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We are all adjusting to 'the new normal'. After a turbulent period around the world, many are now taking positive steps: coming out of national lockdowns or restrictions and returning to a regular routine.
But this 'normal' is new. The return to our old habits and routines has already changed significantly, giving rise to a new situation that we must all be aware of. Below, we explore five key things to know within the world of transport that could affect the way you travel and drive in this new environment.
By being aware of these things, you will help to ensure that your transition back into the world is safe, smooth, and positive.
Routes May Have Changed
It is not only the rules of driving that may have changed - the routes may also have altered. During national lockdowns, many roadworks and construction projects have been undertaken that could completely modify a familiar route, whether with a temporary diversion or something more permanent.
Be sure to expect changes and alterations such as these and remain alert at all times, even on routes that were previously familiar. Also, be sure to allow extra time for your journeys to avoid disappointment and to avoid rushing. This will help to ensure that you drive safely and responsibly.
Now is a great time to rely upon satellite navigation and electronic maps that are regularly - even instantaneously - updated, rather than maps in print that can quickly go out of date. If in doubt, check your route beforehand, or simply allow extra time for your journey.
Rules May Have Changed
The first important thing to note when returning to normal is that the rules on the road - and beyond - may have changed. But as with all areas of the law, ignorance or lack of awareness is not a defence!
Rules that may have changed include bridge tolls and prices, safety laws, and even national borders. This is especially true for drivers who are travelling or transporting goods around the European Union.
Britain's departure from the EU - Brexit - has impacted British imports and exports significantly, for example. There are now new rules, regulations, and tariffs in place. It is important to be aware of these so that you are not hit with any fines or penalties for breaking them.
There may also be new rules and laws that have come to pass during the lockdown and are not yet common practice, such as a new rule that bans drivers from filming videos while driving, and not simply from making calls and texts.
Be sure to check if there are any significant changes that will affect your driving or travel plans in advance.
You May Be Out of Practice
Many people have been driving less during the last year - whether because of lockdown, illness, working remotely, or a range of other reasons.
If you have been driving less than normal recently, be aware that you may be a little out of practice. You may wish to allow more time for your journey, or to take small daily trips in the car to build up your confidence and skills again.
Even if you must drive normally straight away, try to ensure that you are extra vigilant and safe. If in doubt, take a break, and work your way up to longer journeys.
Recent studies have shown that many people now feel more nervous or anxious when driving after a long break. Experts say that by starting with smaller, more familiar journeys on a regular basis, your confidence should soon return.
It Might Be Time for an Upgrade
Returning to your car after a long break might make you realise that it no longer suits your lifestyle, or could benefit from a refresh. You may choose to sell your car - adding a few simple upgrades to raise its value - or alternatively, you may take smaller steps.
These might include booking in to a reputable garage that can update any out of date parts, check for damage, or run safety checks.
It is especially important to ensure that your car is still roadworthy, and that brakes, tyres, and other essentials are functioning optimally after weeks of underuse. Many drivers have found that their car has a flat battery following the lockdown!
There Are New Essentials to Carry
The 'new normal' may also include carrying new essentials that were not always necessary before. Water, a phone charger, and a first aid or repair kit can always be helpful, but new additions might now include face masks, hand sanitisers, and medicine.