Top strategies for successful city driving

Congestion charge ending sign, bus exits.

Published 9 April 2021
Last updated 12 April 2021

We provide useful strategies for successful city driving. They include planning your journey, keeping a safe separation distance and how to control anxiety.

Living in a city is just so convenient – there’s the access to pubs, places to eat, cinemas and busy roads … did I say busy roads? Well, not ‘everything’ is great about city life. Sometimes you wish you could fly home over the endless steams of traffic queuing ahead of you.

Do not despair though, the good news is there are ways that you can survive city driving and be a safer, more responsible driver. Happily, this advice works just as well if you live in the heart of the countryside and make occasional trips into town, or you’re in the process of learning to drive.

Essential points to remember

  • It might seem obvious, but then most of the best advice is. If you really want to cope well with congested areas, you need to do your homework first. Listen to the radio, check the internet or watch the regional news. You can find out whether there have been any incidents that are affecting traffic, as well as get an idea of any roadworks on your route. Remember to take a map with you and a sat nav if you have one. If you’re going to use a sat-nav, make sure it’s correctly positioned and has your route set before you leave home. The last thing you want is to be fiddling around trying to adjust it when you’re driving.
  • Much of the congestion you’ll encounter is caused by work- and school-related travel. This causes delays in the early morning and late afternoon/early evening. If you do not have to travel at these times, try to avoid them. It will take the pressure off you and make your journey easier.
  • Remember to keep a safe separation distance. Cities have some of the busiest roads you’ll encounter with plenty of vehicles in front of you and behind you. You’re going to need plenty of time to react so leave as much a space as you can in front of you. Watch out for late braking or sudden manoeuvres, as well as people getting out of vehicles parked at the side of the road.

Controlling anxiety

What if you do have to travel during the rush hour? Perhaps you’ve done a bit of journey planning, but you were unlucky: the roads were full and you did not get home until after your dinner ended up in the dog. Well, the truth is that, sometimes, no matter how hard you try to dodge the gridlock, you’re going to run into slow traffic and congested roads.

It’s worth knowing that people driving in London should prepare to move at an average speed of 7.8 miles an hour (Evening Standard article) in the city centre. Not everyone lives in/near London, but smaller cities can suffer just as much (article from Transport Network).

If a road traffic incident occurs or your journey clashes with a major event, such as a football match or a festival, you’re going to be looking at a long and possibly stressful journey.

So, just how do you keep anxiety to a minimum and stay focused on your driving? The trick here is to borrow some techniques from the mysterious world of driver psychology. For those of you who have not read our blogs on the subject, driver psychology examines the effects of ‘psychological’ or ‘human’ factors on drivers. It studies how our thoughts and feelings affect our driving performance, and suggests techniques that we can use to become safer and more responsible drivers.

  • To help improve your confidence and keep focused on positive outcomes, make ‘time’ a crucial part of your journey planning. The more time you allow for checking routes, checking the weather and checking for any closures/incidents, the more confident you can be that you’re in control.
  • Do not forget to leave as much time as you can for your journey. You’ll feel less inclined to rush and less inclined to make rash – and possibly dangerous – decisions.
  • If you can, choose a route that you’re familiar with as it will place less demands on you.
  • Once you’re on the road, keep your speed down … the faster you drive, the more information you need to process.
  • If you’re familiar with the route, remind yourself that you’ve been able to successfully complete this journey before.
  • Lastly, and most importantly of all, focus on the task of driving. If you allow yourself to become distracted, find a safe place to stop and only continue when you can do so safely. Try not to let your worries or concerns about driving affect your concentration.

For those of you who are learning to drive, or those of you who have recently passed the practical test but are still not feeling completely confident with city driving, you can ask an approved driving instructor (ADI) (GOV.UK) for additional lessons to give you valuable extra practice. Combine that with the strategies outlined above and your confidence should start to build.

More to explore …

For more information on how to beat anxiety and drive with confidence, head over to the Safe Driving for Life shop and pick up a copy of The Official DVSA Guide to Better Driving.

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