City Driving Introduction

Driving in the city presents a unique set of challenges. Traffic tends to be heavy and slow-moving, you can find yourself in a maze of one-way streets, your view is often restricted and pedestrians often appear to take a cavalier approach to road safety in this environment.

Busy commuters, frantic cyclists, angry taxi drivers, buses, pedestrian precincts.

If this sounds like a scene from a very stressful film you'd rather not watch, it might be time to check you're in the know with city driving.

Whether you'll drive through built-up areas every day or be more used to seeing tractors than double-decker buses, every driver should know how to adapt their driving to built-up areas.


City Driving Plan your route

In fact, it's best to plan several. Cities are hectic places and it can be pretty overwhelming getting lost in a concrete jungle. Everyone is trying to get to where they need to be in the quickest time possible, and people from the city aren't exactly renowned for their helpful, approachable, direction-giving.

Having a SatNav as a guide will help but you should map out your route and alternative routes before you leave. Fiddling with the SatNav while you're driving (even stopped in traffic) is illegal and dangerous. Keep an eye on traffic reports and even if the roads look clear, leave yourself loads of time.

Despite good sign-posting it is easy to get lost in this environment, so have a good idea where you're going and allow plenty of extra time for mistakes.

If you miss your exit on a roundabout go around again rather than cut in. If you find yourself trapped in a confusing one-way system stop in a safe place and calmly work out what you need to do to get back on track. Leaving half an hour earlier factors in simple mistakes and avoids stress if you make them.


City Driving Good Practice

Avoid changing driving lanes

Try to avoid changing lanes constantly, especially if it's unnecessary - the fewer manoeuvres you have to make, the less chance of making a mistake or having an accident.

Drive calmly and take good effective observation. Stay cool, keep calm and remain observant - cities are busy places.

Mirrors, mirrors, mirrors

Checking your mirrors regularly is something you should be doing anyway but even MORE so when you're driving in the city.

It's so important to make your intentions crystal clear when driving in the city. You know the 'mirror, signal, manoeuvre' chant that's drummed into your skull? Well, this is where it comes into play more than ever.

You can sometimes get away with making a little mistake in a rural area because you have the space to correct it when you're not surrounded by 50 cars and 100 pedestrians. But in city rush hour, changing lanes without signalling or pulling away without checking your blind spot is going to end very differently.


The city is noisy and full of distractions: buses, trams, demonstrations, performance artists, flash mobs and silly, tiny dogs. It can be so tempting to take your eye off the road but it's possibly one of the worst times to do so.

As hard as it is, you have to keep focused on what you and other drivers are doing.

It's not just other vehicles you need to worry about in the city; you also have vulnerable users on pedal cycles and mobility scooters. The last two are legally allowed to travel on the pavement and the road. Give them room and be patient. When it comes to pedestrians, remember how quiet modern cars can be and factor in that people might be distracted listening to music, texting or making a phone call. Be aware they could step into your path and be ready to react.

Moral of the story: check, check and check again.


City Driving Mind the gap

Remember that you are in control of the space in front and around you, so keep a clear gap wherever possible. In this packed environment, brakes get slammed on and doors of parked cars opened into the street all the time. You don't have control over the space behind you, so if someone is too close keep checking your mirrors: you'll need to brake extra early to help them avoid going into the back of you. It's all very well talking about who would be to blame, but if you are hit from behind you could face weeks of pain from whiplash and the headache of dealing with insurance claims.

Make your driving intentions clear

As with any type of driving always make sure you leave yourself (and other cars) enough time by signalling in advance of making turns, changing lanes, etc. It's important to make your intentions absolutely clear to avoid accidents (and claims on your driver insurance).

Volume of traffic

Be prepared for traffic delays.

Due to their very nature, cities can get very clogged with traffic so make sure you leave yourself enough time for the journey or else you may end up running behind schedule - not good if you have an important meeting or date!

Check traffic reports for delays on your chosen route before setting out and remember to have an alternative journey plan if necessary.


City Driving Other Considerations

Be extra vigilant with road signs

Surveillance is everywhere in built-up areas. So if you drive in a bus lane during times you're not supposed to, or put your foot down to make it to your 9am meeting, you're 100% going to get caught. Don't panic if you miss a turning or exit. Don't pull across traffic in a last ditch effort, simply carry on driving until you find an area you can turn or go back on yourself.

If you're used to country driving where the lane markings are nonexistent and there are fewer speed limit signs, you might have got too comfortable with bending the rules. Well, that ain't gonna happen if you're whizzing round town, so don't risk it and keep your eyes peeled.

Narrow roads

The roads in older cities simply weren't built to accommodate heavy traffic. Know the width of your car and how to pull in the wing mirrors. Look out for high kerbs, because you may be forced to mount the pavement. And think about giving way even when it's your right of way, if that will help keep the flow of traffic moving.

Peep and creep

Getting out at a busy junction, perhaps with vans parked either side restricting your view, requires patience. Creep forward very slowly, peeping out as far as you can. That way you're unlikely to have a collision and you're inviting those on the main road to slow down and let you out.

Keep to the speed limits

Stay within the speed limits - you really don't want to risk fines or accidents, especially since this could have a knock on effect when it comes to renewing your insurance cover.


Spare change

Having a few coins in your back pocket might just save your day. Parking in the city is notoriously sparse (and expensive.) But there's nothing worse than getting to your destination and realising there's nowhere to park - or worse, poking your debit card hopelessly at a ticket machine that only takes coins.

If you haven't factored finding a space into your plans, you're going to want to park the car wherever you can and leg it so you're not late. That means you'll end up at the mercy of a parking meter, and scrabbling around in the foot well for ONE MORE 20p is stress you just don't need.

Make sure you have enough spare change on you.