CAR tips

DIA Insurance ADI News

The last two training articles focused on terms to use in driver training sessions. These were arranged according to the Control, Awareness and Responsibility (CAR) model that I introduced regarding the attributes that a good driver will have on the Applied Coach Approach course for the DIA. 

This model is useful for clients’ self-reflection, using other road users as examples during lessons and for trainers wanting to break driving down into categories for briefings or asking questions. A tactic that trainers can use to help their clients is to give them tips to make both the theory and practical aspects of driving easier. This article will present some that I often use in lessons to give quick nuggets of information. As with the two previous articles they will be arranged according to the CAR model referred to above. 


“Look to the edges of the lane to see where the white line is.” 

As traffic wears out the lines at junctions it can often be difficult to spot where they are. Since there is little wear at the edges of the lane the markings last longer there and are easier to see.

“Look underneath your door mirror to see where the kerb (or white line) is.”

 Looking over the bonnet does not give a clear indication of where the front of the car is, especially with modern cars as the bonnets slope, so glancing underneath the driver’s door mirror is a good way to assess where a kerb or line is.

“Look for the shadows created by the edge of the speed bump.” 

During a recent lesson a pupil remarked that they couldn’t see where the speed bumps were at night, as the edges of kerbs and speed bumps are darker than the top surfaces. I used this tip, which is a useful way to spot where things are in poor visibility.

“Cushion shaped speed bumps have one triangle painted on them whereas ones that go all the way across the road have two.” 

This is useful for both positioning and speed on the approach to speed bumps. For the cushion shaped speed bumps a good way to get clients to position their wheels on the edges is to line the gear lever up with the triangle.

“To help with your positioning look for the debris in the middle of the junction.” 

This is helpful for turning right at crossroads as the debris marks out the area that isn’t used and shows the path that oncoming road users will take when carrying out their own right turns.

“When reversing, the back becomes the front so steer in the direction that you want to go behind you.” 

New drivers often get confused about which way to steer while reversing and often steer the wrong way. It is accurate to say the steering is more sensitive when reversing but you still steer in the direction that you want the car to go.

“Rest your hands on the steering wheel so that you can feel the feedback from the car.” 

New drivers often grip the wheel too tightly, sometimes due to anxiety. This can lead to fatigue and, as they are gripping so much, they do not get the feedback from factors such as the angle of the front wheels or changes in the level of friction that can be felt through the steering wheel.


“Check to see if there is a horizontal kerb mirror above the window on the right side of the cab.”

 This is a good way to spot left-hand drive trucks when they are British or Irish as some companies purchase LHD vehicles due to spending so much time driving in countries where the rule is to drive on the right. Other vehicles that are normally LHD are road sweepers (so that the driver can easily see the kerb) and cranes.

“Look out for foreign registration plates and different languages on commercial vehicles.” 

Drivers using LHD vehicles will have different blind spots, may not be aware of our rules and could have a different cultural attitude regarding road use. Another good way to spot foreign trucks is the speed limits on the back in kilometres as they are higher than the equivalent ones in miles per hour (eg 80 or 90).

“That mirror has been placed to help emerging road users judge when it is difficult to see so watch out for people pulling out opposite it.” 

These are often located on narrow country lanes opposite properties, and can be found by junctions as well.

“Listen for the hiss from the air brakes on the truck in front of us so you know when to get ready.” 

As trucks usually have air brakes they often hiss just as the driver is about to move off. This is useful for when you are in a queue and cannot see the traffic lights. Sometimes you will be able to point out the air chambers by the wheels to your clients.

“Pedestrian crossings have zig-zag lines, road junctions don’t.” 

People sometimes struggle to tell the difference between a traffic light controlled pedestrian crossing and a road junction, which can be a problem when there is one just before where you would like someone to turn left or right. This tip generally works well to help people to work out which is which, you just need to be aware that some toucan crossings do not have zig-zag lines.

“Adjust your interior mirror with your left hand only.”

 This makes it easier for a driver to sit as if they are driving so that they can adjust the mirror so that they only need to move their eyes to check it. Another tip would be to tell them to line the top of the mirror up with the top of the rear window. 

“Look in your right door mirror and you’ll see the vehicle approaching from behind us disappear.” 

This is a good way to get clients to appreciate what the blind spot is before moving off for the first time. If there is no traffic coming for an extended period of time (usually while you are going through the controls or the briefing for moving off you will get an opportunity) and it is affecting the pace of the lesson ask them to tell you what the nearest thing to their car that they can see is and then ask them to look over their shoulder.

“Think of a vehicle’s position, angle and speed as non-verbal communication.” 

What people do is more powerful than what they say (eg whether or not they’re signalling while using the roads) so get your clients to pay attention to what other road users are doing.

“Avoid being the meat in the sandwich.” 

This relates to the safety bubble and the topic of adequate clearance. If a driver has others on both sides of them, they have less options when something happens.


“FLOWDERY”  Fuel, lights, oil, water, damage, electrics, rubber, and yourself. A good acronym for pre-drive checks to ensure both the vehicle and the driver are fit to use the roads.

“The load on your lower back when sitting down is much greater, especially while sitting in a car as your knees are above your hips. It is important for your long-term health to take regular breaks.” 

This awareness of the adverse impact on health that driving can have provides the motivation for people to take breaks and therefore makes them less likely to cause collisions due to fatigue or being distracted by being uncomfortable.

“Why hurry to wait?” 

If there is a queue coming up, a red traffic light, etc, this comment is a good way to get people to ease off the accelerator earlier and brake more gently therefore promoting the eco-safe driving style that benefits everybody.

“If the gap is getting smaller, reduce your speed.” 

When the available road space is diminishing on the approach (eg meeting approaching traffic or approaching corners) slowing down earlier is beneficial as it makes driving easier and cheaper therefore helping to promote a good driving style.

“Learning to compartmentalise will help your ability to focus.” 

Being able to focus or concentrate for long periods of time is a challenging aspect of driving. The ability to separate trains of thought is an important skill and can help stop distractions, stress or thinking about other aspects in life from creeping into the consciousness while driving. Another statement to make in this area of the mental side of driving would be: “You can’t do anything about other things while driving so you might as well take a break and concentrate on your driving”.

“Expect people to drive at you.” 

It seems that driving has gotten more aggressive since I started as an ADI in 1991. If a driver is taking up the middle of the road and not reducing their speed when your pupil is approaching a meeting situation it is clear they do not intend to be helpful. I now find it necessary to say to my clients that some drivers know you don’t want to be involved in a collision so they will drive at you in meeting situations, through priority signs and even through red lights. They need to be aware that there is a group of drivers who flout the rules and etiquette surrounding using the roads and they will just shove their way through expecting/forcing others to make way for them. It is best to rise above this kind of behaviour and let them do what they want and then proceed without letting their poor attitude affect you. This will ensure that your own driving does not deteriorate due to anger at how you have been treated.

“Spend some time learning about how cars work.” 

Knowledge about how cars work helps while driving as clients will have more understanding (eg the friction between moving parts creating engine braking, handling characteristics of different types of drive, ABS brakes’ weakness relating to varying friction on loose road surfaces). If a client breaks down they can give recovery firms like the AA or RAC an indication of what the problem they’re responding to might be, and when talking to the motor trade (eg car salesmen or car servicing centres) the person they’re talking to will realise that the client has some knowledge and are less likely to rip them off. Your clients will also be better at their pre-drive checks which are an important part of keeping their cars roadworthy.

These 23 tips are examples of ones that can be used across a variety of topics to quickly get a concept across to someone. After sessions it is useful to make a note of the tips that have been discussed so that they can be used during future sessions. Often, they pop into your head as you are saying something to a client and making a written record of them ensures they will not be forgotten. Quite often saying a soundbite will create a light-bulb moment for your client that can really make a difference to their  understanding

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Source: ADI News

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