When driving a vehicle you need to make sure you keep sufficient room around you at all times. Think of this as your safety bubble.
If you are driving down a road and there is a car parked on the roadside, you should make sure you give the car at least one metre clearance. This means you should pass the car leaving a gap of at least one meter on your left hand side (near side). If the car door was to suddenly open, this gap would leave you sufficient room so you wouldn’t hit the door with your wing mirror.
If there is less space, you should use less speed. If the gap doesn’t look big enough for two cars to pass through comfortably, then you should wait. You should be aware of what is around you, and plan ahead for any blockages in the road that you may have to stop for or go around.
If you need to hold back and wait for other cars to come through, then do not get too close to the object on the left, or the pavement. If you pull in too close to the pavement, someone behind may assume you have pulled up to park.
The speed at which you drive is determined by many factors, including weather conditions, speed limit, the presence of pedestrians and the condition of the road.
A speed limit sign is a usually circular sign with a white background and a red outer ring. The speed limit will be a number within the sign, and this number is the speed in miles per hour (mph) that you must not go over.
The speed limit on a road is something you must always obey. If the road and traffic conditions are suitable, you can drive up to maximum speed limit of that road, to make good progress.You do not have to drive at the speed limit, use your judgement to decide the best speed depending on all the factors mentioned below.
The presence of pedestrians, cyclists, and other road users will mean you may have to drive below the speed limit.Make sure you slow down if you need to pass a cyclist, and only pass them when you can see it is safe to do so. Give cyclists plenty of room when passing them.
If you are following another vehicle, and they suddenly stop, you need to be able to stop your own car without getting too close to theirs. If they are driving below the speed limit, you will also have to drive below the limit to make sure you keep a safe following distance.
A blue circular sign with a white number on it is a minimum speed requirement. You must not drive any slower than the number on the minimum speed sign (mph). The same sign with a line through it would tell you the minimum speed no longer applies. Different vehicles have different speed limited on certain roads. You need to know the speed limit for the class of vehicle you are driving.
National Speed Limit
The national speed limit applies when not in a built up area, and there are no signs to tell you what the speed limit is. There could be signs on the road that tell you the national speed limit applies. Below is the sign for the national speed limit.
You should always drive a safe distance away from the vehicle in front of yours. If they were to suddenly stop, you will need to stop without getting too close to, or hitting them. The faster you are driving, the greater the distance should be.
Stopping distances can be broken down into two parts:
- Thinking Distance – the distance you will travel until you realise you need to brake, and then start to brake(the blue part)
- Braking Distance – the distance you will travel before your car stops completely (red part) The distance on the diagram below is given in metres. We can assume the average car is 4 metres, and can work out the overall stopping distance in car lengths.
The Two Second Rule
If you find it hard to judge the distances when driving, you can use the “two second rule”to help you. If you leave a two second gap between you and the vehicle in front, you should have enough space to stop, even at higher speeds.
Wait until the vehicle in front passes a stationary object, such as a road sign, and say to yourself; “only a fool breaks the two second rule”
It should take about two seconds to say that phrase and you shouldn’t have passed the road sign by the time that two seconds is up. If you didn’t finish the phrase before you had passed the road sign, then you are too close to the vehicle in front. Slow down and give yourself a larger stopping distance, and then reassess whether you now have a two second gap.
If you are driving in wet conditions, the overall stopping distances should be doubled. Say the two second rule twice to ensure you have at least a four second gap.
If the road is icy or snowy the stopping distances should be ten times the normal. The best way to achieve this is to slow down and drive very carefully in snow or ice.
You will also need to increase the stopping distance if the road has loose chippings, is a slippery surface, or if you are going downhill. It will be harder to stop in all of these situations so increase the gap between you and the vehicle in front.
You should never drive so fast that you cannot stop well within the distance you can see to be clear.