Following on from my previous article, where I outlined the major phases of the system of car control
“I P S G A”, the Information part flows through each phase and is a continual source of input and output.
Indeed there are many ways of giving information to other road users and pedestrians. Among them are those I have listed below:
use of direction indicators
position on the road optimised for safety, visibility and correct routing
speed appropriate to the hazard being approached, attained via explicit braking or throttle control (engine braking, also known as acceleration sense), always being able to stop in the distance you can see to be clear on your side of the road
You may be able to think of others!
Recently you may have seen on my social media posts and also on LinkedIn that I have had the privilege of testing a big Audi A8L (long wheelbase). It was during one of those drives when we were visiting family in Somerset, that I was reminded of another set of basic tests that should be used before actually driving off in a car, especially when driving a car that you are not used to.
This will become clear as we progress through this article and yes, as you would expect, there is a funny side to this!
Firstly, IAM Roadsmart has a set of tests that are used before even getting in the car. These come from the Police Federation, when the police pursuit driver is not necessarily getting into the same car each day. So this is where P O W DE R Y comes into play.
Does the vehicle have enough fuel be that Diesel, Petrol or nowadays electrical charge for the journey ahead?
There are many oil reservoirs and (if applicable) they need to check regularly. Vehicles will have some or all of the following:
Power steering fluid
There are also various water reservoirs and (if applicable) they also need to check regularly.:
Screen washer - these is often forgotten and is a legal requirement
If your vehicle has been parked overnight on the street or in a public car park area, it may have suffered damage caused by other road users. It is wise to know what damage (if any) has been caused before driving off. Making a quick check of the below areas is fundamentally important:
Wheels for damage - the can be avoided by parking with your wheels straight to avoid other road users clipping them
Tyres for slits and punctures
Bodywork for knocks and scratches - you may find the other piece of evidence on the car parked next to you!
Check the functioning of exterior lights, indicators and brake lights. Also check interior lighting.
Tyre pressures should be correct to the manufacturers recommendations - when were these last checked?
Tyre tread depth should be a minimum of 1.6 mm across 3/4 of the breadth of the tread and around the entire circumference
Remembering that tread depth of less than 3 mm is less efficient in dispersing water
Windscreen wiper rubbers - are they worn? Would be best to change them as soon as any wear is identified
Hoses under the bonnet - check for condition and tightness of clips.
Are you fit to drive? Most crashes are caused by human error. Be sure you are fit to drive. Not only does this refer to the alcohol limit, but also, are you too stressed or just too tired?
So there we have the basic checks before driving off - I admit a lot of them are obvious, and when you are only driving your own car, most do not need to be done before every journey, but they should all be done at least on a regular basis.
So this is where we come to the funny point when I was reminded about the use of a cockpit drill in Somerset in the Audi.
These points are required to be spoken out before taking the IAM Roadsmart Advanced test, but it is also good to remind yourself of them in your mind at least before driving off. Some of the below points may or may not be necessary due to the increase of driving aids fitted as standard on many modern cars.
The car has ABS brakes and power steering but no other significant driver aids.
My POWDERY Checks have been completed and I am satisfied that they are all correct.
The Handbrake is on, gear lever is in neutral.
My seat and head restraint are positioned correctly.
I’m checking the mirrors are positioned correctly and I am checking all the doors are closed, by looking down the external body lines of the car using the mirrors.
I’m switching on the ignition and I am checking that all the warning lights that should be on, are on.
I’m now checking that all warning lights which should go out, have gone out.
I’m starting the engine and checking that all warning lights have gone out except the parking brake, which I am checking now.
I’m doing a static brake pressure test, which is good.
I am checking the seat belt for correct operation and that it is properly fastened. I’m also checking that passengers have their seatbelts on. In UK, there is a legal requirement that seat belts must be used in the rear as well as the front seats.
The ventilation is set to me and my passenger’s requirements.
Today is a bright, clear Friday afternoon and I’m expecting some commuter traffic later in the drive. There has been no rain for a while so I’m not expecting any standing water.
I do not require the use of lights or wipers at this time.
The above is an example of what is spoken as the Advanced test is started, but obviously the details on some points, are changed depending upon what is happening that day!
So from the above cockpit drill, which is the point that I would have done well to remember I hear you say?
One of the great features that many modern cars are fitted with these days is a button to press on the boot lip that gently shuts the boot. You’ve guessed it - point 5!
My wife and I were about to return home after a lovely time is a park with the family. I was already in the drivers seat of the loan Audi A8L and my wife placed a few more items in the boot, pressed the button and got in the car.
I drove off through the car parking area of the park and other members of the family were looking at us strangely. I slowed down, stopped and opened my window as my daughter said - do you normally drive off with the boot fully open Dad?
The button hadn’t closed the boot as the wrong button was pressed. Totally my responsibility, so I got out and rectified the problem.
Now, had I done the cockpit drill, that would not have happened - its good to be reminded sometimes of such basic checks. Also, had I been the chauffeur that day to my wife, I would have loaded and closed the boot myself, opened the door for her and closed it before getting into the drivers seat. That’ll teach me for having a day off!