Buying a van for the first time is one thing, but getting to grips with the experience of driving a van for the first time is something else entirely. The simple fact of the matter is that vans are not handled like any standard car you’ve ever driven and nor can they be approached in the same way. You’re looking at a longer, taller, wider and heavier vehicle with a different engine and a centre of gravity you might not be used to.
Of course, this doesn’t mean anyone should be put off the idea of van driving – get it right and it can be a real blast! But at the same time, it’s worth following the advice of the UK’s road safety gurus and keeping a few common sense tips in mind when first getting started.
Mirrors – Use Them
The bigger your vehicle, the more exterior space you have to monitor for other road users and hazards. And what’s more, larger vehicles also tend to have much bigger blind-spots than standard cars. As such, you need to get used to using your mirrors not only more intensively, but also more consistently. And in instances where the van has no rearview mirror at all, it’s a case of getting used to using the mirrors you do have as substitutes.
Road Safety Considerations
In order to be safe, you have to understand that many of the rules you’d normally drive by no longer apply. For example your acceleration times will be increased, as too will your stopping distance and perhaps the van’s turning circle. You won’t be able to corner as sharply and any prevailing weather conditions will have a much great impact on the van’s handling than they would on a standard car. Or in other words, it’s a bit like going back to the drawing board in terms of everyday road safety considerations.
Parking – Take Time to Get it Right
The exact same principles apply to both car parking and van parking, so really there’s nothing new to learn in most respects. However, due to the van’s larger size and more extensive blind spots, parking is not something you should rush into. Take your time and get it right – better than hurrying and ending up with a prang!
Secure Your Load
And finally, no matter what it is you’re carrying you need to be sure it is secured in the back and cannot fall, roll and rattle around. Loose loads can represent a serious distraction and a danger to road safety in their own right, be it shifting the van’s centre of gravity or potentially bursting out of the back door and into the path of oncoming traffic. Take the time to make sure all is as secure as it can be before considering turning the key.
With a little practice and a proactive attitude, van driving can become second nature in no time. And just like riding a bike, once you’ve mastered it you’re pretty much sorted for life!
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