Getting behind the wheel of a van is different than driving a car because it's bigger, heavier and is normally carrying extra weight from cargo.

There are some similarities that can be applied across both vehicles. You should always do basic checks before every journey including water, oil and windscreen washer levels as well as tyre tread depth and condition.

Typically, van drivers are on the road for longer than their car driving counterparts which increases their risk of being involved in an accident.

We've put together a list of helpful tips to make every journey in a van safer.


There are some key differences between driving a car and a van; one of them is the driving position. In a van, you're much higher giving you a better view of the road ahead.

In contrast, most vans don't have a rear view mirror - either there is a full steel bulkhead separating the passenger and cargo areas or it's a panel van without windows - so there are less ways to see behind you.

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A comfortable driving position is important to avoid getting aches and pains from long-distance trips. A correct driving position also means adjusting your large door mirrors to optimise your field of vision to see as much of the road behind you as possible.


Whenever you get behind the wheel of a new vehicle, you should familiarise yourself with the indicators, lights, hazard warnings and wipers.

Did you know that you can travel the length of two double decker buses in just a few seconds at 30mph? So, taking your eyes off the road to find the lights could easily lead to an accident.

In a van, the gearstick is normally located on the dashboard, adjacent to the steering wheel, which is an unfamiliar position for people used to driving a car.

Some vans also come with a sixth gear for added fuel efficiency, so it's important to check this before you set off rather than discovering it 50 miles into your journey.


It's obvious that a van is usually taller and longer than a car, but that imposes certain restrictions on where you can drive and park it.

For example, some car parks, especially underground ones, have height limits that you might not be able to fit under, so you should know the van's dimensions before you attempt to get into one.

Also be aware of bridges, tunnels, overhanging trees and width-restricted lanes and roads.


Often you'll be using a van for your business or moving items from one place to another. As such, you could be driving on unfamiliar roads or have a schedule to stick to.

To avoid rushing, getting stressed and increasing your blood pressure - all things that lead to impaired decision making - try to plan a route that avoids travelling in congested areas at peak times.

When you plan a route, you'll have an estimated time that it should take you to reach your destination. It's advisable to always leave some extra time to account for any delays that you might encounter.


A properly loaded van makes a huge difference to the way the vehicle handles on the road and the safety of the driver and other road users.

Ideally, the load should be as low as possible and in the centre of the wheelbase to spread the weight evenly. Tall items especially, should be tied down if you can't tether the whole load.

Moving items can destabilise the van and damage other goods that you're carrying.


Once you've got the load in, you don't want it to go anywhere before it's reached its final destination. Make sure you lock the rear and side doors before you set off.

In 2008, an 80-year-old pedestrian was hit by the unsecured door of a van and suffered fatal injuries. The driver was charged with dangerous driving and received a court sentence.

Ensuring all the doors to your van are locked is also good practice to avoid being targeted by opportunistic thieves.


Vans have a different speed limit to cars and you need to be aware of these to drive safely and legally.

A national speed limit sign on a single carriageway means 50mph for a van. The same sign on a dual carriageway means 60mph for a van. Both are 10mph slower than for cars.


The heavier your payload, and the larger your van, the more time and distance you'll need to come to a complete stop. By increasing your braking distances you give yourself more time to react, and a greater chance of avoiding an accident.

As with any vehicle, you should take particular care in wet or icy conditions. Heavy winds can also impact taller vans which are more susceptible to toppling over.