Thoughts and topics related to driving and driving instruction.

I'll add new bog posts regularly. As always if you'd like me to comment on any aspect of driving, whether it's Police advanced driving, driving instruction, instructor training or anything to do with the driving test, please use the contact form and I'll be happy to help.

 

There is no such thing as a dangerous road, only drivers who make the wrong decisionsThere is no such thing as a dangerous road, only drivers who make the wrong decisionsThis is a controversial topic. It causes many arguments and not a little distress to those involved. I sincerely don't mean to cause anyone any upset, but I will always argue that there is no such thing as a dangerous road, only drivers who don't make the right decisions.

Back in the day when my job was to supervise and investigate serious or fatal road traffic collisions, I spent day in day out going to the scenes of crashes.

The collisions that fascinated me above any others were those involving just one vehicle and one driver, with no other cars being involved at all.

Overwhelmingly, these collisions were the result of driver error. They were caused by bad decisions based on a lack of perception of the reality of the environment.

Very, very few of these collisions were unavoidable and not down to driver error. In 30 years I remember just a handful, despite attending or seeing reports on hundreds and hundreds of them. Arguably, you could say that all of them were down to driver error, but perhaps that's taking too narrow a view.

Certainly, even the Government state that at least 70% of these collisions were caused solely by the driver. I'm not convinced, I think the figure is much higher. I can only surmise, but my guestimate would be that around 95% of them are absolutely attributable to driver error.

Practice is essential, but make sure it's good practicePractice is essential, but make sure it's good practiceIf you want to learn how to make bread you'll hear people tell you "practice makes perfect". If you want to learn how to play snooker and score a 147 break you'll hear other people say "practice makes perfect".

The saying "practice makes perfect" is so commonly used that it's almost become a throw away mantra that doesn't mean anything other than "keep trying and you'll get there"

I've heard many driving instructors using this phrase, I've heard trainee instructors use it, and yes, I've used it myself in the past, but always with a careful thought about what the phrase really means and the implications of not considering it properly.

It's common for driving instructors to say (or think) "practice makes perfect" but to not consider the implications.

If you consider practice and what it really means, particularly in conjunction with the Conscious Incompetence model of learning, you'll realise what an important topic this is.

Driving instructors really do have the power to influence a whole generation of new qualified drivers. Don't you think it's worth making sure that we do it right?

None of us are perfect, we all make mistakes now and then, but here I want to discuss why practice does not always make perfect.

There are many theories of learning. The Conscious Incompetence model is very useful for Driving InstructionThere are many theories of learning. The Conscious Incompetence model is very useful for Driving InstructionThat's a brain teaser of a question. How do you know whether there's something you don't know or not?

Hopefully, this post will be useful to learner drivers because it will explain the benefits of practice and repetition in learning how to drive. It may also be of use to trainee driving instructors because a knowledge of how people learn can help them to devise training targets and learning plans.

It also explains some of the errors learners make and the stages we go through when learning to do anything.

There are many theories of learning, and all of them have some very useful information that can help us when learning to drive or if we're helping others by teaching them to drive.

The theory I'd like to talk briefly about here is known by several names but is commonly referred to as the Conscious Incompetence model.

Sounds complicated. It's not, but It's very instructive. Read on to find out more . . .

Here are some indications that you need a new instructor. These come from personal experienceHere are some indications that you need a new instructor. These come from personal experienceMany driving instructors are highly professional and try to do a good job. Unfortunately some aren't very professional, they don't do a good job, and they don't care, so long as you pay them.

If you are happy with your instructor, you feel that you are learning and progressing, then feel free to skip this post. Many of you, however, will have that lingering doubt about the person you are sat in a car with.

If you have doubts and you're not happy it may be time to do something about it. It could cost you a lot of money and wasted time if you just decide to put up with it.

Which leads me on to reason you should look for a new instructor No. 1. Read on . . .

You must avoid these driving test errorsYou must avoid these driving test errorsDuring the year 2016 to 2017 the official DVSA figures show that the learner test pass rate was 47.1%.

That's actually quite a good pass rate, although I'm sure it could be better. Over the last 10 years I've seen it down to not much above 40%.

I've mentioned before that you start out your test with a "clean sheet" and only driving test faults are recorded. See the tutorial on how the driving test is marked for a more in depth discussion.

Your job on test can be summed up as "Make no serious errors. Make no dangerous errors. Make as few minor driving errors as you can".

If you stick to that rule and achieve it, it's extremely likely that you'll pass. If you end the test with no errors at all and you still have a clean sheet, then you'll join the 17950 learners who did just that over this time period.

Well done to them and well done to their instructors. They clearly learned well and put in the work, but their instructors clearly showed them what needed to be done, identified all areas for improvement and encouraged them to become good drivers. That's fantastic!

Incidentally, that's by far the highest number of clean sheet passes for over a decade, which blows the myths about examiners wanting to fail people out of the water.

That's the good news, now back to reality. Do you know the common mistakes on driving tests that you really must avoid? Read on . . .

There are more Driving Test myths than there are cows in this imageThere are more Driving Test myths than there are cows in this imageWord of mouth horror stories are common in all walks of life. I've heard countless myths and stories from trainee ADI's about Driving Instructor tests that are just complete nonsense, but they believe them because "someone said . . . "

Most of the time, these myths and scare stories come from people who don't really understand what happened or chose to interpret a real event in a way that was more beneficial to them. The learner driving test is no exception.

I've seen many driving test sheets where learners had failed their tests with other instructors and then told me it was for a minor error, such as missing a mirror check that they didn't understand. On looking at the sheet, there's a mark for a dangerous error on a pedestrian crossing they'd forgotten to tell me about.

Diving a little deeper I find that they didn't stop for a pedestrian who was trying to cross. There's the error that failed their test, but they didn't understand it, couldn't remember it and instead preferred to believe their test fail was due to a simple mirror check. Not only that, but they'd told their friends and previous instructor the same thing. Another completely untrue scare story doing the rounds.

Observation is a skill worth developing and practicingObservation is a skill worth developing and practicingIf you think this post is about getting yourself a new hairstyle or a complete new outfit, I'm sorry to disappoint.

This website is all about driving not fashion, so what did you really think the word "Look" in the title meant?

I'm talking about looking with your eyes, not what you look like in the mirror. But come on, if I'd used the word "Observe" instead you'd have thought it was boring.

In this little post I'm going to try to boil down the secrets of effective observations into just a few points you can think about and apply to your own driving.

The real secret is that there's no secrets, but it sounds good and in all honesty you can probably learn and practice a few things you may not have thought of.

The first big secret to taking effective observations is (queue dramatic music) - time.

Yes, time is the most important aspect of taking good observations at roundabouts, junctions, anywhere really. So, how do we invent a driving time machine?

Have you ever stalled? So have I. So has your instructorHave you ever stalled? So have I. So has your instructorHave you ever stalled? I have, and so has your instructor or trainer.

Do you know what to do if you stall?

It will happen to you, that's pretty much a nailed on certainty, so get to know how to deal with it now.

You must, without question, practice a routine to deal with stalling on your driving test. You may rarely stall, but if you do and the first time you have to do anything about it is on your driving test, you just may regret it.

I've trained many Instructors for standards checks and to help them with ADI Part 3 and it's amazing how many have no idea what to do if their learners stall. It's a kind of suck it and see exercise.

I've written a tutorial on what to do if you stall that should be useful for learners, ADI trainees looking to take their Part 2 or Part 3 test, and qualified instructors who have trouble dealing with it when it happens to their learners. Whatever routine you learn or go through, it's important that you do have some sort of plan to deal with it.

Are you ready for your driving Test? Do you have any nagging doubts?Are you ready for your driving Test? Do you have any nagging doubts?This one is aimed firmly at experienced learners looking forward to getting that pass certificate.

How do you know if you're ready for your driving test?

Has your instructor told you? Do you have any lingering doubts?

Here are just a few thoughts that may help to give you an indication of whether you're actually ready to take the test or whether it's more likely that you could be wasting your time and a lot of money.

You need to discuss this with your instructor and make sure you understand what you're told. Your future lessons should be based on the areas you need to improve on if you're not quite ready yet.

Here's a few questions to ask yourself before you decide if you're ready to take your test. Try to answer them honestly, you don't need to tell anyone else, but you may decide to discuss them with your instructor at some point.

Always reverse in to make your life easier and saferAlways reverse in to make your life easier and saferPicture this. You get to the supermarket and the car park is packed. You decide to park at the back in one of the bays on the edge of the car park. There's only one way in and it's the same way out. Even the bays in the main area are effectively one way in and the same way out because other cars block your chance to drive in and drive out.

So the question is, should you reverse in and drive out? Or should you drive in and reverse out?

The answer to many is obvious, particularly when the area you're in is busy. It's much easier just to drive into the bay and hope for the best when you've finished your shopping / seen the doctor / visited your friend (delete as appropriate)

Driving straight in is quick and easy, but the problem is getting back out again. Have you ever found that?

On Christmas Eve I was at Tesco on Gallagher retail park in Scunthorpe. I've never seen it so busy. Neither had the one man in a yellow jacket who was trying to control the traffic whilst most people ignored him and the entire car park ground to a halt.