Diary Of An ADI

A Driving Instructor's Blog

Instructors’ favourite whinge at the moment is test waiting times. In Nottingham, a test booked anytime now (August) would be in mid-December, and the same story repeats across the country.Nelson area

In Nelson, near Burnley, they still have one of those silly little test centres. It has three parking bays and DVSA has recently upped the number of examiners there to six to try and improve waiting time. They’re apparently not too smart in Nelson, and so it is important to point out that six is a bigger number than three. Furthermore, the office there is crumbling, and the ladies’ toilets are often out of order. As everyone is no doubt aware, having the gents lavatory out of order is one thing, but the ladies’… that’s almost punishable by death. Therefore, DVSA is looking at closing down the current Nelson test centre and relocating to a better place.

Heaven forbid that the new test centre location should be 6km (4 miles) away in Burnley – somewhere big enough to have been heard of. Or which includes driving on big roads or the bay park exercise.

DVSA hasn’t said anything about a new location yet, but if this story is anything to go by, the local ADIs and Andrew Stephenson, MP for Pendle are already kicking up a fuss over it. Stephenson fears it will be “moved out of Pendle” – which obviously means “to Burnley”. If you look it up, Pendle is a district just north of Burnley, the northern reaches of which are three times more distant from Nelson than Burnley is! In fact, many Pendle learners most probably go to Skipton for their tests, because it’s nearer.

DVSA has no logical reason to specifically maintain a centre in Nelson with Burnley being so close. It has every reason to want a bigger location which can conduct more tests and all the manoeuvres, and which may or may not be in Nelson.

It’s just strikes me as funny that ADIs want shorter waiting times, but oppose anything which might achieve that depending on which head they’ve got on.

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It’s been in the news over the last year or so, but “the world’s longest aircraft” has been having test flights in the UK. It’s basically a big balloon with propellers – not entirely unlike a Zeppelin.World's longest airship

Well, on it’s second test flight it crash-landed. I love the euphemistic language they have used for that:

The flight went really well and the only issue was when it landed.

So that’s all right, then.

No one was hurt, which is why I’m making a joke out of it.

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Imagine this. You’re competing at the Olympics. You’ve won a few gold medals and you’ve left the Olympic Village to have a few drinks with your team mates one night. You end up pissed out of your skull – or at least pissed out of it enough to allegedly do a bit of vandalism and pee up the wall behind the petrol station you ended up in. You forgot you were in a country where security guards carry guns, even though you come from one where anyone above the age of five is allowed to, and when stopped at gunpoint and told to pay for the damage you opted for an alternative solution.Olympic pool

The alternative you chose was to claim you were robbed at gunpoint and add some stuff that made you out to be Rambo. However, you were too dumb to consider the possibility that CCTV might be operating in the store where it allegedly happened. After changing your story several times, the CCTV was seen and you were identified as the cowardly liar you really are.

Something not dissimilar to this happened when USA swimmers Ryan Lochte, Jimmy Feigen, Gunnar Bentz, and Jack Conger went out last week in Rio de Janeiro.

Lochte managed to escape back to the States after his false claim. Bentz and Conger had almost made it when they were removed from their flight by police. Feigen has ended up agreeing to pay around $11,000 to a Brazilian charity so that all charges can be dropped. The full story is somewhat confused and Feigen, at least, appears totally innocent. Lochte would appear to be the least innocent.

True American Heroes they ain’t. And at least one of them should be stripped of any medals he won. He’s already lost a lot of his sponsorship.


If Lochte and his gang of masterminds represent one stagnant pool of humanity, their actions certainly have highlighted another.

Most of America is appalled by what they did. Unfortunately, some of these “appalled” Americans don’t have a limiter on the pendulum which determines how they feel about something, and they allow it to swing freely from one absolute extreme to the other.

The simple truth is that Lochte and co. are merely a bunch of over-privileged assholes. That’s all there is to it. But this is the internet age, and things are never that simple when there is a whole heap of conspiracy theories to run with. Therefore, the events in Rio have stirred up the usual crowd of web loonies.

Loony #1 – Tariq Nasheed tweets:

If Black athletes pulled that… stunt, the headlines would read “Black Lives Matter Thugs Caused Terror At The Olympics”

Loony #2 – WendyBrandes tweets:

If Ryan Lochte lied about that robbery, how can we ever believe any man’s allegations of robbery?

I reckon that second one is a certifiably insane man-hater (I admit I’m reading into it with “man-hater”).

On a related note involving a different story, Ellen DeGeneres posted a tweet a few days ago showing herself piggybacking with Usain Bolt, with the comment:

This is how I’m running errands from now on.

Ms DeGeneres, who I have always liked and still admire, is married to another woman, and is probably all too aware of the problems that come with prejudice. I don’t think for a second that she was referring to anything other than Bolt’s speed but I seem to be in a minority on that. You see, American historical media libraries contain numerous images from the 19th and early 20th centuries of white people sitting on the backs of black servants and slaves. Many images simply show white children sitting on the backs of black servants playing “horsey”, though there are some unsettling ones of adults treating black people as furniture. The net loonies have drawn an immediate parallel and pilloried Ms DeGeneres.

But Ellen DeGeneres couldn’t win on this. If she’d have posted a picture of Usain Bolt riding on her back, these lunatics would accuse her of parodying those archive images.

A few months ago, Ms DeGeneres got caught up in a similar fiasco when she collaborated with clothing firm Gap. The advertisement had a simple and innocent photograph of four children, and yet the net loonies managed to read into it and declare it “racist”. Why? Simply because a taller white girl was apparently resting her arm on the head of a smaller (and younger) black child. The loonies had a field day over that – even the fact that the black child was shorter than the white one was somehow “racist”. No one mentioned that by the same token it was also sexist, since it showed four white girls (or possibly three and one boy). The loonies reckoned it was “passive racism” (their new Big Phrase). I charge – with my tongue in my cheek – that is was “active sexism”.

Although it is ugly and wrong, racism is something which on the whole just happens – it isn’t calculated and constructed like a complex machine, and to suggest that a company like Gap (or Ellen DeGeneres, who has had to endure prejudice herself). Most racists couldn’t explain the mechanisms involved in their prejudice if they tried (which is probably why “passive” is used to describe it). Most would have trouble writing their name, though they could probably just about manage to put an “X” in the “Leave” box on a voting form.

But that’s a different subject.

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I saw this in the newsfeeds today. It’s in The Sun, which loves this kind of “shocking” story, but it raises a few questions.Snitch

Emily Higgins was out a nightclub in the West Midlands and had apparently done what many young people do when they’re out in nightclubs in the West Midlands. She got pissed, then started a slanging match with bouncers. But this is the Facebook age, remember, and someone with time on their hands (and 16,000 followers) videoed the altercation and published it on social media. Quite why he chose to do this is a bit of a mystery if you don’t automatically think “tosser”.

Ms Higgins is due to start teaching year two at St Gregory’s Catholic Primary School in Bearwood in a few weeks, and inevitably in such a small area one of the followers of the film taker was a parent of one of the kids at the school and recognised Ms Higgins. Word spread – or rather, shit was thrown – and as far as Ms Higgins is concerned it has now hit the fan.

One of the funniest bits is from a parent who “wished to remain anonymous”. Yeah, I’ll bet she does.

I was completely shocked when I saw the video and recognised her immediately.

I know that parents in our community have been shocked and disgusted by her behaviour.

Bearwood is part of Smethwick, and is just a few km from Birmingham city centre. The streets around the school are primarily small terraced houses. In spite of that, the above quote suggests that the occupants are angels straight out of Heaven who simply use Bearwood as a summer address. In reality, I would suggest that what Ms Higgins has done in her own time – and which didn’t involve the police, from the reports – is no worse than what many of these “shocked” parents get up to (either now, or in the past).

And how many teachers out there have gotten themselves drunk and done something stupid and/or embarrassing? As long as they don’t do it in front of the kids, or have it affect their work, it doesn’t matter.

The only reason THIS has been put in front of the kids is because of the berk with the camera and his Facebook fetish. He could have written about it, but what he has done is bordering on an invasion of privacy since it doesn’t place things in context but it does identify people in such a way that their entire career could be destroyed.

Emily Higgins is likely to lose her job over this, and being a teacher it would also be the end of her career. Is a drunken argument with bouncers – something which happens a hundred times every weekend – really bad enough to warrant that?

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I originally wrote this about a year ago, but it has been a popular story recently and is due an update.


I upgraded to Windows 10 last year, and I haven’t regretted it for a moment. The only drawback to Microsoft’s “free upgrade” was that you didn’t get an installation disk (though you can make your own), and it was just that: an upgrade. Hard disk internal view

I have been building my own computers for the last 15 years or so, and I like them running in tip-top condition. Windows has always suffered from what is known as “OS decay” (also called “software rot” and “Windows rot”). The simple fact is that ALL software is liable to degrade over time, and it isn’t just a Windows issue, and what happens is that all the juggling of files, upgrading, installing and uninstalling, software bugs, crashes, and so on, can cause a lot of small changes on a computer. Over time these may accumulate to such a level that the system becomes slow or unstable, and the only sensible way around it is to format your hard drive and do an absolutely clean install of Windows, followed by all your other drivers and software. Absolutely the last thing you want to be doing is upgrading a system which is already in bad shape unless you are completely sure nothing from the previous version gets carried over. But that’s what you had to do with Windows 10 in order to take up the free offer.

I’ve done clean installs so many times on my own machines (and those of others, including over the phone when I worked in tech support) that I can usually do a format and have a clean machine running in a few hours. I have all my software’s installation files saved along with my software keys, which I just cut and paste as and when I need them. It sounds easy, but even when it’s your own system it is still a bloody nuisance. You lose anything you haven’t backed up, and no matter how careful you are there’s always something you forget. I’ve never been 100% happy with doing it this way. It’s a right pain in the arse.

In the past I’ve toyed with using disk imaging software. The idea behind this is that you can effectively take a snapshot of your hard drive – with Windows and all your software on it – save it, and then copy it back on to your disk at some point in the future if you need to. You end up with a system which is in exactly the same condition it was in when you took the snapshot.

For some years I’ve used Paragon software for creating backup images of my Windows installations. On paper, Paragon’s program is very good, but in all honesty it is the absolute pits when it comes to doing an actual restore. It isn’t user friendly at all, which is why I’ve tended to go for clean installs. But with Windows 10 being an upgrade rather than a standalone install, I decided that I really did need a proper disk imaging system once and for all.Macrium Reflect

After a bit of research, I found Macrium Reflect. It is available as a free version, and installs in a few seconds. I can’t believe I mucked about with Paragon for so long. I have since upgraded to the paid version.

When you first run Reflect it nags you to create bootable rescue disk (the paid version also allows you to create a bootable USB stick), which you need in order to restore an image. Creating the disk is very simple, and once you’ve done it you’re free to create your main image.

I’ve cut some details here which were in the original. Basically, after I backed up all my important stuff I ran the Windows 10 upgrade in order to activate my free licence. Then I did a clean install and created an image of that. Then I installed my software and created another image. I’ve been using Windows 10 happily since that time.

Recently, due to my participation in the Windows Insider Program, I decided I wanted a clean install. I backed up my files again – this time it was quicker because I save everything to separate hard drives – and ran the Macrium restore. It took about 5 minutes and I had a fully operational clean install. All I had to do was install software I’d bought since, create another image for next time with this included, and that was it.

I’d recommend Macrium Reflect to anyone who wants to create a safe backup of their system. Just remember that you need somewhere to store your image files. My system has 8TB of storage across seven HDDs, but if you only have single HDD you’re going to need at least 20GB free space to create an image .

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I saw this in the news yesterday, and naturally the BBC is on it like a starving Chihuahua on a pork chop. Apparently, women who return to work part-time after having children earn less than men who don’t. Also, the women miss out on promotions and gain less experience. according to shock “studies”.A 60s advert by Alcoa Aluminum with spoofed tagline

Obviously, this statement of the blindingly obvious is wrong, because the law says that women must be promoted ahead of men wherever possible, and companies who choose the most able candidate instead of a female – where the two options deviate – are committing a heinous criminal offence. Likewise, companies who insist of acting logically based on the current space-time continuum and who choose to employ people based on the experience they actually have rather than the experience they might have gained if they hadn’t gone AWOL for a year (and intermittently when they return if the child-minder phones up and says that junior is crying). And absolutely no concern should be raised over the likelihood of them doing the whole thing at least twice more over the next 3-4 years, no matter how important the company’s expansion from simple start up into the international market is.

It’s funny, but I have male pupils who have trouble getting time off for driving lessons and tests even if they’re dead. The females seem to have very little trouble.

I wonder if anyone is ever going to realise that unless you officially declare men to be inferior members of society, women – who, by dint of nature, have to do/experience things which are absolutely counter to what is required in a successful business – are going to be scored accordingly. Of course, when I use the terms “men” and “women” I am referring to the groups generally – there are some women who can do some things men normally excel at much better, just as there are men who can do things that women normally excel at much better. However, if nothing else, the “just being available for work” skill is pretty much lacking when childbirth comes into it. The “not having the experience” and “missing promotions” cards fall naturally out of that, and the only way many women get promoted is simply by being women. Because the Law is on their side on that.

Equal rights is one thing. Forced balance (i.e. positive discrimination) is another matter entirely.

In the workplace, people who do the same job, for the same number of actual hours, and with the same commitment should be paid the same. Someone who does the job part time in order to bring up a family can only expect pro rata at absolute best. And by pro rata, I mean when all the fringe benefits not given to anyone else are taken into account. When you add all that up, there can never be a line right down the middle where all men and all women are earning the same and getting the same opportunities without artificial adjustment.

(Note: the image I’ve used in this article came from a real 60s advert in America. The company was Alcoa Aluminum, to which someone has added that last line in brackets. The funny thing is – and everyone forgets this – before technology advanced, most woman (and a lot of men) would have had trouble getting a ketchup lid off, so the advert wasn’t quite as overtly sexist as it appears today.)

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About a month ago I wrote about crap parents who can’t (or won’t) control their kids, with the result that everyone else has to suffer. I mentioned how other crap parents rise up against anyone who objects, citing all manner of illnesses and disorders as possible causes of unruly behaviour, even though we all know that – in the vast majority of cases – it is just crap parenting.Crying child

Coincidentally, I was driving between lessons yesterday when movement out of the corner of my eye at lights drew my attention to a passing bus, A woman was lifting a baby/young child in the air – well, I say “child”; actually it was just a huge mouth with tears squirting out of one end and legs dangling out of a nappy the other. I could just imagine the mega-decibel buzzsaw bawling everyone else was having to endure, and I remember thinking “God help anyone who is on that bus”.

Then I saw this story on the BBC website. When you strip it down, it’s just another example of some dipshit who isn’t in contact with reality ranting on Facebook and having it go viral as a result of huge support from a load of other dipshits.

It all starts with a flight from Ibiza to Manchester.

Imagine the situation. You’ve had a nice holiday, but you’re going home in the morning. It was  a package tour, so your departure flight officially takes off at something like 5.30am. Your hotel or chalet is at least an hour away from the airport, and you’ve been given strict instructions to be in the car park outside at 3am to board the bus to take you to there. You’re in Ibiza and you’re flying back to Manchester, so there’s a good chance you’ve had to put up with some teenaged yobs for the whole week. Naturally, they will have gone out last night and drunk more than they’d done on any other night. Consequently, at 3am you’ll be sitting on the bus going nowhere while the reps try to find them – at least one will be borderline comatose, and several will be puking up everywhere. When they eventually do arrive their mouths will be turned up to 11 (the usual yob setting is 9 even when they’re being quiet). The reps will have faces like thunder – quite the opposite of their cheery bonhomie when you were freighted in last week, and you’re now going to have to put up with the loud yobs all the way to the airport (and at the airport, and all the way home). Once you get there, you will have to wait until check-in begins and the couple of dozen seats – totally inadequate for the 200 people milling around at the best of times – will be taken up by a handful of sleeping backpackers. The floor will be covered in sleeping, puking, and screaming humanity, so you’ll have to be careful not to tread on anyone. Any cafes will be shut, even if your departure hub (i.e. shed) has any, and the vending machines will have been emptied by more yobs providing the traditional Coca Cola and crisps breakfast for their kids. When the check-in call finally comes, all the backpackers and yobs will somehow make it to the front of the queue. The check-in process will take over an hour instead of the usual 10 minutes because the Spanish authorities’ approach to an increased terrorism threat is to use half as many people to do six times as much work. Once through, none of the duty free shops will be open so you’ll have to kill the next 30 minutes watching the planes land. An hour later, and some 30 minutes after the time you were scheduled to take off, you’ll suddenly realise your plane isn’t even here yet. Eventually, you will casually watch it come in, land, taxi over, disgorge the new intake of holidaymakers and their luggage, get loaded up with your luggage, and refuel. Somewhere around 8am you’ll flop into your seat, simultaneously smashing both buttocks on the arm rests as you do, and then spend a further 30 minutes being jostled by all the other passengers, who appear transfixed by the overhead storage compartments and that clunk-click noise they make, and block the gangway for everyone else instead of bloody sitting down. You’ll finally take off, knowing that you have two and a half hours in the air plus any time for stop offs. Within five minutes you’ll start to get cramp as a result of the non-existent leg room, and develop breathing problems as you sit with folded arms to try and keep out of the personal space of the person next to you, who is twice as wide as the seat they’ve been given and who has no qualms at all about occupying both yours and their personal space all at the same time. If you’re lucky, the pissed yobs from your hotel will burn out, and the need for an emergency diversion to the Galapagos will be avoided.

The first $64,000 question is this. After all of the above, if someone has a screaming kid which just will not shut up sitting immediately behind you, are you going to smile and ignore it, or get angrier and angrier inside?

The second $64,000 question is: will you blow?

Well, it would appear that on the flight referred to in the story, someone did get angry and blow – if “blow” is the right word to use. When bombarded with the incessant and painful noise coming from a screaming child on a cramped and lengthy journey back to Manchester, a female passenger in the seat immediately in front (from what I can gather) shouted “shut that child up”.

I can absolutely sympathise with her.

But we are in the Facebook age, and nothing is ever that simple. The mother has taken to social media to effectively blame the irate passenger for the behaviour of her child, saying that the kid was having “a meltdown” and that the comment “didn’t help” the child’s anxiety levels. “Meltdown” and “anxiety levels” are the favoured phrases of parents who can’t control their offspring, even though it is they who usually created the environment for such behaviour in the first place. Another favoured ploy is to blame some sort of illness.

In this case, the child apparently suffered from a rare condition called Sturge-Weber syndrome, and naturally her behaviour on the plane was – according to the mother’s implied words – entirely and completely due to all the bad things that go along with that condition. The possibility that she was just acting up because of the early start and all the arseing around at 3am in Spain didn’t enter into it. On the other hand, Sturge-Weber can have some nasty symptoms, though if these were genuinely the cause of any such behaviour you’d have to ask why the child had been taken to Ibiza in the first place (she has a huge port-wine stain on her face, and my understanding is that you should avoid the sun if you have one), and why she’d gone economy (where even a full-grown adult might feel like having “a meltdown” and suffer “anxiety”).

Of course, barring any law which forbids it, the child’s parents had every right to take her to Ibiza in this manner. But then, other people – the majority, in fact – have rights too, one of which is to be able to sit quietly without someone else’s kids bawling in your ear and ruining something you probably paid a lot of money for.

So, it isn’t as one-sided as the mother with her Facebook rant would like to think.

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Originally posted in September 2010.


Mythbusters is a show on Discovery Channel (and various others) which looks at various movie stunts and other things to check if they are really possible or just Hollywood licence. They cover things like “is it possible to shoot a gun out of someone’s hand without hurting them?” or one from tonight: “can you knock someone out of their socks?” (the answer was yes – if you virtually dismember them at the same time because of the force needed).mythbusters

In this particular episode, they also looked at something many ADIs would be familiar with, namely:

If two cars travelling at 50mph collide head-on, the combined speed of impact is 100mph

Everyone automatically assumes that the forces exerted on the occupants of each car in such a crash are equivalent to a single car driving into a solid wall at 100mph. This is not true – as they proved in the show.

Newton’s Third Law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction – so if a first object exerts a force on second object, the second object exerts an equal but opposite force on the first. The upshot of this is that if those two cars collide at 50mph (yes, it is a combined speed of 100mph), the forces exerted on the occupants of each car are equivalent to those that would be experienced by driving into a solid wall at 50mph.

It was quite interesting how they did it, using crash facilities and data-logging devices with real cars, and models in the lab using the deformation of lumps of clay.

Of course, a crash at any speed is likely to lead to serious injury. But it’s worth knowing the facts if anyone asks (and they sometimes do).

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I mean, we know that the Paralympics begins when the current ones end, but when does the one where we acknowledge that men can win medals start?Female Olympics

For the last week and half the BBC has been talking up every medal won by a female at the expense of those won by men – except in cases where there was no female equivalent or “alternative lifestyle” card to fall back on. Not just those won by British athletes, but overseas ones as well. They had the most pointless tagline I’ve ever seen in “Why Simone Manuel’s Olympic gold medal in swimming matters” in response to a female black swimmer breaking a world record (actually, her medal only matters inasmuch as it is a gold medal and it is not the political watershed they are suggesting).

Today, they went too far, with “Support as China’s Fu Yuanhui breaks period taboo” – a story about a Chinese swimmer who became “an overnight sensation” for competing while having her period. In actual fact, her period resulted in her under-performing, and she was apparently in agony afterwards (pain is rarely a good sign, extreme pain even less so). But it hasn’t stopped calls for “more research” into the issue. Quite frankly, I can’t help wonder why this has not been more of a problem before. But then again, when your hormones are being controlled by a state physician – which history suggests has often been the case, and not just in China – and the big question is what sex you belong to, periods don’t enter into it. To be honest, it’s not much different to allowing babies into swimming pools, and carries similar questions about health and sanitation.

Then there was the Daily Mail, who published a story last month about a teenager who’d been picked to represent Britain at skeet shooting. The girl in question is already a dab hand at promoting herself on social media, and the Mail includes a large handful of stereotypical selfies (complete with pouting and enlarged eyes). She’d gone so far as to show that she was a “girly girl” (her own words) by having pink shotgun cartridges made with her name on them in gold (the Mail identifies this as “adding a feminine touch to the sport”). In a follow up story yesterday, the Mail reports on how she failed to win a medal, along with a photo of her in an evening dress, high heels, and her shotgun over her shoulder outside some stately home.

Don’t get me wrong. Anyone who wins a medal – or even competes – at the Olympics really deserves admiration. But turning it into something it isn’t just ruins the whole thing, especially when it’s a feminist or political agenda that’s being pushed.

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This latest update comes following a reader question via the Contact Form. The original article was published in 2008.

Ford Focus cockpit

The topic keeps coming back because it is relevant to all learner drivers. When I wrote the original story, DVSA – or DSA, as it was then – had just updated its Internal Guidance Document (DT1) to say:

To ensure uniformity, when conducting car or vocational tests and ADI qualifying examinations, only assess the candidate’s ability to control the vehicle and do not consider it as a fault if, for example, they do not hold the steering wheel at ten to two or quarter to three or if they cross their hands when turning the steering wheel. The assessment should be based on whether the steering is smooth, safe and under control.

The part I’ve highlighted was an addition, and in previous versions of DT1 the steering technique was not mentioned. Even so, no examiners round my way ever failed people for “crossing their hands”. You see, all DVSA was doing with this update was making sure that its examiners were clear on the subject (hence the phrase “[ensuring] uniformity”). Reading between the lines, it seems that there had been complaints about one or two examiners around the country who had been faulting candidates unnecessarily. Reading even deeper, I would surmise that these were ex-ADIs who had carried their ideas about “crossing hands” and “holding the steering wheel properly” across with them when they gave up teaching.

The bottom line is that as long as steering is under control it doesn’t matter how a pupil does it. They can steer with one hand, with their palm, use hand over hand… it simply doesn’t matter. And it hasn’t mattered – not officially, anyway – for a very long time. I emphasise again that the change to DT1 was a clarification and not a major change in policy.

A lot of ADIs and PDIs get hung up on this whole business of  “crossing your hands”. Two versions ago, Driving: The Essential Skills (TES) said:

Turning – When turning the steering wheel, avoid crossing your hands. Except at low speeds, this can reduce your control and can cause an accident. Feed the rim of the steering wheel through your hands. Vary your hand movements according to the amount of lock you want.

This is called the pull-push technique.

TES was not saying that you shouldn’t cross your hands. It just quite correctly pointed out that the rapid steering action that a hand-over-hand method can lead to might give rise to a loss of control at higher speeds. But there is a huge difference in the effect produced by whipping the steering round quickly as you’re turning into a road at 20-30mph compared with the same action at 5-10mph.

The only type of  “crossing hands” that ends up being wrong in almost all circumstances is the one where pupils grip the steering wheel tightly and turn from their shoulders, keeping their hands in a fixed place on the steering wheel. This nearly always results in insufficient lock to get round the corner, resulting in wide turns, or possibly over-steering if the pupil suddenly panics and shifts their grip to get the car round. Just about every learner does it like this on their first lesson.

The last two versions of TES (most recently, 2015) have merely said:

You should

  • place your hands on the steering wheel in a position that’s comfortable and which gives you full control
  • keep your movements steady and smooth
  • turn the steering wheel to turn a corner at the correct time

Personally, I rue the loss of the extra detail in the version before this. I see it as a dumbing down exercise, and far too many people are ready to believe that it’s some sort of admission that the “pull-push” method was bad, when it most definitely wasn’t. The pull-push technique – where steering is achieved by alternately pulling the wheel down with one hand, then changing grip and pushing it with the other – certainly isn’t the only way to steer, and people who can already drive shouldn’t be forced to use it. But for most beginners, who have not yet developed a suitable technique, it should definitely be a starting point for them. It requires hand coordination which, in turn, becomes a foundation for good car control.Playing "keepy-up"

A good analogy would be with a professional footballer. He can play “keepy up” for hours on end because it is an important basic control skill – but you will rarely see him do it on the field. However, the coordination required to do it enables him to do other things during matches that he would otherwise struggle with.

It’s the same with steering. Being able to use pull-push properly is an important foundation skill that drivers should possess, even if they end up rarely using it in favour of a more chav-like style. Once beginners can do pull-push, they can steer easily without going wide on bends and corners. They are less likely to over-steer into kerbs, and are more confident as a result, being able to adjust their steering in a controlled manner. A major drawback to hand-over-hand steering for beginners who know no other way is that they can easily panic and over steer.

The new wording in TES could actually be taken as a mandate for teaching poor steering methods by some instructors, because it’s easier for them and easier for their pupils. Some people are already under the mistaken impression that it’s “coaching” to let people develop bad habits in preference to teaching them properly.

Incidentally, when someone pull-pushes the steering in one direction, the natural return action frequently involves push-pull. They’re not two separate methods like some people seem to believe. It doesn’t matter whether you pull first, or push.

Why shouldn’t I turn (dry steer) the wheel when the car isn’t moving?

Moving the wheel when the car is stationary is called “dry steering”. There’s no rule or law which says you mustn’t do it, and examiners do not mark you on it. However, it is bad practice for several reasons:

  • it can damage your tyres
  • it can damage your steering mechanism
  • it can damage the road surface

Scrunching your tyres over gravel instead of rolling over the road surface leads to more wear. Doing it on glass or nails can easily give you a puncture. The extra strain involved when dry steering leads to more wear in the steering mechanism of your car. And scrunching your tyres on tarmac in hot weather can chew up the surface, which holds water in winter, and which can cause cracks if the water freezes – leading finally to potholes. You’ll get some smart arses telling you they’ve never come across an example where dry steering has caused actual damage, but the reality is that every time someone has to replace a tyre, dry steering will have contributed to it’s overall wear and tear.

Replacing a tyre is going to cost you a few tens of pounds at the very least. Fixing worn out steering will cost hundreds of pounds. Potholes can cause hundred of pounds worth of damage to your car – plus you pay taxes for them to be (eventually) filled in, so it makes sense not to contribute to their formation.

Except where pupils have a genuine problem and need to dry steer, as the default steering method it is an excuse for laziness and bad driving practices. Dry steering should be discouraged for most drivers, most of the time.

I find that many pupils can’t control the car and steer at the same time, and they need to dry-steer

That’s fair enough, but make sure you’re not just looking for an easy way out. In all the years I have been teaching, the number of pupils who couldn’t be taught to control the car at low speed and steer pull-push at the same time, and so have had to resort to dry steering, have been few. The vast majority of learners have initial problems with just about every aspect of driving, but that doesn’t mean they should be taught a dumbed down approach at the first opportunity. In my own experience, based on the observed skills of pupils I’ve picked up from other instructors, that is exactly what seems to be happening. Dry steering is seen as an easy way out.

Some people can’t do manoeuvres without dry steering

Yes, I agree, but the number for whom it is a genuine problem is small. The real problem  for most is to do with multi-tasking.

Multi-tasking doesn’t mean doing two things at the same time. The human brain can’t handle that. What it does mean is carrying out several tasks concurrently. I know that sounds confusing, but let me explain.A plate spinning act

Think of a plate-spinning act – the thing where some guy spins plates on the ends of sticks and keeps them all going without any falling off. He starts with one plate, sets it spinning, then uses the time before it starts to wind down to set another going. Now, he goes back to the first and gives it a boost, then he sets a third plate going. He can now go back and boost the second, and maybe the first again. Then he spins up a fourth plate. And so on, until he has many plates all spinning. All he has to do is give each plate a boost as necessary. This is proper multi-tasking – the plate spinner does one thing at a time, following a sequence.

Let’s apply all this to the turn in the road (TIR). In the worst case, a pupil will start moving without having a clue what they’re going to do next – and the car just moves off along the kerb as their brain tries to figure out what’s going on, and what they should do next. Not quite as bad, but still very messy, is the case where the pupil tries to get the car moving, control the speed, and steer all at once. What usually happens is that the car lurches (perhaps stalls), which distracts them from steering. Then, if they try to steer, their foot comes up off the clutch and the car accelerates, which distracts them again and the steering stops. By this time, they’re almost at the opposite kerbside with very little steering applied.

TIR (assuming we’re doing it as a three-point turn) can be broken into three identical stages, each looking a bit like this:

  • select gear
  • find the bite
  • look around
  • release handbrake
  • control speed
  • get full lock on
  • control speed again
  • look around
  • control speed
  • watch the kerb
  • control the speed
  • stop

If we apply the plate spinner approach, where controlling the speed is the same as giving a plate a boost, we have a nice structure that can be followed in a steady sequence. As long as the car’s speed is kept low, everything else just happens.

My instructor is teaching me to dry steer

As I said earlier, you won’t fail for doing it on your test. However, it is bad practice to do it when you don’t need to. It can damage your tyres and other things and it is something you need to avoid whenever you can. However, if you just can’t get pull-push steering and controlling the car then dry steering isn’t the end of the world, and the car won’t spontaneously combust like some instructors seem to think.

I can’t master “pull-push” steering

If you can steer safely and in control, it doesn’t matter how you do it. Even using the palm of one hand and driving like the chavs do is perfectly acceptable… as long as you’re in control. However, if you are a beginner and you don’t already have a suitable way of steering, pull-push is a good technique to master. You can easily practice it at home using a book or dinner plate as a dummy steering wheel.

If you want to steer left, move your left hand to the top of the wheel (or dinner plate), grip, and pull the wheel down until your hand is at the bottom. Move your right hand to the bottom, grip, let go with your left hand, then push the wheel/plate up. To continue steering, move your left hand to the top again, change grip, and repeat – although you’ll probably have full-lock on before you complete the third movement.

To steer right, start by moving your right hand to the top of the wheel and pull down, etc.

Using pull-push means you always have more steering available to you. Using big turns is good for getting full-lock quickly, but you can use small shuffles for more precise steering as needed.

Get the dinner plate out and make sure you can do it.

Do you have to use “push-pull”?

It’s actually called pull-push, but whatever you call it the answer is “no”. As far as I am aware, you have never HAD to do it that way – you’re probably confused about being told that by your own instructor, or by someone else whose instructor told them. The examiner doesn’t care how you steer as long as you’re in control.

That’s not to say that you can literally steer anyway you like, though. Pull-push (or something very similar to it) done properly is definitely the best way – especially for learners.

What about “palming”?

This is what I refer to as “chav steering” – it’s where someone uses the palm of one hand to rotate the wheel, and it is the favoured method of people who are trying to cultivate an image.

I often pick up pupils who use it, and I don’t immediately try and change them unless there is a problem with control. I’m perfectly happy for them to use it when they’re doing manoeuvres because of the low speeds involved. However, if they try it when turning into a road or round a sharp bend, if my guts flip even a small amount as a result of the change in momentum then I’m right on it, and they will learn how to steer using pull-push.

Palming to steer at normal speeds and in normal situations is pretty much pointless because you simply don’t need to steer that quickly. Beyond that, it comes back to that thing about image again – which is fine for an established driver (where you’d call it a habit), but not for an inexperienced beginner who just wants to look “cool”. Steering too quickly adds an additional sideways component to the forces acting on the car, and that increases the risk of a skid or spin-out, and palming can easily lead to that. And remember that this kind of accident is common among younger inexperienced drivers.

Is it OK to teach learners to “palm” the wheel?

Well, if they remain in control when they are steering then there is no fault for the examiner to mark. However, if they steer too quickly when turning left or right into side roads or bends then there most definitely is a control issue and the examiner might well mark it. With an inexperienced driver, showing them how to palm the wheel is a pointless additional risk.

A decent instructor should not be teaching palming as a preferred steering method for beginners. There’s too much that can go wrong with it. For established drivers the risks need to be assessed and dealt with honestly. Quite simply, too many ADIs steer like that themselves and this is why they teach it. It is bad practice, though – much like dry steering.

How do you teach a pupil to steer properly?

It isn’t rocket science, so don’t let your pupils think it is. Remember that as long as they are in control it doesn’t matter how they steer. Having said that, if they have not driven properly before it is a good idea to teach them how to use the pull-push method first (and to avoid dry-steering), and then let them develop their own style from there. Pull-push requires fundamental skills that they can use in their own style. Let them practice with a large book or diary – if you have a dummy steering wheel, so much the better.

Once they know the principle of steering, the next step is putting it into practice. For most new drivers that’s not a problem and just getting out on the road is enough for them to hone their skills. However, some new drivers need a bit of extra help with knowing how much to steer and when, and finding an empty car park which is big enough to drive around in a figure of eight pattern is great for practising this.

How do I correct someone’s steering while they’re driving?

This is an actual search term used to find the blog. It might be necessary for an instructor to position the car correctly for a learner simply by holding the steering wheel and steering slightly from the passenger seat. The pupil can then zero in on their position relative to the kerb or white lines and learn from that.

How many turns is full lock?

It varies from car to car. In my Ford Focus it is currently just over 1¼ turns either way, but in the previous model it was just under 1½ turns. One of my pupils has a car where it is nearly 2 whole turns.

Is full lock the same as one complete turn?

Read the previous answer. Full lock is when the steering wheel won’t turn any further. It will go “clunk” against the end stop.

One turn is one turn. If full lock is more than one turn, then no, full lock and one turn are not the same.

How much do I need to steer?

Don’t get bogged down counting quarters or halves of turns of the wheel (except perhaps during some manoeuvres). Steer as much as you need to by watching where you’re going and making the car go there.

If you get muddled when it comes to straightening the wheels after having turned to full lock, it can sometimes be useful to count your hand movements needed to get full lock in the first place, then count the same number of hand movements back. Obviously this depends on having a reliable technique – it won’t work if you use hand-over-hand one way, and tiny little shuffles going the other.

What are typical steering mistakes made by learners?

In my experience, the following are all high on the list:

  • looking at the steering wheel
  • looking too close to the front of the car
  • looking at the kerb
  • not looking ahead
  • being distracted by other things
  • gripping the wheel too tightly
  • not moving their hands when steering
  • steering too much or too quickly
  • steering too little or too slowly

The list is really endless, but not all learners make all these mistakes. Most pupils who have problems tend to specialise in one particular fault.

Remember that it is important to identify the precise cause of the fault. Someone might not steer enough going round a corner, but it could be simply that they were trying to change gear or cancel the indicator. In some cases, though, question them and you may well find it was because they were thinking about a mistake they made earlier. The trick is to dig the real fault out.

My pupil keeps moving the steering wheel all the time, even on straight roads

It’s probably because they’re not looking far enough ahead. Think about it: your hands will follow your eyes without you being aware of it, and this means that if you watched a video of yourself driving on a straight road, your hands would be making small corrections the whole time. Learners tend to look much closer to the front of the car, and as a result their adjustments are more frequent, and of greater magnitude. Get them to look a couple of hundred metres further on – point out various things for them to look at – and there’s a good chance their steering will become very smooth.

My pupil keeps taking one hand off the steering wheel

If they’re in control it doesn’t matter. They should try to keep two hands on the wheel, but dropping to one hand now and then isn’t a problem. It can even be a good exercise to get them to steer with one hand – their road position often improves dramatically, because they are concentrating more.

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