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Haven't Driven in Years? Here's How to Stay Alive

noto
15 Minutes

Guide for Returning Drivers

Let’s just say - cars in Singapore are not exactly the cheapest.

If you haven’t been driving for over 10 years or more, you’re not alone. And in fact, it’s pretty common in Singapore. 

You probably feel ashamed about how long you haven’t been driving, but let’s be honest - with COE prices and high costs of living, one does not simply own a car in Singapore.

Unless you’ve already made it, or you have a family car that you can drive.

Of course, we’ve heard of stories of people who have gotten themselves in huge debt just to get their very own car. We definitely don’t recommend you do this, especially if the car is way beyond your means (even if it’s for a good purpose).

So yes, if you haven’t driven in years, it’s perfectly normal.

Fast forward a few years, let’s say you’ve earned a decent income, and can finally own a car comfortably. 

In that case, if you haven’t driven in years, it’s your responsibility to make sure that you know how to drive on the roads safely. The lives of your passengers are in your hands.

Many returning drivers would choose to take driving refresher lessons just to play safe, but of course, it's entirely up to you.

Here’s some of our tips to not only stay alive, but be safe on the roads!

What to Look Out For

1. Adhere to Driving Rules

Take note of speed limits, parking regulations, road markings and be sure to follow the safety procedures on expressways and tunnels

For example, what are the speed limits in Singapore? School Zones? Silver Zones? What constitutes illegal parking? What are the timings that you’re not allowed to drive in the bus lane? What are the do’s and don’ts in expressways and tunnels?

To avoid being penalised, familiarise yourself with the list of traffic offences that may result in demerit points, fines or criminal penalties.

Accumulation of 24 or more demerit points within 2 years for non-probationary licence holders will be liable for suspension.

2. Updates to Traffic Rules and Regulations

It’s important to take note of any updates in the traffic rules and regulations. 

From time to time, there may also be changes to enforce traffic rules. For example, in Feb 2024, news sources reported that red light cameras will be activated to detect speeding violations from the 2nd quarter of 2024 onwards.

LTA has also implemented Red-Amber-Green (RAG) Arrows at traffic junctions to replace discretionary right turns

Drivers must stop behind the RAG behind the STOP line until the green arrow is turned on before proceeding.

3. Dangerous Drivers, Hazards & Roadside Constructions

Lookout for other P-plate drivers, potentially drunk drivers and drivers that don’t seem to be keeping to their lane. Chances are, the driver is using his/her phone (That’s 12 demerit points!)

We had an incident where a P-plate driver in front of us didn’t signal and switched his lane abruptly. Thankfully, we managed to brake in time. 

Even some experienced drivers don’t have the habit of signalling, so do take note!

Also look out for road hazards and roadside constructions ahead and give yourself ample time to filter to a different lane.

4. Approaching Cars in the Carpark

Slow down or stop and look out for cars coming up the slope or the spiral car park. 

Some drivers like to dash up the spiral without looking out for cars exiting, especially in office buildings - so do look out for them!

5. Cyclists at Pedestrian or Zebra Crossings

Always slow down and take a good look.

Especially during the night or the wee hours in the morning, cyclists may dash out from nowhere, even when you think it’s safe to proceed.

Be extra careful.

What You Should Practise On

1. Parking

If you have trouble parking, it’ll probably be 10 times more stressful if you have to do it in front of a line of cars waiting behind you.

You could start by finding an empty carpark and learn how to park.

However, if you feel you need guidance, especially when it comes to parking in actual multi-storey car parks or stressful situations, it’s always better to have someone experienced beside you.

Many people don’t, and therefore, noto has started our own driving refresher course to help those in need.

Whether you don’t have your own car, don’t want to damage your family/own car, don’t like your family or friends overreacting when they teach you how to drive - whatever the reasons - we’re here to guide you.

2. Expressways

Many of our students who haven’t been driving for a long while look for us as they lack the confidence to drive on the expressways. 

It’s good to check the GPS route before you drive so you know which exits to take. Signal early before you enter the expressway and filter into the main lanes when it is safe to do so. 

Keep to the speed limit of the expressway, which has a maximum speed limit of 90km/h and 70km/h to 80km/h in expressway tunnels.

Do not tailgate. Keep to Lane 2 or 3. Lane 1 is used for overtaking vehicles only, so do not hog the lane!

If you miss your exit, just proceed to the next exit and make a detour.

Keep a lookout for cars joining the expressway when approaching merging lanes. If a car is coming from a distance, slow down but don’t jam the brake. Otherwise, you may cause a chain collision.

3. Roundabout

It takes time to familiarise yourself with a roundabout again. Don’t worry, here’s a few tips to get you up to speed again.

Slow down at a roundabout and give way to traffic on your right. Do not enter unless there’s a safe gap in the roundabout.

If you’re turning right at a roundabout, signal right before entering the roundabout and keep the signal on until you exit.

If you’re going to the next exit or straight ahead, signal left just before you exit. Be sure to give ample time to signal before you exit.

Common Areas of Difficulty

1. Driving Anxiety

It is common to feel anxious if you haven’t driven for a long time. The best way forward is to get behind the wheel more often.

Getting someone experienced to sit beside you and guide you to drive helps a lot. They should be sharp enough to look out if you’re turning the steering too much, not in the centre of the lane, overtaking cars at the wrong moment and so on.

If you’re not confident yet, try to avoid driving during peak hours.

For those who would like to return to driving but has no car or mentor to guide you, you’re welcome to take some driving tuition with us.

2. Adapting to Changes

If you’re driving, you have to be adaptable to whatever is thrown at you.

This includes adapting to adverse weather conditions, driving in the night, road conditions (slippery/bends) and lighting (sunlight/high beam),

For example, if there’s heavy rain, you should reduce your vehicle speed to avoid hydroplaning. 

If the rain is coming down so hard that you can’t see anything, turn on your head and fog lights and drive slow. If you can, find a safe spot to pull over and wait for the downpour to stop.

3. Know your car

Different sizes of cars will feel different.

Familiarising yourself with a different sized vehicle comes with experience, like gauging how much space left is in front of the car, or when should you start turning the steering wheel.

At the start, you can go slowly when you’re turning. If you think you’re not going to make it, slowly readjust and turn again.

Or a neat trick is to turn on the headlights and judge the distance from the brightness of the headlight.

4. Judging Distance and Speed

You will need to know how to judge the distance and speed of oncoming cars, or cars behind you if you’re overtaking.

Learn how to look at your mirrors. If you’re looking at your right side mirror, if the car is in the left part of the side mirror it is dangerous, if the car is in the right part of the side mirror it is generally ok to overtake.

Speed wise, if the car is getting bigger, it means the car is getting closer, vice versa.

5. Driving Rules

Whoever has the guts, the money, or the more expensive car has the right of way.

Just kidding. Jokes aside, according to the Highway Code, if you are turning right, you must give way to traffic going straight from all directions, as well as traffic turning right from the right and traffic turning left from the opposite direction.

Read through the Highway Code to find out more.

How to Practise More

Like we said earlier, it’s always advisable to have someone experienced beside you to guide you as you drive.

If you’re just starting out, try to find big empty spaces so that it gives you a lot of room for practice.

Industrial areas are a great choice during the weekends as they have nice wide roads and not much foot traffic.  

Go on a drive for short trips, like running errands. Take a refresher course.

If you'd like to find out all about driving refresher lessons, we've done a comprehensive guide here.

Eventually as you get more experienced, you can upping the difficulty level.

That includes going on roundabouts, expressways or even travelling across borders.

And for the ultimate challenge, you can try parking at the most challenging car parks in Singapore.

With more practice, we believe that you’ll be a pro driver in no time.

More About Street Smart Programme

noto has recently rolled out a Street Smart Programme to help licensed drivers, new or those who haven’t been driving for a long time, to pick up driving once again.

The programme covers areas such as parking in multi-storey car parks, driving on expressways, getting comfortable driving in the Central Business District area and more.

The main objective is to provide one-on-one guidance and support as you get comfortable with steering and driving on Singapore’s roads.

The best part about it? The programme can be customised according to your preferred locations - and our instructors will be able to pick you up and drop you off anywhere in Singapore.

Sign up for our Street Smart Programme today!

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