The key to passing your test and being safe on the road all comes down to your ATTITUDE.

What does this mean? Attitude can describe multiple behaviours and approaches but the most important are:

  • Your frame of mind when you enter the car. You should be calm, not harassed, ready to concentrate and focused on driving in a safe manner.
  • How you react to hazards on the road. As much as you can control your own behaviour on the road, you will still have to deal with unexpected hazards. This could be a cat running out in front of the car or bad weather making conditions hazardous. Being focused when driving will allow you to react quickly and calmly, avoiding danger.
  • How you react to other drivers. As with hazards, the behaviour of other drivers is something you can’t predict. Other road users will make mistakes, for example, they may break abruptly or tailgate. Becoming angry or upset will affect your concentration and make your journey less safe.

In this section you will learn how to drive in a careful and courteous way, ensuring the roads are a safer place for everyone.

Driving with Manners

When you’re driving it’s easy to feel like drivers are the only people that you need to consider but you must take other road users into account. Pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists have the same rights on the road as car drivers. By driving in a competitive or aggressive fashion, you may make the road less safe for everyone.

It is important to be tolerant of other road users. They may not drive as well as you do. They may stall, become aggressive or pull out unexpectedly. Regardless, you should take a deep breath, remain calm and continue safely on your journey.

Helping other road users

Ensuring the roads are safe for all means being selfless and helping your fellow road users. You can do this by making sure that you let others know your intentions. One way of doing this is by making sure that you position yourself in good time and use your indicators. For example, if you were looking to turn right at a junction then you should move into the right hand lane in good time and signal your intention. Doing this allows other drivers to see what you intend to do, and position themselves accordingly. If you are badly positioned, you could obstruct traffic behind you and cause a hazard.

This same principle of courtesy applies when you’re travelling along the road, particularly if you are in a slow moving vehicle. In this instance the flow of traffic will be improved if you regularly pull over, where it’s safe to do so, and allow traffic to pass. If you fail to do this then jams will develop behind you and other users may become irate.

Likewise, it is important to be considerate of what other road users wish to do. If a slow moving vehicle appears to be struggling to overtake you then it is best to slow down and allow it time to pass.

If another road user is trying to coerce you to break the speed limit by travelling too closely behind you, or flashing their lights, then it is best for everyone’s road safety that you hold your speed and allow the other vehicle to overtake you, if they so desire. They may be in the wrong but trying to force them to slow down may anger them and make the situation more dangerous.

Using your horn and lights

Your horn and lights are important tools to help you signal to other drivers that you are present but should not be used to vent anger or frustration, greet others or signal that you’re allowing someone right of way.

You should be careful not to dazzle them and, at night, you should dip your lights when either following another vehicle, or meeting a vehicle coming towards you.

When you are queuing in traffic in dark conditions, it’s important to consider how your actions affect your lights. If you station your car with your foot on the brake, your brake lights will be on and could dazzle other road users. It’s safer for everyone if you use your handbrake instead.

Animals on the road

Horses

People can be challenging on the roads but animals can be equally as challenging when encountered. These may be cats running across the road, low flying birds or, most problematically, horses and other livestock.

Horses can be spooked easily which may lead to their rider or handler losing control. When passing horses, it is important to:

  • Keep your speed down
  • Allow plenty of room between the horse and vehicle

Livestock

When driving in rural areas, you may come into contact with herds of livestock, such as sheep on the road. They may block the whole road and although this may cause delays and frustration, you should stop and switch off your engine until the road is clear.

Dos and Don’ts

Remembering a few dos and don’ts will help you to become a good driver by achieving the right attitude, and make passing the theory test attitude section much easier.

Good drivers do:

  • Drive at the correct speed and for the road and traffic conditions
  • Observe speed limits, realising that they are limits not targets
  • Overtake only when it is safe to do so
  • Park in safe places where parking is prohibited
  • Wait patiently if the driver in front is a learner, elderly or hesitant
  • Look out for vulnerable road users such as cyclists, pedestrians, motorcyclists and children – these are often obscured so using all of your mirrors is essential
  • Concentrate on the road at all times
  • Plan their journey so that they have plenty of time to get to their destination if there are delays

Good drivers don’t:

  •  Allow themselves to become angry and affected by road rage
  •  Break speed limits
  •  Alter their driving to match conditions, especially in wet, foggy or icy weather
  • Accelerate or brake too harshly or at short notice
  • Overtake and ‘cut in’, forcing others to brake sharply
  • Put pressure on other drivers by driving too close behind them, flashing headlights or gesturing
  • Allow their attention to be distracted by passengers, mobile phones, passing scenery, loud music, or what is happening on the road, such as staring at an accident

By following these rules and driving well you should be safe on the road. You should also keep in the mind the sheer power that cars possess. Your car can be a lethal machine if it is not kept under control. Being an impatient or aggressive driver could cause death or injury.

Tailgating

Tailgating is the dangerous practice where a vehicle drives too close to the car in front of it. This means that if the vehicle in front has to stop suddenly, they run the very real risk of being hit by the car following it.

It is important to maintain a 2 second gap between your vehicle and the one in front. This way, if a hazard were to develop, for example if a child or animal was to run out into the road, the car could safely break without the risk of being hit from behind.

At times, it can be tempting to tailgate, particularly if you are following a large, slow-moving vehicle. However by staying back you will have a clearer view of the road ahead and be able to safely judge when it’s safe to overtake.

Failure to do this can result in an accident, where you collide into the vehicle you’re following. These types of accidents, known as rear-end shunts, account for a large percentage of all accidents on the road and are largely avoidable. If an accident were to occur, the car behind would almost always found to be responsible, as such their insurance would have to pay for any damage, or more seriously they may be prosecuted.

tailgating

Giving priority to others

Priority on the road can be difficult at times to assess as it frequently changes. Sometimes traffic going in one direction is given priority and sometimes in the other direction. This is indicated by road signs. Paying attention to these signs will allow you to establish where the priority lies. You should remember that having priority doesn’t mean you can demand the right of way. As always, you should be careful; the driver coming in the opposite direction may have missed or misinterpreted the sign.

Emergency vehicles

Emergency vehicles are exempt from any signs – they always have priority. This is because it’s important for them to be able move quickly through traffic. Pull over to let them through as soon as you can do so safely – doing so may be difference between someone’s life or death.

As well as fire, police and ambulance services, other emergency services use a blue flashing light.

Doctors’ vehicles also have priority and may use green flashing lights when answering an emergency call.

Priority for buses

Buses don’t always have priority but you should give way to buses pulling out from bus stops, as long as it’s safe to do so. Sometimes bus lanes allow buses to proceed quickly through traffic – it’s important to be aware of road signs and markings so that you don’t use bus lanes while they’re in operation, or you could face heavy fines.

Unmarked crossroads

No-one has priority at unmarked crossroads. Slow down, look both ways and only emerge into the junction when it is safe to do so.

Pedestrian crossings

Be especially careful around pedestrian crossings so that you’re ready to stop if necessary – people may act unpredictably so always be alert.

Types of crossing

You should watch out for pedestrians at or approaching a zebra crossing:

  • Be prepared to slow down and stop.
  • Be patient if they cross slowly or hesitantly.
  • Don’t encourage them to cross by waving or flashing your headlights – there may be another vehicle coming.

If you’re approaching a pelican crossing and the amber light is flashing you should:

  • Give way to pedestrians already on the crossing.
  • Don’t move off until the crossing is completely clear.

Puffin crossings are electronically controlled. Sensors ensure that the red light shows until the pedestrian has safely crossed the road and the crossing is clear. Unlike pelican crossings, these don’t have a flashing amber light. Instead they have a steady amber light, just like normal traffic lights.

Toucan crossings work in a similar way to puffin crossings, but unlike the others, they allow cyclists to cross at the same time as pedestrians.

Theory test attitude tips:

  • Expect the unexpected. Make allowances for the potential errors of other road users or environmental factors.
  • Don’t create unnecessary stress for other drivers by behaving aggressively or expressing frustration.
  • Everyone makes mistakes sometimes – you included. Be kind.