During your early programme of lessons, it’s vital that you don’t rush into things by driving in busy traffic before you’re ready. The learning process has to be gradual, moving on only when you’ve gained a reasonable mastery of what you’ve already learned. If you go into a situation which you’re not prepared for, this can lead to unnecessary risk. It may also shatter your confidence which can take a long time to put right.
It’s probably impossible to avoid encountering any traffic during your initial training; but wherever possible you should keep to quiet areas. This may mean that whoever is teaching you will have to drive you somewhere before you take over the wheel, and perhaps drive you back at the end of the session. As you get better you may then start to take more responsibly, and start to venture out into some busier traffic. This is where things start to get much more challenging as you’ll have a lot more to think about.
Before driving onto main roads and busier areas, you need to be able to maintain reasonable progress. You’re are going to cause a bit of inconvenience to other road users to start with. You shouldn’t get worked up about this; but you need to be careful not to hold up other people more than necessary.
With this mind, think about the time of the day when you take your lessons; avoid busy morning and evening rush hours! You could even check out the live traffic maps in your area.
On the first few lessons you’re unlikely to cover a great distance. But as you begin to venture out into a little traffic, even over just a few miles you might possibly have to contend with various new hazards. Things such as traffic lights, main crossroads, pedestrian crossings and so on.
Anticipation & Planning
To help you deal with driving in traffic safely, you need to start looking a long way beyond your bonnet. You must start to develop your planning skills, otherwise known as ‘reading the road’.
Good drivers are rarely taken by surprise because they look well ahead and adjust their speed and position well before they encounter the need to act. This is what you need to aim for; you need to get into the habit of looking as far ahead as possible. Scan the sides of the road as your vision comes nearer to your own car. Use your mirrors to constantly be aware of what may be behind or alongside you. There’s a lot to take in!
You can practise this when you’re driving in traffic as a passenger in someone else’s car; or even on a bus if you have a clear view of the road ahead. Instead of spending time glued to your mobile, look as far ahead as you can. Look for potential hazards and try to work out what you think is going to happen:
- what will other people do?
- how will the driver react?
- what do you think you would prepare for if you were behind the wheel?
If you’re a regular passenger in car you could also maybe fit an extra rear view mirror to get a sense of how following traffic is also affected by your driver’s actions.