The effects of the pandemic have meant many of us haven’t had to drive in rush hour for a long time, or even driven at all. Getting back on the road can seem a little scary.
Knowing how to actually drive is only half the challenge, with your driving confidence and road awareness just as important. Busy roads can often be hazardous, no matter your driving history. It’s always important to remain focused and stay calm.
If it’s your first time back in the vehicle after a long time, be sure to check that your road tax and car insurance are still up to date. If you did declare your vehicle SORN while it was off the road, make sure it’s covered before you drive – you’ll need to contact the DVLA to organise re-taxing your vehicle. You’ll also need to make sure the MOT is still in date, otherwise you can only use the vehicle to drive to a pre-approved MOT garage.
Finally, make sure your vehicle is roadworthy before you set off. Everything from your battery to your tyres and your breaks will need to be checked – see our guide on taking care of your car in lockdown.
Spend some time getting back to grips with how exactly your vehicle works. Get comfy in the driver’s seat, and before you set off check you remember how to find the following:
Don’t worry if you do feel a little rusty behind the wheel. A great way to get driving again is to go back to basics – maybe practise on an empty car park or quiet residential estate to test your manoeuvres. Take the time you need to get familiar with the vehicle again – testing everything from your clutch control to your parking.
There’s no problem if it doesn’t come back right away – just take more time. The muscle memory will return. Consider sticking to quieter roads until you feel ready for busier junctions, and you could ask a friend or family member in your bubble to ride along with you until you’ve built up your confidence again.
Now you’re feeling confident in the driver’s seat, it’s time to get to know the roads again. Go driving at different times, and vary the roads you drive on as well. It’s important that you get a good sense for the full range of traffic and driving conditions.
Don’t forget to work on how you observe other drivers too. Be sure to always double check for oncoming traffic when at a junction, and ensure you regularly check your rear-view mirror. Hazards and vulnerable road users can require special attention, so be sure to pay due care to road users like cyclists and animals.
As always, the top priority is your safety and that of your passengers and other vehicles, so be sure to give the road your full attention and avoid distractions like changing the music.
Sometimes you might find yourself in the wrong lane – it happens! If you’re in the wrong lane when approaching a roundabout in busy traffic, just remain calm and stick to the safest option by staying in the lane you’re in. You can always turn back at the next roundabout and then continue on your way.
Watch out for bus lanes
With busy cities come busy buses, more bus stops, and more bus lanes. It can be difficult to keep track of when you can and can’t drive in a bus lane. It’s always best to stick to the normal road if you’re in doubt. Take a look at our guide for more information on when it can be okay to drive in a bus lane, and always make sure you’re using them as briefly as possible.
Longer journey times
Don’t forget, you’re not the only one getting back on the road. Expect the roads to be busier and expect delays during peak times.
If you feel overwhelmed at any point, stop when it’s safe to do so and pull over for a quick break. There’s no shame in this, and it gives you a chance to focus on your breathing, before heading back out on the road. You can find a full guide on how to stay within the rules of the highway code on GOV.UK, and there’s further advice for road users on the DVLA website