If you’re considering driving after a long break, perhaps because of lockdown, disqualification, illness, or any other reason, what steps do you need to take to ensure you are fit and capable of driving safely and legally?
Here the car insurance experts at Adrian Flux offer some timely advice about getting back behind the wheel after a long lay-off.
5-point guide to driving after a long break:
1. Check your paperwork
Before driving after a long break, check your road tax and insurance are still up-to-date as it is an offence to drive without them.
Also, check you are qualified to drive the type of vehicle you plan to drive — for example, if you passed your test in an automatic, you can’t drive a manual. Visit the Government website to find out your legal obligations before driving.
If your motor insurance has lapsed since you last drove you will need to renew it. But, remember, your no claims bonus may have expired. If you speak to a broker rather than using a computer-managed price comparison site, you can explain your driving history and you may still get a discount.
2. Test your car’s roadworthiness
If you plan to take your own car out driving after a long break it’s condition will probably have deteriorated.
The most common cause of failure to start is a flat battery, so check yours is fully charged and if it isn’t you have three choices, put it on charge, jump start it, or replace it.
Check the tyres for loss of pressure and cracks which may have developed while it has lain dormant. Don’t forget it’s important to check the spare too.
Depress the pedals and if any have gone spongy or fail to rise back to the rest position investigate further. When a car sits without turning a wheel for a long period of time the handbrake can seize, so release it and make sure that is working too.
Check the wiper blades are clear and that all your lights and indicators are clean and bulbs are working.
You will also need to top up oil levels, coolant and window washer levels and ensure you have sufficient fuel to get you where you want to go, or at least to the closest filling station.
You will need to check you are personally roadworthy too. It may be a number of years since you passed your test, can you still read that number plate from 20.5 metres (about five car lengths).
If you have been told by your doctor that you should not drive it is an offence to do so. Here you can find some advice on which medical conditions are “notifiable”, meaning your doctor will tell you not to drive.
3. Find out about the car’s new technology
If you’ll be driving after a long break in a different or new car, read the handbook and check out the new features it may have.
Newer vehicles, for example, will now boast advanced driver assistance technologies which you may be unfamiliar with.
Driver assistance aims to make driving easier while increasing road safety at the same time. Some systems help you drive, others alert you to errors or hazards.
More recent systems developed include: drowsiness detection, lane departure detection, adaptive cruise control, anti-lock braking systems, GPS satnav, accident prevention systems, automatic braking, blind spot detection, intelligent speed control and daytime running lights.
4. Read your Highway Code
Re-read the Code and do a little research into laws which may have changed if you plan to go driving after a long break.
Recent rules have laid down guidelines on the emissions your vehicle is allowed to produce and, even if your vehicle meets those guidelines, there are restrictions on driving in some cities because of emissions.
Smart motorways may also be a new concept to you and, while generally you drive in uch the way you would previously, now you must remember that if there is a red “X” over a lane you must not drive in it. If you do, and you are caught, you face a penalty fine of up to £100 and three points on your licence.
You will probably know that you can’t use a mobile phone while driving but here are some other rules that you probably don’t know about that could lead to a fine and points on your licence.
5. Start slowly
Take time to familiarise yourself with the car’s controls, warning lights and dimensions.
Make sure your first time back driving after a long break isn’t an epic trek at a busy time of the day while it’s raining cats and dogs. Go out for a short drive, in good conditions, when the roads are quiet, ideally taking an experienced driver with you.
Perform some manoeuvres, such as reversing, parallel parking, three point turns and hill starts, to build your confidence and travel on a variety of roads, from country lanes to dual carriageways, before hitting the motorway.
Now you are ready to get back behind the wheel to start driving after a long break, bon voyage!