Drive responsibly, value the safety of your passengers

Published: 14th May 2012
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Driving with passengers for the first time is a big responsibility and can be a nerve wracking prospect for a new driver. With lots of new distractions to complicate your driving experience, itís worth considering the practical aspects of driving with passengers in advance of your journey.

Know your responsibilities
If you are driving with children under 14 years of age, you are legally responsible for ensuring they are wearing a seatbelt. By law, all children under 12 years of age, or 135cm in height, must be secured with the correct car seat for their weight . Children and adults over 14 years of age are legally responsible for wearing their own seatbelts, however as the driver it is important to enforce this as a rule for the safety of everyone in the vehicle.

Drivers and passengers who fail to wear seatbelts, whether in the front or back of a vehicle, are breaking the law and could face prosecution . Needless to say, not wearing a seatbelt in a moving vehicle is also exceptionally dangerous. If involved in a crash, you are twice as likely to die if you arenít wearing a seatbelt . Encouraging unwilling passengers to belt-up may be a difficult conversation to have, but in a collision, even one passenger without a seatbelt could endanger everyone in the vehicle. Itís thought that an un-belted back seat passenger kills between eight and fifteen front seat passengers in UK collisions each year .

Prepare for a different driving experience
Driving with passengers throws a few more variables into the driving experience. If you have passengers in the back seat of your car, you will be able to see them in the rear view mirror. Donít let this put you off, continue to check your mirrors as usual to maintain safe observation of the road while you drive.

Having passengers in your car will also increase the weight of the vehicle and is likely to impact stopping distances, so be prepared to adjust stopping distances accordingly, allowing plenty of time to brake.

Passengers can be distracting, if you arenít used to chatter while you drive, discuss this before you set out on your journey. If you feel your passengers are distracting you, speak up and ask them to stop, remember that as the driver your concentration is essential to safety and should be your first priority. Only listen to music while driving if this is something youíre comfortable with, if you arenít used to listening to music while driving explain this to your passengers at the start of your trip. Make sure that music is kept at a sensible volume so that you donít feel distracted and can still hear the traffic around you. If you find yourself in a stressful driving situation, ask the front seat passenger to turn the music off immediately.

Never put up with irresponsible behaviour from passengers, if you need to, pull over in a safe location and speak to them about the conditions you require to drive safely.

Taking and making calls
It is illegal to use a hand held mobile phone for any purpose while driving in the UK. If youíre caught using a hand held mobile while driving you are likely to receive three penalty points on your licence and a fine of £60, if your case goes to court you could face a maximum fine of £1000 and a disqualification from driving .

Even with a hands-free system, using a mobile phone while driving is a distraction and is therefore potentially dangerous. If you do need to phone someone while driving, best practice is always to find a safe place to pull over so you can make the call while your vehicle is stationary. If your phone rings while you are driving, let the call go to voicemail and check your messages when you stop for a break.

Look after yourself
If you are taking friends on a long drive, remember to schedule regular breaks, if youíre tired, donít feel you need to keep going because you are the driver. Itís usually a good idea to plan rest breaks at comfortable intervals as part of your route. If you are delayed by heavy traffic, add extra rest stops to your journey.

Make sure you eat as usual throughout the day and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, particularly if the weather is hot. To help with alertness while driving, keep your vehicle well ventilated, opening windows to allow air to circulate. If you find yourself getting tired but canít pull over safely to rest, ask your passengers to keep you alert by speaking to you and to locate the next available rest stop on a map.

Although itís natural to estimate your time of arrival on a long journey, remember that unforeseen circumstances may affect this. Never rush or skip rest breaks to make up for lost time; remember that as the driver, your wellbeing and alertness are essential for safe driving. If you are travelling behind schedule, ask one of your passengers to phone ahead to your destination to inform them of your delay.

RED Driving School is one of the UKís leading national driving schools, with introductory driving lessons from £9 per hour.

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