As of the start of this month, learner drivers in England, Wales, and Scotland are now legally allowed to drive on motorways. We at Lightfoot are delighted to see learner drivers given more access to important lessons and driving experiences, as we know how important good drivers are for our roads.
But why stop there? The standard of driving tuition is exceptional across the UK but a few more additions to lessons will produce even better drivers equipped to make a genuine difference to the safety and quality of our roads.
We’ve put our heads together and combined our years of experience in the automotive, engineering, and driver behaviour industries to come up with 3 more things we need to trust learner drivers with to help make our air cleaner and our roads safer.
Instructors like to teach the concept that your gear should correspond to the mph you’re doing – e.g. 0-10 in 1st gear, 10-20 in 2nd, 20-30 in 3rd This is good practice, but you’ll be surprised at how well cars can handle lower speeds in higher gears.
Driving in as high a gear as possible means you’re keeping your revs at the lowest they can be. In simple terms, this means less fuel is required to power your engine. Sure, you can drive at 35 in 3rd with your revs over 2000, but why not do it in 5th at about 1300? To put it in even simpler terms, low revs make petrol last longer and your car run efficiently.
There are limits to this, of course. If you get to the point where your car is juddering and your engine is groaning, you’re doing damage rather than saving on fuel. A little common sense goes a long way, but next time you’re out on the road, see what your car is comfortable with and you could save some pennies and drive greener.
Driving in traffic jams
Traffic jams are the natural habitat of heavy accelerating and braking. We see this stop-start hell as inevitable, but the truth is you can play a big role in reducing congestion and frustration. So listen up, learner drivers, the key is to stop braking. Sounds wrong, doesn’t it?
You see, brake lights have a funny effect on human behaviour. We see the red lights, we slow ourselves down. The problem comes when you’re in a long line of traffic and each person’s braking time is slightly longer than the last. This, compounded across hundreds of cars, creates a standstill. Think of it as a wave moving backwards through the traffic.
The way to stop it? Give everyone some space. Move at a slow and steady speed that leaves a nice big gap in front of you as the cars ahead speed up. They won’t get far, so don’t feel pressured to keep up. This way, when they inevitably end up bumper-to-bumper, you can ease off the gas a little and use engine braking to slow down. Doing this leaves you enough time to let the traffic ahead get moving again without ever having to touch the brakes, keeping things smooth for everyone. Try it once and you’ll be amazed how powerful it is.
Idle cars are the devil’s plaything
This is another common-sense issue. If you’re at a red light you know is about to change, keep your car running. If you’re at the back of a long line of traffic at a busy junction, turn your engine off for the minute or two you’re going to be sat there. An idling car is releasing entirely unnecessary emissions and chemical nasties into our air and burning fuel for no reason.
Plus, idling is actually illegal! If you’re running your engine unnecessarily on a public highway you run the risk of being fined £20. That’s certainly a motivator if you needed one.
Older cars can run into a bit of trouble if they’re turned off and on too frequently in a short space of time, but (according to the RAC) if your car is less than 8 years old – and especially if it has an in-built stop-start function – you should have no problem.
We truly believe that if learner drivers can be trusted to drive on our motorways, they can be trusted to make a difference to our air pollution crisis. All we need to do is teach them how.