Driving fact sheets

Find out how to stay safe on North Lincolnshire’s roads.

Road Safety Partnership fact sheets

A short series of fact sheets have been produced by the North Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership to give information on the law and useful advice to help your driving. The information in them will help keep you and other road users safe on North Lincolnshire’s roads.

How good are your observations and planning?

Now is a good time to think over how well you actively observe and plan your driving and begin to improve your skills. Next time you drive over an unfamiliar route ask yourself these questions both before and after your journey:

  • Do you constantly see what is happening?
    • in the far distance
    • middle distance
    • foreground
    • to the sides and
    • to the rear
  • Do you anticipate what is likely to happen and adjust your driving?
  • Do you rank the hazards you have seen or anticipated in order of importance to you?
  • Do you use what you see to plan your actions?
  • Do you make plans for if one of the hazards you see suddenly turns dangerous?

Many drivers relax their concentration on familiar roads so assess yourself on those as well.

Use the advice in this fact sheet to help develop and improve your skills in driver observations.


Developing your observation skills helps build up a picture of what is happening all around your vehicle. The best way to do this is by using a scanning motion with your eyes.

By scanning you are much more likely to see different hazards in time to deal with them safely than those who just look in one area only. You will also reduce the risk of being in a collision.

Scanning is a continuous process. Look as far as it is possible to see in front of you and then sweep your eyes back to just in front of your vehicle picking anything that might cause you a problem. Check your rear view and wing mirrors and use you peripheral vision to sense anything that might need more attention – you can look over your shoulder to check the blind spot. Then sweep your eyes back out to the far distance and start again.

Keep up the scanning as you look for different hazards that could affect you. By spotting hazards early you should have time to adjust the speed and position of your car to deal with them safely and smoothly. You are less likely to be taken by surprise and will find you don’t need to brake or steer sharply to take avoiding action. Try not to start in particular risk areas as this stops you placing hazards in the broader context.

Use all your mirrors and consider an over the shoulder check when it is not safe to use mirrors alone, for example when reversing, moving off from the kerb, joining or overtaking on a motorway, or leaving a roundabout.

Peripheral vision

This is the area of eyesight surrounding the central area of sharply defined vision.

The receptors in this part of the eye are very good at sensing movement, which alerts you to something that needs more of your attention. In driving, this can prompt you to use your wing mirrors, look to the right or left or take a look over your shoulder at other road users that may be coming up at your side. Make sure you take notice of your peripheral vision and check out something that catches your attention.

Peripheral vision also gives you a sense of speed and lateral position.

Zones of visibility

When driving, the road around you is made up of different zones of visibility, some of which you can see easily and other that are more difficult.

Where your view is restricted, try to use other sources of information and take advantage of any glimpses of a wider view that you can get. Typical areas with poor visibility are junctions in built up areas and winding lanes in the countryside.

Use every chance you have to get more information:

  • Open spaces and breaks in hedges, fences and walls and buildings could mean you are approaching a junction.
  • On country roads the line of trees, hedges or lampposts can help show you the line of the road and where it bends.
  • On congested urban road use the reflection in shop windows.
  • The angle of approaching headlights can give you information on bends in the road at night.
  • If there are breaks in hedges and fences (or they are low enough), you can spot hazards on the other side of a bend by looking at the road across the inside of the bend over the field or open land.

Practice picking up extra information as you drive along. The more you do it the better you will get at seeing hazards before you get to them.

Always think about what you can see, what you might not be able to see and what you could reasonably expect to happen.

How speed affects observations

Always adjust your vehicle’s speed to how well you can see road in front and the complexity of any situation ahead. You should always be in a position to stop within the distance you can see is clear.

At 70mph, the shortest distance you can stop in is 96m (315 feet), which is roughly the distance between motorway marker posts (100m). To anticipate things happening at this speed you need to be scanning everything between your vehicle and the horizon.
The faster you go the further you will need to look ahead. As your speed increases you need to consciously look beyond the point where your eyes would naturally rest to give you chance to see and react to hazards.

Being tired also affects your ability to see at speed – particularly a problem on long motorway journeys – and you should slow down before finding a safe place to take a break.

As speed increases the distance travelled during the time you are reacting increases, no matter how effective the breaking system on your car. This means you should build this into the safe stopping distance you need at any particular speed.

Ability to take in foreground detail decreases with speed. In built up areas where other road users and hazards are more likely, it is essential that you drive at an appropriate speed for the conditions, no matter what the speed limit is, so that you can take in all the information to drive safely.

Whether you drive a minibus for paying passengers or for free, for a voluntary organisation, school or for a business, you need to know how the regulations affect you. Getting it wrong may mean you are not insured and could face prosecution if caught.

If you had a driving licence to drive cars before 1 January 1997, shown as group A on an old style licence, or as category B and D1 (not for hire or reward) on a new style licence, you can drive a mini-bus provided:

  • The minibus has a maximum of 17 seats including the driver’s and is not being used for hire or reward.
  • To drive a minibus with more than nine seats for hire or reward you will need a PCV (passenger carrying vehicle) category D1 or D driving licence. Hire or reward covers any payment in cash or kind by (or on behalf of) passengers, which gives them a right to be carried.

However, if you drive a mini-bus for an organisation under the Minibus or Community Bus Permit Scheme, you will not need a PCV licence even if a charge is made to passengers.

Minibus and Community Bus Permits are issued to organisations concerned with education, religion, social welfare, recreation or other activities of benefit to the community.

These permits allow certain organisations to make a charge without having to comply with the full public service vehicle operator licensing requirements and without the need for their drivers to have PCV entitlement.

The services must be provided for their own members or for groups of people whom the organisation serves. The service must not be provided to members of the general public and the charges made must be on a non-profit basis.

Drivers who first held a licence to drive cars prior to 1 January 1997 will continue to be able to drive minibuses under the permit schemes provided their entitlement to drive minibuses (category D1 – not for hire or reward) remains in force.

If your driving licence was first held after 1 January 1997, and drivers referred to above who have not renewed their minibus (D1 – not for hire or reward) entitlement, may drive a minibus under the a Minibus and Community Bus Permit scheme provided that:

  • You drive on behalf of a non-commercial body for social purposes but not for hire or reward (unless operating under a permit);
  • You are aged 21 or over;
  • You have held a car (category B) licence for at least two years;
  • You are providing the service on a voluntary basis;
  • The minibus maximum weight is not more than 3.5 tonnes, excluding any specialist equipment for the carriage of disabled passengers;
  • You do not tow a trailer.

The permit arrangements apply only in the UK. You cannot take a permit mini-bus abroad if it is used for hire or reward unless you hold a PCV entitlement.

This information was prepared by the North Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership.

Number of trailers:

Trailers may only be towed by:

  • a heavy motor car, or motor car (including a minibus but no other bus) may draw:
    • two trailers, if one of them is a towing implement and part of the other is secured to and either rests on or is suspended from that implement;
    • one trailer, or
  • a bus, not being an articulated bus or minibus, may draw one trailer. If it is a broken down bus, only the driver may be carried in the drawn vehicle;
  • a motorcycle may draw one trailer;
  • a motor tractor (very Large Goods Vehicle) may draw one trailer, or two unladen trailers;
  • a locomotive (extra Large Goods Vehicle) may draw three trailers;
  • an agricultural motor vehicle may draw:
    • two unladen agricultural trailers, or
    • two agricultural trailer appliances, or
    • one agricultural trailer (laden or unladen) and one agricultural trailed appliance, or non-agricultural trailers only as permitted by classification of the drawing vehicle above.

Towing distance

A broken down vehicle when being towed is a trailer, and when attached to the vehicle in front of it solely by means of a rope or chain, the distance between the two shall not exceed 1.5m unless the rope or chain is made clearly visible and shall not exceed 4.5m in any case.

Tow hitches

Any mechanical coupling device which is attached to a light passenger vehicle subject to type approval which is first used on or after 1 August 1996, must comply with Community Directive 94/20. This applies to the tow hitch on the towing vehicle, not to a device which is part of the trailer. The hitch must bear an E-mark.

Secondary couplings on trailers

Trailers must be fitted with a device designed to stop the trailer automatically in the event of the main coupling detaching whilst in motion, and if that device depends on a coupling to the motor vehicle, then that coupling should be fitted, or if no such device is fitted then a secondary coupling must attach the trailer to the motor vehicle which would, in the event of the main coupling detaching, prevent the drawbar from touching the ground and allow some residual steering of the trailer.

Passengers in trailers

A trailer shall not be used for the carriage of passengers for hire or reward on a road unless the trailer is, or is carrying, a broken down motor vehicle and:

  • the trailer is drawn at a speed not exceeding 30mph, and
  • in the case of a broken down bus, the trailer is drawn by a rigid bar.

A caravan with less than four wheels or with four wheels close coupled, shall not be used for the carriage of any passengers on a road, unless the caravan is being tested by one of the following:

  • its manufacturer
  • a person who is or has been repairing it
  • a distributor of, or dealer in caravans

Parking trailers

A trailer or caravan shall not be parked on a road when detached from the drawing vehicle unless at least one of its wheels is prevented from revolving by the setting of a parking brake or the use of a chain, chock or other efficient device.

Towing techniques

  • Check the tread and pressure of the tyres on your caravan or trailer before every journey
  • To increase stability and control, keep the nose weight of the caravan or trailer high (25-75kg)
  • Check your tow bar, brakes and light connections before every journey
  • Make sure any load is correctly secured and do not carry any pets or passengers in your caravan or trailer
  • Allow for the extra width of a trailer or caravan
  • Invest in a set of extra wide wing mirrors
  • Drive more slowly when towing, but be courteous to other road users by pulling over regularly to let them pass
  • Allow extra space when negotiating tight bends and corners
  • Increase your braking distances to allow for the extra weight, and brake early and gently to avoid jack-knifing.
  • Think Caravan/Trailer constantly, and drive accordingly.
  • Practice manoeuvring techniques in a large car park area when no other users about
  • Unstable caravans and trailers can start to ‘swing’ from side to side in a pendulum motion at speed, and if this occurs, slow down gradually and consider adding more nose weight to cure the problem.

Winter driving – tips for snow and ice fact sheet

This is the time of year when we all have to think, is our journey really necessary, and if so, are we prepared? Is our route planned and have we allowed for possible diversions, allowed plenty of time for the journey and made sure our vehicle is fully fuelled and all levels topped up.

Freezing weather conditions create many more hazards, from poor visibility to a dangerous lack of grip, requiring extra concentration, anticipation and the following techniques to negotiate these hazards safely.

  • Make sure your vehicle is fully prepared for winter. Check the antifreeze for strength and correct level, replace worn or damaged wiper blades, stock up on de-icer and screenwash and carry a window scrapper and two cloths – one to clear condensation from the inside of the windscreen and one to clean lights and exterior glass. A can of moisture-dispersant such as WD40 is useful to spray on the under bonnet electrics.
  • Always carry extra clothing, boots, hat and a fluorescent/reflective waistcoat and torch, in case you get caught out.
  • If you have any doubt regarding the tyre tread depth consider replacing tyres immediately. Over the winter months a minimum tyre tread depth of 3mm is far better than the legal 1.6mm minimum tread depth.
  • If your vehicle has an outside temperature gauge, be aware that a reading of 3 degrees C or below, indicates that extremely slippery conditions are possible.
  • Always drive within your own and your vehicles capabilities, and adjust your driving to the constantly changing conditions.
  • Observe other road users to see how they react to the conditions ahead, and alter your driving style accordingly.
  • Stopping distances can increase dramatically in winter. Stay focused, look further ahead for potential hazards and ensure that you are far enough behind the vehicle in front to be able to stop comfortably if it brakes or looses control. Brake early!
  • In slippery conditions, consider setting off in second gear, and always drive in the highest gear possible.
  • Always aim to stay on snow-ploughed and gritted roads, and remember overtaking manoeuvres can be dangerous, and take more distance to complete in winter conditions.
  • Clutch, acceleration, steering and braking movements should all be smooth and progressive, and braking should be done early and gently.
  • Modern ABS braking systems can make a horrible ‘grinding’ sound when you brake on snow and ice. This is due to the brakes being applied many hundreds of times a second in an effort to prevent a skid. It is quite normal and not a cause for concern as long as it stops once the brake is released. Take extra care at bridges – they are particularly prone to icing up – they freeze first and thaw last;
  • The worst freezing conditions are usually during the night and in the early hours.
  • Black ice is almost invisible, and it reduces a vehicles grip to zero. Be prepared for the moment when your vehicle regains its grip.
  • Remember that once snow and ice appears to have gone, ice can remain in areas shaded by trees and buildings.
  • If your vehicle looses grip at the front end, a front wheel skid (understeer) will begin. Take your foot off the accelerator, consider disengaging the clutch, and steer smoothly. When the tyres grip again, steer the vehicle back on course.
  • If your vehicle goes into a rear wheel skid, the back of the vehicle will swing out sideways (oversteer) and may cause a spin if you do not correct it quickly enough. To control the skid, lift off the accelerator, consider disengaging the clutch, and steer in the direction of the skid, so that the front wheels continue to point in the direction you intend to travel. This technique requires quick reactions, a cool head and a smooth response.