Parking Perfection

The problem with parking, is that it isn’t going anywhere. I know that’s a terrible joke, sorry. This is probably the most requested article, so hopefully you’ll enjoy it, or learn something (I make no promises).

I’ll not add a big spiel as to what this #breakingbadhabits article is about, you can probably guess from the title.

There are a few different bits about parking I’m going to discuss, we’ll start off with my favourite to talk about.

Half & Half

I’ll have to admit, parking on the pavement is one of my biggest bugbears when out on the roads. Specifically, what I mean is drivers putting two wheels (or worse all four) up on the pavement and leaving the car there. Half on, and half off the pavement.

I think most drivers will admit that they’ve done this at least once. It only takes a short trip down to your local shops and you’ll see a multitude of cars doing this. So why do they do it?

In a nutshell, drivers often do this to try and ‘help’ their fellow driver… or what they think is helping. They will put two wheels on the pavement to give more space to passing vehicles. Right about now, if you’re a “pavement parker” you’re saying “YES, GAVIN. I’M TRYING TO HELP”. Ok, no need to shout. In reality however, vehicles parked like this don’t really help. I’m going to paint a picture here; I’m rubbish at painting having dropped Art in school the minute I could, but bear with me…

Imagine we have Bob (see previous articles for the adventures of Bob) driving down a small side road. With me so far? Good (I’m assuming you said yes). Now let’s say there’s a car parked “half on – half off” the pavement on Bob’s side of the road. Will he have to cross the centre line onto the other side of the road to get past it? On about 90% of roads, the answer will be yes. This means that if there were an oncoming vehicle, Bob would slow down or stop to let the oncoming car though, before overtaking the parked car. So… has the car being parked on the pavement really helped anyone? If Bob is going to have to go onto the other side of the road to get past it anyway, surely it should just be parked with all four wheels on the road. Food for thought.

So what’s the harm? Hasn’t caused me an issue parking on the pavement, I hear you say. Well, that may be true. Or it may not be. Realistically, it is not illegal (outside of London at least) to park on the pavement. However, it is illegal to cause an obstruction, and by regularly parking on the pavement unnecessarily you risk causing problems for pedestrians. Especially pedestrians with prams, or in wheelchairs, or blind people with guide dogs who will then be forced to walk on the road to get round your car (or van or lorry or whatever else you’re driving).

  • Meet Lucy. A guide dog who has worked over the last few years with her blind owner, Isabel. I spoke to Isabel recently about the difficulties her and Lucy face when navigating past cars parked on the pavement:

“Walking down the street towards my office with my guide dog Lucy, and she comes to a screeching halt. I can’t see what’s ahead, and she can’t tell me there’s a van parked all over the pavement blocking our path. If she could, she’d tell me that if I walk sideways and move carefully I might be able to squeeze past without banging my face on the wing mirror. But she can’t, so she takes the only option available to her and guides me off the kerb and out into the traffic.By parking on the pavement, you are literally putting my life in a dog’s paws. With the reasoning capacity of a two-year-old child, it’s a lot to ask of her.As she guides me around the van and safely back on to the kerb, I hope that no wheelchair user comes down this way as it would be next to impossible to manoeuvre a chair down off this high kerb and back up to safety on the other side.You’re a nice person. If you saw me struggling you’d probably apologise and say you didn’t think. But it would be too late by then.I’ve had a few close calls where it seemed safe to step out and then a vehicle came barrelling up the road.Please think before parking on the pavement and putting me and lovely Lucy, or someone using a wheelchair or pushing a baby buggy or walking on a frame, at serious risk.” — Isabel Holdsworth

I find that quite a poignant insight into this, very often dismissed or diminished, issue and thank Isabel for her comments. Now I’m not going to go all technical and start quoting verbatim from different bits of legislation regarding the use of pavements (if you’re very interested, feel free to search section 72 of the 1835 highways act, rule 145 of the highway code). Yes, I AM fun at dinner parties, thank you very much!

In all seriousness though, if it is actually unavoidable but to park on the pavement (which it really shouldn’t be), than have a think about if there are really any benefits, or about who you might be hindering.

They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot

Now we get onto car parks. On social media, every day, I see a ton of posts about poor parking in car parks. People over a few spaces, not in any spaces, incorrectly in disabled or parent/child spaces. It’s endless.

Unfortunately in this world, there are people who take driving for granted. It is a life skill that requires thought and consideration to achieve properly. Parking is very much a part of that. This article isn’t going to help the people that will blatantly abandon their car sideways across three parking spaces. They are unlikely to be reading this.

What we can think about however is how the everyday driver can help themselves on a daily basis. How many times do you park in a public car park a month? Maybe a dozen? Maybe more? I will make a bet with you – I’ll bet that the majority of people in the car park have driven (nose first) into their respective parking space. Don’t believe me? Have a quick look around next time you visit your local supermarket and count them… ok, don’t actually count them, that would be weird.

My point still stands however. The vast majority of drivers will drive into a parking space, with a view to reversing out when exiting. Now it doesn’t seem like a big deal, you know how to reverse a vehicle after all. The issue here is risk. The visibility towards the rear of the vehicle is significantly less than that out of the front, yet that’s where you’re going to have to rely on when reversing out of a space. This causes an unbelievable amount of collisions per year as it is YOUR responsibility to make sure it’s safe when exiting a parking space, yet this relies on your now very limited vision to avoid reversing out into someone.

This scenario is all too common, but extends to a much more dangerous manoeuvre. The people you’re reversing out of the space towards are likely going rather slowly in the car park, so they have time to react. What about if you’re reversing out of your driveway? You’re not only having to reverse out over a pavement, hoping and praying there’s no child on a bicycle whizzing by, but you also have to contend with much faster traffic than if you were in a car park.

Hopefully, you can see what I’m getting at here. It is nearly always safer to reverse in to drive out of a space (or driveway), so you have the maximum visibility available and can react much better to any hazards. If that’s not enough, it’s also much easier to just drive out (vehicles are much more manoeuvrable in reverse therefore you want that going in). It’s a faster process overall to reverse in and, here’s the icing on the cake…

Imagine the relief in the mornings when you get into your car to go to work and can just drive away rather than starting your mornings by craning your neck, getting stressed and hoping for a big enough gap in the traffic for you to reverse out into and then drive away from. Reverse in, and you can start your day by going forward, not backwards.

That was a long one, sorry! Thanks again to Isabel for her comments on this article. I’d love to hear all your thoughts on this article; parking is always a hot topic. I have much more to talk about on this topic, so it will definitely be revisited in future. Feel free to discuss in the comments section. As usual, if you have any ideas or topics that you would like to see me talk about, get asking.

#driving #blog #breakingbadhabits #parkingperfection #backingup #startgoingforward #driveout #halfandhalf #adventuresofbob #lovelylucy #guidedogs

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Cut it out!

And here we are again. Another lovely instalment to aid your driving habits…sorry it took so long. This time, we’re talking about cutting corners.

Cutting corners is something that causes many problems on the roads, but it is often not something that people realise there is a problem with, or are aware that they’re even doing.

Put simply, the bad habit I’m discussing here is when drivers are turning right into a side road, from a main road, but cut across into the wrong side of the road (in an attempt to make the turn easier and less sharp).

About now, most people are asking themselves what the problem is. Many drivers (in my experience, the vast majority), do this every day, and it’s not something they really plan on doing. This is one of those habits that creeps in when you don’t have a driving instructor jabbering in your ear all the time.

So this, “it hasn’t caused me a problem, so why change it” attitude comes in (as with most habits), and the cycle repeats. In reality however, just because something bad hasn’t happened… yet… doesn’t mean that it won’t. Here’s an example of a scenario. IMAGINATION MAY BE REQUIRED… ok… imagination will totally be required.

Your side? My side.

Firstly imagine we have someone tootling along; for the sake of argument let’s call him Bob. Bob is slowing down to give way at a T-junction at the end of the road. He’s having a nice drive about, heading to his local supermarket to pick up dinner (for the avoidance of bias I’ll not mention any of the main supermarket brands, you can pick). Suddenly, “AGGGHHHHHHHHHHH”… someone is coming towards him on Bob’s side of the road, as the car “cuts” into Bob’s lane whilst turning into the side road. (I will be very impressed if you screamed in your head. I will be even more impressed if you actually screamed out loud. If you did scream out loud, you have an amazing imagination… although anyone around you is likely to be looking at you, both concerned and confused). Whether you screamed or not is unfortunately irrelevant; we now have a crash waiting to happen to poor Bob, our would-be supermarket shopper.

We are in scenario that is a daily occurrence on our roads – someone coming to the end of a side road, and someone else cutting across the corner as they make their way into the side road. Now, we have drivers of all levels and abilities on our roads, from the timid novice to the overconfident race car driving wannabe. We simply do not know the reactions (or attentiveness) of this driver who is making their way down to the end of their road, but it’s now up to them to avoid a collision.


This is usually the first reaction to someone cutting into your side whilst turning, depending on how close you are to the end of the road and how much the oncoming car cuts in. Most of the time, a gentle press on the brake and the oncoming car is now gone, leaving you a bit miffed but ready to get on with the rest of your day. If you’re a bit faster, or closer to the end of the road, or the entering car takes quite a significant “chunk” of your side of the road, then we’re in almost emergency stop country.

This scenario ultimately occurs because the car turning into the side road turns too early. Whilst not technically illegal in itself, this will one day likely cause a problem for someone (like Bob) coming from the side road. This manoeuvre would usually result in a failed practical driving test, purely for this reason. So here’s something I’d like you to ask yourself, if the learner driving practical test is the minimum standard required for a novice driver to drive unaccompanied, shouldn’t you strive to be at a higher standard?

t the end of the day, it’s all about risk management – do the benefits outweigh the risks? My answer… No. It would take maybe a second (if that) more to turn a little later entering entirely on your side of the road without cutting the corner. This minor change in your driving habits would reduce your risk of a collision in this scenario – avoiding something that, when push comes to shove, would be entirely your fault should you end up in court. No one wants driving without due care and attention on their licence, or worse…

Hope that helps folks! I’d love to hear to hear your thoughts on this. Feel free to discuss in the comments section. As usual, if you have any ideas or topics that you would like to see me talk about, get asking.

#driving #blog #breakingbadhabits #cutitout #getonyourside #poorbob For blog publishing enquiries, please visit the contact information page to get in touch.

Blinding Brakes

Ok, so many people get into their ”own way of doing things” after they pass their driving test. Most people run with the phrase “bad habits” as to excuse the driving errors they’ve picked up over the years. This is a natural thing that happens with most people, no-one is perfect after all.

One key habit that comes to mind when people are out and about in cars (and bigger vehicles for that matter) is the temptation to hold their vehicle stationary on the footbrake whilst waiting at junctions, traffic lights, etc.

Why though?

The majority of drivers get used to this routine and often have simply forgotten the reasons why this isn’t the best method. Sitting on the footbrake causes a number of problems, not just for the driver, but for other road users as well.

The Handbrake & The Footbrake

First and foremost, holding the car stationary for an extended period of time by keeping your foot on the brake, instead of using the handbrake, increases the likelihood of you “shooting forward” if some inattentive person decides to ruin your day by crashing into the back of you. In most cases, if someone hits you from behind, your foot will release the brake pedal, meaning the car is free to go forward as there’s no longer any brakes being applied. If you have the handbrake on however, you have more of a chance of staying somewhat stationary (obviously depending on the speed of the other vehicle).

2 Handbrakes 2 Footbrakes

You can see what I’m trying (and most likely failing) to do with the titles here. They see me rollin’, they hatin’? Know the song? It is definitely to do with people not applying their handbrakes… definitely. Ok, maybe not, but the point is still the same. Rolling into the vehicle in front is a pretty embarrassing scenario, that should never happen, right? You’d think so, but it’s actually relatively common. People are used to sitting on their brakes rather than applying the handbrake as they forget that they have not put their handbrake on, they then release the brakes whilst paying attention to something else. Before you know it have created a nice little dent into the back bumper of the vehicle in front of them. It may not cause damage if it’s very slow, but the damage it will do to your pride when you have to get out of your car and apologise surely isn’t worth the risk. It may be better to just secure the car with the handbrake.

The Handbrake & The Footbrake: Tokyo Drift

This is where other people factor in more. Have you ever driven with a headache? Not a very pleasant experience. Night time driving or driving in the rain (not that we get a lot of rain over here) can be pretty miserable. Now imagine driving at night, in the rain, with a headache… Then imagine the person sat in front of you is intent on making the inside of your car look like the scene from a horror movie. RED! It’s all red! Blinding you with their brake lights. Decreasing your concentration on the road ahead as you can barely see past those three red lights now burning their way into your retinas. Granted, this isn’t a big issue on a nice summer’s day, but in winter, or the rain or at night, or a combination of all of those, it can become a real issue for drivers. Although, if you’re very petty, you can take some comfort in the fact that the person blinding you with their brake lights is wearing them out at a slightly faster rate and will have at pay upwards of £10 to replace them more regularly.

Handbrake & Footbrake

Ok, I’ll admit that the Fast and the Furious titling sequence isn’t working particularly well, but it’s too late to change it now.

Fast Footbrake

This. This is why! People seem to think that they can “get away quicker” when moving away after sitting on the brake pedal, rather than when the handbrake has been applied. This is not really true. With practice and planning, you can move off in the same amount of time by getting your vehicle ready to go and releasing the handbrake. Many cars now come with an electronic handbrake (or parking brake as the manufacturers prefer to call it) meaning that sitting on the brake pedal is entirely unnecessary.

Ok so I’m going to abandon the Fast and the Furious titling sequence now. If you didn’t get it, I’m sorry. If you did get it, I’m also sorry.

I won’t go into the specifics of different types of vehicle handbrakes, or the debate with automatic vehicles, but feel free to have a discussion in the comments.

In a nutshell, securing your vehicle using the handbrake when stationary for any extended period of time is safer, less stressful (for other road users) and will cause less wear and tear to your vehicle. Many instructors teach the unbelievably cheesy line, “if a pause becomes a wait, then the handbrake is your mate.” Yes, that’s how cheesy it is, but if that little phrase sticks in your mind, and you action it when you’re behind the wheel, this whole article will have been worth it.

Advanced Driving Techniques

Securing the vehicle with the handbrake when stationary for any significant length of time is best practice, however if there is not a vehicle behind you, it is safer to hold the foot brake (with the handbrake already applied) just to show the brake lights and make it more obvious to approaching vehicles that you are stopped.

If you have any ideas or topics that you would like to see me discuss, please feel free to add them in the comments.

#driving #blog #brakingbadhabits #blindingbrakes #theydontseemerolling

For blog publishing enquiries, please visit the contact information page to get in touch.


Whilst I know the name of this blog is a TERRIBLE pun (I can’t promise there won’t be more), you’re here aren’t you? Well, at least I hope you’re here… otherwise I’m basically just talking to myself. Although I suppose, in essence, that’s what most blogs are anyway.

So back to the point. My name is Gavin and I’m a Driving Instructor living in Bangor, Northern Ireland and chairman of Belfast Advanced Motorists. My goal throughout my career is to provide specialist driver training, and to promote road safety in Northern Ireland and throughout the rest of the UK.

What’s in it for me?

Good question. This blog/advice lines/pro-tips/whatever you want to call it, is here to provide some friendly, hopefully fun (no promises) and informative advice on driving and driving techniques. This information is aimed at new and old drivers alike, with added (manageable) advanced techniques where appropriate.

I will aim to get one of these posts out on different driving topics at least once a month, but I may post more regularly.

If you have any ideas or topics that you would like to see me discuss, please feel free to add them in the comments.

Now we have the usual blog/advice thing of using an excessive amount of hashtags. If I’m honest, I’m not overly familiar with hashtags, so be gentle.

#driving #blog #roadsafety #sharetheroadtozero #IsThisEnoughHashtagsYet? #ApparentlyICantPutPunctuationInMyHashtags #illgetbetteratthis

For blog publishing enquiries, please visit the contact information page to get in touch.