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Highland SoM has late model Manual and Automatic vehicles available for lessons; however, you can have your lessons in your own vehicle if you desire.

Driving Tips to get you started

The skills needed to drive a motor vehicle correctly and safely and to enable you to avoid being involved in an incident cannot be split into neat little packages.There is a quite a lot to learn and remember when you first start driving. Most experienced drivers will do many things quite naturally and even unconsciously and never think to pass that on to their Learner. Everything you do as a driver will affect the motoring situation around you in one way or another. Safe driving is not only essential for the safety of yourself and the vehicles occupants but with ever increasing insurance costs, an accident may increase your car insurance premium drastically. Here are a few tips on observation, speed management and road position to help you get started.

Where should I be looking?

Good observation can significantly reduce the risk of a crash. The further ahead you look and scan the more likely you are to see any upcoming hazard and can therefore react sooner and smoother rather than a last minute emergency brake or evasive action. Good observation is more than "just seeing" it is actively scanninfor potential hazards and perceiving situations as something that may require you to take some form of action.

Look out for all vehicles, pedestrian (especially small children), cyclist or even animals around you, looking for signs of their intention to do something like brake, turn or run out in front of you. This will give you the ability to plan well ahead because you will be able to start to predict what might happen, you will be "reading the road" and traffic conditions and be able to make good decisions and act accordingly.

Watch the traffic lights in the distance, if they change to amber as you are approaching, ease your foot off the accelerator, this will slow you down gently and will save your brakes. No need to use your gears to slow down, that's what brakes are for. 

Try to look past the car in front of you to see what is going on ahead. The more you can see the earlier you can react. You can also look through the windows of the car in front to see what's going on further ahead. By keeping a safe following distance (ideally a two/three second gap in good conditions) you will be able to see further past the vehicle in front.

Keep an eye on your mirrors and the traffic behind. Checking your mirrors will help you assess how your actions could affect the traffic behind you. Check your mirrors before making any changes to your speed, or when approaching a situation that may require you to brake. Be aware of what is behind you and try to anticipate how they might respond to your action.

Look to the left and right down the side streets and intersections as you approach. A quick look to see if there are any vehicles that appear they may not be stopping, you should do this at all cross roads, junctions and roundabouts. You wouldn't walk across the road without looking right and left so develop a good habit with your driving and look before crossing any intersection.


  •   Keep your eyes moving every few seconds.
  •   Look near, look far, check your inside mirror.
  •   Check your right outside mirror, etc.
  •   The traffic scene and traffic situations are continuously moving, you eyes need to move too.
  •   Keep moving your eyes from object to object otherwise danger could threaten your vehicle from another source without you being aware of it.

The more aware you are of what is going on all around you the more time you will have to react accordingly, and the less likely you are to be involved in a crash when things do go wrong. So always watch out for that other HAZARD and you're less likely to be involved it their incident.

Importance of Proper Gear Changing

The mark of a good driver is the manner in which they shift gears. Correct use of the various gears also increases vehicle performance, gives longer engine and transmission life and most important adds to the safety of driving.

The learner should, where possible, place their cupped hand around the gear lever in such a way as to be pushing the lever in the direction of the selected gear to avoid crossing into the wrong gear. Try not to grab and force the lever you will end in a gear you do not want. Practice changing gears whilst the vehicle is stationary and pressure should be firm, but not excessive.

Slowing Down the Car Using the Gears

Not so long ago, when slowing down from a high speed to either a slow speed or a stop, you would need to go down through the gears before stopping. With modern cars this is not necessary. You only need to select a lower gear if you intend on driving at a slower speed.

If for instance you are traveling at 60 kph and up ahead there is a red light and you need to stop, gently apply the foot brake and cover the clutch with your left foot (place your foot over the clutch but don’t press it). Gently increase the pressure on the brake until you are around 4 to 5 metres from where you intend on stopping. Depress the clutch and either just before you have stopped or when you have stopped the car, select 1st gear. There is no need to go down through the gears. Using this method allows you to keep both hands on the steering wheel and concentrate on the road ahead.

Block Gear Changing

Once you have learnt the basics of how to change gears and when to change gear, the more advanced technique of block gear changing enables easier gear changing. Years ago due to the mechanical limitations of certain cars, block gear changing was either performed infrequently or not at all if the vehicle in question struggled. These days, with modern electrical and mechanical developments, vehicles are capable of withstanding a wide range of driving techniques. Whilst some are regarded as bad techniques and others good, block gear changing is a modern driving technique that has many benefits. Whilst learning to drive, you should learn and be taught block gear changing by your instructor/supervisor. Whilst some instructors may teach this to a greater extent than others, the most frequent use of block changing should be employed during driving lessons. You will absolutely save $$$$ on your fuel bill.

What Is Block Gear Changing?

The speed at which your car is travelling is relative to the gear your vehicle is currently in. Essentially there is little point changing into a gear that is not relative to the speed of your car, so you would basically miss out that gear altogether or miss out multiple gears depending on your current or intended speed. As you increase speed, you will go up through the gears and as you decrease speed you will go down through the gears. Block gear changing can be made up and down through the gears.

Block Gear Changing Up

Block gear changing up is not often used simply because it’s often easier on the engine to go through the gears in ascending numerical order. An example however, could be that you’re traveling down a dual carriageway or highway slip lane and accelerating reasonably hard in 3rd gear. Reaching a speed of around 70 to 80 kph, you notice that your lane on the carriageway is clear. At this speed there is little point in changing into 4th and makes better sense changing directly into 5th gear. Generally speaking, if your speed accelerates past the speed in which you would normally change gear, use the next one up instead.

How Fast Should I Go?

The table below is based on the following assumptions:

  •   The driver is alert and paying attention to the road ahead
  •   .75 - 1.5 of a second Reaction Time
  •   Good road surface
  •   Good ROADWORTHY Tyres
  •   Good conditions
  •   Good Brakes

stopping distances

Speed limits are a not just the law or a guide, or placed to inconvenience you, they save lives. Never exceed the posted speed limit, as the faster you travel, the longer it will take for you to stop. 

In wet or poor visibility conditions you should "Drive to the Conditions " (drive slower). Your brakes will not work as well when they are wet and neither will the grip on your tyres, slow down, brake earlier and gentler. Never use your cruise control in wet conditions, it could apply power to a wheel that has lost traction with disastrous consequences.

Drive according to your field of vision, if you can’t see round a corner (limit of vision) slow down. At night do not over drive your headlights or look directly into oncoming headlights.

Where Should I Be Positioned in my Lane?

Road positioning isn’t just keeping in between the lines, it’s keeping a safe and appropriate road position in relation to circumstances at any given time. Ideally the car should be in the centre of your lane. Too far to the left will have your wheels going off the edge of the road or into the gutter. Too close to the middle line will put you too close to oncoming traffic it will also prevent the car behind from seeing around your vehicle. On a road with no lane markings, the law states "as close to the left as practicable". Remember to keep a safe distance from the vehicle ahead. A minimum of two - three second gap in good conditions. 

Definition of the word PRACTICABLE: Capable of being effected, done, or put into practice.

Definition of the word EFFECTED: When something has been effected, it's been brought about. If you're responsible for an effected change, you've made it happen.

Positioning of the seat and mirrors 

Firstly sit in the vehicle and adjust the seat so you can fully push the clutch without fully extending your leg. Stretch out your arms and rest your wrists on the steering wheel, ideally you should have your wrist resting on the wheel with a natural bend at your elbows. 

Seating Position

  1.  Proper, upright position gives more stability and control whilst driving.
  2.  Make sure you can see over the steering wheel and bonnet. Sit reasonably straight upright in the seat with your elbows slightly bent. Adjust the seat so your feet reach the pedals easily with a slight bend in the legs.
  3.  Place your feet flat on the floor under the brake pedal. You are seated properly if you can do this.
  4.  Adjust the head-rest to proper height. It protects the neck in case of a collision.

Mirror Alignment

Adjust the interior rear vision mirror so you can see straight out the back window, you should be able to frame the window just inside the mirror. Set the side mirrors so you can just see the rear door handle in the bottom corner closest to the car, The less of your car you can see in the mirror the smaller the blind spot, the vertical positioning you need to be able to see the road behind you and see clearly into the distance behind you.

REMEMBER: adjust your mirrors after you have positioned your seat, if you move the seat after adjusting the mirrors they will be out of alignment and may need to be re- adjusted.

If you have any questions you would like answered that are not on this page please give me a call and ask.

If you have any tips you think other drivers may appreciate please feel free to email us and let us know.

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