So, you think you’re a good driver? Changing behaviours on the road

    Man and dog in car driving car - good driver
    Published: 10 May 2021. Written by: Simon Jackson.

    We all want to be thought of as safe drivers. Find out how you can be even better behind the wheel and earn rewards as you drive, with our expert’s four practical tips for the road. Jump in!

    What makes a good driver? While the answer can depend on who’s asking, most of us like to think we do a pretty good job behind the wheel. 

    To find out the truth, we spoke to advanced driving consultant Rob Colbourn (robertcolbourn.co.uk), who works with IAM RoadSmart, a UK charity that aims to improve car driving and motorcycle riding. 

    Rob teaches one-to-one safe driving techniques to driving professionals and the general public. A typical syllabus focuses on the four fundamentals of safe driving: attitude, observation, anticipation and space. See how you can put these behaviours into practice, even on short trips to the shops or school.

    1. Adopt the right attitude

    Traffic light with blue sky

    While Rob encourages a gentle and eco-friendly approach, such as avoiding sudden acceleration, hard braking and cornering – it is a driver’s attitude to learning, he says, that is the key to improving their standard. ‘I encourage my clients to challenge my advice, see where it works and what adaptations could be made to ensure its effectiveness,’ Rob explains. 

    ‘Remember being taught to apply the handbrake and select neutral each time you stop in the queue at traffic lights? Well, how about also leaving enough space between you and the car in front in case you get hit from behind and are shunted forwards? ‘It is these little additions to the basic rules that make all the difference when it comes to road safety.’

    2. Observe like a hawk 

    Hawk bird

    Observation and the appropriate use of speed are key to good driving. The further

    ahead you can look, the more detail you can gather in order to plan, and the more

    time you have to execute those plans. ‘Many of the subtleties I look for are so visible and ordinary that we easily overlook them,’ Rob says. ‘Consider whether you pay primary attention to the road layout or the movement of traffic as you approach a junction. Looking for static information first will still allow your peripheral vision to monitor movement. However, focusing on moving traffic is likely to make you miss helpful information about the environment. The natural tendency, of course, is to watch vehicles and pedestrians. However, the art of developing this observation technique

    is in how you balance both issues.’

    3. Anticipate potential risks

    Lots of traffic from aerial view of road - good driver

    Sadly, none of us can predict the future, but we can anticipate what might happen next. ‘Good anticipation skills are based on asking yourself intelligent questions about the situations you face,’ Rob explains. ‘Is that guy going to step out? Is that car going to change lanes? Is there a removal truck around that blind bend? The obvious problem here is that you can pose the questions, but not necessarily answer them. In fact, you have to wait to find out what will actually happen. ‘You can certainly anticipate what could happen, however, especially as there are only two possible scenarios. Will he step out? He will or he won’t. Will that truck be there? It will or it won’t. You need to have a plan for either outcome. ‘Expect the worst-case scenario and plan for it. We don’t want to experience it, but if we must, then we’ll prevent it from catching us out, as we’ll be prepared.

    4. Leave plenty of space

    Good driv er in car on road with lots of space around car

    Space is one aspect of driving worth being obsessive about. ‘Every collision in the history of the car must have involved at least one party running out of space,’ says Rob. ‘This requires you to have misjudged one of the other areas we’ve mentioned. Your observation, anticipation or planning has let you down for speed to become a problem.’ 

    So, is it best to go slow when you’re behind the wheel? Rob explains: ‘One of the biggest driving problems is that people think slowing down is always safer than speeding up. In many situations, such as joining fast-moving motorway traffic, this simply doesn’t apply. Whether you speed up or slow down should be dictated by the space available and the speed limit. The key is the relationship between your space, vision, speed and how time is managed. Only when you put all these factors together are you really considering the situation in enough depth to judge the accuracy, effectiveness and impact of your speed.’

    The value of good driving 

    Rob’s expert hints and suggested changes are subtle. But when put into practice, they give you an advantage over fellow drivers, allowing you to drive well and creating safer roads, not only for you and your family, but for your community, too. Making small changes to your driving is also at the heart of Vitality car insurance – the new incentive-based insurance launching this spring. By making practical changes to your driving, and following the four rules – attitude, observation, anticipation and space – members can all be better drivers and get rewarded along the way.  

    Introducing Vitality Car insurance

    VitalityCar is the new comprehensive car insurance plan from Vitality, available from the spring. VitalityCar members will be encouraged to think about how they drive against a number of key measures, including breaking and accelerating. When members drive well, they will be able to earn weekly good driving rewards. They’ll also be able to control their costs by reducing their excess and earning a No Increase Guarantee at renewal. In addition to further incentivise good driving, Vitality will offset up to 100 per cent of daily carbon emissions and reward car-free days.

    Are you guilty of driving on autopilot? We look at some of the ways that driving on autopilot can affect the way we take to the roads, and how to consciously make improvements. 

    Want to discover about Vitality Car Insurance? You can find out more about how to get rewarded for your good driving and register your interest. Or you can head to Member Zone to discover more information.