Going/Starting University: Car advice

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Are you starting university this September or returning after the summer break? Maybe your parents are driving you there instead of you taking your car. Whether it’s your first year or the last, travelling to university can be an emotional rollercoaster.

One moment you’re excited at the thought of seeing friends and getting your independence back, then you’re full of nerves and finding it hard to part with those at home. So, worrying about your motorway journey is the last thing you need. That’s why the UK’s biggest independent road safety charity, IAM RoadSmart have put together a set of tips for newbie drivers.


  • Before you set off on your journey, make sure your car is packed efficiently, but also that your vision out of the rear window is not impaired by an overflowing duvet cover or suitcase!


  • Make sure you’ve checked with your University accommodation about parking at your halls of residence, you may need a permit for your vehicle.


  • Become familiar with the layout of a motorway – is there a verge or hard shoulder (used for emergencies only)? Are there three or more lanes?


  • Be observant. Look out for signs of merging traffic or warnings about approaching junctions. If you can see vehicles approaching the motorway, is there space for you to move into lane two to accommodate their needs?


  • As you approach the motorway, evaluate the traffic so you give yourself time and space to smoothly merge in with the traffic already on the motorway


  • What’s your following distance? Remember, on a dry road surface, the distance should be at least two seconds and at least four seconds on a wet road surface. This applies for every drive you make, not just on motorways


  • Be mindful that there are no ‘slow’, ‘middle’ or ‘fast’ lanes. Lane one is the travelling lane, all others are overtaking lanes. You should return to lane one when it is safe to do so


  • Remember to check blind spots as well as your mirrors when changing lanes, as some vehicles may not be visible through your mirrors


  • Take into consideration that at 70 mph, you travel at 31 metres every second. This means your following gap disappears very quickly if the traffic in front brakes, look well ahead and respond to changing information early


  • Use your lights. Flashing your headlights is permitted only to let another user know of your presence. It’s also important to use your dipped headlights when driving on a wet motorway with surface spray. You can also use your hazard warning lights to make other road users behind you aware of an impending problem ahead of you


  • Be considerate. Drive at the appropriate speed and position, and be courteous and considerate towards others and acknowledge those who extend those same courtesies to you


Richard Gladman, IAM RoadSmart’s head of driving and riding standards says: “Motorways are statistically the safest roads in the UK but we still need to concentrate, a moments distraction can see us travel a considerable distance.

“A well-planned drive will allow acceleration sense to be used to match the speed of the traffic, brake lights shown inappropriately will cause the traffic to slow and may cause issues – if you are using cruise control cancel it using the button and not by tapping the brake, use your brake lights to communicate to the traffic behind. Concentrating can be tiring so remember to take a break at least every two hours.”

Article posted by Matt Sumner
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