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How to drive with a black box

Discover 8 top tips from Driving Expert, Richard Gladman from IAM RoadSmart

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Passing your test is just the start of your driving journey. These top tips on how to drive when insured with a black box will not only help you get the best driving score you can, but it will also help you develop safe driving habits for life – which is also great news for your pocket, as putting these skills into practice will help you earn and grow your No Claims Discount!

We’re the experts in insurance, but Richard Gladman, Head of Driving Standards at IAM RoadSmart (since 2014), is the expert in driving skills! He’s an advanced driver who has served over 30 years in the metropolitan police plus 6 years as a Police Driving Instructor.

Here’s Richard’s advice for new drivers to help you increase your confidence and ensure a smooth ride for your black box and passengers.

Overall driving should be exciting for the freedom it gives you, the opportunities it offers you but never for the thrill of the journey – if the drive is thrilling you are doing it wrong. A wise person once said, ‘quiet efficiency is the hallmark of the expert’ and that is what a good driver is aiming for: no fuss, no flourish, just a well-planned execution of a hard-earned skill. Look at what is happening on the road, decide how it could affect you and have a plan to deal with the worst it can throw at you. That’s always a good start. The other important thing is that we never stop learning. If ever we do - time to call for a taxi.

1 Smooth Acceleration

Without someone there to remind you, it can be easy for your right foot to become heavy and your acceleration to become harsh. Remember - everything should be done with a certain finesse. Why accelerate firmly to then have to brake at a red light, or traffic ahead, when by just by looking further down the road and planning for what is happening next you can make your driving smoother? As an added benefit you will use less fuel and here’s the real surprise you will get there quicker – why hurry up to wait?

2 Gentle braking

Remember the laws of physics. By being gentle on your introduction of the brakes and letting the car settle, you will be able to make your change of speed without throwing your passengers or your black box around. Planning your change of speed early and allowing yourself time to reach the right speed will help – for example, if you see a sign for a village ahead, start slowing down early to get down to 30 mph gradually, rather than sharply just before you reach the road speed sign.

3 Keep your distance

By keeping a safe distance between you and the car in front, you can avoid too many instances of harsh braking (and avoid your passengers getting queasy!). I’m sure nearly every driver has the two second rule ingrained in their brain. You never know when the car in front may apply the brakes, so you need to ensure there is a wide enough gap for you to react and stop. The 2 second rule recommends that you ensure you pass the same point more than two seconds after the car in front passes that point (if it is less, you need to slow down a little).

4 Comfortable cornering

By reading the information available on the road ahead you will be able to judge your speed for a corner. You lose vision around a bend so it’s important to slow down to give you a chance to stop if there is hazard around the corner, or to adjust your speed if there is traffic or a change in road layout. Being slightly slower into a corner will allow you to make proper use of the road on the exit, keep the car balanced around the curve and avoid you needing to slam the brakes on. Take it slow and smooth to start with and you won’t have to worry.

5 Safe speed

One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given about driving was ‘have the confidence to drive slowly’. The first guarantee required to get somewhere quickly is to get there. Speed limits are just that, they’re not targets. To stay legal, know what they are, but to stay safe understand that at times we need to be well within them. Make sure you can see your speedo, search for the speed limit signs which are often hidden or placed where you are concentrating on other things, like the exit to a roundabout or as you turn in to a junction. Start actively hunting for them. It is a great feeling when you see a speed camera, know what the limit is and don’t have to take any action. Here’s a tip – even if you are going the speed limit, some drivers will brake anyway when they see a camera, so keeping that safe distance will avoid you having to brake too.

6 Phone distraction

Mobile phones are the best thing ever for staying in touch, Google truly does know everything, it even knows that using your phone while driving is dangerous and distracting even if you are speaking hands-free. A driver speaking hands-free has reactions as bad as a driver who has been drinking, and we wouldn’t do that, and using a phone whilst driving has been shown to slow drivers’ reaction times by up to 35%!* Keep your phone switched on but silent and preferably out of sight – make the glovebox your phone box – and don’t make or take calls until you are safely parked up. If you need to make a call, find somewhere to stop safely and remember engine off and handbrake on is how you need to be.

7 Review your journey

When you finish your journey try to view it through the eyes of your good old instructor. Would it have been a quick chat and then off or would you still have been listening for a while and feeling yourself reddening at the stuff you had (or had not) done? Even now a good few years into a driving career I still hear the voice of various instructors and mentors offering advice. Sometimes it is even as short as a ‘Richard, you know’ in my head and I know to press the reset button and revert to what I was taught. It’s easy to review journeys with the Marmalade’s Young Driver app, which shows where you have driven and highlights how you’ve driven well and areas for improvement.

8 Stay focused

Try not to get complacent, collisions happen on roads we know well close to home so the journey is not over until the car is parked and the keys are safely hanging up. Don’t let your concentration slip and don’t let your friends distract you when they are passengers. They’ll understand if you need to politely tell them to ‘be quiet’ when you are concentrating, likewise asking them to behave sensibly in your car is not too much to ask. After all, if there is an accident or you get a speeding ticket, they won’t be the ones paying for it!

9 Be a courteous driver

Don’t focus on driving for the benefit of the black box, focus on driving safely and for the benefit of everyone – extend the courtesy you would display face to face into your driving world. It is often said we change behind the wheel and sometimes the behaviour you witness bears this out. We all know how good it feels when other drivers show us kindness on the road, but also how scary it can be when others drive aggressively around us!

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