A State of Mind
Car ownership is a right which can be enjoyed by every adult of sound body and mind, but there must be some degree of control over the use of cars in the interests of safety and traffic flow. The regulations affecting our use speed limits, parking restrictions, vehicle condition requirements - are essential to prevent the bedlam which might otherwise break out with 22 million licensed vehicles on the roads. While owning a car is a right, the licence to drive it is a privilege which must be earned and respected. You must first acquire enough skill and responsibility at the wheel to pass the Government driving test, which is less rigorous than in many other countries, and your subsequent entitlement to a licence depends upon maintaining a minimum standard of safe and law-abiding driving. Should you fall below standard, you can be kept off the road through disqualification.
The frame of mind with which you approach your driving is important. Apprehension and aggression can be equally dangerous. The nervous driver who hangs back and fails to make a decision when faced with a hazard can be just as likely to cause an accident as the hooligan who drives without care and consideration for other road users, or for himself.
Enjoy your motoring - the techniques of advanced driving will help you derive more pleasure from travelling by car - but be careful to keep your pleasure under control. Do not allow your enjoyment of driving early on a bright spring morning, when there is little traffic about, to cause your speed to creep up unnoticed.
Take pride in being a tolerant and courteous driver at all times. No matter how angry another driver's aggression may make you, never retaliate: all this does is to increase danger and stress. Your own manner and driving standard should never be affected by the stupidity of others on the road, and may act as an example. But do not be overzealous in setting an example to others: we have all seen the foolish technique of a few drivers in showing their objection to a centre lane hog on a motorway by cutting sharply across his bows after overtaking.
Some drivers, unintentionally or deliberately, accelerate when being overtaken, which is obviously a dangerous practice. Some people perhaps have a natural instinct to stay in front and may press the accelerator a fraction harder, perhaps without realising it. This means that an overtaking driver is exposed on the wrong side of the road for longer than necessary; he may be forced to cut in sharply after he has passed, or change his mind, brake hard and pull in behind. You must always be careful never to endanger another road-user.
While it is simple enough to insist that motorists retain their dignity and courtesy at all times, there are occasions when the most self-controlled driver is affected by outside stresses. Although it is difficult to assess what degree of emotional stress makes a driver a danger on the road, everyone at some time would be better off by understanding the symptoms and deciding not to drive. A domestic row or a confrontation at work inevitably causes tension, so the occasional state of mind when one is unable to concentrate totally on the considerable responsibility of driving a car safely must be recognised. It is inexcusable to succumb to the temptation of letting off steam by driving aggressively or too quickly. In the same way, speed limits must be observed no matter how late you may be for an appointment.
No-one is likely to drive when they are ill, but even minor complaints can seriously affect ability behind the wheel. A cold can slow your reactions, dull judgement and make a person bad-tempered. Even a bad night's sleep might impair concentration. When you feel under the weather, only you can decide if you are fit enough to drive; if you decide that you are, drive with extra care.
Many drugs can impair your reactions, make you feel sleepy or affect your physical faculties in other ways, perhaps without your being fully aware of it. Doctors should warn patients about the side effects of any drugs they prescribe; if your doctor does not, you should ask. Driving under the influence of drugs can be as dangerous as driving with alcohol in your system: both are out of the question for all drivers.
The Ultimate Car Mechanics video course
Learn everything about modern cars from our new video series.Learn more >
We build a Mazda MX5 Miata from scratch
We start by tearing down and then rebuilding the whole car.
Every part explained
There's ridiculous detail on every part. Clearly and easily explained.
All modeled in 3D
We've created the most detailed 3D model ever produced so we can show you everything working.