Are you a considerate driver?

Are you a ‘good’ driver? Most of us who drive think we are, but how many of us can confidently say that we give driving our undivided attention? Driving involves coping with many demands and distractions at any one time. This includes people inside or outside the car, music, road layouts, signs and traffic signals. There’s so much going on, not just around us but also in our personal and professional lives, which can affect our concentration.

As we approach the height of the summer season, the Influencing Travel Behaviour team would like to take this opportunity to remind drivers about the importance of being focussed. In the summer, cars may find themselves sharing the road with an increased number of people walking and cycling, along with other vulnerable road users, as people take time off work to enjoy the nicer weather.

We develop habits over time when driving, which can then lead to short cuts and doing things that we were not taught to do. Working to change these habits requires effort which most people find a challenge. As a result, change is avoided.

But behaviour change and breaking habits is key to improving our driving and making us more considerate towards others, thereby making the roads a safer place for all. Our behaviour as drivers can directly influence how another person feels and this can impact on their decision to walk or travel on two wheels.

Being courteous to other road users is also very important. Getting agitated, impatient and angry can have disastrous consequences not only for you but for those around you.

Here are some tips on how to be a considerate driver

  • Staying focused on the road – we live in a world of instant communication. We’re bombarded constantly by the ping of a text message, the beep of an urgent email or the ring of a phone call. Using your mobile phone whilst driving can be costly in more ways than one! Read what the Police have to say in regards to the use of mobile / handheld devices whilst driving, and keep your phone out of reach when driving to avoid distractions. Surely nothing is that important!
  • Staying calm behind the wheel – driving is a task that needs lots of patience, but that can be easier said than done. According to Brake nearly one in five British drivers experience stress behind the wheel, and this can lead us to develop the dreaded ‘road rage’. If you feel your stress levels rising, take a break or delay your departure.
  • Slow moving traffic – more often than not we have all been stuck in slow moving traffic and have felt unnecessarily pressured from the car behind to ‘hurry up’ or ‘move on’. As a considerate driver you would be reading the road ahead and making decisions about your position and speed. The Highway Code (Rule 151) has guidelines on how you should behave in slow moving traffic.
  • Tailgating – is a dangerous habit which involves a driver travelling too closely to the vehicle in front – making it unlikely they’d be able to avoid a collision if the driver were to brake quickly. According to a report by Brake it was suggested that driving too close to the vehicle in front is the third most common causation factor in deaths and serious injuries on the UK motorways. You can read more about tailgating here.
  • Having good driver etiquette – basically be kind and unselfish. There are many unwritten road rules. Usually not enforced by law, these behaviours are often ‘grey area’ motoring topics. Essentially, it’s a question of good manners. Putting someone else’s need above yours regardless of their mode of transport will help you and others remain calm and avoid any negative interactions.
  • Advanced Stop Lines – these are put into place to give cyclists a safe place to stop at busy junctions. They are there to position people on bikes ahead of other traffic so they have more time to pull off as the lights change, and not for motorists to get ahead of other cars.
  • Considering other people’s well-being – this will require you to be more thoughtful and think about the well-being of others, for example, when taking the decision to squeeze past a cyclist or drive through a puddle (with or without intention) and soak the passing pedestrian. Take a look at this Close Pass article and find out what it means to people on bikes when drivers don’t ‘care’ about their welfare.

As a driver we need to accept that we will be sharing the roads with others, and act and react accordingly. You will not only be a better driver, but also a safer driver.

Keep safe and watch out for others. Have a great summer!

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