Eco-safe driving: tips for the driving test (and beyond)

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What is it?
Driving test
Before setting off
On the road

So, what’s ‘eco-safe driving’ when it’s at home? 🤔 In a nutshell: it’s driving in a way that burns less fuel, meaning the planet and your wallet take less of a hit every time you get behind the wheel. Nice!

If you’re a learner driver, you’ll be tested on your eco-safe driving skills during your practical driving test. You might be thinking great… another boatload of information I have to remember while performing under pressure! But good news, though - you can’t actually fail your test for eco-driving errors. But you will be assessed on it and given feedback at the end of the test anyway.

Here’s the thing: eco-safe driving isn’t just for learners. Anyone who wants to lower the impact their driving has on the planet should get familiar with it. Let’s go 👇

What is eco-safe driving?

We’ve all heard the growling revs of a car engine when a driver’s trying to show off (and it usually results more in irritation than admiration, tbh!).

Eco-safe driving is the exact opposite of this. It’s about driving in a way that means you don’t burn through more fuel than you need to for your journey. It’s also about driving more smoothly so that you don’t wear out your car as quickly. That means:

  • Not accelerating too harshly or quickly. This burns a lot of fuel (psst! We’ve got a separate guide on how to save fuel, if you're interested) and takes a toll on the car’s engine
  • Braking smoothly (and only when you need to). Slamming on the brakes basically means wasting speed (and fuel), plus it wears out the brakes more quickly
  • Making sure you’re using the right gear for your speed so you’re not revving the engine like mad. Pushing the engine to its limits burns a lot of fuel and wears the engine out, too

There’s other stuff as well – like using the aircon less, checking your tires regularly, and turning your engine off if you’re going to be stopped for a while. All these little actions add up to a much more eco-friendly way of driving.

You’ll find a list of loads of eco-safe driving tips for a bit further down. But first… let’s clear up this whole driving test situation 👀

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Eco-safe driving and your practical driving test

It’s true, your eco-safe driving skills will be checked out when you do your practical driving test. The examiner will pay attention to whether you’re revving the engine too much, accelerating too quickly, overusing the brakes – things like that.

Eco-safe driving can save on your fuel bill
Eco-safe driving can save on your fuel bill

Then, at the end of your test, you’ll be given feedback about all of this. But this won’t affect your overall test result. It’s more of a cautionary “by the way” kind of situation than an official way to mark your driving. Still, considering the cost of fuel and what’s going on with our planet – we’d say this is pretty important stuff.

(Got a test booked in? Take a whizz through our driving test checklist for your practical exam, so you’re good and ready!)

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Eco-safe driving tips – before you set off

There’s a load of things you can do to lower your car’s impact on the planet before you even hit the road:

  • Check your tyres: Cars burn more fuel when their tyres aren’t inflated properly, so checking tyre pressure regularly is a smart move when it comes to eco-safe driving
  • Lighten the load: The heavier the car, the more fuel it uses, and the more fumes it pumps into the environment. So if your boot’s accidentally turned into a bit of a storage unit (guilty as charged 🙋), it’s a good idea to clear it out
  • Plan your route: Driving at a consistent speed without needing to brake too much uses less fuel than stop-start driving. So try to avoid heavy traffic areas if you can
  • Remove any racks you aren’t using: Roof racks and boxes cause ‘drag’, which makes your car burn more fuel. So ditch 'em if you aren’t using 'em
  • Bus it: Nothing quite lowers the impact of your car on the planet like leaving it on the drive. Pats on the back for those who take public transport where they can. Carpooling is also a good eco-option.
  • Think about fuel efficiency with your next car: Cars with smaller engines use less fuel. Then, of course, there are hybrid and electric options, which are in a whole other league in terms of being kinder to the environment
Your driving test involves an assessment on eco-safe driving
Your driving test involves an assessment on eco-safe driving

PS - if you are thinking of getting a new car, you might find our article about whether it’s still worth buying a petrol or diesel car as the UK’s 2030 ban looms useful.

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Eco-safe driving tips – while you’re driving

The way you drive also has a big impact on how much fuel your car burns, and how many fumes it releases. Here’s what to do and what not to do to when it comes to eco-safe driving:

  • Accelerate gently when you can: Your car will pump out much less fumes when you speed up gently rather than going hard and heavy on the accelerator
  • Don’t waste speed: If you set off driving at a high speed only to have to slam on the brakes a few seconds later because of traffic, you’re burning through extra fuel (and wearing out your car) for no extra gain. Always try to look well ahead when you’re driving so you can choose how fast to go based on obstacles up ahead
  • Let gravity give you a helping hand: You’ll find you can probably release the accelerator completely when you’re going down some hills. Just make sure you’re in the right gear so you don’t stall
  • Slow down gradually: Look well ahead when you’re driving so you can gradually adjust your speed when you need to slow down instead of hitting the brakes at the last minute
  • Use the higher gears as soon as possible: Don’t wait for your car to max out on revs before changing the gear to a higher one
  • Skip out the middle gears if you can: There’s no need to move through every single gear on the way up to the fifth or sixth. Sometimes you might find you can go straight from three to five, for example. This helps you keep the revs down, which is better news for the planet
  • Don’t rev the engine when you’re idling: This wastes fuel and also puts a lot of stress on the engine before its oil has had chance to circulate properly
  • Turn off the engine in traffic: If you’re going to be at stand-still for a few minutes, turn off the engine. Lots of snazzy new cars do this for you automatically now, anyway
  • Don’t overtake cars when you don’t need to: There are legitimate reasons for overtaking, then there are those times where you really don’t gain much at all. Don’t overtake on a road where you’re only going to end up a few metres ahead of the car you went past. Overtaking usually means hitting the accelerator and revving hard, which equals tons of fuel used
  • Think twice about the aircon: There’s no shame in using aircon (heatwave godsend, thank you very much). But it does use up fuel so it’s worth thinking twice if you tend to have it blasting when you don’t really need it

Now that you’re all clued-up on eco-safe driving, it only takes a few minutes to get a quote with Cuvva’s short-term insurance - whether you want to get some extra practice in before your driving test, or you just want to borrow a car.

Updated on 14th August 2023