If you’re a newly-qualified driver, you’re probably eager to get out on the open road for a proper journey. What better way to embrace your new found freedom than by taking a road trip? There really is no better way to explore Britain than by road and no better way to build up your driving confidence.
For an inexperienced driver it might sound daunting, but don’t be put off by the challenge. We’re here to help you, even after you’ve passed your test! Read on for our top tips on preparing for a road trip as a new driver.
In Norfolk, we do different
Norfolk is a great place to learn to drive. This is because we have a good mix of fast roads and quieter spaces. It’s quick and easy to switch between urban and rural driving.
Learner drivers in Norfolk are able to fit a wide range of different driving conditions into a single lesson, if they wish. There are also plenty of quiet spots, which makes it an ideal place for private practice too.
But whilst the Norfolk road network is varied, it’s very different to the more heavily built-up parts of Britain. Freshly-qualified Norfolk drivers can face a baptism of fire when they first venture outside Nelson’s county.
Develop a plan to minimise stress
You might be feeling apprehensive or even extremely nervous about your first long-distance journey. You can keep nerves under control by being prepared. Every road trip requires a bit of planning, even if you’re an experienced driver. Now is a great opportunity to get into the habit of planning for road journeys.
There are already some great guides on how to plan for a road trip, including one with a distinctly British angle, so we won’t repeat what’s already been written. If you’d like to plan a more interesting itinerary, you might find the excellent RoadTrippers.com worth a look.
Plan for toll roads
We don’t have toll roads in Norfolk. Luckily, there aren’t that many in the UK in general. But there are a few you’ll likely come across, such as both Severn Crossings and the infamous Dartford Crossing.
The way that tolls are paid can vary. While some tolls need to be paid with cash or card at the point of entry, others can be paid online either in advance or after you’ve completed your journey.
As part of planning for your trip, refer to this Gov.uk page on toll roads to figure out whether your route will include any tolls and how to pay for them.
Expect heavy traffic and congestion
We have our fair share of congestion black spots in Norfolk as anyone who drives around the inner ring road during rush hour will attest. However, as Norfolk isn’t on the way to anywhere else, we are lucky to have substantially less through traffic than many other parts of Britain.
If you’re driving to London (where you’ll find six out of ten of the UK’s most congested roads), you’ll run into stop-start traffic on a regular basis. When driving in heavy traffic, you might find the following tips helpful:
- Try to stay calm and be patient. Getting angry will increase the chances of you making a mistake.
- Only use the horn to make others aware of your presence. Using it as a weapon might distract other drivers or put them under undue pressure that could lead them into making a dangerous mistake. At worst, you could make them turn violent.
- Instead of assuming everyone else on the road is an idiot, try assuming that they are only acting with the best intentions. This psychological trick is a great way to calm your mind.
- Take a deep breath, relax and wait your turn. You will get there eventually.
- However bad things get, remember to be grateful. At least it’s not a 50-lane traffic jam.
Be prepared to drive on high speed roads
Norfolk is one of the few counties in the U.K. without a motorway. As motorway driving is not included in the driving test, your first road trip might also include your first motorway trip.
The driving experience on the major British motorways is dramatically different compared to the relatively short sections of dual carriageway in Norfolk. It won’t be at all unusual for you to find yourself on sections of road with 4 or more lanes going in each direction. There will be a lot more signs to read, a lot more traffic to be aware of, and everything will seem to move at a much faster pace.
Driving on the motorway can be daunting at first, but remember that the rural roads you might be used to driving on in Norfolk are statistically more dangerous. Here are a few important things to remember:
- Check your mirrors regularly, and remember your mirror signal manoeuvre routine before you attempt any kind of manoeuvre.
- Always check your blind spots before changing lanes.
- Stay in the left-hand lane. It might seem obvious but unless you are overtaking, you should be in the left-most lane.
- Sadly, it won’t be unusual to see other drivers breaking the speed limit by quite some margin. Don’t feel pressured into driving faster than you are comfortable with — it’s not a race and you won’t be impressing anybody by ‘winning’.
- Take regular breaks. You should take a 15 minute break every two hours. This applies equally to driving on any road type.
Improve your driving skills before your trip
If you’re still feeling nervous about taking a road trip, you might find our Pass Plus course holds the answer. You will be given the opportunity to practise driving on dual carriageways and motorways, as well as an opportunity to improve your driving skills in other areas.
If you’ve already taken Pass Plus or you’d prefer to simply give a specific area of your driving skills a quick tune-up, our refresher driving lessons can be tailored to your needs. If you only want to focus on motorway driving, we can do that for you!
And finally, remember — if you’re planning to take a trip outside of Norfolk, don’t forget your passport! We might not let you back in otherwise ;)