In late August this year, I passed my driving test. Which for me being one of those that fascinates about cars, was a joyous experience.
Fast forward to the 3rd of September and I went and got myself my first car; a ’10 Plate Ford Fiesta, of course.
It would’ve been something with a bit more poke, but apparently the people who work at insurance companies like to get paid a lot of money too. I thought that was just human beings. But if my job was to spend all day sat down listening to a 20 year old girl cry down the phone after crashing a 3.5 tonne horsebox into a low ridge, I’d want someone to pay me an extra 220 quid a month as well.
So seeing as it’s a little over six weeks since I started ‘really’ driving, coupled with the fact I’ve done over 2,000 miles and driven to another country (sort of) and back. I thought that this would be a great time to mention a few of the things that I have picked up on after a little while of driving freely on the public road.
Well, until some bald man with a hat on came and wedged a small black box behind the dashboard.
1. Roundabouts are a Brilliant idea….when used Correctly.
One of the things that you will notice quite often while driving in the UK – other than how underrated windscreen wipers are, will be the sheer amount of roundabouts that are dotted around the place.
The idea being that traffic can flow freely from multiply directs without coming to an absolute stop – or at least waiting for too long. They are also deemed to be safer than a tradition stop sign due to your attention being even more important as you spot your desired exit and also anticipate your (and others) speed as you leave.
However, there seem to be a fair few people who treat them as traffic lights or stop signs. Either because they slow down too late or perhaps don’t know where their exit will be. That’s fair enough I guess, I mean I’m not exactly perfect. But road signs exist for a reason…
2. The Brake Pedal has its uses. But not on the Motorway…
I’m not saying that it should never be used. If there is a hazard ahead of you then it’s probably a good idea to react accordingly. But I bet you any money that nine times out of ten it’s because some spanner has this strange urge to see how many times they can accelerate beyond the speed limit, drive up someone’s arse, and then back down again just in time for an average speed camera.
It gets even better when they inevitably ‘bump’ into the back of someones car, and the previous 100000000000000 miles of the UK’s motorway network has to screech to a halt while being deafened by the sound of Ambulance and Police sirens as they tootle down the hard shoulder at 40mph. Any faster than that and they might tip over at the sight of someone’s rear bumper hanging off.
No I do not have cruise control. And no I do not think that I am some sort of beneficent master of automobiles. And no I do not drive an even remotely powerful car. But I am still aware that James Drake bestowed us all with the great freedom of two extra lanes on the motorway so that we can overtake other people just before some guy in a grey Audi A4 comes barrelling up our arse.
Repeat after me;
Pull out (strongly advised)
Overtake with ease
Stop for fuel because you bought a 900cc Fiat 500 in 2017
Arrive at Starbucks
Release parking brake
3. Diesel Power is Underrated
Maybe not in the real world, but certainly within the younger parts of the car community, diesel seems to be frowned upon more than a group of grown men getting paid to go around kicking rabbits. I mean yes, Diesel fumes certainly do more environmental damage than puffs of Petrol. But having driven both that cool little 1.0 Eco-Boost Fiesta and the 1.4 Diesel equivalent, the one that sounds like a canal boat is far easier to drive in everyday situations than its little turbocharged 3 cylinder counterpart.
I’ve not driven anything crazier than either of those cars on the road so I can’t really gain much more of an insight to the Petrol vs Diesel debate. But there is something about black smoke and immense twisting force that makes chugging past an EV Charging station at the top of a mountain of high revving VW Lupo’s oddly satisfying.
4. Manuals are over-hyped, but for good reason.
I’ve noticed that whenever I, or anyone else mention’s how much they enjoy driving a car that has a manual gearbox, people who aren’t really into the subject tend to roll their eyes and assume that you’re some sort of boy racer type.
But that simply isn’t true.
Yes, of course, I love cars and like driving even my stale little 1.2 Fiesta. But I have found that being able to actually change gears yourself is genuinely an integral part of learning how to drive a car properly.
Driving a car is easy. Learning how to do it properly and have full command of one, definitely isn’t.
Teaching myself how to do things like a smooth heel & toe downshift (yes, in a 1.2) also makes my driving smoother in the real world, rather than just being some sort of yobbo tearing about B-Roads on a Sunday morning. Yes, okay. Being able to go from 5th gear down through 4th into 3rd before a National Speed Limit road is quite satisfying, but it does teach you another level of controlling a vehicle.
You show me someone who can left-foot brake at 35mph round a tight bend and whose heels never touch the floor. And I’ll show you someone who knows how to drive a car.
Certainly not me, that’s for sure.
P.S. I’m talking about quiet wide open roads in nobody’sevenfarminghere Land. Not a busy public highway.
5. People who use their phone while driving…
Not much to say here.
6. Make way for Lorries – Just do it.
Right now you’re probably thinking that I’m going to defend lorry drivers who decide that’s it’s a great ideal to over-take people while travelling up hill on a double dual carriageway, but I’m not – that’s talk for another time. I’m just going to be talking about some simple driving etiquette that I noticed amongst those with eyes, ears and a sense of self on the road.
That grumpy bastard behind you in a cab towing something that weighs the same as the moon has shit to get done. And even though most HGV’s can’t really go any faster than 56mph, it’s still probably a good idea to get out of their way and make life easier for everyone else on the road. It’s not vanity. But there’s no way I could bare dealing with driving 10 tonnes worth of produce around busy towns and roundabouts, only to be carved up by some middle aged woman in a Range Rover Evoque convertible, carrying a lap dog and a list of human Rights.
I know that I haven’t driven a HGV, and that James May said this first.
But let the lorry go. Always let the lorry go.
7. Scotland Really Is one of the Best Places to “Enjoy” Driving (in the UK).
One of the reasons why I was so eager to get my Licence when I did, was because I would soon be off up Scotland not too long after my test date. Thankfully I passed and grabbed myself a car in the nick of time so I could drive.
This was a good call. I’d been to Scotland before, but not up in the sticks. I should also point out that this was my 4th ever day driving after I got my car, so don’t expect anything too amusing. Although having said that, I hadn’t had the fun Police come and tinker with my car until after I got back from the trip (what luck..?), so I could at least get a feel for driving at a decent pace and get it out of my system. But when you’ve only been doing so for just 4 days and with a car rammed full of camping gear, it’s not the most rewarding experience.
However, pushing all of that to one side. The Scottish Highlands and the places leading up to them are home to some fantastic places to drive, and drive fast.
I was only there for few days so I didn’t have many opportunities to go for a ‘drive’ after emptying all of our shit out of the car. But even after creeping out of a three-man tent at 4am while trying not to wake anyone up, just so that you can go and see what it’s like driving an 80 horsepower Fiesta on some Scottish twisties, you do start to wonder how many other places inside of the UK where you can spend a couple of hours on one single road, just going for a drive.
I want to go back.
8. Insurance Costs….
To get 3rd party coverage on a ’10 plate 1.2 litre Ford Fiesta (that’s been tampered with by the fun Police) just to drive 7 miles to work and back cost me £2,620.
Still, at least I’m insured to drive my own car………….FOR TEN F*****G MONTHS!!!!!!!!
Welcome to the United Kingdom.