed limit can be anticipated after the sharp bend.

13. On any open road in the countryside, especially on winding and dipping roads there may be the risk of fog or ice. Check for this and be ready to anticipate for this to happen.

14. Surrounding farmland means there is usually gated access from the main road into fields so keep an eye out for turning or emerging farm vehicles or animals.

*DFT National Road Traffic Survey April 2017

Author: Andrew R |Date Published: August 2017

Links: Route Safety

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