Driving in London, or other big cities, can catch even experienced drivers unawares, so for many young drivers, it can be daunting.
Very few city workers drive to work, choosing to take public transport over trying to navigate the roads. The city of London in particular is old and was not originally designed for cars; thanks to its quick growth and lack of clear system in some places, the road layout can be very confusing. It’s also important to be aware of the congestion charge zone and rush hour peak times.
The best way to tackle driving in London is to be prepared! We’re going to run through some of the most important need-to-knows for driving in the city of London, to make sure you feel confident and safe. Many of these tips and tricks will apply for other busy cities, too.
Get the training
TfL recommends that young drivers complete Pass Plus training to get some extra experience under the belt. Make sure you are training for life experience, and not just aiming to pass your test.
Check your car before driving. Hopefully, this is something you are already doing! But double-check tyres, oil and ensure you have enough fuel. No-one wants to break down in the middle of London or any other bustling city. Check our guide to tyres for more help on what to look out for.
No distractions – try and keep the radio off and put your phone on silent (and in the glovebox/your bag). RoSPA notes that whilst hands-free mobile phone use has significantly risen in London, it does not lower the risk of distraction. Plus, you can still be cautioned by police for using hands-free mobiles if they feel it’s impacting the way you drive.
Drive confidently but be aware. Note that the heavy traffic can cause some drivers to get frustrated, so be aware of any cars suddenly pulling out. Roads are narrow, so make sure you are constantly checking your mirrors, particularly for cyclists and motorbikes who may come up behind you quickly. Be aware of defensive driving techniques; leave enough space between yourself and the car in front of you so you have plenty of room to stop in an emergency.
Know your route
Don’t rely on a Sat Nav. Make sure you are aware of your route in advance; you will need good focus on the road and a Sat Nav may quickly become distracting, especially if you miss a turn. That’s not to say don’t take one, as they can be a good backup when trying to spot road signs.
On that subject – road signs. Be vigilant for Bus Lanes, No Stopping and Keep Clear areas marked on the road or signposted. Ignoring these could land you with a fine. Remember that a yellow box junction means you must keep that area clear too.
Pick a parking spot
Parking can prove difficult and it’s best to plan your spot in advance. Make sure you know how you are going to pay for your parking, or book ahead. Parkopedia lets you check ahead to find a parking spot to suit you (and has costs listed for most sites). There may be road markings that are less frequently seen in rural areas; remember that a double red means no stopping at any time, whilst a single red means that you can stop or park at certain times of the day.
Check the charges
Check the congestion zone and remember to pay the charges. There is no charge at the weekends, public holidays and between 18.00 and 07.00. At all other times, it’s £11.50. If you are crossing the Dartford Bridge then you will need to pay the charge within 24 hours. You can do this easily online (and it can be done before you even set off!). Charges apply between 6am and 10pm every day.
Don’t get stressed
Stay calm! It’s easy to get flustered if other people are, but remaining calm will make your London experience much less stressful. GEM Motoring Assist states that ‘it’’s all about showing consideration, patience and tolerance. We all make mistakes from time to time.’ Should you have an accident and have an insurethebox policy, then our Accident Alert system will let us know so we can check you are ok and help to get you moving again.
Do your homework, plan ahead, and stay calm and your trip to the city should be far smoother. If you have any questions or would like to get a quote for insurance then please feel free to contact us.