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Whether you are learner driver or an experienced motorist, you can email any driving-related question to info@wycombedrivingschool.co.uk and you will receive a personal response from Wycombe Driving School boss Audrey Wixon, pictured. The best questions and answers will be published on this website anonymously.

Audrey is a DSA ADI; DIAmond, IAM and RoSPA Gold Advanced Driver; Fleet Trainer; Observer for Institute of Advanced Motorists; & National Standard cycling instructor

Audrey Wixon - manager of Wycombe Driving School
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Is it really ok to skip gears? It doesn't feel safe!

Q: When I was taught to drive I was told to go down the gears one at a time when approaching the end of a road, but my son says that nowadays you are supposed to skip gears. He slows right down in 4th gear and then goes straight into 1st gear. Why is this? It doesn’t seem safe to me.

hand on gearstick A: It used to be considered a good idea to use the gears to help your car slow down in case the brakes failed. However, cars have moved on a lot over the years. Modern brakes are now very reliable and are less prone to brake fade because they are more effectively cooled.

These days it is considered best practice to use just the brakes to slow down and once you have achieved the speed you need, to then skip to the appropriate gear for that speed. That way, your brake lights will be on for longer, which gives the vehicles behind more warning that you are slowing down and makes it less likely that you will be rear-ended.

While you are losing speed, no load is being put on the engine so it doesn’t matter that you are only doing, say, 20mph in 4th gear. It would only matter if you were to try and speed up again while still in 4th. As long as you select the correct lower gear before going back on the accelerator, the car will be fine.

Think about how you would change gear on a bicycle if you were approaching a hazard. You wouldn’t go from gear 16, to 15, to 14, to 13 etc. You would just brake, twist the gear switch straight to the gear you needed and then carry on. Block gear changing in a car is the same principle.

When approaching a controlled situation, such as the end of the road, it is better to only make one gear change instead of two or three because you will have both hands on the wheel for longer and it will be less effort. Also, by using only the brakes to slow down, you will reduce wear to the gearbox. Brake pads are cheaper to replace than gearboxes. You will also enjoy better fuel economy.

Why don’t you try it? It might feel strange and wrong at first but once you get used to it, I expect you will be converted.

Gear skipping is a technique mainly to be used when going down through the gears. Going up the gears you should stick to sequential changes. The only upward skip I commonly make is from 3 to 5 when accelerating to a steady high speed, for example after joining a motorway.
Audrey Wixon
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Wycombe Driving School - for driving lessons in High Wycombe and surrounding areas - including Amersham, Beaconsfield, Marlow, Hazlemere, Stokenchurch and Princes Risborough. We offer successful, structured driving lessons, providing free theory test software and lesson handouts. Male and female driving instructors are available, providing both manual and automatic driving lessons.