Keep cool in town


Introduction

Driving in town can make big demands in terms of the style of concentration and observation we need to stay safe. It can also place a drain on our reserves of patience and calm. There are too many of us competing for too little road space. The result – a stressful environment where you really do have to have your wits about you.

Alternatives to driving
Before getting you ready for the stresses of city driving, we’ll see if we can move you to alternative methods of transport. We appreciate this may not always be appropriate, but why not check out the train, bus or tram timetables before battling into a congested city centre. Most cities have good park and ride schemes, which can save time and money. The out-of-town parking is typically free or low cost, plentiful and secure, and you get a quick journey into town using bus lanes!

Expect frustrations
Assuming you do have to take the car, then be prepared for a slow, frustrating journey. Your best tactic is to ensure you equip yourself and your vehicle with the means to handle that frustration. That means trying to stay calm, not being aggressive and generally trying to make the journey better – for you and those around you.

Experience shows that, if your behaviour is based on being fair and helpful, then others will tend to match your behaviour. Therefore, conflict and risk are reduced. Of course, the opposite is true, so if you’re rude, aggressive and inconsiderate, you can expect others to match – or even beat – your behaviour.

Other road users
On urban routes, you’re likely to be sharing the road space with a lot more cyclists and motorcyclists. Keep a good look out for them, especially before changing lanes, opening your driver door or making a left turn – check all round and check again… It could make all the difference to someone’s safety.

Minimise conflict
Allowing yourself to be pulled into conflict situations you can’t control is potentially very dangerous, not just from a road safety perspective, but for your overall wellbeing, too.
There are good reasons for self control:

First, consider your quality of life: sitting there in the car, fuming and getting stressed is bad for your blood pressure and health in general.

Next, the risk that an incident will escalate: do you know how an aggressive encounter is going to end? Of course you don’t. You never know who you’re going to come across and what sort of day they might have had.

Third, the increased risk of an accident. When we get angry, and start ‘reacting’, we are not ‘thinking’. The two things are mutually exclusive. Inevitably, our risk of having an accident soars.

Plan your trips
The principles of journey planning are very important for trips through town. Knowing where you are going – and building in contingency time – can help reduce stress. Check the internet for free route-planning services. You can also find car parks. For example, www.park-up.com lets you enter your destination (street name or postcode) and will then give you a map of all possible parking places, with details of any fines and penalties you may incur and statistics of recent vehicle crime.

Rules refresher: road parking
Let’s now remind ourselves of a few rules of the road and how they apply in town.
Double yellow lines mean no parking, 24 hours a day. Double red lines mean no stopping at any time.

For all other yellow and red lines, you need to consult signs which will be displayed close by. These will tell you when you can and can’t park.

White zig-zag lines are usually found on each side of a pedestrian crossing. These are also a definite no-go for parking. In fact, you can pick up an endorsable three point fixed penalty ticket if you stop on these zig-zag lines. That’s because you could easily obstruct the view of a pedestrian waiting to cross (especially a child or wheelchair user), or you may be blocking the view of another driver approaching the crossing. If he doesn’t see the child waiting to cross, then he’s not going to slow down – and the risk of a serious collision is increased.

Rules refresher: yellow boxes
You MUST NOT enter a yellow box until your exit road or lane is clear. However, you are allowed to enter the box and wait when you want to turn right, and are only stopped from doing so by oncoming traffic, or by other vehicles waiting to turn right.

Rules refresher: bus lanes
Make sure you read the information at the start of a bus lane sign. If it’s operational, then we’ll assume you’re driving a vehicle that’s not allowed to use the bus lane. So – stay out. On the other hand, if the sign tells you you CAN use the bus lane during certain hours, then feel free to do so. It might make life a little easier.

FAQs
Where’s the best place to check ahead for congestion and accidents?

Keep moving is a website, which allows you to input the road and direction you wish to use. It will then give details of any hold-up, as well as historical data that might suggest delays are frequent at this location.

I’ve heard that parking restrictions in a town we’re due to visit are non-enforceable. Does that mean we can park where we want, when we want, and not get tickets?
That would be unwise. If you park anywhere, then you could just as easily be reported for an obstruction offence, even if, as you claim, the parking restrictions were unenforceable (which is highly unlikely).

What if I’m being followed?
For the vast majority of us, city journeys will pass without incident. But it may be helpful to consider very simple advice for this scenario, however rare it may be. Drive calmly to the nearest police station, park right outside and sound your horm continuously. This is likely to deter the other driver very quickly. If you have a satnav, learn the process of setting it to guide you to the nearest police station. If you can’t get to a police station, pull into a petrol station or busy public place, again sounding your horn continuously. Stay in the car with the doors locked and the windows up. Do not make eye contact if the other driver attempts to antagonise you further.

DISCLAIMER The information on this Site is provided on the understanding that GEM Motoring Assist is not rendering legal or other advice. You should consult your own professional advisers as to legal or other advice relevant to any action you wish to take in connection with this website.

About 

GEM Motoring Assist are a breakdown cover company and road safety charity that has been serving motorists for over 80 years.