Think you’re a good driver? 12 simple expert tips to help you be better

We’ve partnered with Vitality car insurance to explain how easy it is to be a better driver, and show how rewarding good driving can be...

Independent research shows that 60% of us think we’re better than average drivers. But it’s a simple fact that we could all be a little bit better behind the wheel. We’ve probably forgotten some of the basics, or picked up a few bad habits over the years, while less time spent behind the wheel during lockdown means we’re now a bit rusty.

Being a better driver – helping our roads become safer, calmer places to be, while helping you save money on driving bills and insurance – is much easier than you think. 

Simply making a few small changes and being more aware of your driving, your surroundings and the actions of those around you, it all adds together. The result: you avoid more potential hazards, and drive more smoothly, safely and more efficiently – making you more confident and happier behind the wheel.

That’s why What Car? has partnered with Vitality: a new kind of car insurance. Like us, Vitality think good driving should be rewarded. The Vitality Good Driving sensor and smartphone app recognise when you drive well, based on the ABCDS of good driving – acceleration, braking, cornering, distraction and speed. 

Keep driving well, and you'll be rewarded with weekly handcrafted drinks from Caffe Nero or Rakuten movie downloads, carbon offsets that reduce the impact of your driving, and reductions of up to £250 on your excess in the event of a claim. Plus, if you stay claim-free, you earn a No Increase Guarantee at renewal.

To celebrate this, we pulled together some of our broad family of driving experts – including our What Car? and Autocar editors and some of our friends from the world of motorsport and performance driving – to share their simple everyday top tips for being a better driver. And it all begins before you even start moving…

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Using your door handle as a reference is a quick way to adjust your mirrors

Get a quick handle on adjusting your mirrors 

Good rear visibility is one of the most important things to action before starting any journey – especially if you’re in a new or unfamiliar car, or if you share your car with someone else. A quick, easy reference for setting up wing mirrors is the front door handles. Adjust your driver’s side mirror until the driver’s door handle is in the bottom left corner. Do the same with the passenger side. You should be off to a good start.
Alan Taylor-Jones, What Car? New Cars Editor

Don’t skimp on your tyres

Tyres are easy to forget, but as they’re your only contact point with the road, their performance in terms of grip and braking is paramount – especially in the wet or in icy winter weather. So, just like an F1 driver, don’t cut corners with new tyres. The difference in premium and budget brands can be huge, and a small investment could save you in the long run. 
Laura Winter, Formula 1 presenter

A 20p is a quick way to check your tyre tread is legal

A simple 20p check for your tyre tread

Equally, check your tyre tread regularly. The legal minimum is 1.6mm, but tyre performance drops dramatically at 3mm. The rim of a 20p coin is 2mm. Insert a coin into one of the grooves. If you can see the edge, it’s definitely time for new tyres. 
Steve Huntingford, What Car? Editor

Be bright. Don’t be a Bobby Dazzler

When it gets dark, think about the right moment to switch on your headlights. Don’t do it near a junction, where a driver may think you’re indicating to let them out. Wait until it’s not a distraction.
Andrew Coley, rally driver & motorsport commentator

Be bright. Wait to switch on your headlights, so they're not a distraction

On rural roads, use the white lines to read the way

On twisty A-roads, longer white lines indicate hazards ahead such as dips or curves where you may need to reduce your speed, or where overtaking is more dangerous. So, use the length of the white lines to help you read the road, and where you may need to be more careful. Equally, if you are looking to overtake a slow-moving car, don’t rush it. Simply wait for the white lines to space out on a long straight with a clear sightline, letting you get past smoothly, calmly and safely.
Neil Cole, motorsport presenter

The longer the white lines, the more hazardous the road ahead.

Stay smooth on slippery roads

If you’re driving on a slippery surface – whether it’s wet mud, loose gravel, or icy winter roads – relax and make all your actions smoother and more gradual. It gives you much more fine control. 
Andrew Coley, rally driver & motorsport commentator

Make space in stop-start traffic

In slow-moving traffic – whether it’s on the motorway, A-roads, or in busy city streets – it’s easy to get packed in. Leave a good gap to the car in front. It makes it easier to get round them if needed, or it cuts the risk of a collision if you stall, if they slip back on an incline, or if you are hit from behind.
Arlene Sebastian, Vitality

Check the inside line for cyclists

In busy traffic, it’s easy to forget that hazards can appear from anywhere – and this is especially true for cyclists threading through traffic. When turning left at a junction, always remember to check your left-hand mirror. There may be a cyclist there that you haven’t seen before.
Zoe Rose Smith, Vitality

Keep an eye out for cyclists on your inside mirror when turning left

On city streets, expect the unexpected

When driving in town, never assume that pedestrians are aware of you. They may have headphones on, while modern cars can be quiet at low speeds. Be cautious and expect people to wander out from pavements and from behind parked cars as if you’re not there.
Arlene Sebastian, Vitality

Make eye contact. Read minds... and anticipate actions

Junctions and roundabouts – where cars intermingle in a stop-start manner – are one of the prime locations for accidents. Rather than looking at a car’s indicators, which could be on by mistake, look at a driver’s eyes to see their real intent. Learn to spot other signs. Where is the driver looking? Are they turning their hands on the wheel? You’ll see their action and anticipate it before they make it.
Andrew Coley, rally driver & motorsport commentator

Tweak your mirrors for easier parking 

Accidents don’t only happen on the open road. Car parks and on-street parking are full of little hazards such as high kerbs, bollards or objects in the road. If you don’t have a reversing camera, simply adjust your wing mirror downwards so you can see the kerb and your surroundings more clearly. It limits the chance of damage to your alloys, bumpers and doors.
Rachel Burgess, Autocar Executive Editor

Use the 'dutch' method with your left hand to open your door more safely

Go ‘dutch’ to open your door safely

A safer way to open your car door is with the ‘dutch’ method – using your left hand, rather than your right. It tilts your head to the road to look behind for passing cars and cyclists.
Laura Winter, Formula 1 presenter

Double-check your mirrors before getting out

Accidents don’t only happen when you’re on the move. Before you open your door, check your mirror – and check again. You might be distracted by getting your keys or phone, which means there could now be a car or a cyclist that wasn’t there before.
Steve Huntingford, What Car? Editor

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