Parking Tips

Original article: IAM RoadSmart

Improve your parking and manoeuvring: tips from IAM RoadSmart

Would you like some helpful advice on parking and manoeuvring, but feel silly asking?

Never fear, Richard Gladman, head of driving and riding standards at IAM RoadSmart, is on hand to provide you with some useful hints and tips to build your confidence if you find these manoeuvres tricky.

Selecting the most appropriate car park and parking bay, and how to interpret road signs, restrictions, road markings and the Highway Code when manoeuvring can be daunting for many drivers.

When you drive ‘proactively’ you apply the principles of safe driving: observation, anticipation and planning, and also the principle of safe stopping.

The following tips can also apply to parking and manoeuvring your vehicle on the road, which will help you to become a safer motorist.

Parking safely

  • Select the most appropriate car park and parking bay that maximises safety for you and your vehicle.
  • If you can, try and reverse into a parking bay so that you can drive out. It’s safer for you and everyone around you. If you do have to drive in, take extra care when reversing out.
  • When parallel parking, ensure that you choose a space that is large enough for you to manoeuvre into and out of again. One and one-half times your vehicle length should be enough. Adjusting your nearside mirror downwards will help you monitor the kerb, but remember to adjust it back again.

Manoeuvring in the road

  • If you need to turn your vehicle around on the road, try going around the block or to the next roundabout. This will minimise disruption to other vehicles and is safer for you and other road users.
  • If you must reverse on the main road or into a side road, look and listen very carefully throughout your manoeuvre. If anything is moving – stop and reassess your situation.
  • Do not turn around in someone’s driveway; they should expect privacy in their own home.

Stay up-to-date

  • Drive with quiet efficiency to safely share road space with other users.
  • Keep your knowledge up-to-date, keep your vehicle in good order and make sure to get the latest advice from IAM RoadSmart.

Richard Gladman said: “The ability to pick the right location and method to park or turn around is a skill that develops over time. With a little practice we can all reverse or parallel park, it is about building up confidence and making sure your observation is sound.

“If you have any doubt, stop. A few seconds checking is much better than the time to deal with the damage.”

Want to improve your driving skills? Book yourself onto our Parking and Manoeuvring 75 minute on-road session with one of our driving experts. Find out more by clicking here.

Driving Safely For Longer

Derby Advanced Motorists offer some tips and advice on driving safely for longer, and recommendations on where to find further support if needed.

Top tips for older drivers

– staying safe behind the wheel

Experts from the Older Drivers Forum highlight four simple things you can do to carry on driving safely for longer:

1. Make sure you have regular eyesight tests with an optician
See here for the Older Drivers Forum’s recommendations on eyesight.

2. Ensure you seek medical advice about any medicines you are taking which may affect your driving
The Department for Transport has issued guidelines on driving while taking prescribed medicines here.

3. There are certain medical conditions which by law you must inform the DVLA about
For a full list of conditions including glaucoma, strokes, heart conditions and diabetes about which you are obliged to notify the DVLA click here.

4. Undertake a voluntary appraisal of your driving to brush up on your skills and carry on driving safely for longer
When was the last time someone appraised your driving? It’s fun and can really build your confidence, give it a go! Find out details of available reviews and assessments here.

Drivers in the East Midlands can also take advantage of Free Taster Sessions.

The Older Drivers Forum is a very informative website and can be found at:

As the UK population ages, more drivers are now aged over 75 than ever before and the number of pensioners behind the wheel is predicted to increase. In spite of some of the headlines, older drivers are statistically some of the safest behind the wheel, and access to a car is critical for many of them for their independence and wellbeing. Visit the IAM RoadSmart’s older drivers web page with any friends and family who may find this information of value.

As part of its older driver campaign and in light of government figures that predict a four-fold increase in the number of drivers over 75 in the next 25 years, IAM RoadSmart is calling for an urgent debate on the best way to keep drivers safely behind the wheel into old age.

Click here to read the full press release.

Driving Safely at Night

Driving at night is the most dangerous time to drive, no matter what weather condition is present. The most dangerous time to drive on any roadway is between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m., especially on the weekends.

A 2017 survey by RoSPA revealed that 40% of all collisions occur in the hours of darkness. And 20% of serious accidents on motorways and monotonous roads in the UK are caused by falling asleep behind the wheel. The main reasons behind this is because of reduced visibility and increased difficulty in judging speed and distance.

This isn’t helped by reduced street lighting. Research from reveals that over a third of the UK’s street lights are dimmed and 12% are switched off completely, making driving at night even more difficult.

Familiar routes can pose totally different challenges in the dark so make sure you are wide awake and looking out for pedestrians and cyclists in the gloom.

Luckily, there are some things you can do to improve your safety when driving at night.

  • Know and understand how the lights in your vehicle work. Make sure you understand what Auto Lights and Mainbeam switches do. Note where the Main Beam indicator is on your instrument panel.

  • Read the highway code for the rules regarding use of lights on cars. Remember that some requirements are mandatory and could result is fines and penalties if not obeyed.

  • Ensure that all the lights on your car are functioning as they should.

  • Keep windows clean to avoid increased glare and condensation.

  • Read the road ahead for signs of oncoming drivers – glimmers of light at the top of hills and reflections at bends could be the headlights of other vehicles, giving you advanced warning.

  • Cars behind you with main beam on can be distracting. If you are following another car, no matter how far back, dip you headlights to reduce the risk of ‘mirror dazzle’.

  • On rural roads, drive on full beam whenever possible but dip your lights when faced with, or following, another road user to avoid dazzling them.

  • Help drivers see you in twilight by turning your headlights on before sunset and keeping them on for an hour after sunrise.

  • Reduce your speed, understand the limit of your vision and plan ahead. The limit of your vision at night is often limit of your headlight beam which is where you must be able to stop.

  • Allow more time for your own journey, so you’re not driving under pressure. It’s always advisable to take regular breaks when driving long distances, but this is even more vital when you’re driving overnight.

  • Have your eyes checked regularly for problems which can affect your night vision.

  • Be aware that other road users may behave erratically, so be prepared to give them more space.

  • Watch out for pedestrians, especially near pubs and clubs around closing time. Pedestrians and cyclists can be more difficult to spot, especially if they’re not wearing reflective clothing.

  • If you’re travelling through a rural area at night, it’s possible for a herd of deer to cross the road, so those signs warning you of wild animals you’ll have previously passed will suddenly make sense.

  • If you can, dim your dashboard lights and reduce reflections and avoid reducing your night vision.

  • Carry a basic emergency kit. Anything can happen at night and it is important to be prepared. Having a tool kit, torch, map and a first aid kit (if you don’t have one already) can make a real difference. A fully charged mobile with the details of your breakdown cover is another must.

Coping with headlight glare

If you’re dazzled by an oncoming car then avoid looking at the headlights. Look away from the lights! Keep your attention on the left-hand kerb and try to keep your speed steady. Staring at the headlights will impair your night vision, even after the vehicle has passed.


Don’t get the wet weather blues

Don’t get the wet weather blues this summer

We’re having a typical English summer, sun for a couple of weeks and then downpours for days on end. IAM RoadSmart’s head of driving and riding standards Richard Gladman advises a few ways to keep safe in heavy rain and floods.

Heavy rain

  • Driving in heavy rain will affect your visibility, so take it slow. Rule 126 of the Highway Code states that the braking distance between yourself and another car on a dry road surface should be at least two seconds, and at least four seconds when driving in the rain
  • Ensure your windscreen wipers are working correctly, and that the windscreen is clean – using your wipers when you have a dirty windscreen will just smear and make your visibility even worse
  • Turn your headlights on. Many of us now have automated headlights, but often they will not come on in adverse weather conditions; ensure they are on so you’re visible to other road users. A good rule of thumb is that if you need your wipers on, then you need your headlights on too


Is your car aquaplaning? Here are some signs that you could be:

  • Your engine may become louder if the driving wheels have lost grip
  • It will feel as though you’ve dropped down in the gears causing revs to increase
  • The steering may become lighter and unresponsive

If you experience any of this, try not to panic. Follow these tips:

  • Ease off the accelerator or cancel the cruise control
  • Hold the steering wheel straight and firm
  • Do not hit your brakes hard

When your car gains traction you can slowly begin to use the brake and slow down.

How to avoid aquaplaning

If it’s been raining and you’re about to drive, there are things that you can do to help prevent your car from aquaplaning. Standing water as shallow as 2.5mm can cause an aquaplaning effect at speed so be sure to follow the steps below:

  • Check your tyres – they can have a massive impact on how your car will handle in the wet. Watch this video by TyreSafe for more info:
  • Reduce your speed; problems occur when the tyres can no longer clear the standing water as they rotate. Going slower will allow time for the tread to do its job
  • Be alert for flood warnings on the road and if you can see any water in the distance, be sure to slow down and prepare to go around it
  • Avoid using cruise control in extreme conditions


  • If there are floods you need to consider other routes to keep you safe. If the water is standing more than six inches deep, avoid driving through it. You can judge the depth in relation to the kerb
  • If there are similar vehicles driving safely through, then you can make a judgement call on whether it’s safe to do so yourself.
  • If the water is fast flowing, do not attempt to drive through it. There is a real danger of your car being swept away

If you have decided to drive through a flood take the following precautions:

  • Go slowly and take it easy
  • Press lightly on the clutch and add gentle pressure to the accelerator to increase engine revs but do so without speed. Do this in a similar way to how you do hill starts, this will prevent water from entering your exhaust. If you’re in an automatic, accelerate lightly but control the speed with your brakes
  • If you have any doubt, turn back. Often modern saloon cars have an air intake in the wheel arch and could be below water level if going through a flood. If your engine takes in any water, it will immediately hydro lock and the engine will stop
  • Remember to stay alert and avoid splashing pedestrians. If this is done accidentally you can still receive a fixed penalty and three points on your license for driving without due care and attention. If done deliberately it could be a public order offence, a court appearance, or a fine

Richard says “With the British weather the way it is, we should all be well practised at driving in the rain. Keeping your car maintained and the rubber (wipers and tyres) in good condition will help you stay safe. In the recent extreme weather, we have seen that standing water and floods are becoming more commonplace, so take extra care and if possible, avoid driving through standing water. If you’re in any doubt about the depth or surface underneath a flood, then it’s best not to take any chances.”

Courtesy IAM Inform Weekly News


Barefoot in my car?

During this hot weather is it legal for me to drive barefoot in my car?

Please allow Derby Advanced Motorists to start this answer with a definition.

Toe: A part of the foot used to find furniture in the dark.

The unbooted foot is also an excellent tool for finding abandoned Lego bricks on the floor. Apparently, the bottom of a human foot can have over 200,000 sensory receptors and, because the Lego brick doesn’t give way when stepped on, it forces the pressure of one’s weight back up into the foot, causing the sensation of pain and an immediate retraction of said foot and probably a lot of bad language.

The seaside hobble is another fine example of the human nervous system at work. Have you ever been for a paddle in the sea, and had to cross an area of pebbles before reaching the surf? Going slowly and carefully only prolonged the agony!

So, is it illegal to drive barefoot in the UK?

Rule 97 in the Highway Code is not really all that helpful.

Rule 97 Before setting off. You should ensure that: clothing and footwear do not prevent you using the controls in the correct manner

You can, in other words drive a vehicle, barefoot, provided you are able to operate the controls safely. Although, please note: Rule 97 does state “…and footwear”. If you do drive with wet feet, for example, you might be putting yourself, your passengers and other road users at risk by not being able to drive the car safely. This is illegal. According to the Driving Standards Agency – the body that regulates the UK driving test – “suitable shoes are particularly important behind the wheel. We would not recommend driving barefoot because you don’t have the same braking force with bare feet as you do with shoes on.”

The R.A.C. gives this advice on its website. “Driving in less than practical shoes – or no shoes at all for that matter – is not illegal, but you have a responsibility as a driver to uphold standards on the road.

If your selection of footwear hampers that, you’re putting yourself at risk.

There are some basic guidelines you should follow when selecting footwear to drive in. Your shoe should:

  • Have a sole no thicker than 10mm…

  • but the sole should not be too thin or soft.

  • Provide enough grip to stop your foot slipping off the pedals.

  • Not be too heavy.

  • Not limit ankle movement.

  • Be narrow enough to avoid accidentally depressing two pedals at once.

These bear feet would not be suitable!

This does technically categorise some types of footwear – such as high-heels and flip-flops – unsuitable for piloting a car. While light, flimsy and impractical footwear can be dangerous, so can sturdy, robust shoes, such as walking boots, snow boots and wellingtons”

Try emergency braking with a small piece of stone stuck on the ball of the right foot!

So, in summary, although legal it is not advisable. IAM RoadSmart expect drivers to choose sensible footwear!





Minimum tread depth for the trailer tyres?

I am going camping this summer and towing my gear in a trailer. What is the minimum tread depth for the trailer tyres?


The Law says:

Cars, light vans and light trailers MUST have a tread depth of at least 1.6 mm across the central three-quarters of the breadth of the tread and around the entire circumference.

Tyres MUST be correctly inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s specification for the load being carried. Always refer to the vehicle’s handbook or data. Tyres should also be free from certain cuts and other defects.

Law: Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 regulation 27


The word MUST indicates a legal requirement. Failure to comply could result in a penalty which is usually in the form of points on the drivers license and a fine.

If a tyre bursts while you are driving, try to keep control of your vehicle. Grip the steering wheel firmly and allow the vehicle to roll to a stop at the side of the road.

If you have a flat tyre, stop as soon as it is safe to do so. Only change the tyre if you can do so without putting yourself or others at risk – otherwise call a breakdown service.


Can I tint my car’s front and rear windows?

Can I tint my car’s front and rear windows?

Window Tints.

There are different rules for the front and rear car window tints and it also depends on when a vehicle first came into use.

The Law says:

You MUST NOT use a vehicle with excessively dark tinting applied to the windscreen, or to the glass in any front window to either side of the driver. Window tinting applied during manufacture complies with the Visual Light Transmittance (VLT) standards. There are no VLT limits for rear windscreens or rear passenger windows.


Road Traffic Act 1988 Section 42

Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 regulation 32

If your windscreen or front side windows are tinted too much you could get:

  • a ‘prohibition notice’ stopping you using your vehicle on the road until you have the extra tint removed

  • a penalty notice or court summons


Rainy Day Driving

Rainy Day Driving

The wettest parts of the UK are concentrated in mountainous regions with observation sites in Snowdonia, the Lake District and the Scottish Highlands all receiving more than 4 metres of rainfall in a year.

Other rainy parts of the UK include:

  • North west England – especially the Lake District in Cumbria and western facing slopes of the Pennines.

  • Western and central Wales – particularly the mountainous Snowdonia region in the north.

  • South west England – mainly the higher elevation areas of Dartmoor, Exmoor and Bodmin Moor.

  • Parts of Northern Ireland.

For us in the Watnall weather station region, we are likely to get 20 to 25 days rain annually that is greater than 10mm, according to the weather records. There might be 130 to 140 days rain that is greater than 1mm.

So, in this country, it is going to be difficult to avoid those rainy days when driving.

Driving in heavy rain and flooding can be hazardous. Here are some useful hints and tips to help you prepare for a wet weather drive.

It is always advisable to consider before you set off whether your journey is essential. Of course, one has to get to work or drive the children to school and cannot really delay the time of travel.

First and foremost: Using the car lights correctly when the roads are wet will ensure you can see and be seen. When the rain does start to fall, you should turn the headlights on. Don’t just assume they already are – many cars’ instruments light up even when the headlights are turned off these days, which can be misleading. If your car has daytime running lights you still should switch the dipped headlights on, so vehicles behind you can see the red tail lights. Don’t use rear fog lights unless visibility is less than 100 yards and you cannot see any vehicles behind. Fog lights can mask the brake lights and dazzle drivers behind you

If your car has automatic headlamps, make sure these have activated – or override them manually by turning the headlamp switch to the dipped beam setting.

Slow down! It takes longer to stop or adjust in wet weather and it’s more difficult to see the road ahead/behind. The gap between vehicles should be at least doubled on wet roads, according to the Highway Code – Rule 126 – Stopping Distances. This is because tyres have less grip on the road. In wet weather the rain and spray from vehicles may make it difficult to see and be seen so the driver should keep well back from the vehicle in front. This will increase the ability to see and plan ahead.

Be aware of the dangers of spilt fuel that will make the surface very slippery. You should also try and avoid sudden moves that might unbalance the car, such as sharp steering or braking. Doing so increases the likelihood of your car skidding.

Driving too fast through standing water could lead to tyres losing contact with the road.  If your steering suddenly feels light you could be aquaplaning. To regain grip, ease off the accelerator, do not brake and allow your speed to reduce until you gain full control of the steering again, while keeping the steering pointing in the direction of travel. (The surface water builds up under the tyre, lifting it away from the road surface. Once it loses contact with the Tarmac, you’re effectively ‘surfing’ along on top of the water, with little or no grip.)

Driving through surface water and floods

Puddles may be a couple of centimetres deep, but some can develop into deep potholes of water. There is no way of knowing until it may be too late, so avoid them if possible. Driving through these potholes could cause serious damage to your car not to mention cost an extortionate amount to repair.

Should you come across a flooded road, first think about taking another route. If not, then you need to identify how deep the flood is. If the standing water is more than six inches deep, avoid driving through it. The water is often deeper than it looks and may be moving quite fast.  Your vehicle may be swept away or become stranded. Two feet of water will float your car. If you are familiar with the road, you may be able to judge the flood in relation to the kerb. Are there other vehicles similar to yours that are safely driving through? From this, make a judgement call as to whether it is safe to travel through or not.

If you are in the slightest doubt, then turn around and don’t go through the flood. Often modern saloon cars have the air intake in the wheel arch, which may be below the water level. If your engine should take in water, it will immediately hydro lock and the engine will stop. 

If you have taken everything into consideration and decide to drive through the flood, be sure to do so slowly. The best approach is to press lightly on your clutch and add gentle pressure on your accelerator to increase your engine revs. Do so without increasing your speed, in a similar way to how you would undertake a hill start. This will prevent water from entering your exhaust. If you are in an automatic car, accelerate slightly but control the speed with your brakes. When you have passed the flood, test your brakes to make sure they are dry and working properly.

Avoid splashing pedestrians. If this is done accidentally, you could receive a fixed penalty and three points on your license for driving without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other road users. If deliberately done, it could be a public order offence, a court appearance and a fine.