A higher centre of gravity and often less occupant protection are just a couple of reasons why driving a van requires extra care and attention.
And, except for the big/high-capacity delivery vans, anyone can drive a van on a car license, but road safety experts, IAM Roadsmart, say that doesn’t mean you can assume a van will drive anything like a normal passenger car.
The organisation’s head of driving and riding standards, Richard Gladman, says vans can handle and respond to driver inputs very differently to a car.
Safe Van Driving Tips:
Check Your Driving Position
Sitting in the driving seat of a van may feel different to start with because the driving position is not the same as a car.
The main difference with most vans is the lack of a rear-view mirror, although you will have two good size door mirrors.
Make sure you take your time to get your seating position set up correctly before adjusting your mirrors to give you the best view of the road behind.
Finding out where all the controls are and what features your new van has are vital, just looking for the lights while you are moving can take your eyes off the road for a few seconds – and that’s enough time to travel more than 100 metres.
Know the Dimensions
What are the dimensions of the van? Is it a standard or long wheelbase, how tall is it – will it get into car parks with a height restriction?
Knowing the width and height of your vehicle will help in stressful situations where you might not know if you will fit!
Check the Load
When you load your van make sure your heavy items are on the lower levels and tied down, not just so they can’t move around and damage other goods but also moving items can destabilise your van.
Remember your brakes are designed for a full load so they might be sharp and over responsive if your van is empty (be particularly cautious in the wet).
Take Your Time
The best way to drive a van is calmly; rushing around won’t necessarily get you to your destination faster but it will cause you stress and tempt you to take risks and could annoy other road users.
Watch Your Blind-spots
Remember to position your vehicle carefully so you don’t create blind sports for yourself e.g. being at 90 degrees to oncoming traffic when emerging from junctions will give you good vision in both directions, especially important when crossing a dual carriageway.
Also, when turning you might need to position a little wider at junctions to avoid clipping the kerb.
Show other road users how a good van driver behaves; be patient and friendly, if someone is hesitant give them time.
Remember, not everyone has your view from their driving seat.
Got any other safe van driving tips? Let us know in the comments section below.