Driving in the city is obviously a more challenging experience than motoring on laidback streets in regional towns. There’s more traffic for a start…actually, there is more of everything. More lanes, more intersections, more traffic lights, more roundabouts…and more ways to get lost.
A British insurance company recently published an article on safer driving in the city, and this New Zealand rental car company believes it is applicable in their country as well. After all, many of their clients from smaller towns need to hire vehicles when visiting a big city, like Auckland or Christchurch, so any advice they can pass on about navigating traffic in a metropolitan centre will make for a safer and more enjoyable visit.
Some of the main city driving tips to keep in mind include:
- Plan your route. Before setting out on your trip, plan your route. Use an up-to-date map to plot your intended course, and use electronic navigational equipment as you go. An unplanned journey can lead to unintended consequences!
- Be prepared for delays. Cities are clogged with traffic particularly at peak commuter and school drop off and pick up times. To keep to your schedule, give yourself more time than you need to complete your journey. If you can, travel during late morning or early afternoon when there’s less traffic. Check traffic reports on the internet or radio for delays on your chosen route before setting out and have an alternative route just in case.
- Be clear with your intentions. In a smaller town, you may be able to get away with not indicating when changing lanes or turning a corner, simply because there is no traffic. This is a bad habit to stick to in the city because there is ALWAYS traffic! So make your driving intentions clear to give other motorists enough time to react to your movements – this means signaling in advance of making turns or changing lanes.
- Look out for other road users. It’s not just fellow motorists you need to look out for when driving in the big city. It will also be teeming with pedestrians and cyclists, particularly now that many councils are adding bike lanes to city streets. Check your mirrors regularly, watch in front of you as well to the side of you, as cyclists and pedestrians can appear out of nowhere amongst all that parked traffic.
- Avoid changing lanes constantly. If you can, pick the lane you need to be in and stay in it. The fewer lane changes you need to make, the less chance of making an error or having an accident, particularly if the motorist in the other lane is in a hurry and reluctant to yield. If you do miss a turning, don’t panic and veer across traffic in a last-minute effort to make the turn, Just carry on. In a big city, there is invariably another way to get to where you’re going and if you’re using a GPS device, it will reset and give you alternative directions.
Driving in the city requires you to keep calm and stay observant. If it’s any consolation, the volume of traffic means the average speed is usually greatly reduced so you won’t feel like you’re in a race. Just remember to stick to the basics of driving that apply to the biggest city or the smallest town: plan your route, let fellow motorists know what you’re doing, keep an eye on what’s happening around you and don’t be in too much of a hurry to get to where you’re going.