Go Learning Driving Dictionary

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  • ABS: Anti-lock Braking System. This electronic system prevents your wheels from locking when you press hard on the brakes, but is not always entirely foolproof and shouldn’t be relied on unless absolutely necessary.
  • ADI: An Approved Driving Instructor.
  • ANPR: Automatic Number Plate Recognition. Often present in motorway cameras and onboard police cars, this system can inform authorities in moments whether your car is taxed and insured.
  • Aquaplaning: When your car ‘skates’ over the surface of a large puddle and you lose grip on the road surface. Also called hydroplaning, it’s exacerbated by worn tyres or tyres which are inflated to the incorrect pressure.
  • Automatic Car: A car which has an automatic gearbox, meaning there is no clutch pedal, and gear changes are performed automatically. 
  • Bay Park: A manoeuvre you’ll have to learn ahead of your driving test, this one involves parking in a marked bay – like those you’d find in a supermarket car park.
  • BHP: Brake Horsepower. A way of measuring how much power your car’s engine produces. Other units include kW and PS.
  • Blind Spot: An area surrounding your car which isn’t covered by your rear view mirror or door mirrors. It’s important to look over your shoulder and check your blind spot regularly when performing manoeuvres and before setting off.
  • Braking Distance: How long it takes your car to come to a halt when you fully apply the brakes. This distance increases the less grip the road surface has (in wet and icy conditions, for example).
  • Carriageway: A road which typically has two or more lanes, and is intended purely for cars and not pedestrians or cyclists.
  • Central Reservation: The raised kerb dividing both lanes of a major road, like a motorway. It usually has a barrier too, preventing cars from crossing from one side to the other.
  • Clutch: Controlled by the furthest left pedal in a manual car, this component disconnects the engine from the gearbox and allows you to change gear and come to a stop without stalling. Learning to modulate or ‘slip’ the clutch pedal when pulling away is called ‘clutch control.’
  • Coolant: The fluid in your car’s radiator. This keeps your engine from overheating, regulating its temperature with the help of cooling fans.
  • Dash Cam: An onboard camera capturing a view of the road ahead, and sometimes the view behind. These devices can help demonstrate your innocence in a road accident – or implicate you if you were at fault.
  • Diesel: One of the two most common fuels powering internal combustion engined-cars, alongside petrol. Diesel engines don’t rev as high as petrol ones and make a different sound, too.
  • Dipped Beam Headlights: The position your headlights will be in most of the time, angled down towards the road. This allows you to see the road ahead clearly without dazzling drivers travelling in the opposite direction.
  • Driving Examiner: The person who will sit alongside you in your driving test and decide whether or not you are ready to hit the open road unsupervised.
  • Driving Instructor: The person whose job it is to teach you to drive and prepare you for your driving test.
  • Dual Carriageway: A wider road with a central reservation and two lanes travelling in each direction. Learner drivers can drive on these roads, but not motorways.
  • Dual Controls: Driving instructors commonly have this fitted to their cars. A second set of pedals is installed for the passenger (your instructor) to operate, allowing them to keep you safe while you’re learning to drive. 
  • DVLA: The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. This organisation will issue your driving licence and keeps record of the nation’s vehicles.
  • DVSA: The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency. The organisation which handles driving tests, among other things.
  • Emergency Stop: Bringing your car to a stop as quickly as possible, but in a controlled manner. You may be asked to perform this manoeuvre in your driving test.
  • Engine Braking: Slowing your car down with the drag of the engine, particularly by changing down gears. This is strongly discouraged by driving instructors and could lead to you failing your test.
  • Engine Oil: This lubricates the moving components inside your engine and keeps them cool. Without it, your engine would wear rapidly and seize up, potentially in just a few miles, so it’s a vital fluid to check regularly.
  • Filter (Traffic Lights): An additional traffic light component present at some busy junctions, which allows you to turn right across traffic. 
  • Fog Lights: Super-bright lights designed to make your car more visible in foggy conditions. They should only be used when visibility is limited to 100 metres or less.
  • Fuel Economy: Typically measured in MPG (miles per gallon), this describes how fuel efficient your car is, and varies depending on your driving style.
  • Full Beam Headlights: For use on dark, unlit roads, full beam is the brightest your headlights can go. This mustn’t be used around other cars though, as you could dazzle oncoming traffic.
  • Gearbox: Also known as a transmission, this component houses your car’s gears and can be either automatic or manual.
  • Hard Shoulder: The area to the left of a carriageway intended for emergency use, including breakdowns.
  • Hazard Lights: Your hazard light button engages all four indicators, making your car more visible to those passing in either direction. Hazard lights should be used if your car is stopped in a dangerous place due to a mechanical failure or following an accident, for example. Hazard lights can also be used to warn other motorists that you’re about to slow down or stop where they may not be expecting you to.
  • Hazard Perception Test: One component of the driving theory test. You’re required to watch a series of short video clips and click when you spot a hazard emerging and developing. 
  • Highway Code: The definitive collection of rules and advice for UK motorists – a must-read for those learning to drive.
  • Hill Start: Pulling off from a stop whilst parked on an incline. This can require careful clutch control and use of the handbrake to prevent your car from rolling backwards.
  • Independent Driving: One of the main components of today’s driving test. You will be expected to follow road signs or sat nav instructions for up to 20 minutes.
  • Intensive Driving Course: Driving courses which teach you all you need to know to pass in a short period. They have proven to save learners money – not to mention a whole lot of time – making them a great way to learn.
  • Level Crossing: A section of road which is intersected by a railway line. Typically marked by signage, barriers and lights, the latter two components activating when a train is approaching. 
  • L Plates: Small square plates signifying that you have not yet passed your driving test.
  • Major Fault: Pick up one of these on your driving test and you will fail immediately. They’re officially termed ‘serious’ or ‘dangerous’ faults by driving examiners. 
  • Minor Fault: These errors are not considered immediately dangerous, so you can make up to 15 before failing your driving test. 
  • Motorway: The widest sections of road in the UK, with entry via slip roads. A 70 mph speed limit is enforced on every motorway, and learners are now permitted to drive on them following a rule change in 2018.
  • MOT: Originally introduced by the Ministry of Transport, hence the abbreviation, this test determines whether or not a vehicle is safe to drive on the road. Once every car reaches three years old, it’ll have to complete this test every year to be driven on UK roads.
  • Owner’s Manual: Supplied by the manufacturer of your car when it was new, this manual tells you all you need to know about your specific car. Keep it close by when you’re learning your car’s controls and functions.
  • P Plates: Like L plates but featuring a green ‘P,’ these square stickers indicate that a driver has recently passed their driving test. They are not compulsory, but are intended to warn other motorists that you’re still getting up to speed out on the roads.
  • Parallel Parking: A manoeuvre which may come up on your driving test. To perform it, you have to park your car at the side of the road behind another parked vehicle. 
  • Pedestrian Crossing: A marked point in the road where pedestrians have right of way and are allowed to cross. There are different types (which are outlined in the Highway Code), so it’s important to memorise how each one works.
  • Petrol: One of the two most common fuels powering internal combustion engine vehicles. Two varieties are available to suit cars of differing ages and specifications: E5 and E10. Your car’s owner’s manual will tell you which one you need to use.
  • Points: You can collect these on your driving licence for committing motoring offences like speeding. Rack up 12 and you will receive a temporary driving ban, which could last up to six months.
  • Power Assisted Steering (PAS): A system fitted to most cars which drastically reduces the effort required to turn the steering wheel, making parking and low-speed manoeuvres much easier. It uses power steering fluid, which needs to be kept topped up.
  • Right of Way: A pedestrian or motorist’s legal right to continue in the direction they’re travelling, taking priority over other road users. For example, on a zebra crossing, it’s a pedestrian’s right of way to cross from one side of the road to the other – cars must stop and wait for them.
  • Screenwash: Can be bought ready mixed or made by combining antifreeze and water. This fluid is designed to help your windscreen wipers clear your screen when it gets dirty; it shoots out of the jets mounted on your bonnet directly onto the window, and is replenished by filling up a reservoir under the bonnet.
  • Show Me, Tell Me: Questions you’ll be asked by the driving examiner during your driving test. The Show Me question occurs while you’re driving and the Tell Me is asked before you set off. An example of a Show Me question is ‘show me how to demist your windscreen.’ Tell Me questions you could be asked include ‘tell me how you would check the tread depth of your tyres to make sure they’re legal.’
  • Skid: What happens when a car’s tyres lose grip on the road, causing the car to slide out of control. Skidding is much more likely to occur in bad weather, such as heavy rain or snow.
  • Smart Motorway: A motorway equipped with cameras and technology designed to make driving safer. A team of smart motorway controllers can enforce temporary speed limits and close individual lanes to help other motorists avoid accidents and breakdowns.
  • Stall: When your engine suddenly stops because the revs have dropped too low. This typically occurs as a result of poor clutch control. 
  • Tailgating: Following the car in front very closely – a dangerous way to drive which often leads to an accident.
  • Three-Point Turn: Also called a turn in the road. An important manoeuvre which every driver has to learn, and which could arise on your driving test. It involves making a three-stage turn in the middle of a road, ending when your car is facing in the opposite direction from when you started.
  • Traffic Calming: Measures implemented by local authorities to reduce the speed of traffic and make pathways safer for pedestrians. Traffic calming measures include speed bumps and chicanes, where drivers are required to give way to traffic coming in the opposite direction.
  • Tyre Pressure: The pressure of the air inside your tyres. The more air you put into your tyres, the higher their pressure will be. It’s important to inflate your tyres to the correct pressure. Units for pressure include BAR and PSI. 
  • Tyre Tread Depth: How thick the grooves are in between the tread (raised rubber sections) on your tyres. Measured with a tread depth gauge. The minimum legal requirement is 1.6mm. 
  • Vehicle Excise Duty: Road tax, which is based on the emissions produced by your vehicle. 
  • Warning Lights: Icons which can illuminate on your car’s instrument cluster, which is located in front of the steering wheel and usually displays your speed, among other things. Warning lights should not be ignored and often indicate a problem which requires immediate attention.
  • Wheelspin: This is what happens when your tyres lose grip as you’re accelerating. Most cars are front wheel-drive, so in this case wheelspin occurs when the front wheels lose traction and spin faster than the car is travelling. Modern cars come equipped with a traction control system, which is designed to limit wheelspin to avoid you losing control of your vehicle.

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