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The blog article about How to do Roundabouts remains popular (and, judging from feedback I receive, very useful to many). One question which crops up again and again is to do with positioning on roundabouts. At the time I wrote this original article, it was being fuelled by nonsense from IAM, and and readily picked up by ADIs who have ideas above their station.The Highway Code roundabouts image

The Highway Code shows this picture (above) and the accompanying text says:

Rule 186

Signals and position. When taking the first exit to the left, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise

  • signal left and approach in the left-hand lane
  • keep to the left on the roundabout and continue signalling left to leave.When taking an exit to the right or going full circle, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise
  • signal right and approach in the right-hand lane
  • keep to the right on the roundabout until you need to change lanes to exit the roundabout
  • signal left after you have passed the exit before the one you want.When taking any intermediate exit, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise
  • select the appropriate lane on approach to and on the roundabout
  • you should not normally need to signal on approach
  • stay in this lane until you need to alter course to exit the roundabout
  • signal left after you have passed the exit before the one you want.When there are more than three lanes at the entrance to a roundabout, use the most appropriate lane on approach and through it.

The underlining is mine, for emphasis. The Highway Code – both image and text – is crystal clear about staying in lane on roundabouts. It says nothing about ‘straight-lining’ or advanced (imagined or otherwise) police pursuit techniques. That’s because 99.9% of drivers shouldn’t be trying those things on normal British roads (and I include every single member of IAM in that 99.9%).

Then we come to Driving: The Essential Skills (TES, latest edition). This is effectively the syllabus that all driving instructors should be teaching in accordance with, with no exceptions that I can immediately think of. It says:

Procedure when entering/leaving a roundabout

Adopt the following procedure unless road signs or markings indicate otherwise.

Going left

  • Indicate left as you approach.
  • Approach in the left-hand lane.
  • Keep to that lane on the roundabout.
  • Maintain a left turn signal through the roundabout.

Going ahead

  • No signal necessary on approach.
  • Approach in the left-hand lane. If you can’t use the left-hand lane (because, for example, it’s blocked), use the lane next to it.
  • Keep to the selected lane on the roundabout.
  • Check your mirrors, especially the nearside exterior mirror.
  • Indicate left after you’ve passed the exit just before the one you intend to take.

Going right or full-circle

  • Indicate right as you approach.
  • Approach in the right-hand lane
  • Keep to that lane and maintain the signal on the roundabout.
  • Check your mirrors, especially the nearside exterior mirror.
  • Indicate left after you’ve passed the exit just before the one you intend to take.

Again, the underlining is mine, for emphasis. TES is also crystal clear about what is expected of drivers using roundabouts. It also uses the same image found in the Highway Code.

Even if you open a copy of ‘Roadcraft – The Police Driver’s Handbook’ you will not find any explicit recommendation that this procedure is to be ignored and replaced by ‘straight-lining’. It’s only when you start searching various ‘advanced driving’ forums (where people have names like ‘Super Scooby’ as tribute to the fact that they drive a Subaru pratmobile) that the concept of ‘straight-lining’ roundabouts rears its head. The general attitude of the average piston head-cum-IAM-member is basically this (my translation):

Straight-lining is not recommended by any authority, and you will not find it written down anywhere. The police recommend using lane discipline at all times except when on an emergency call. HOWEVER… because we class ourselves as advanced drivers, if WE feel it is safe to straight-line a roundabout then that’s perfectly OK.

Seriously, that is exactly what it boils down to. At the time I first wrote this, IAM was simply up to one of its periodic self-promotion exercises.

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Is it OK to straight-line a roundabout?

If there are marked lanes, you should use the marked lanes! You have absolutely no reason to do it any other way, since following the lanes will be the safest line through – that’s why they’re there. You have no need whatsoever to gain a fraction of a second advantage by ‘straight-lining’ as opposed to following the lanes. At best, you will manage to overtake a couple of other drivers who will then laugh at you when they catch up at the next set of lights. And the set after. And so on.

If the roundabout itself is unmarked, then you should use implied lane markings as suggested in the Highway Code diagram shown above. For example, if you have a two-lane dual carriageway feeding a roundabout – and there are no lane markings suggesting otherwise – then that implies that the roundabout also has two lanes. Implied markings extend to most roundabouts where two cars can proceed on to them at the same time, even if there is only a single marked lane on approach. It also applies to most of those which are wide enough to accommodate two cars side by side. The implied markings are governed by the widest feed road (i.e. it doesn’t matter if you’re entering from a single-track road, if the roundabout also has a six-lane dual carriageway feeding it, then it will have six lanes at some point!)

Will I fail my test if I straight-line a roundabout?

If it is clearly marked with lanes and you go careering across several or them and then back over again, yes. If a lane is clearly marked A60, for example, and another A52, if you attempt to take either the A60 or the A52 using the wrong lane you will be nailed for it. And you deserve to be.

If the lanes are implied then examiners often use a little common sense. Remember that learners and new drivers are, by definition, not experienced. For some, even driving in a straight line and checking their mirrors at the same time can be a major challenge, and although most learners are not quite that bad (though they do exist), they are far from being perfect drivers and their awareness skills are not fully formed. Therefore, if a learner on test doesn’t stay in lane – whether marked or implied – on a roundabout, almost without exception it is because they didn’t realise they were doing it and it is a serious error. This is especially true if there’s another road user there, and the examiners will mark it accordingly.

I have listened in on several test debriefs where someone has failed for doing precisely this, and the explanation has gone roughly as follows:

You approached the [implied markings] roundabout in the left-hand lane [of a two-lane dual carriageway]. As you moved on to it, you moved across towards the centre – which is OK – but you didn’t check your mirror to see if there was anyone coming up behind or in your blind spot. So that’s why I’ve had to fail you.

Personally, I hate this explanation, because it implies that the driver did it on purpose and just didn’t check. But I know they didn’t have a clue what he was talking about (I had to show one of them the dashcam footage on at least one occasion so they understood both where and what had happened). It was lazy positioning and no road markings – not intentional ‘straight-lining’.

It would be far simpler (and safer) just to learn to bloody stay in lane and keep out of harm’s way.

One final point. You might get away with lazy positioning once or twice if you’re lucky. Keep doing it and you will be marked down, because it is a fault.

Where can I read up on straight-lining?

You can’t – not unless you just want inaccurate and unofficial nonsense from middle-aged boy racers. The whole concept of ‘straight-lining’ is completely absent from any authoritative published material. DVSA expects good lane discipline on roundabouts.

I was taught to straight-line in the police/military

The only real purpose for ‘straight-lining’ is to gain advantage – either getting past someone, or saving fractions of a second. For the police on a call, that makes sense. I’m not convinced on the reasons for the military teaching it unless it, too, was for pursuit or reasons of timing (or possibly so the cargo doesn’t tip over). There is absolutely no reason for a normal driver (even if they are an ADI) doing it except to show off or be different.

I teach my pupils to straight-line if it’s safe

Then you’re not teaching them properly, because it isn’t what DVSA is expecting you to do. You are expected to teach them lane discipline, not some smart-arsed ideas from an online driving group that thinks it is ‘advanced’.

Learners (and new drivers) do not have the experience to be able to reliably check that it is safe to ‘straight-line’ and deal with everything else that might be going on. If they get it wrong when they’re out on their own it would be a disaster. Many of them can’t follow lanes because they don’t even know the lanes are there, and they should be taught how to do it properly first. When they’ve passed, it’s then up to them whether or not they turn into smart-arse know-it-alls, but they shouldn’t be taught to be smart-arse know-it-alls when they don’t even know the basics.

Straight-lining is an advanced driving skill that it is useful for learners to know

No it isn’t. It’s only an ‘advanced skill’ to a small number of anoraks, and apart from making the statement ‘look what a prat I am’ it serves absolutely no useful purpose for normal drivers. It is used to overtake where you shouldn’t, or to gain pointless milliseconds that are lost at the next set of traffic lights.

On a larger roundabout, your road position is likely to be misleading if you’re ‘straight-lining’, and that means others could enter it as you swerve back over. The police get away with it because they have a siren and flashing blue lights – and even they occasionally have accidents because of it.

Learners should be taught to slow down and check properly at roundabouts, not to take risks.

How would the examiner view straight-lining?

It depends on the examiner. In the example I gave above, they often seem to assume it was deliberate but without the mirror checks. However, I know full well that it was because they hadn’t got a clue that there were lane positions to follow. On the other hand, I am pretty certain that if the roundabout had clearly marked and signed lanes, attempting to ‘straight-line’ one of those is not going to be seen as a positive unless you got very, very lucky. In most cases, even if the pupil managed to get into the correct lane eventually, it would go down as a ‘road signs/road markings’ fault for not choosing the correct lane. But add ‘observations’ on top when they do it and a serious fault is almost guaranteed.

Just don’t do it.

Teaching pupils to stay in lane isn’t teaching them safe driving for life

I’m afraid that it is. Learners are not experienced – experience is something they have to gain for themselves after they pass their tests. They need to have the safest basic skills on which to build that experience, and learning how to stay in lane and avoid conflicts is one of the best examples of that. New drivers who ‘straight-line’ nearly always do so because they either don’t know how to stay in lane, or simply want to go faster than everyone else. Those who ‘straight-line’ are usually also speeding.

I am a ‘safe driver’. I’ve been driving my whole adult life. And I use good lane discipline. The only time I usually have to take any sort of evasive action is when other people don’t use good lane discipline.

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All the Es

This article was originally published in 2011, but I’ve updated it a couple of times since, and again in 2018 following a run of hits. It’s been popular on and off since, and has suddenly been swamped again in mid-2021.

The original article came about after watching an argument flare up on a forum concerning the 4Es. Basically, no one knew what they were, but they’d all done a quick search and were arguing their own interpretations of the first hit they’d come across on Google. It’s funny watching people trying to put each other down when none of them have a clue.

As an aside, I notice that some organisations have turned the 4Es into the 5Es. At least I guess it means they can have more meetings, do more flipcharts, and offer more consultation opportunities instead of getting on with some bloody work. I’ve even seen the 3Es out there somewhere. Talk about confusion!

One of the big problems trying to get to the bottom of what the 4Es are all about is that even the people apparently implementing them obfuscate things so much that they don’t have a clue, either. The best place to go for a serious explanation is America, and a public safety site for Nevada is probably the best I’ve seen.

Nevada gives them as:

  • engineering
  • enforcement
  • education
  • emergency response

The Wikipedia entry explains:

Accident prevention and improvement of traffic safety

This comprises education and information, above all following the “4 Es”: enforcement, education, engineering, encouragement/economy. The main goal is promoting safety by influencing and modifying behavior using legal, educational, vehicle- and road-specific measures; driver training, driving-instructor education, information on traffic issues, campaign design and marketing, effective enforcement.

You will note the slight difference with the fourth one, though if you think about it, Nevada has it covered with their version – and bear in mind that they actually use it.

“Engineering” means things like road design, lane markings, footpaths, and so on (design things with safety in mind). “Enforcement” means publicity, policing, and so on (remind people, and pull them up if they don’t comply). “Education” means giving out information, conducting campaigns, and so on for all users (pedestrians and drivers). “Emergency response” refers to maintaining a “first responder” system.

India has been looking into it, and they refer to:

…included engineering of safe roads, provision of emergency care, enforcement of traffic rules and regulations, the use of ITS for improving road safety, and the creation of an educational and awareness campaign for changing road user behaviour to improve road safety.

The same headings as Nevada. And the ITE – an international organisation – says:

Within the 4 E’s of transportation safety, “engineering” and “education” are two of the more traditional focuses for transportation engineers and planners. However, the importance of “enforcement” and “emergency responses” should not be understated, and both are critical elements of a successful roadway safety management program.

From a driving instructor’s point of view, the education part is the one they are going to be dealing with, though perhaps with a little enforcement thrown in.

Remember, though, that it is the dog which wags the tail – not the other way round – and decent instructors (or anyone else acting responsibly) are covering their part automatically without having to worry about acronyms and the inevitable flipcharts and Powerpoint sessions. In the rat race, though, it all has to be documented and filed, so it is a much bigger – and more costly – job.

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DVSA LogoThis is an old article which was updated several times over the years to maintain a link to an up to date DL25 – which was the name of the form used to record the result of a driving test. However, since November 2019, DVSA has switched to using an electronic version of the DL25 via iPads during the test. There is no longer a paper record created at the end of the test. And I have since discovered that as of April 2021 (and apologies if the link has been broken longer than that), DVSA no longer provides the DL25 for download. I guess it makes sense that they don’t, since it is now obsolete and would not reflect any changes to the test going forward.

What happens now is that the candidate is told whether they passed or failed, a debrief is given the same way it always has been (referring to the faults displayed on the iPad), and a copy of this same results list is emailed to the address given when the test was booked.

It’s a straightforward exercise getting the pupil to email or text you a copy if you really need it. Quite frankly, in most cases you don’t – you can refer to the pupil’s copy the next time you see them, and you’ll already be aware of what they failed for by listening to the debrief.

However, right now having a copy of the old DL25 is useful when conducting lessons – especially for new instructors. The test is still marked pretty much the same as it ever was (at the moment), it’s just reported differently. And the test report (explanations of what is expected) is useful to anyone learning to drive.

Here is a PDF file of the last DL25 form that I had. Note that some of the pages were for examiners’ internal use, and are not relevant to pupils.

The test report is explained in detail in this article (and note that DVSA has recently updated its own guidance on the test result/report as of May 2021, and this supersedes any articles concerning the DL25 in paper form).

Can instructors use an iPad when doing mock tests?

The short – and correct – answer is no, they cannot. There’s no point arguing about it: you can’t.

When a candidate is on their test, they are not classed as a learner driver. Therefore, the examiner is not the supervising driver. That is why the examiner is not breaking the Law by filling in an iPad form.

However, when they are on lessons, pupils are still learners, and that means the instructor is the supervising driver. It is illegal for whoever is in overall control of the car to use a handheld device while the car is moving (or if the engine is on, even if you’re stationary, if you’re going by the letter of the Law),

Personally, I have never understood the fascination many ADIs have with ‘mock tests’. The only test that matters is the real one – because it is conducted by someone who is specifically trained and authorised to administer them. Anything else is just play-acting and the outcome is pointless. This is even more true when the test conductor insists on dressing up in hi-vis jackets and farting about with a clip board. In these situations, they’re not examiners – they are still the supervising driver. And the pupil knows it is you, and not an examiner, so the perceived benefit of generating ‘the test situation’ is moot.

Having seen many paperless tests in action (i.e. no big deal at all), I can assure you that filling in a DL25 by hand on your mock-test pantomime sessions instead of on an iPad is not going to ruin the impression anyone has of you.

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DVSA logoThis was originally published way back when the blog was still new. It has been updated several times since.

As of 2019, DVSA no longer uses a paper test report (the DL25 form). It is all done using an iPad, and an email copy of the test result is sent instead. It means that there is no longer a maintained copy of the DL25 on the GOV.UK website, and that further means that there is no longer an explanatory sheet given. This article deals with that explanatory sheet when it still existed.

However, DVSA now provides an online explanation of what is required. It is effectively the old test report in a new format, and it is very informative.

The benefit of the new format is that it refers to the existing test manoeuvres, whereas the paper DL25 was never fully updated when the new manoeuvres were introduced in 2017, and so didn’t detail possible faults with those.

The original article follows.


A lot of people find this site using search terms like ‘driving test report explained’ or ‘what are S and D on the test report’. I’ve explained everything below. This is taken from the sheet you get [prior to 2019] whether you pass or fail your test, which is officially known as the DL25. The explanation sheet you receive tells you what the examiner was looking for, and why he or she marked you as they did.

I always give out copies to – or at least run through certain sections with – my pupils.

1(a). Eyesight Test

At the start of the test the examiner asked you to read a vehicle registration number. If you do not meet the eyesight standard then your test will not go ahead. If you need glasses or contact lenses to make sure you can read the number you must wear them whenever you drive or ride.

If you can’t read the number plate of a car the driving examiner (DE) chooses outside the test centre then you can’t take the test, i.e. you ‘fail’ immediately.

2. Controlled Stop

You may have been asked to show you were able to stop your vehicle in good time and under full control, as if in an emergency situation. Remember, when driving in wet or icy weather conditions, it will take you longer to stop safely.

One in every three tests gets a full-blown emergency stop, and you will need to be able to do it the way your instructor taught you. In addition, the DE will ask you to pull over and move off again several times during your test, and at least one of these may involve stopping behind another parked vehicle or obstruction, and then moving off again.

3, 4, 5 and 6 Reversing and turn in road exercises

Depending on the test you took, you may have been asked to complete one or more slow speed manoeuvring exercises. You needed to show you were able to keep control of your vehicle. This needed to be done whilst taking effective observations and acting correctly on what you saw.

This covers all of the manoeuvres, although you will only be asked to do one of them during a normal test. The manoeuvres are:

  • turn in the road (not tested since December 2017)
  • left corner reverse (not tested since December 2017)
  • right corner reverse ((not tested since December 2017)
  • stop/reverse/move away from the right (since December 2017)
  • forward bay park/reverse out (since December 2017)
  • reverse bay park
  • parallel park

It is/was very rare for someone taking the test in a car to be asked to do the right corner reverse (it is/was usually vans which get that one) – but  you could have been asked to do it (that came straight from my local test centre manager). Likewise, some test centres don’t have parking bays and therefore don’t usually ask candidates to reverse bay park, but that doesn’t mean they never will (forward bay park is done away from the test centre in a supermarket or council car park). Your instructor should have at least run through any questionable manoeuvres with you because you’ll need to know how to do them once you’re driving on your own.

For all the manoeuvres you must be in control of the car (e.g. no stalling, not too fast or too slow, and not too jumpy). You must also be safe (e.g. looking for other road users before and during movement, and dealing with them appropriately).

7. Vehicle Checks

It is important that the vehicle is in good working order before you start the engine. The examiner asked you some safety questions of a ‘show me / tell me’ nature. You needed to show a basic knowledge of the checks you should make on a regular basis. These include checks on oil and water levels and tyre pressure and tread depth.

This refers to the show-me-tell-me questions. Make sure you can answer them for the car you take your test in – for example, knowing how to check the oil using the dipstick is one thing, but being able to identify where it is another matter entirely.

Note that from 4 December 2017 one of the questions will be asked while you are actually driving. I’ll update this article nearer the time.

11 Precautions

These checks are simple but important. Before you started the engine, you needed to make sure that your seat was adjusted correctly to allow you to reach all your driving controls with ease. This is because an incorrect seat position can affect your ability to take observations and keep proper control of the vehicle.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a pupil who was asked to go through the cockpit drill on their test. However, I have heard stories of candidates being asked to do it, so make sure you know how to adjust your seat and mirrors properly.

12 Control

Throughout the test you needed to show you can use all the controls smoothly and at the correct time. This means less wear and tear on your vehicle and a smoother ride for your passengers.

This covers use of the clutch, brake, and gas pedals as well as the steering and other controls. Make sure you can use them properly.

13 Move off

You needed to show that you can move away on the level, on a slope and at an angle safely, under full control, taking effective observation. Move off only when it is safe to do so.

This covers moving off in control (e.g. without stalling) and safely (e.g. looking all around, including your blind spots, and signalling if necessary). Examiners tend to be quite relaxed about signalling when it isn’t strictly necessary, but they will pick up on not checking your mirrors and blind spots – so even if you signal correctly, if you don’t check properly you could be faulted for it. This is a common cause of failing the test.

14 Use of mirrors – rear observation

You should have used the mirrors safely and effectively acting correctly upon what you saw. Where mirrors are not enough, for example to cover ‘blind spots’, then you must take effective rear observation. You must always check this carefully before signalling, changing direction or changing speed. You needed to demonstrate you can use the Mirror – Signal – Manoeuvre (MSM) routine effectively.

This relates to using the mirror-signal-manoeuvre (MSM) routine properly in all situations. It is another common reason for failing your test – particularly if you encroach on the lane next to you at multi-lane junctions and on roundabouts.

Check your mirrors (and blind spots, if relevant) before you change lanes or position (e.g. when passing parked cars or other obstructions). Make sure you look properly and don’t just go through a robotic routine – it is surprising how many times I see learners apparently look somewhere and yet fail to actually see the lorry or car coming straight towards us.

15 Signals

You should only use the signals shown in the Highway Code. On test you should have signalled clearly to let others know what you intend to do. This is particularly important if it would help other road users or pedestrians. You should have always signalled in good time and ensured that the signal had been switched off after the manoeuvre had been completed. You should not beckon to pedestrians to cross the road.

Forgetting to signal is a common fault – especially during the independent driving section of the test. Forgetting to cancel a signal is also common. Make sure you don’t signal too early or too late, and don’t signal to overtake every obstruction.

16 Clearance

You should have given parked vehicles and other obstructions enough space to pass safely. You needed to watch out for changing situations such as pedestrians walking out from between parked cars, doors opening and vehicles trying to move off. You should have been prepared to slow down or stop if needed.

Although it seems to vary depending on where you are, most DEs are very strict when it comes to passing parked vehicles. One common problem is when the candidate slows down for an obstruction on their side to let an oncoming vehicle through, and gets too close to the obstruction. As they steer out they often “shave” the obstruction (i.e. get close to it). Going too fast for the situation is also marked quite harshly.

Response to signs and signals

You needed to show that you can react correctly to all traffic signs, road markings, traffic lights and pedestrian crossings. You should have obeyed signals given by police officers, traffic wardens, Highways Agency officers and school crossing patrols. You should watch out for signals given by other road users and carry on only when you are happy it is safe.

Be ready for traffic lights changing if they have been on one phase for a long time (going through an amber when there was time to stop is a common fault). Watch out for pedestrian crossings, and look for pedestrians standing near them – they will have pushed the button, so the lights could change at any moment. Look for school crossing patrols (be aware of the time of day), and don’t miss speed limit changes or other relevant signs. Read the road ahead by seeing what is happening and predicting what might happen next.

18 Use of speed

You should have made safe and reasonable progress along the road. You needed to keep in mind the road, traffic and weather conditions, road signs and speed limits. You needed to show confidence based on sound judgement. Remember, at all times you should have been able to stop within the distance you can see to be clear.

Don’t go too fast, and don’t go too slow. Don’t take chances. Plan ahead.

19. Following distance

You should have always kept a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front. You should be able to stop safely, well within the distance you can see to be clear. You should leave extra distance in wet or slippery conditions. Leave enough space when you are stopped in traffic queues.

A lot of people are caught out by getting too close to the car in front – either when driving or when stopping at lights.

20. Maintain progress

On test you needed to show that you can drive at a realistic speed appropriate to the road and traffic conditions. You needed to approach all hazards at a safe, controlled speed, without being over cautious or slowing or stopping other road users. You should always be ready to move away from junctions as soon as it is safe and correct to do so. Driving too slowly can frustrate other drivers which creates danger for yourself and others.

I once had a pupil who was a great driver, but who collapsed mentally whenever she took her test. One day, just as we were going off to a test, her mum came out to give her a pep talk: ‘Now don’t forget what we told you, Jane. Drive everywhere slowly’. I could have screamed. Less than 90 seconds after driving away she tried to merge with a busy 50mph dual carriageway (where most people do 60mph) at just under 30mph!

Don’t hold other people up, and don’t drive differently to the way you do on your lessons.

21. Junctions including roundabouts

The examiner would have looked for correct use of the Mirror – Signal – Manoeuvre MSM procedure. The examiner was also looking for correct positioning and approach speed at junctions and roundabouts. This is because these skills are essential for dealing with these hazards safely. Turning right across busy roads/dual carriageways is particularly dangerous. To drive safely and pass your test you must be confident that you can judge the speed and distance of oncoming traffic safely. You also need to look out for other road users emerging and turning at junctions and be ready to alter your course or stop. Be extra watchful in poor light or bad weather conditions for the more vulnerable road user, such as cyclists and motorcyclists.

This is self-explanatory. Inappropriate speed is the learner driver’s worst enemy in many situations – if you can’t do the damned things at the best of times, why should attempting a junction at Mach 3 make it go any better? Think and plan ahead – and make sure you know how to handle situations in the first place before you take your test.

22. Judgement

Your examiner will have assessed your judgment skills throughout the test. You will have needed to show sound judgment when overtaking, meeting or crossing the path of other road users. You should have only done this when it was safe and legal. You should have made your intentions clear and been sure that you understood the intentions of other road users.

Again, speed comes into this for many learners. If you see a car coming towards you and there is a narrow gap that only one of you can get through, do not try and plough through – even if you technically have right of way (i.e. the obstruction is on the other side of the road). The Golden Rule as far as I’m concerned is don’t trust anyone else out there (and especially not if you’re in a car with L plates on it). Check your mirrors, slow down, and watch the other driver carefully… and remember that for most people who mess this up, it isn’t that they have deliberately decided to take the other car on – it’s just that they haven’t thought anything at all!

23. Positioning

You should have positioned your car in a safe position; normally this would be keeping well to the left of the road. You needed to keep clear of parked vehicles and be positioned correctly for the direction that you intend to take. You needed to look for and be guided by road signs and markings. Other road users may judge your intentions by where you are positioned so be aware of where you are at all times.

Don’t weave all over the road, and stay in lane (unless you are deliberately changing lanes for some reason). And watch the kerb, especially on bends (and when looking at the speedometer, and when checking mirrors, and when changing gear, and… you get the idea). Don’t get distracted by looking at or dealing with one thing for too long.

24. Pedestrian crossings

You should have been able to identify the different types of pedestrian crossing and take the correct action. You needed to monitor your speed and time your approach to crossings so that you can stop safely if you need to do so. You should have paid
particular attention where crossings were partly hidden by queuing or parked vehicles. You should also show consideration for elderly or infirm pedestrians who are trying to cross the road.

Self-explanatory. Look and plan well ahead and watch for pedestrians pushing buttons.

25 Position / normal stops

You should have chosen a safe, legal and convenient place to stop, close to the edge of the road, where you will not block the road and create a hazard. You should know how and where to stop without causing inconvenience or danger to other road users.

Self-explanatory. Don’t stop in driveways, opposite junctions, too far from the kerb, and so on. The examiner will ask you to pull over and drive off again several times, and they will be looking for mirror checks, signals, and your choice of location.

26. Awareness and planning

You must be aware of other road users at all times. Your examiner is looking to see that you plan ahead to judge what other road users are going to do. This will allow you to predict how their actions will affect you and react in good time. You needed to anticipate road and traffic conditions, and act in good time, rather than reacting to them at the last moment. You should have taken particular care to consider the actions of the more vulnerable groups of road users such as pedestrians, cyclists, other motorcyclists and horse riders.

Look and plan ahead and always assume the worst. Cyclists in particular are likely to change position or direction without warning.

27. Ancillary controls

You needed to show that you can operate all of your vehicle’s controls safely and effectively. The examiner was looking to see that whilst on the move you kept proper control of your vehicle whilst using secondary controls. These include demisters, heating controls, indicators and windscreen wipers.

If it rains, make sure you know how to use the wipers and washers. If it’s cold, make sure you know how to demist the windows inside. If it gets dark, make sure you know how (and when) to turn on the lights.

Eco Safe Driving

You should drive in an ‘eco friendly manner’, considering your impact on the environment. Plan well ahead and choose appropriate gears, avoid heavy braking and over revving of the engine, particularly when stopped or moving off. If you have to stop for a long period such as at road works or railway crossings, consider stopping the engine to reduce pollution and save fuel. The examiner will assess this on your test; however this assessment will not affect the overall result of the test. If there are areas that need improvement you will receive appropriate feedback at the end of the test.

As it says, you can’t fail for this (not yet, anyway), but driving in an eco-friendly way will save you money in the long run.

So how does the examiner mark you? If you look at the driving test report itself, you can see columns with ‘S’ and ‘D’ over them – that’s for ‘serious’ and ‘dangerous’ faults (often referred to as ‘major’ faults), and you are not allowed to get any of those (you’ll notice that the eyesight check only has a box under ‘S’ – if you can’t read the number plate the DE points out to you then the test doesn’t go ahead and you effectively fail there and then).

You can get up to 15 driver faults (often called ‘minors’) and still pass – but you need to understand that there is no way any DE is going to let someone get all 15 in a single category. So if you stall the car once when moving off, you might get a single driver fault. Do it two or three times when you move off and you are sailing close to the wind. Do it more times than that and it will more than likely become a ‘serious’. However, it is quite possible to stall just once – in the wrong place at the wrong time – and end up with a ‘serious’ or ‘dangerous’ fault for it. Likewise, you could stall several times, each time in a different situation, and get away with much more.

What is the difference between a driver fault, a ‘serious’ fault, and a ‘dangerous’ fault? There’s no definitive answer, but an example would be moving away safely: if you don’t check over your right shoulder and no one is there (and you only do it once), that might be a driver fault. If you don’t do it and someone is coming (or if you do it repeatedly), that would be ‘serious’. And if you don’t do it but whoever is coming is close enough for you to cause a problem, that would be ‘dangerous’.

It is amazing how many people go to test without knowing the basics, and yet are fully clued up on how many faults they can ‘get away’ with! Don’t rush going to test. Failing is not nice. Passing first time is – and it gives you great street cred!

What do the ‘S’ and ‘D/C’ boxes mean at the top of the form?

I believe that the ‘S’ box is ticked if the car used for the test is a driving school car (as opposed to a private vehicle), and the ‘D/C’ box is ticked if the car has dual controls fitted.

What does ‘DF’ mean?

It stands for ‘driver fault’. A driver fault is what most people refer to as a ‘minor’ fault. You can get up to 15 driver faults, but no ‘serious’ (S) or ‘dangerous’ (D) faults (often referred to as ‘major’ faults).

What do ‘R’ and ‘C’ mean under Reverse Parking?

‘R’ means you did it on a road somewhere (i.e. it was a parallel park), and ‘C’ means it was done in a car park (i.e. you reversed into a bay).

Where is ‘dry steering’ marked?

It isn’t. Dry steering isn’t marked anywhere because it isn’t a fault. As long as you’re in control you can steer pretty much any way you want.

What does ETA mean?

It means ‘examiner took action’ and it can be marked under V (‘verbal’, meaning the examiner said something like ‘STOP’) or P (‘physical’, meaning the examiner used the dual controls or grabbed the steering wheel). You can assume that this is always a serious fault.

When marked – for example, if the examiner used the dual controls – many learners argue that they were ‘going to stop, but the examiner got there first’. My explanation to them is always that if the examiner had to do it, then they were too late and so they don’t have a valid argument. The examiner is not going to wait and see if you cause a pile-up before deciding you were at fault. He will let the situation go so far, then he will step in whether you like it or not.

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Originally posted in 2009. Updated annually, so here’s the 2020 version. It’s the end of December, we had a few flakes of snow in a few places, the papers are full of photographs of people’s dogs in snow, and children sledging on a combination of mud and 1mm of sleet, and dire warnings about the coldest winter since 10,000 BC (the last Ice Age). Same as every year.

Further to a post about cancelled lessons due to weather, I noticed on one forum a couple of years ago someone getting all excited about how there might be a market for specialised snow lessons at premium prices. As of October 2018 (and it hasn’t got even close to snowing yet), some instructors are already going on about not doing lessons.Snow on road scene 1

Let’s have a reality check here.

Until February 2009, it hadn’t snowed to any appreciable extent in the UK for around 26 years! We had two bad winters, but since then they have been relatively mild ones with almost no snow. Even when we get a little of the white stuff it is usually gone inside a week or two at most. Snow – and especially in the UK – is usually extremely localised. The media talks it up so it sounds like the whole country is blanketed in a metre of the stuff, especially if a few wet flakes fall in London. This  is enough to have people cutting down each others trees for their yuppie wood-fired stoves, and panic buying Evian at the local Waitrose. It can keep the BBC news bulletins going for days at a time.

Every year, the incompetence and bureaucracy at local councils typically means that every time there is any bad weather, it’s like they’ve never experienced it before. This – and the media hyping it to death – makes things seem a lot worse than they really are. Having a ‘specialised snow Instructor, in the UK (especially in England) would be like having a fleet of icebreakers sailing the Mediterranean: bloody stupid!

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Back here on Planet Earth, I will carry on doing things the way I always have done: use whatever weather comes to hand as a teaching opportunity if it is appropriate, and charging normal lesson rates for it.

One bit of advice. Make sure you have the right mixture in your wash bottle, and a scraper for removing any frost or snow. A further bit of advice. Never, ever, ever be tempted to buy a metal-bladed ice scraper. Always plastic. Trust me, I’ve tested metal ones for you, and you are welcome. Don’t use metal.

Will my driving lessons be cancelled due to snow?

It depends on how much of it there is, how far advanced you are with your training, and your instructor’s attitude to teaching in snow. There is no rule that says you mustn’t have lessons in snow. In fact, it makes a lot of sense to do them if you can to get valuable experience. But beginners perhaps shouldn’t because it’s just too dangerous for them. It’s your instructor’s decision, even if you want to do it.Snow on road scene 2

Do driving lessons get cancelled when there is snow?

Yes. It depends on how much snow and how advanced you are as a learner driver. If your instructor cancels then you should not get charged. If you are, find another instructor quickly.

If the police are advising people not to travel unless it’s essential, having a driving lesson in those conditions is a bad idea. That’s when they’re likely to be cancelled.

Also bear in mind that it doesn’t matter if you’re learning with the AA, BSM, Bill Plant, or any other driving school. The decision is down to your instructor based on the weather in your area.

Will my instructor tell me if my lesson is cancelled?

Yes. If he or she doesn’t (or just doesn’t turn up without telling you), find another. But why take the chance? Just call or text him and ask.

My instructor says he isn’t insured for icy weather

Someone found the blog on that search term (February 2018). I’m telling you in the most absolute terms possible that this is utter nonsense. I have never heard of insurance which says you can’t drive in certain weather, and especially not driving instructor insurance. If anyone tells you this, find another instructor quickly.

Do [driving school name] cancel lessons due to bad weather?

Cancelling lessons due to bad weather is down to the instructor and not the driving school they represent. So it doesn’t matter which school you are with. But yes, lessons can be cancelled for bad weather.

Any decent instructor might cancel lessons due to too much snow – either falling, or on the ground – making driving dangerous. They might also cancel due to thick fog, strong winds, and heavy rain/flooding. The decision lies solely with the instructor. If you disagree with their decision, find another one.

Will I have to pay for my lesson if it’s cancelled due to snow?

There is no specific law which says your instructor can’t charge you, but if he or she does it goes against all the principles of Common Decency. You should not be charged for bad weather cancellations initiated by your instructor. If you are, find another instructor as soon as possible.

However, if it’s you who wants to cancel, but your instructor wants to go ahead with the lesson, it’s a little more tricky. You being nervous is not the same as it being genuinely too dangerous. I had someone once who would try to cancel for light rain, bright sun, mist, and wind when she didn’t feel like driving. You’ll need to sort this out yourself, but as in all other cases, if you’re not happy just find a different instructor – being aware that if the problem is you, the issues won’t go away.

I want to do the lesson, but my instructor said no

You need to be realistic about the conditions. Just because your test is coming up, for example, and you don’t want to have to move it doesn’t alter the fact that the weather might just be too dangerous to drive in on the day of the lesson. When I cancel lessons in snow it’s usually with my newer pupils who I know can panic and brake too hard. On the other hand, if the police are advising against travel, or if the roads are at a standstill, I will cancel a lesson no matter who it is.Snow on road scene 3

As an example, one day in 2016 it began snowing heavily about 30 minutes before I was due to pick someone up late one morning. The roads quickly got covered and traffic began to slow down. His house was on a slope, and it was clearly becoming difficult to drive without slipping. I made a choice there and then to cancel the lesson. The snow lasted for about as long as his lesson would have, but was gone by the afternoon. Cancelling was the right decision.

Do lessons in snow cost more?

No. If you’re charged extra for normal driving lessons in snow, find another instructor immediately.

I’m worried about driving lessons in snow

Don’t be. You’re going to have to do it when you’ve passed, and it makes sense to learn how to do it now while you have the chance. A lot of people never see snow until they’ve passed their tests, then they don’t know what to do and end up crashing, like the red car in the picture above.

You should never drive in snow

That’s total rubbish. Unless the advice is ‘not to travel unless it is absolutely necessary’, doing lessons on snow or ice is extremely useful for when you pass. Partially melted snow is ideal for doing ‘snow lessons’ if you have the right instructor. The one thing you do need is to make sure you are suitably equipped in case you get caught out. A scraper, de-icer, the right liquid in your wash bottle – and perhaps a pair of snow socks.

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Do YOU do lessons in snow?

Generally speaking, yes – as long as I feel it is safe to do so, and unless the advice is ‘not to travel unless it is absolutely necessary’. I do not do lessons in snow because I am desperate for the money – I will happily cancel if I believe it is too dangerous. And sometimes it is.

Why do YOU do lessons in snow?

Several years ago we had two winters where it snowed properly for the first time in around 26 years. I had not experienced it as an instructor before, and I cancelled a lot of lessons. After several weeks I realised I was being over-cautious. It was one of those head-slapping moments, and I recognised that I could actually use the snow as a teaching aid. Not with the beginners or nervous ones, but the more advanced ones definitely.

Snow - bad enough to cancel or not?Basically, if the snow is melting and main roads are clear, there’s no reason not to do lessons. We can dip into some quiet roads and look at how easy it is to skid. If the snow is still falling and main roads are affected by lying snow, then doing lessons carries a much greater risk. A bit of common sense tells you what you can and can’t get away with.

I can state with absolute certainty that every single pupil has benefitted from driving lessons on snow if the chance has arisen for them.

Will my driving test be cancelled due to snow?

It is very likely. You need to phone up the test centre on the day using the number on your email confirmation and check. Otherwise, you must turn up – even if they cancel it at the last minute. If you don’t, you’ll probably lose your test fee – or end up having a drawn-out argument over it. Make life simple and follow the guidelines.

At one time, tests wouldn’t go out if there was any snow at all in Nottingham. In February 2018 during the visitation by ‘The Beast from the East’ (aka the ‘Kitten in Britain’), I had an early morning test go out with substantial snow on the side roads, repeated snow showers, and a temperature of -4°C showing on my car display. My wiper blade rubbers were solid, and making that horrible sound when they bounce instead of glide. I was amazed (but the pupil passed anyway). You can never be certain, but be prepared.

If my test is cancelled, will I have to pay for another?

No. They will send you a new date within a few days (or you can phone them or look it up online). And it will not count as one of your six ‘lives’ for moving your test.

Can I claim for out of pocket expenses if my test is cancelled?

No. Neither you, nor your instructor, can claim any money back. And you shouldn’t be charged for your lesson or car hire that day.Snow on road scene 4

Will snow stop a driving test?

YES. Snow can easily stop a test, or prevent it from going ahead. It doesn’t matter how you phrase the question, or who you ask, if there is snow then the test could easily be affected. They tell you all this when you book it.

Driving tests cancelled due to snow 2015 (or 2016, or 2017, or 2018, etc.)

It doesn’t matter if it’s 1818, 1918, 2018, or any other date. If there is snow on the roads and/or it is icy then your test may well be cancelled. It doesn’t matter what you, your instructor, or your mum or dad says. It is up to the test centre to decide.

Why was my driving test cancelled because it snowed?

Driving in snow is potentially dangerous even for experienced drivers. The side streets will likely be covered in sheet ice and compacted snow and you will skid if you even drive carefully on them. You could easily lose control. That’s why there are so many accidents in snow and icy conditions. You are a new driver and you probably haven’t driven on snow before. DVSA cannot take the risk, and you have to accept it.

PHONE YOUR TEST CENTRE TO FIND OUT IF TESTS ARE CANCELLED AT THAT TEST CENTRE BEFORE YOU SET OFF – YOU WON’T FIND THE ANSWER GOOGLING FOR IT. DECISIONS ARE MADE MINUTE-TO-MINUTE AND YOU CAN ONLY FIND OUT BY CALLING THEM.

In the past, I have had 8.10am tests booked in the middle of winter and sometimes I know for a fact that when I pick the pupil up at 6.30am the conditions are so bad the test is going to be cancelled. But until the examiners get in just before 8am there is no way of checking. That’s why I advise against my pupils booking early tests in winter – cancellations are far more likely when it is cold and icy, and it is more likely to be cold and icy (and foggy) first thing in the morning before the sun has come up properly.

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Silicone Nose BridgeYou have to laugh. Right from the start of the pandemic – with the requirement to wear a mask (unless you are a twat or genuinely exempt) – glasses steaming up has been a problem. If you go by social media, anything from washing up liquid, through squirrel pee, shaving foam, all the way up to 20ml bottles of over-priced chemicals is the way forward.

The bottom line is that your glasses – in my case, sunglasses – steam up because the mask directs warm and moist air up into the lenses.

Sometimes, the solution doesn’t lie with trying to stop basic physics (moisture condensing on glass). It lies with basic physics not being involved in the first place (keep the moisture away from the glass). And these things are the answer.

I bought some and they work perfectly. You just put one over your nose, put the mask on top, and the moist air goes out the side and not the top. The fact that they’re re-usable and cost as little as £5 for a pack of ten of them makes them a much better solution than bottles of Magic Liquid that you’re going to keep wiping off and use up in a week.

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Double white linesThis article is from 2015, but it’s had a run of hits lately and is therefore due an update.

I saw a discussion on a forum where someone had crossed or straddled a solid white line to pass a jogger and was now fretting that he’d broken the Law. I also noted that none of the replies gave a definitive answer.

The Highway Code (HC) only says this about crossing solid white lines (it’s in Rule 129):

129

Double white lines where the line nearest you is solid. This means you MUST NOT cross or straddle it unless it is safe and you need to enter adjoining premises or a side road. You may cross the line if necessary, provided the road is clear, to pass a stationary vehicle, or overtake a pedal cycle, horse or road maintenance vehicle, if they are travelling at 10 mph (16 km/h) or less.
Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10 & 26

It is this rule that most people focus on. But what they usually don’t do is take into account the reference at the bottom. You see, whenever the HC refers to a MUST NOT rule (which is in RED in the paper version of the HC), the actual law you would be breaking is always given in the reference underneath. In this case, Section 36 of the Road Traffic Act (1988), and the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions Regulations 10 and 26. These are abbreviated to RTA and TSRGD.

TSRGD, which is the one we really need to look at, has a handy web app now. Reg 26 of TSRGD, Paragraph 6, says:

(6) Nothing in paragraph (2)(b) shall be taken to prohibit a vehicle from being driven across, or so as to straddle, the continuous line referred to in that paragraph, if it is safe to do so and if necessary to do so

(a) to enable the vehicle to enter, from the side of the road on which it is proceeding, land or premises adjacent to the length of road on which the line is placed, or another road joining that road;

(b) in order to pass a stationary vehicle;

(c) owing to circumstances outside the control of the driver;

(d) in order to avoid an accident;

(e) in order to pass a road maintenance vehicle which is in use, is moving at a speed not exceeding 10 mph, and is displaying to the rear the sign shown in diagram 610 or 7403;

(f) in order to pass a pedal cycle moving at a speed not exceeding 10 mph;

(g) in order to pass a horse that is being ridden or led at a speed not exceeding 10 mph; or

(h) for the purposes of complying with any direction of a constable in uniform, traffic officer in uniform or a traffic warden.

When it comes to what you can pass there are a lot of things that aren’t specifically mentioned here – what if it’s a cow, or a sheep, or even a dog that’s being led… but not a horse? What if it’s someone pushing a broken down vehicle (i.e. a motorcycle)? Does the Law therefore expect you to stop dead, possibly on a NSL road, just because it isn’t a horse instead of passing it carefully? I think not.

Passing a jogger is perfectly acceptable as long as you do it safely and correctly. Those white lines are there for a reason, after all, and although they will extend beyond the actual hazard they’re safeguarding you have to make sure you choose the best place to cross them.

Unfortunately, this is where learners – whether they are learner drivers or trainee/new instructors – can get it badly wrong. The HC also says (Rule 163):

…give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car…

It doesn’t mention joggers, but anyone with an ounce of common sense will realise that it means them, too. I remember from my days training to become an instructor that there was this idiotic idea hanging around that you MUST give cyclists TWICE as much space as you would a car. That would mean driving almost on the pavement on the opposite side of the road! I’m not making that up – it was common at one time to advise twice the amount of clearance as for a car.

I actually like the HC wording, because sometimes you might have to overtake a something allowing less than a metre’s breathing space (i.e. on a country lane or other narrow road) – though you’d aim for at least a car door’s width in most situations. And like it or not, sometimes you have to do the same with cyclists and pedestrians (probably more so in summer, as they begin to use narrow country lanes). Even horse riders will occasionally stop and wave you through on a bend when they can see ahead – though they really ought not to – and you may have to pass much closer than you would normally as a result.

In order to pass a jogger (or a slow-moving cyclist) properly and safely – in the real world – your wheels would barely have to cross the solid white line in most cases. Solid white lines are there for a reason, and just because you have a reason to cross one doesn’t mean overdoing it and creating unnecessary danger. You need to pick your place, make your move, and be careful.

It goes without saying that you shouldn’t cross the white line if you are just trying to gain advantage as a priority, if the obstacle is moving at more than 10mph, or if you can’t see that it is safe to do so. Conversely, I am not suggesting that you should aim to whack every cyclist or runner with your wing mirror as you pass – try to give them 1.5m clearance, go slower if you have to get any closer, and don’t try to get past at all if there’s a risk of hitting them – just wait until you can do so safely.

Right now, giving ‘at least 1.5m clearance’ is advice and not Law. If you can do it, then do so. Otherwise, be very careful.

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It isn't rocket scienceMy article, Should I Become A Driving Instructor, is very popular. If you’re thinking of moving into this industry as a result of losing your job during the last 9 months, you might want to read it. Yes, it’s a long article, and if you don’t have the attention span to get through it then maybe you ought to reconsider this career path. But it contains information about the realities of the job.

One thing that crops up time and time again on social media (it used to be certain web forums, but time affects all things) is the issue of how much it costs to become an instructor, and therefore raises the second issue of avoiding franchise companies at all costs. Let’s take a look at things properly.

When you’re an ADI you will often get new learners whose first question is ‘how many hours will it take me to learn?’ Roughly translated, they mean ‘how much will it cost me?’ It’s the one question that has no absolute answer, and which immediately puts you in an awkward situation. Do you tell them the truth based on official figures, or do you tell them what they want to hear and show yourself up if they don’t achieve what you told them later?

When I first meet them, I try to rationalise the concept of ‘average’, and point out that DVSA statistics say that the average new driver takes around 45 hours of lessons with an instructor along with 20 or more hours of private practice with a family member or friend. I then point out that I have had people do it from scratch in as little as 14 hours (with lots of private practice), and others take as long as 160 hours (with and without private practice). The vast majority take between 25-50 hours (with or without private practice). Some initially lead you to believe they’ll never learn, and yet do it in less than 40 hours, and others who you’d bet money on passing keep screwing up and end up taking 80. So the average comes out somewhere in the middle, with some individuals being at either end of the whole range.

The problem is that many will listen to all this, and only hear ‘blah-blah-blah-14-hours-blah-blah’. They’re not uncommon – I had one a couple of years ago who’d never driven except for going out once or twice with his mum, and triumphantly announced after his tenth one-hour lesson: ‘that’s it, I’m ready for my test’ (he wasn’t). And I’ve lost count of those who have budgeted based on a fixed amount of money that they want to spend, and then go white when you explain the realities. Basically, for a new learner, learning to drive could take anywhere from 14 hours (in my experience) to almost 200 hours, with the average being somewhere around 30-40. And you can’t pick which one you like best and just do that. All things considered, it means that if their lessons cost £27 an hour, they are likely to end up paying out nearer £1,000 plus the cost of their test(s). It’s just how it is.

When it comes to training to be a driving instructor, far too many people only hear ‘blah-blah-blah-earn-£30,000-blah-blah-hours-to-suit-yourself-blah-blah’. But the same variables are involved. After all, a trainee instructor is identical to a learner driver in many respects – they have to pass a test. Three tests in the case of instructors.

First of all, you have to get through the theory (Part 1 of ADI training). Every time I do it using an app, I score 99%-100% (and I kick myself if it’s the 99% one) against the 85% pass mark. But the real pass rate for Part 1 the last time I looked is only around 50%, which is worth thinking about. You don’t need to pay anyone to train you for it. Next comes the ADI driving test (Part 2). It’s harder than a normal learner test in that you’re allowed fewer faults, need to complete more manoeuvres, drive for longer and further, and are generally expected to be of a higher standard than a new driver. Finally, there is how well you can teach others (the Part 3 test), which is probably the hardest of all because it will involve new material for most people.

You can take Part 1 as many times as you like (you could take it once every few weeks for the rest of your life if you wanted), but once you pass it you then have two years in which to complete the Part 2 and 3 tests. You are only allowed a maximum of three tries at each of these within that two-year window, and if you fail one of them more than that – or if you don’t pass Part 3 within the two-year window – you go straight to jail, do not pass ‘GO’, and have to start the entire process again once the two years are up. It is quite possible for this to happen, and it is even more possible that you will take at least one of the tests more than once.

When a learner driver fails their driving test they almost always need further remedial lessons before their next try. The same applies to someone trying to become a driving instructor, compounded by the fact that they will likely have invested more money and even planned their future around succeeding than a learner driver will have.

So how many hours are involved? In the article, Should I Become A Driving Instructor, I detail the exam costs and likely training costs. Let’s cover them again here. You can think of Part 1 as 0 hours if you do it yourself. For Part2, around 10 hours of lessons is average for a decent driver. For Part 3, let’s just say 40 hours for now. And the hourly rate for those lessons is likely to be in the range £30-£40 (let’s stick with £30 for the purposes of this discussion).

The Part 1 test costs £81 at the time of writing. Parts 2 and 3 cost £111 each. That’s a total of £303 just for doing each of the tests once.

The cost of training for Part 2 would come £300. For Part 3 it would amount to £1,200. So assuming you passed all the tests first time, and only did the average number of training hours mentioned above, your total outlay if you were paying by the hour would be £1,800. And if you did pass, you’d need to spend another £300 on your green badge before you could teach.

If you failed Part 2 the first time, you’d need to pay another £111 for a test, and any additional training – let’s say 4 hours, so £120. If you then passed Part 3 on your first attempt, you’d now have spent over £2,000. It would be your choice, but not doing any additional training would be unwise if there were issues to resolve. But as with what I said above, some people only hear ‘blah-blah-blah-pass-first-time-blah-blah’.

Now, although we said 40 hours for Part 3 training, some people might find this part a struggle and would need maybe 50 hours – sometimes even more. That additional 10 hours would add another £300 on to the overall cost, plus any additional tests if they had failed the first. Now they’d have spent over £2,300 – more if we include tests. And even if someone took only the average number of hours, but three attempts at each of Parts 2 and 3, their total outlay would be £2,250.

And just like any learner, you cannot pick in advance how much it ends up costing. Because what eventually happens is what it is. All you can say is that if you pay £30 an hour, and if you take the bare minimum amount of training, and if you pass each test first time, you will be paying at least £1,800. This is the pay-as-you-go (PAYG) approach that social media will tell you is the cheapest way.

Now let’s look at some packages available – the pay-up-front approach. I’m not going to mention any by name because I am not recommending any one of them above the rest.

One is currently advertising a Black Friday discount of £888 for a full course, including 52 hours of in-car training. The normal price is £1,000. Others come in at anywhere from £1,000-£2,000, and include up to 80 hours of training. At least one offers a money-back guarantee (there are conditions attached), and another offers a full refund of the course cost if you qualify and go into a franchise with them (conditions also attached, such as minimum term of contract). All of them offer inclusive remedial training (conditions attached, of course, such as there comes a time when enough is enough). But the important detail is the remedial training if you need more than the average number of hours – it’s inclusive up to a point, whereas on PAYG you just pay more for it no matter what.

During the lockdown I’ve had a lot of people asking me about training to become ADIs. One told me that a PAYG trainer had insisted on a minimum of 30 hours for Part 2 and 50 hours for Part 3 – that would amount to £2,700 even if you passed everything first time, and if the hourly rate was only £30 (it wasn’t specified). I would imagine that this isn’t a unique situation, either.

In all these examples – PAYG or package – the instructors are ORDIT-registered trainers. A trainer doesn’t automatically become bad simply because he is working for a company, or even if the company is one you’ve been conditioned to dislike because of what you’ve read on social media. You will be getting a similar standard of training however you do it and – as the example I just gave perhaps shows – any slightly bad apples might not necessarily be in the barrel you assumed they’d be in.

How you choose to train is up to you. But don’t be misled into thinking one way is either better or cheaper than another simply because of what you read in social media.

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Nottingham Knight RoundaboutI originally wrote this way back in 2012 and it is a popular article, with around 45,000 views. It was due a major update, so here it is.

A lot of drivers get confused by roundabouts, and I’m not just talking about learners. Signalling, lane choice, and lane discipline seem to provide huge challenges for many people.

The Highway Code (HC) says this about roundabouts:

Rule 185

When reaching the roundabout you should

  • give priority to traffic approaching from your right, unless directed otherwise by signs, road markings or traffic lights
  • check whether road markings allow you to enter the roundabout without giving way. If so, proceed, but still look to the right before joining
  • watch out for all other road users already on the roundabout; be aware they may not be signalling correctly or at all
  • look forward before moving off to make sure traffic in front has moved off.Rule 186

    Signals and position.

    When taking the first exit to the left, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise

  • signal left and approach in the left-hand lane
  • keep to the left on the roundabout and continue signalling left to leaveWhen taking an exit to the right or going full circle, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise
  • signal right and approach in the right-hand lane
  • keep to the right on the roundabout until you need to change lanes to exit the roundabout
  • signal left after you have passed the exit before the one you wantWhen taking any intermediate exit, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise
  • select the appropriate lane on approach to the roundabout
  • you should not normally need to signal on approach
  • stay in this lane until you need to alter course to exit the roundabout
  • signal left after you have passed the exit before the one you wantWhen there are more than three lanes at the entrance to a roundabout, use the most appropriate lane on approach and through it.

This is very straightforward. However, you have big roundabouts, small ones, ones with only one lane, and others with multiple lanes. Some junctions consist of two or more roundabouts in quick succession, and then you can have complex junctions with flyovers, and roundabouts underneath them. A lot of drivers have problems even with the simple ones, and the more complex ones can be hotspots for minor bumps or worse.

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The bottom line, though, is that although every junction is different and there is no single ‘golden rule’ which governs how you negotiate them, almost every individual roundabout works according to what the HC says in Rules 185 and 186.

Unmarked Roundabouts

Symmetrical Roundabout signThe simplest type of roundabout is unmarked, single lane, usually quite small, and pretty much symmetrical as far as the feed roads are concerned.

When the HC talks of ‘exits’, the standard system is that the road you are approaching on isn’t numbered, so in this diagram a left turn is the 1st exit, straight on is the 2nd exit, and right is the 3rd exit, Only if you are using the roundabout to go back the way you came does the road you are approaching on become the 4th exit.

Road signs with roundabout directions like this one always assume you are approaching from the bottom.

As you approach it, you should signal left if you’re taking the 1st exit, and right if you’re taking the 3rd or 4th exits. You do not signal for the straight ahead (2nd) exit as you approach the roundabout.

When you reach the roundabout, and once it is safe to proceed on to it, you steer a path around it and signal left at the exit immediately before the one you intend to leave by. Your position as you drive around the roundabout is not really important if it is only wide enough for one car.

If the roundabout is wide enough to accommodate two cars side by side as they pass round it, then you should adopt the left-hand lane position if you’re taking the 1st or 2nd exits in this example. You would adopt the right-hand position if you’re taking the 3rd or 4th exits. Remember that as you take the exit you require, if you are in the right-hand lane position you will need to have a quick glance in your mirrors to make sure no one is trying to overtake on your left. If you don’t follow this lane discipline on a wider roundabout, people could potentially be trying to get past on either side as you exit.

Lane discipline is the biggest factor in people’s inability to deal with roundabouts. It’s also one of the most common reasons for failing driving tests. In most cases, people are not even aware that there are ‘lanes’ they should be following. This can be more of an issue with unmarked roundabouts, where the ‘lanes’ need to be visualised even though there are no white lines telling you where they are.

Not adhering to lane positions on roundabouts is called ‘straight lining’. It isn’t illegal, but it is an advanced driving technique which requires planning and good all-round awareness. When learners and new drivers do it, they are not applying any advanced driving skills – they’re just weaving all over the road without realising it.

Asymmetrical Roundabout signOf course, most roundabouts are not perfectly symmetrical – and this is where many driving instructors try to simplify things by making them a hundred times more complicated using silly rules. Let’s get one of them out of the way immediately: there is no such thing as ‘the 12 o’clock rule’.

At some point in the distant past, someone somewhere tried to create an all-encompassing rule that worked for all roundabouts. They came up with ‘the 12 o’clock rule’, and so ingrained did it become that even BSM used to teach it as gospel at one time (it may have been BSM who invented it). But there is a problem with it – it doesn’t work all the time, so it cannot possibly be called ‘a rule’. In some situations, it inconveniences others and is actually dangerous.

You can see that this roundabout layout is identical to the first one, other than the 2nd exit is slightly further round. The ‘12 o’clock rule’ divides the roundabout into a clock face, and argues that any exit after the 12 o’clock position is a right turn! This is nonsense in the majority of cases, and the last thing a new and nervous driver who is already struggling with roundabouts needs is to have to decide whether the road they want is after 12 o’clock or not on top of everything else. Many such roundabouts won’t have a sign in the first place to help decide, and even the ones that do may have a symmetrical one like the first example, when the actual road layout is more like the second. And then there is the physical appearance of the road layout as you approach it at ground level – the approach roads may well have bends on them which give the illusion of an exit being in one location on the clock face when it is actually elsewhere.

If you indicate right approaching such a roundabout, at least some – probably the majority – of the people around you will assume you are taking the 3rd or 4th exit – actually turning right. If they then tried to zip past you to take the 2nd exit – irrespective of any argument that they shouldn’t assume anything – you suddenly cutting across to take it as well is not going to end happily. This is even more likely if your other problems means your lane discipline or late signalling is conveying the wrong message as well.

Not all roundabouts are limited to just four exits – they can have anywhere from two and upwards, though they’re more likely to be marked roundabouts the more exits they have.

In general, your lane positioning and signalling on approach to an unmarked asymmetrical roundabout should be exactly the same as for the symmetrical ones. However, there are some instances where treating a 2nd exit that is a long way round as a right turn would make sense. Like this one.

Robins Wood Road near Chalfont DriveThis used to be on every test candidate’s test when there was a test centre at Chalfont Drive in Nottingham, and as they drove off at the start of their test they immediately came to the point ‘A’. I still take people to it now so I can show them different roundabouts and how they work.

My advice to my pupils when they reach this one is to indicate right if they’re taking the 2nd (B) or 3rd (C) exits. The 2nd exit is so far round it makes sense to do so, and it also tells drivers coming in from the unmarked road at the bottom right of this picture that they intend to pass in front of them and haven’t just forgotten to signal. If my pupil is taking the 2nd exit (B), they signal left at the red dot. If they’re taking the 3rd exit, they signal left as they pass B.

It is worth noting that if a candidate didn’t signal right here, as long as they signalled left in good time to take the 2nd exit without confusing drivers waiting at C then they would not have been faulted for it. Likewise, if they signalled right and left it late to signal left, perhaps causing those waiting at C to pause, then they easily could have been (which is true on any roundabout). The way I teach it is intended to get them to think about things, and not to blindly apply silly rules which achieve nothing.

Basically, if the 2nd exit is very much further to the right, a signal might make sense. But it is not because of ‘the 12 o’clock rule’. Your choice of a signal and lane position is not automatic, and depends on the individual roundabout and the circumstances at the time.

Here are some more examples of unmarked roundabouts. As I said earlier, all roundabouts are different, though the basic principle you use on them is given in the HC. These examples are all in Nottingham. Some are on test routes, and some aren’t. Some of them don’t exist anymore (thanks to Nottingham’s tram).

Mini-roundabout on Wilford LaneThis one is a mini-roundabout in West Bridgford. The majority of traffic passes A-B and B-A (the side road has busier periods as it leads to a sports ground and school).

Travelling A-B, no signal is needed (even if B is past 12 o’clock). If you signalled right, people travelling B-A would have to assume you were turning around and were going to pass in front of them, so they’d stop. And I can assure you that it is annoying when someone signals needlessly, especially because sometimes people are turning around and it gets confusing.

Travelling B-A, a left signal is a positive indication to those travelling A-B that you are not intending to turn in front of them into the school or sports ground. This principle applies to most three-exit roundabouts where there are no marked lanes. However, if you didn’t signal on your test in such a situation it probably wouldn’t be marked.

Historical roundabout on Soutchurch Drive/Farnborough RoadThis one doesn’t exist anymore. It was a three-exit roundabout. If you were travelling A-B (which is literally following the road ahead), a left signal told those at B that you weren’t turning in front of them. Travelling B-A would not have required a signal – although in this case, if you had signalled it would have been less of an issue because of the size of the whole layout. But it was still totally unnecessary, and if you had delayed giving a left signal to exit but were still signalling right, that could have been seen as a fault – especially if someone was waiting at A.

I must repeat again that every roundabout is slightly different and sometimes only experience can teach the best way of dealing with them. There is also the issue of other people not signalling at all, or signalling incorrectly, so it’s best if you don’t add to it by joining them. If a signal isn’t specifically (and correctly) telling someone something they need to know precisely when they need to know it, then it is more than likely going to add even more confusion to a situation.

Think about what you are doing, and don’t try to blindly follow artificial rules that are intended to achieve think for you.

Marked Roundabouts

Larger roundabouts, like the one shown at the start of this article, usually have road markings to define lanes and show routes. They often have multiple intermediate exits of differing sizes and priorities, and you’ll sometimes see them described as gyratory or spiral roundabouts. These are the ones that people seem to fret about the most, but they are actually very easy to deal with once you know what you’re doing. Personally, I don’t like the terms ‘gyratory’ or ‘spiral’ because technically these apply to all roundabouts. The markings just guide you, and making a big deal out of them by giving them special names just scares (and confuses) pupils even more.A section of the Nuthall roundabout - lanes, lanes, and more lanes

I’ve written a separate article about the Nuthall roundabout, partly as an illustration of how ‘the 12 o’clock rule’ doesn’t work reliably. This roundabout is huge and the island itself is raised and covered in trees, which means the intermediate exits are not visible. You have to look for and use the road markings and road signs to plan your way through. In all honesty, anyone encountering it for the first time probably wouldn’t stand a chance of doing it properly, especially a learner. And since there’s a high probability of having to drive on it if you have your test at the Watnall Test Centre, pupils need to be able to handle it.

Nuthall Roundabout lane markings approaching from Woodhouse WayThis diagram above shows how the road markings appear as you approach the roundabout along the A6002 Woodhouse Way heading towards the city centre (any large roundabout in any other city would have similar markings). The A6002 is a single lane road, but on approach to the roundabout it widens dramatically and splits into four lanes. It is important to know where you are going and to get into the correct lane straight away – or rather, not to leave it too late to get into the correct lane. For example, if you know you want to exit along the A610 towards Nottingham, then you should ideally go straight into the right hand lane which has the A610 route marked in it. Failing that, you will need to move safely into that lane once you see the road markings – though on your test this is a much more risky strategy because there will likely be other traffic already moving in behind you.

Absolutely the worst thing you can do is leave it too late and end up in one of the other lanes, and then try to get over at the last minute – by then, other traffic will have boxed you in. The option of switching lanes on the roundabout itself is only marginally better, and relies on extremely good observation and a lot of luck. Of course, many drivers out there do it wrong all the time, but they aren’t on their tests and they simply end up annoying other drivers and putting dents in their cars as a result.

As I said, the Nuthall roundabout would be very difficult for anyone to do correctly if they hadn’t done it before, let alone a learner meeting it for the first time on their test. So a good driving instructor will make sure their pupil knows how to negotiate this sort of roundabout before they go to test. That applies everywhere – not just in Nottingham – because these sorts of road systems exist all over the country. And a good learner will learn to understand what is happening so they can deal with it and apply it when they start driving by themselves.

Once you’re in the correct approach lane it is then vital to stay in that lane and make the valid choice of available lanes in front of you as you enter the roundabout. The approach lane for the A610 here can then branch off towards B600 or A611, and you have to make the correct choice.

The main reason learners have such problems staying in lane (referred to as ‘lane discipline’ when it is marked on test by an examiner) is down to the fact they don’t even see (or aren’t aware of) lanes or lane markings as they’re driving along. Schematic of a single lane

If you look at the diagram above you can see a single lane represented as though you were looking at it out of the front of the car. You can visualise it in various ways, and one method is imagine that the white lines form the rails that a train is running along. The driver has to stay between them.

Unlike a train, which is more or less fixed to the rails, a car driver has to keep between the rails by steering – and they can only do that if they are looking at the rails, seeing them, and being aware of them all the time. That’s where it breaks down with many learners, and when I discuss it with mine one of the most common comments is that they get confused by ‘all those lines crossing’.

Schematic showing lanes crossing each other

In this diagram, you have the same layout as above, but with the added complication of other sets of rails crisscrossing it. The trick is to only look at your set of rails – the others are nothing to do with where you want to go.

You seldom need to make sharp turns on a roundabout, and your route will be a smooth and gentle series of curves (or rails). Switching to one of those other sets of rails would not be smooth.

Being stressed affects how easily drivers see these lines. One of the things I do with my pupils involves ‘scaling’. I ask them to imagine that they’re sitting at home with their feet up, just after a meal, a nice drink in their hand near a warm fire watching TV – that’s 0 on the scale. Then I ask them, for example, to imagine having just jumped out of an aeroplane on their first ever parachute jump, knowing that someone they had an argument with last night had packed their parachute – that’s 100 on the scale. Then I ask them what number on that same 0-100 scale (which I call their stress-o-meter) they are imagining in various situations when we’re on lessons. This can be a real eye-opener. Some of them will surprise you and tell you they’re over 80 even when driving normally on a clear road. However, whatever their ‘normal’ number, if it goes up near a roundabout this will tell you they’re effectively ‘going blind’ when they try to negotiate it. And I am certain that a lot of ‘experienced’ drivers have the same problem every day of their lives.

Stress acts like a veil or blindfold. Everyone has a different threshold, but at some point an individual’s stress level starts to prevent them from thinking or seeing clearly. Things go out of focus or even disappear completely.

Are roundabouts classed as junctions?

Yes. Any point where two or more roads meet or cross is a junction, so roundabouts are also junctions, but they have their own rules compared to T-junctions and crossroads.

What are the signalling rules at roundabouts?

Read HC Rule 186. You normally signal left or right on approach only for the first or last exits (or full circle). Intermediate exits normally don’t need an approach signal. When leaving the roundabout every exit is a left turn, so you normally indicate left at the exit just before the one you want.

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What is the Highway Code 12 o’clock rule?

There isn’t one! This is a fabricated ‘rule’ which doesn’t work, and leads to confusion for you and other road users when used blindly. The HC says that on approach you shouldn’t normally need to indicate for any intermediate exit.

There are some roundabouts where the intermediate exit you want is so far to the right that a signal might well benefit other drivers, but there are far more situations where it would definitely confuse them.

Doesn’t the Highway Code wording automatically imply the 12 o’clock rule?

Not in the slightest. I saw someone on social media make that claim and couldn’t believe my eyes. They actually stated that it is in the HC. If anything, the HC explicitly refutes the ‘12 o’clock rule’. It is not in the HC.

But the 12 o’clock rule is just a way to help learners when they’re starting out.

There are other users on the road. You do realise that, don’t you? If I’m waiting to emerge on to a busy roundabout and see someone coming round it with their right indicator on, I will wait – and it is bloody annoying when they then exit left before they get to me. So I end up waiting for longer. That’s what happens when you indicate right unnecessarily when you’re going ahead at a roundabout. You confuse other people because you’re giving the wrong signals.

Learners should understand what they are doing, not just following stupid rules made up by people who understand little more than their pupils do. The ‘12 o’clock rule’ does not work.

How do you teach roundabouts not using the 12 o’clock rule?

This is where an ADI earns their money. In most cases, the reason pupils can’t do roundabouts is because they panic and everything becomes a blur – they’re worried about all the other traffic on the roundabout and, as a result, lose sight of the lanes. They need to be able to bring things back into focus and learn how to deal with what is, after all, only a simple junction. What I normally do is sketch a diagram of a crossroads, and tell them I want them to turn right, so who do they have to look out for before they go? We start with something like this.

Basic crossroads - turning rightI ask them to imagine they’re in the yellow car and they want to turn right – where do they need to check before they go? After a while, we’ll have touched all the bases – cars from the left turning to their left, right into our road, or going ahead; then the same for cars from the right, and cars in front of us. We end up with something like this.

Basic crossroads - all possible optionsI point out to them that they can handle all that without any issue (well, most of them), even though all the possibilities of where traffic is coming from are quite complicated to assess.

Next, I erase the drawing and draw the junction again, but this time like this.

Roundabout - turning rightAgain, I ask them to imagine they’re in the yellow car and want to turn right – so where do they need to look before they decide to go. We (eventually) settle with ‘to the right’ – though not always to start with. So now we end up with this.

Roundabout - with the important zone markedAt this point, I usually ask them why it is they can handle the crossroads situation, and yet they turn into a quivering blob of jelly the moment I say the word ‘roundabout’. The roundabout is actually far easier when it comes to the reasons they give for not liking them. All they have to do is learn to assess the red zone and that’s it – they can then just look where they’re going.

Obviously, there’s a bit more, but this is a way of trying to demystify the whole roundabout situation.

Should I indicate to go straight ahead on a 3-exit roundabout?

Look at the mini-roundabout in this photo. The main road is A to B, and the side road leads off to a school and recreation area, and this is what it looks like as you approach it from A.

Wilford Lane mini-roundabout - from the southClearly, you do not signal left, because you are not going left into the school. But if you signalled right, what would the red car think you were going to do? If it was me driving the red car, I would think you were planning to turn right in front of me, so I’d stop.

This is the same roundabout, but this time approaching it from B. There is no car coming the other way in this picture, but if there was and you were not signalling, could the driver be certain you were not going to turn right into the school? Yet if you signalled left, you’d be giving a positive indication that you weren’t.

Wilford Lane mini-roundabout - from the northIf you came to the roundabout and no one was on the opposite side, a signal could be omitted. But if someone was approaching it, a left signal would help them.

See how this works? Each situation is different, but if you understand and think, it all becomes easier. If your signal helps someone and doesn’t confuse them then it is a good idea to use it. This is useful for most three-exit roundabouts.

Another useful exercise is to watch what other drivers do and ask yourself if they’ve helped or confused you by signalling or not signalling, and use that to develop your own strategy in future. Don’t be afraid or ashamed of changing the way you do things as you learn.

But you’re only supposed to signal if you’re changing direction, aren’t you?

No. This question arises from the idea that by going straight ahead on a roundabout you’re not “changing direction”. Driving: The Essential Skills (TES) – the official DSA guide – says:

Use signals

  • to let others know what you intend to do
  • to help other road users, including pedestrians
  • in good time and for long enough to allow other road users to see the signal and act upon it

In the example I used in the previous question, if other road users can’t otherwise be sure of your intentions then using your indicators makes perfect sense. It is helping other road users.

Should I always indicate to go straight ahead?

NO!!! You still see older drivers indicating right when they’re going straight ahead and it is extremely confusing if you’re coming the opposite way. Apparently, this was taught once upon a time, and some people still use it. But it is wrong.

But you shouldn’t rely on people’s signals, should you?

No. And that’s because they often don’t signal or signal incorrectly. Giving a positive signal at the right time helps people. But other people getting it wrong doesn’t mean you should join them.

Isn’t this Highway Code roundabout diagram wrong?

No. This question arises periodically on social media from people trying to pick fault with the HC. Note how the green car turning right is shown exiting in the right hand lane – even though the arrows clearly show that it can exit in either the left or the right lane.The picture in the Highway Code - roundabouts

The diagram is absolutely correct, particularly in view of the fact that every entry road in the diagram has two marked lanes, implying that the roundabout itself has two lanes on it.

A good example of this is the Virgin Roundabout in Nottingham, which features on several Colwick test routes. An aerial view of it is shown here.

The Virgin Roundabout in Colwick, NottinghamThe main road is a dual carriageway on one side, and two lanes quickly merging into one on the other (the yellow dotted lines). The two side roads are single lanes into industrial areas, one of which is sometimes used for test purposes (the green dotted line).

The two lanes on the main road define the number of lanes on the roundabout, and this means that emerging from the industrial road in question requires careful thought.

It is perfectly acceptable to move across and merge with the left hand lane as you negotiate the roundabout as long as you do it safely. However, as I have already mentioned, learners are often unable to handle the extra safety aspects involved in switching lanes, especially on roundabouts. In this particular example, the main road is very busy and the likelihood of someone entering the roundabout in the left hand (yellow dotted) lane while you are on following the green dotted line is extremely high (it’s normal practice, in fact). For that reason, I explain clearly to all of my learners that the safest and easiest way to negotiate the roundabout is to remain in the right-hand lane and exit in that lane (as shown by the green line). Then, all they have to do is to allow others to merge from their left once they’re safely on the main road.

But ‘the 12 o’clock rule’ works!

No it doesn’t. Something only ‘works’ if it is never wrong and never leads to confusion for anyone. But it does lead to confusion for other drivers, and that is potentially dangerous.

Do you always position left for going straight ahead?

No, not always. In the simplest cases, yes. But it depends on the roundabout and the situation. This question came from a reader concerning a test route roundabout in Gloucester, shown here.Roundabout in Gloucester

As you can see, it has five roads leading into it. The test route involves approaching from the road at the bottom and taking the third exit (3). The reader pointed out that the roundabout is completely unmarked and unsigned. So which lane should you use for the third exit?

Looking at the photo – and with the benefit of hindsight – I’d probably use the left hand lane position on approach for the exits 1 and 2, and the right hand lane position for the exits 3, 4, and 5. The reader points out that that’s what the examiners expect.

However, someone new to the area encountering that roundabout for the first time could easily attempt the third exit in the left hand approach lane. This clearly shows the importance of local knowledge, and further demonstrates why pupils really do need to be taught specific sections of test routes. There is no way most learners could handle features like this (there are no signs or road markings) if they encounter them for the first time on test.

Finally, I would not signal on approach for the 3rd exit. I can see how some might, and it probably wouldn’t matter so long as they cancelled and indicated left as the passed 2. If they cancelled late, it could be marked as a fault.

Do you always position right if you’re taking the 3rd exit or turning right?

No. Usually, you will, of course – but there are roundabouts where the left lane can have double- or even triple-headed arrows painted in it. However, if the roundabout is unmarked on approach or has no marked lanes then it is most likely you will use the default roundabout procedure and so adopt the right position if turning right – unless local knowledge says otherwise.

Which lane should I choose?

It depends. If the roundabout is a simple four-road one and is unmarked:

  • for left or straight ahead you should approach in the left hand lane or position to the left if the approach is a single lane. You should stay in that lane until you have left the roundabout, remembering to signal at the exit before the one you want
  • for right or full circle then you should approach in the right hand lane or position to the right, then check your mirror and signal at the exit before the one you want

If the roundabout is marked, or if it has more than four roads joining it (quoting the HC):

  • choose the appropriate lane or position on approach

Signs or road markings might tell you what position to use. Sometimes, it is down to local knowledge and nothing else. Here’s an example submitted by a reader.Roundabout - A47 Norwich to Yarmouth

The A47 from Norwich (A) continues straight ahead to Great Yarmouth (B). It is a dual-carriageway on both sides. The second exit (C) goes to the village of Blofield. The reader asked which lane to use approaching from A when intending to exit via C.

Most marked roundabouts like this will have signs and road arrows telling you which lanes to use. Unless you really know what you are doing, if two or more lanes are going in your direction, stay in the one on the left as the safest option.

This particular example is complicated by the fact that the main feed roads are dual carriageways, and that changes the priorities somewhat. If you think about it logically, trying to negotiate from A to C in the left lane is potentially dangerous because – in the absence of road markings telling you otherwise – it is perfectly acceptable for people to travel A to B in either lane. That would mean that if you tried to go A to C in the left lane, colliding with someone in the right lane who was travelling A to B would be quite likely. This is yet another example of local knowledge being extremely valuable.

Can I fail for going straight ahead from the left lane?

Ordinarily, the left hand lane is the correct one for straight ahead. However, if the roundabout is non-symmetrical, has more than one ‘straight ahead’ (intermediate) exit, or if signs or road markings indicate otherwise, then the left lane may not be the correct lane to use.

There is no one-size-fits-all, unfortunately. Gaining local knowledge through a driving instructor is important in these sorts of cases. So yes, in some cases just defaulting left will result in a fail.

Why isn’t it the middle lane for going straight ahead?

Sometimes it is – if there is one. But it can just as often be another lane. The Nottingham Knight roundabout near me has three lanes on one approach, with the two left ones going left, and the right-hand one for straight ahead and right. In general, you should follow the underlying principle of ‘left lane for left or straight ahead… unless road signs or road markings indicate otherwise’.

What does ‘lane discipline’ mean?

It means choosing the correct lane, and/or staying in the correct lane, and/or doing the right checks before changing lanes. It applies to all aspects of driving, not just roundabouts. Many drivers haven’t got a clue how lanes work, and this is where their problems stem from.

Can I change lanes on the roundabout if I get into the wrong one?

Yes, as long as you have checked to make sure you aren’t going to interfere with anyone else. However, it is a risky operation unless it is very quiet, and if you are likely to impede someone just follow the lane you’re in and effectively ‘go the wrong way’. Then either find a place to turn around or simply carry on round the roundabout and select the correct lane the next time around.

On your driving test, being in the wrong lane is almost certainly going to be marked as a fault. If you cause someone to slow down by changing lanes or hesitating you’re probably going to get a serious or dangerous fault. If you don’t check properly before switching you’ll probably get a serious fault even if there’s no one there.

What do roundabout exit numbers mean?

This is just a way for you to know where you’re going when you are being given directions. I explained it at the beginning of this article.

Does a satnav tell you which lane to use?

No. Even if it did it would be dangerous to trust it. Roadworks, for example, can change how you use lanes and the satnav would not know that.

What about service roads?

The term ‘service road’ is a bit of a misnomer these days. The road in question is just as often a gateway to a retail park or other site where there is usually no through road. They can even refer to entrances to grit yards or private areas where you’re not allowed to drive anyway. They usually appear on signs as smaller roads like this.Roundabout with a service road

The service road is that little dash at the 8 o’clock position. Sometimes, the dash is so small you could easily not see it as you drive past. I usually don’t include them in the exit count – so the 2nd exit here would still be the one just after the 12 o’clock position.

Bardill's Roundabout signBut they are all different. We have one in Nottingham on the A52 which looks like this on the sign.

The garden centre is on a very small service road, and yet it has been designated as an actual roundabout exit by virtue of the length of the line.

Then you can have dual carriageways appearing as two dashes, like this (and I’ve included a service road).Roundabout sign with dual carriageways

Both carriageways are shown for each dual carriageway exit – but you only count each pair of dashes as a single exit. It is also common for dual carriageways to still only appear as a single dash on older signs.

It’s just a case of learning as you go along.

If the third exit is before 12 o’clock where do you position yourself in a roundabout?

As I have explained, there is no such thing as ‘the 12 o’clock rule. You simply use the same rules as for all the previous examples.

Remember that ‘straight ahead’ doesn’t automatically mean ‘the 2nd exit’. It depends on the road. Sometimes, ‘following the road’ can mean what would be virtually a right turn if you only looked at it from a geometric perspective.

If the 3rd exits is after 12 o’clock where do you position yourself in a roundabout?

As I have explained, there is no such thing as ‘the 12 o’clock rule’. You simply use the same rules as for all the previous examples.

Why do other people signal if it’s wrong?

You have to understand that simply having a driving licence does not automatically make someone a good driver. Some of them out there are appallingly bad.

As a result, you should never completely trust someone’s indicators – especially if they aren’t indicating at all.

What about these appendices to the Northern Ireland Highway Code?

A reader sent me a link, claiming that there is an appendix to the HC which advocates ‘the 12 o’clock rule’. The link is specifically for Northern Ireland (even though the reader is in England, and he should know that NI differs to the rest of the UK in several ways). The appendix in question is clearly not an official part of the HC, and it contradicts it directly. The actual NI HC says exactly the same thing as the UK one – except for this appendix.

What am I supposed to be checking for in my left mirror?

When you leave a roundabout, and especially when turning right, you need to make sure you’re not moving over into someone else’s path as you do.

What do I do if I’m leaving a roundabout and there is traffic on my nearside (left)?

Well, obviously you don’t want to end up colliding with the other traffic, so there’s your starting point. That leaves you with the choice of either slowing down slightly to give way to them, or continuing confidently and allowing them to give way to you. If there are two lanes, stay in yours and be careful.

Is it a ‘major’ if I stall at a roundabout?

It will be a driver fault if no one is there (or if you deal with it quickly or are lucky and the examiner is in a good mood). It will be a serious fault or worse if you cause a hold up of other danger. It is not automatically a serious/dangerous fault – but it can be.

What is ‘local knowledge’?

Precisely what it says – knowledge of how the locals deal with a situation. It doesn’t mean you can break the rules or anything, but it might be to do with how you position yourself to deal with a roundabout or other feature.

How do I enter a gridlocked roundabout?

There’s no simple answer to this. Every situation will be different. Above all else, you need to be both confident AND competent! Then it will come down to the realisation that unless you try to move out, you’re not going to get anywhere. Once you do start to edge out, someone will let you in.

What should I do if the traffic lights are out on a light-controlled roundabout?

In theory, treat it as a normal roundabout, giving way to traffic on your right. However, assume that everyone else on the road is an idiot who doesn’t understand this (trust me, it’s happened to me before, and everyone else IS an idiot in this scenario), and be very careful with traffic entering in front of you.

What is a spiral roundabout?

Personally, I don’t like this term and I don’t use it with my pupils (although I often explain it to them). All roundabouts are ‘spiral’ if you’re turning right – if you are on the inside nearest to the island, you’ve got to move out in order to exit.

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The term is typically applied specifically to larger marked roundabouts – the ones that have a lot of lanes on them.

Why did I fail my test on roundabouts?

There is no specific mark for roundabouts on the DL25 marking sheet. Roundabout faults can come under a lot of things, usually related to lane discipline, observations, following road signs or road markings, correct signalling, planning, and so on.

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Ford Focus cockpitI originally wrote this way back in 2008, but update it regularly. The topic keeps coming back because it is relevant to all learner drivers.

At the time of the original, DVSA 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 highlighted part was an addition, and prior to that DT1 had not mentioned the steering technique at all. In my area, none of the examiners had ever failed people for ‘crossing their hands’, anyway, and what DVSA was apparently doing was making sure that those around the country were clear on the subject (‘[ensuring] uniformity’). Reading between the lines, there had been a few complaints about some examiners faulting candidates unnecessarily.

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. It hasn’t mattered for a very long time – not officially, anyway – and DVSA’s addition to DT1 was a clarification and not a major change in policy.

I think the root cause of the issue is that a lot of examiners are ex-ADIs, and many ADIs (and PDIs) get massively hung up on the whole business of  ‘crossing your hands’ and holding the steering wheel ‘correctly’. This leads to more problems than it solves, especially if the person teaching it doesn’t understand what they are saying. Driving: The Essential Skills (TES) is the official syllabus that instructors should be working to, and at least two editions ago it 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.

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

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The only type of ‘crossing hands’ steering that has ever been 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. 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, and ADIs telling them to hold the steering wheel at ‘ten to two’ or ‘quarter to three’ without further explanation exacerbates any subsequent problems. Yet it is this which is the cause of the ‘don’t cross your hands’ nonsense that confuses learners.

The most recent editions of TES 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 versions before this. It is part of a dumbing down process, and far too many instructors are ready to interpret it as some sort of admission that the ‘pull-push’ method is wrong. It most definitely isn’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, but for most beginners, who have not yet developed a suitable technique, it should definitely be the starting point. 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 in training 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 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, and pull-push can help to address this.

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. I have much less of an issue with it than I once did, especially when doing manoeuvres. However, it is bad general 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 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, and others who insist the car will spontaneously disintegrate if you do it. The reality is that you should simply avoid doing it needlessly.

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. However, 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 have been relatively few.

Some people can’t do manoeuvres without dry steering

I agree, but it can usually be overcome. Having said that, as time has gone by, I have less of an issue with pupils dry steering when doing manoeuvres than I once did.

I can’t master ‘pull-push’ steering

If you can steer safely and in control, it doesn’t matter how you do it. However, being able to pull-push is a basic skill to have, even if you don’t use it once you have acquired it. You can easily practice it at home using a book or dinner plate as a dummy steering wheel.

Don’t overthink steering, and don’t dismiss not being able to do it the very first time you try as some sort of permanent problem, because it almost certainly isn’t.

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, and you’re probably confused about being told that by your own instructor. The examiner doesn’t care how you steer as long as you’re in control. Pull-push is just an extremely useful basic skill to have, especially at the start.

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 is the favoured method of people who are trying to cultivate an image. In all my years of driving, I have never felt that I need to use it, and have never tried to use it purposely. The only time I ever get close to it is when I am demonstrating something from the passenger seat and need to reach over and steer full lock one way or the other (something I learned when I was training and my tutor asked me to show him how to do a turn in the road from the passenger seat).

I often pick up pupils who use it, and I don’t immediately try to change them. However, if my guts flip even a small amount as a result of the change in momentum when turning a corner or bend then I’m right on it, and they will learn how to steer using pull-push.

Is it OK to teach learners to ‘palm’ the wheel?

As I have repeatedly said, if someone is in control when they steer, how they do it is irrelevant. But if instructors are purposely teaching this as the default method to beginners, you have to ask the question ‘in God’s name, why?’ 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.

They used to fail people for ‘crossing hands’ when steering

I’m going to stick my neck out here, but no they bloody well didn’t”!

Crossing hands has not been an issue in itself for the 40 years I’ve been driving. The only time it is a problem is when the learner grips the wheel and turns from the shoulders. At some point – less than half a turn – their arms cross and they can’t steer any more, even though the corner probably needs at least another half turn of the wheel. That would be marked under steering control and could easily lead to failing a test.

The whole issue of not crossing hands comes from people who have misunderstood what their instructors told them, quite possibly because their instructor didn’t understand it, either.

How do you teach a pupil to steer properly?

It isn’t rocket science, so don’t lead your pupils to think it is. Teach them how to pull-push first, 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.

My pupil can’t steer in a straight line

This is usually because they are thinking way too hard about what their hands are doing. Some will even be looking at the car logo in the middle of the steering wheel as if that is going to help.

The important thing here is ‘let your hands follow your eyes’. The way I deal with it is like this. I find a big empty space – a car park at weekends or in the evening is usually a good bet. Then I point out a few landmarks, such as ‘that blue door’, ‘that chimney’, ‘the front of that lorry’, and so on. Then, I take control of the car using the dual controls and tell them to aim directly at whichever landmark I identify.

I get them to turn their heads and keep their eyes fixed on whatever I have pointed out to aim for, and not to look at their hands. We might stop to do a quick pull-push refresher using my diary as a steering wheel, then maybe practice it at very low speed, but we get back to aiming at the various targets. We might start by purposely driving in a figure-of-eight pattern, but that quickly becomes a rote action, so I then randomly start naming targets so they have to steer in directions – and to degrees – they decide for themselves.

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?

This one gets a lot of hits. 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 had a car where it was nearly 2 whole turns. The easiest way of finding out is to try it – but don’t get hung up on it, because you need to steer enough to make the car go where it needs to go, and not worry about numbers.

Is full lock the same as one complete turn?

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?

You need to steer enough to make the car go where you want it to go, and not to hit things you want to avoid. 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.

I steer too much on bends. Is this wrong?

The clue is in the question. Too much of anything is likely to be wrong. If you steer ‘too much’ on bends you are liable to clip the kerb or put too much sideways force on the car, which could lead to you spinning out or losing control (among other possible bad outcomes). So, yes. It is dangerous – and wrong.

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 major in just one of them. It’s their ‘thing’.

Whatever fault they are experiencing, it is important to identify the precise cause. It’s usually because of where they’re looking, or what they’re thinking about when it happens (fiddling with indicators is a classic example, or struggling with the gears).

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. Learners tend to look just in front of the car, and react to things with jerky actions. An experienced driver will be looking well ahead, making minor steering corrections all the time to maintain a straight line. Since learners don’t see as far ahead to start with, they tend to drift closer to kerbs and centre lines, and only realise this later and so react in a jerky way. Trust me, if you ask your pupil to stare at something in the far distance – ‘that big tree’, ‘that bollard’, ‘the back of that lorry’, and so on – their steering nearly always becomes silky smooth immediately. Make sure you explain to them what just happened, and how to use it, otherwise some are likely to think that just staring at the back of any lorry is the solution to everything!

This is often where I park up and do my ‘perspective’ session. I sketch a horizon line, and build up a drawing of a road with buildings and pavements all meeting at the ‘vanishing point’. I explain that if they always aim for the vanishing point, they can’t possibly hit any of the buildings or pavements. There’s more explanation to it than this, but that’s the basics.

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.

How can I practice steering?

Well, first of all, don’t overthink the subject. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a pupil who couldn’t steer within a few minutes – and certainly not within 20 minutes or so – so you shouldn’t worry too much about it.

Occasionally, I do get people who have an initial problem with pull-push steering if they’ve never done it before. What I do in those cases is whip out my diary, which is A4-sized, and get them to pull-push-pull one way, then the other. For many, it’s a bit like those wooden Chinese puzzles you get, where once you know the secret you can do it with your eyes shut. Once they get the hand movements for pull-push once, they’ve cracked it.

In the past, I’ve had pupils who have practiced at home using a dinner plate, and one even used the toy steering wheel one of her kids had. Years ago, one of my pupils used to practice parallel parking at home on the bed using a dinner plate (when I asked, she said she didn’t make the engine noises to go along with it).  As long as you lock yourself in somewhere with the curtains drawn no one will laugh at you!

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