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IAM ROADSMART: Why should I take my taxi driving skills to the next level?

Whatever your driving experience, role or employee status it never hurts to go that extra mile and ensure you have all the essential skills needed for staying focused and keeping safe whilst travelling on the roads.

Never more so for taxi and Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) drivers who have a duty of care to passengers and spend the majority of their workday on the roads. Taxis and PHV’s are vital to our communities; whether it’s the iconic black cab in our cities or the flexible minicab in a rural district. It’s crucial these drivers adhere to the highest driving standards whilst they transport people quickly and safely through the local area, particularly when they play an important role in the night-time economy, ensuring the public return home safely.

Taxi and Private Hire Assessments can better equip drivers when it comes to everyday skills – especially as we adapt to changing roads and customer behaviours.

While traffic issues, congestion charges and dealing with a variety of customers are daily challenges, by improving their current driving skills could be a real bonus to taxi and PHV drivers, whether that’s for business and leisure.

If you’re a licensed taxi driver who is ‘plying for hire’ or carrying passengers would a road safety skills boost be of benefit? We are going to take you through some of the benefits of becoming a recognised advanced driver.

Why take your existing driving to the next level?

Nobody is born a great driver – behind- the-wheel skills need to be learned and then honed. As a taxi or PHV driver, your personal driving skills will impact the safety and wellbeing of customers using your service and, as a result, influence just how successful your business is.

IAM RoadSmart assessments practice specific skills at an advanced level, including control, observation, timing, optimum road positioning and how best to deal with unpredictable roads and other road users’ behaviour. This is vital when taxis and PHV’s are relied heavily on by some of the most vulnerable people within the community.

As part of the assessment by IAM RoadSmart, we will assess your driving skills and provide you with the necessary accreditation to become a professional, able and safe taxi and PHV driver.

Further benefits include:

• Awareness and knowledge

• Expert tuition in your own car

• Reduce driving risk

• Reduce fuel consumption / wear and tear

• Enhance your driving style

• Regular tips and advice to keep your skills up to date.

Before you accept that next fare, IAM RoadSmart is on hand with some useful tips and guidance to ensure the safety of you and your fellow passengers.

Pre-journey checks: preparation is everything

Before you set off, check your car or motorbike. Has it got fuel? Is the tyre pressure correct? Is the windscreen clear? Take a moment to familiarise yourself with the dashboard and controls, too. A good way to remember all of this is from the acronym POWDERY - Petrol, Oil, Water, Damage, Electrics, Rubber, and finally Yourself (make sure you have the right gear and the right mindset).

Plan your trip: avoid unnecessary delays

For long journeys, check your route on a travel site such as Traffic England, Traffic Scotland, Traffic Wales and TrafficWatchNI for up-to-the-minute alerts about delays and roadworks. Check for local information, too. Some councils have taken advantage of less traffic being on the roads to enable them to carry out roadworks, which may still be ongoing. And, of course, there may be temporary road layout changes, too, such as pop-up cycle lanes and wider pavements.

Especially important for airport runs or for passengers wanting to get to meetings or appointments on time. If they are booking in advance know your route, alternatives and if there are issues. Planning ahead could be the difference between a stressed driver and passenger and even a repeat booking.

Managing distractions: keep your eyes on the road

Make sure there's nothing loose in the car that can roll around. Put your phone in the glove box but don't turn it off (in case it's needed in an emergency) - use a ‘do not disturb’ mode if possible. If you must take a brief hands-free call, limit it to, “I’ll call you when I can park safely”. And ask passengers to be quiet if you need to concentrate. Don't turn your head to check on a child in the back. If you're upset, glance in the mirror to check there's nothing badly wrong. If they are distressed, talk to them then pullover when it's safe.

Respecting other road users: sharing space responsibly

Everyone has been using the road differently in recent months and may struggle to adapt to busier roads. Watch out for the pedestrians who may be less aware of motorised traffic, and who are stepping into the road to maintain a safe distance from each other. More people are cycling now, some of whom may be inexperienced. Take great care when overtaking cyclists (and, on country roads, horse riders) - give them at least 1.5 metres or as much room as you would a car and reduce your speed significantly for horses.

Driving in towns: navigating a new urban network

As well as pedestrians, city roads will see you encounter high concentration of vehicles on roads that contain plenty of obstructions and hazards: parked cars, delivery drivers, buses. We all need to be even more vigilant than before. You really don't want to drive into the back of a car in front at low speed.

Managing speed: keep a steady pace

Be aware of your speed - don't assume you know exactly what 20mph feels like. Look out for speed limit signs around you and look ahead. If you're in a 30mph zone and see a 20mph sign, ease down your speed before you reach the sign - you may not even need to use the brakes. If there is a vehicle behind, then you may want to apply the brakes gently so the driver can see you're slowing down. Remember, brake lights come on before the brakes, so by applying the pedal very gently you can activate the lights but not the brakes. When travelling on faster roads, use technology such as speed limiters if your vehicle has them.

Motorway driving: use your skills on major routes

Cooperate with other motorway users. If you can, move safely into the second lane to give space to those joining the motorway. Be aware of what type of motorway you're driving or riding on. Is it a smart motorway where a hard shoulder is in use as a traffic lane? When you see a red ‘X’ over a lane on a gantry sign, move out of that lane as soon as you safely can. Never move into another lane unless you have sufficient breaking space from the vehicle in front. If someone's driving too close behind you, don't begin to creep forward. If they persist, pull into the lane on your left when safe to do so.

Countryside driving: handling the road less travelled

Over the last 18 months people have been enjoying the quieter country roads, so watch for an increased number of walkers, cyclists, and horse riders. Farmers in their tractors have also got used to having the roads themselves, so may be less aware of other road users. Tree and hedge growth may have obscured signs, and even if you know the road, new potholes may have appeared with the change in weather conditions.

Managing overtaking: balance your judgement and speed

First, ask whether you really need to overtake. If a vehicle is travelling at 50mph in a 60mph zone, is it essential to get past? Almost certainly not. Of course, there are times when you encounter slow moving vehicles such as tractors, then you need to plan so you can overtake safely. Check you have plenty of room ahead, so you don't force the vehicle you are overtaking to brake after you've passed. Also, you must ensure nothing's coming up behind you.

Parking and manoeuvring: take time over the basics

Check in advance that you'll be able to park at your destination or, better still, see if you can reserve a space beforehand. If you haven't had to manoeuvre your vehicle in a tight spot for a while, practise with empty parking spaces either side first.

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