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'Learn the new Highway Code and you could save lives'

Mike Rutherford points out some handy safety tips for roads users to stay safe

Highway Code

For the overwhelming majority of us, the most dangerous thing we’ll do today is drive a car, walk on or cross a road, or ride a bike on a public highway. Big money from central Government needs to – but almost certainly won’t be – spent on our roads to ensure it doesn’t turn into a tragic, sometimes life-ending problem. But everything from infrastructure improvements, to recruiting more traffic cops and a long-overdue, nationwide review of speed limits are all deemed too expensive. The politicians can’t be arsed. 

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At the other end of the scale, a driver can invest a paltry £50 right now to significantly reduce his or her chances of being involved in a prang at this most risky time of year. Read what follows and you might just save a life – possibly your own. 

First up, buy a physical copy of a controversial new book – the 2022 Highway Code – when it’s published in the Spring, so you’re aware of the occasionally mind-boggling new regs it contains. After that, invest about £25 by arranging a one-hour session with a driving instructor, who’ll appraise your driving. You’ll learn an awful lot about your good and bad habits.

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Grab a few paper towels from the fuel forecourt and wipe them across the grimy glass of your headlamps. Massive improvements in the performance and effectiveness of the vehicle’s bulbs will instantly follow. Equally important, regularly but gently clean the inside of your windscreen with a soft cloth. 

Kick-off your work boots or high heels when in the car. Instead, wear – wait for it – carpet slippers. They’re the best footwear to feel the pedals, according to the Volvo and Land Rover test pilots I worked with up near the Arctic Circle. These pros usually drive glove-free. But if you can’t or won’t, a useful miserly tip is to buy cheap, brightly coloured, ultra-light, part-neoprene work gloves that folk in the building trade use. 

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Carry a small thermostat in your car and aim for an interior temp of around 180C. Any hotter and drivers can get lethargic (unsafe). Much lower and they may be irritable (ditto).

Avoid reversing out of parking spaces, morning, noon or night. Plan ahead and reverse into a space, then you’re pointed in the right, safest direction when driving out later on.

Don’t be afraid to tap your horn to politely remind others of your presence – especially those blind-sided left-hand-drive HGV operators.

Think very carefully about driving in that newly and stupidly invented danger zone – lane one of a smart (but actually dumb) motorway. Officially, the other three lanes are for overtaking, but if you’re doing a steady 70mph, should you stick in lane two, so you don’t need to look out for broken-down vehicles in that hated first lane? Only asking.

Final tip: if you can afford a birthday or very early Christmas gift for a loved one that’s struggling to run an ageing car, buy them a brand-new set of all-weather tyres. It’s likely to cost hundreds of pounds for a set of four, so they ain’t cheap, but it’s potentially one of the very best-value purchases that money can buy.   

Be safe. Keep warm. Go on... give those carpet slippers a go.

Check out the new Highway Code rules surrounding cyclists here...

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Chief columnist

Mike was one of the founding fathers of Auto Express in 1988. He's been motoring editor on four tabloid newspapers - London Evening News, The Sun, News of the World & Daily Mirror. He was also a weekly columnist on the Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Sunday Times. 

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