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Driving again after a long break? Here’s all you need to know

If you’re considering driving again after a long break, perhaps because of disqualification, illness, or you have been out of the country, 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. So whether you are planning to begin driving again after 10 years, or driving again after 20 years, this blog will help steer you through the precautions and preparation you will need.

1. Check your paperwork

Check your road tax and car insurance are still up-to-date as it is an offence to drive without them.

Also, check you are qualified to use the type of vehicle you plan to drive. For example, if you passed your test in an automatic car, you can’t drive a manual one. Find out all your legal obligations before driving.

If your motor insurance has lapsed since you last drove you will need to renew it but 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. Adrian Flux will still recognise expired no claims bonuses.

2. Test your car’s roadworthiness

If you plan to take your own car out driving after a long break, its condition will probably have deteriorated.

The most common cause of failure to start is a flat battery, so check yours is fully charged. If it isn’t, you have three options: put it on charge, jump start it, or replace it.

Check the tyres for loss of pressure and cracks that may have developed while it has lain dormant. Don’t forget it’s important to check the spare too.

Depress the pedals. 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.

3. Make sure you’re ready to get back on the road

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 metres (about five car lengths) away? If not, you’ll need to get prescription glasses before you can drive.

If you have been told by your doctor that you should not drive, it is an offence to do so. You should check information about notifiable medical conditions.

4. 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 any new features it may have.

Newer vehicles, for example, will now boast advanced driver assistance technologies that you may be unfamiliar with. Driver assistance aims to make driving easier and increase road safety.  Some systems help you drive, others alert you to errors or potential hazards.

More recent systems developed include:

  • Drowsiness detection
  • Lane departure detection
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • GPS satellite navigation
  • Accident prevention systems
  • Automatic braking
  • Blind-spot detection
  • Intelligent speed control

5. Read your Highway Code and look into new driving laws

Re-read the Highway Code and do a little research into laws that may have changed since you last drove. Two big developments for returning drivers will be smart motorways and the ban on mobile phone use while driving.

Smart motorways

Smart motorways may be a new concept to you. While you would generally drive in much the same way as you did previously, you must remember that on smart motorways, lanes with a red ‘X’ overhead must not be driven on. If you do and are caught, you face a penalty fine of up to £100 and three points on your licence.

Mobile phone usage

While you could get away with taking pictures or videos while driving because of a previous loophole, the laws have now been amended. If you’re caught holding your phone or sat nav while driving, you’ll face six points on your licence and a £200 fine.

You can still use a sat nav, but it must be securely fixed, or built in, and not hand held. 

There are also a number of other rules that you probably don’t know about, which could lead to a fine and points on your licence.

6. Consider displaying green ‘P’ plates

If your confidence is low after a long lay-off you could consider displaying green P plates. The ‘p’ stands for probationary and will show other motorists that you have only recently passed your test. This will  hopefully make them more considerate about your driving.

7. 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 if you’re allowed to, and make sure you go in good conditions, when the roads are quiet, ideally taking an experienced driver with you.

You could even have some refresher driving lessons or take a course like PassPlus if you’d feel more comfortable having a professional driver with controls on their side too. This has the added benefit of reducing car insurance premiums when you take out a policy too!

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. We have produced a series of helpful videos that you can watch to familiarise yourself with some of these common driving actions.

Now you are ready to get back behind the wheel to start driving after a long break – bon voyage!

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