This article explains what you should do when you leave or return to your vehicle, and how you should maintain the safety of yourself and passengers while you are driving your vehicle
When you are getting out of your car, bus or truck, make sure the engine is switched off, the park brake or handbrake is on, and that you look over your shoulder so that you don’t open the door into a cyclist, pedestrian or other vehicle.
When you are pulling up on the left make sure that you wing mirror doesn’t hit a pedestrian – this is especially important for drivers of large vehicles where the mirrors will be at head height and also will be bigger.
Hazard warning lights
You can use your hazard warning lights when on a motorway to warn if traffic ahead has slowed suddenly, if your vehicle is creating a temporary obstruction because you have broken down, or if you are school bus picking up or dropping off children. Leave your hazard warning lights on while you walk to the emergency telephone.
If you are driving a bus or coach you must leave your sidelights on when parked, even if in a lay-by.
Some buses and long vehicles have marker lights down the side to make them more visible as they emerge from junctions, and at roundabouts.
Parked cars do not have to park with lights and therefore if you are driving a heavy vehicle, long vehicle or vehicle towing a trailer you should be extra careful of them
If you want to park facing downhill you should turn the wheels towards the kerb, apply the handbrake and (if it’s a manual vehicle, leave it in reverse), or (if it’s an automatic vehicle) leave it in P (park). Turning your wheels towards the kerb means that if the other methods fail, the vehicle will roll gently into the kerb and stop rather than turning away from the kerb into traffic. The handbrake or park brake will stop it moving forwards, however, sometimes they can release slightly over time. Leaving it in reverse gear will provide a lot of engine braking, and leaving it in park (with an automatic car) should make it impossible for the vehicle to move forwards without damaging the transmission.
When leaving your vehicle at night park in a well-lit area as this is likely to be more secure.
If you have to park your vehicle at night on a road with a limit of more than 30mph you must leave your side lights on, even if you are in a lay-by.
You can only park your vehicle on the right on a one-way street; there are no reflectors on the front of your vehicle so you must not park facing traffic.
When parking a motorbike you should always use the steering lock. You should also consider using additional locking devices such as a U-lock, disc lock or chain. If possible fasten it to an immovable post or another motorcycle.
If you want to park on a hill, leave your vehicle in low gear with the wheels (or wheel if it is a motorbike and sidecar) pointed towards the kerb. Apply the handbrake or parking brake.
Vehicle watch schemes can help keep your car safer. By displaying high visibility vehicle watch stickers in your car you are inviting the police to stop your vehicle if seen in use between midnight and 5 am.
Don’t keep your vehicle documents in your vehicle as this makes it easier for a thief to sell it if it’s stolen.
When parking and leaving your vehicle you should never leave the engine running. Take any visible items with you or hide them. Use a steering lock or handlebar lock and an immobiliser and alarm. Have a security-coded radio installed to deter theft.
Alarms and immobilisers
An alarm will make an audible signal if someone tries to steal your vehicle, whereas an immobiliser will prevent the vehicle from being started. Some immobilisers can be bypassed, but this takes time and thieves are usually opportunistic.
For motorbikes, the risk of theft is greater because they are more portable. Therefore it’s a good idea to lock your bike to something immovable or, better still, in a garage or other secure area.
You don’t need to disconnect the air lines when you leave the vehicle. After getting out of your vehicle it’s a good idea to walk round and check your tyres, load, lights, brake lines, electrical connections, etc. When you return to your vehicle, or take over a different vehicle, all the safety checks should be carried out. It’s more important for lorries to park on level, firm ground.
Coaches and buses
Vehicles fitted with air suspension can sometimes move a considerable amount when first started, as the air bags are injected with gas. If you’re too close to another vehicle or obstruction, this could result in collision damage.
Many buses have a separate door on the offside for the driver. When leaving the bus by this door you should always check for traffic which may be passing, apply the parking brake and climb down the footholds facing the bus to reduce your risk of slipping. Never jump down from the cab into the road. It’s particularly dangerous as you risk injury from landing badly or falling into the path of passing traffic.
You don’t need to operate the fuel cutoff switch when leaving your bus unless it’s been involved in an accident.