A Driving Instructor's Blog

Bad Drivers

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White Qashqai WN15 UXVI’m starting to get seriously pissed off with some of the prats on the roads these days. As if it wasn’t bad enough that Nottingham City and Country Councils have got road works on virtually every route into and out of the city, you have people like the driver of this white Nissan Qashqai, registration WN15 UXV on Tuesday, 8 August 2017.

I was on a lesson with an already nervous pupil when we hit unexpected traffic. It turned out the imbeciles in charge of the area around the Wheatcroft roundabout (Rushcliffe Borough) had cut it from four lanes to just one sometime before 6pm – so during rush hour. The reasons for the road works are not immediately clear, though it is likely they are to do with the ongoing destruction of greenbelt for the new housing development just there.

ck03aylWe’d been sitting in the queue for around 10 minutes. When we saw that lanes were closed and were merging, we signalled and someone allowed us to move out. Several minutes later, as is usually the case, someone really clever decided to drive further down and jump part of the queue (Silver VW Polo, registration OY57 KHD). We let him in. Then, after several more minutes, when we had reached the actual merge, there was a surge of traffic trying it. The first was a white van/minibus, registration CK03 AYL. He forced his way in right at the level of the cones. He was being tailgated by the Qashqai.

The Qashqai literally barged us out of the way, forcing me to take the controls. To make matters worse, the cross between Jimmy Krankie and the Michelin Man driving it, and Bubbles the Chimp in the passenger seat thought it was funny.

The reason it took so long to get through in the first place was because of openly arrogant and ignorant twats like this. But THEY don’t care as long as THEY get what THEY want.

Just a reminder that all three of those cars mentioned here were breaking the Law. They were overtaking – on the inside – and forcing their way into queues of traffic. The stupid cow in the Qashqai was the worst of the the three (and the monkey she had in the passenger seat was aiding and abetting).

Dashcams are great, by the way, just in case anyone’s recollection of the events are unclear.

White lorry - LT62 CDO or CT62 CDO (TTR117)And while I’m on this subject, a similar thing happened this afternoon on the A60 heading towards Mansfield. I was on another lesson, and we’d stopped at lights in Daybrook. A white lorry, registration LT62 CDO or CT62 CDO – unmarked, but identified with the container code TTR117 – deliberately tried to run us into oncoming traffic.

Again, dashcams are great.

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TumbleweedThis story has been in the news the last day or so. It concerns a new roundabout in Mickleover, Derbyshire, where there were 10 accidents within 48 hours of it opening.

Resident Peter Hall told the Derby Telegraph: “These accidents are not driver error but the result of a poorly designed, unlit roundabout on a 70mph dual carriageway.

“By my reckoning at least 10 vehicles have had accidents within less than 48 hours of this new junction opening – so it is probably the most dangerous roundabout in the country.”

Sorry, Peter. It IS driver error. It’s people being too thick to drive in accordance with what they have in front of them, choosing instead to put their heads down and hammer into the unknown. That sort of behaviour is one of the biggest problems with driving standards on our roads today.

It isn’t just young and inexperienced drivers, either. Far too many of these younger drivers will go through life not having a clue, and then they will become older drivers without a clue. Of course, there are already plenty of clueless older drivers from earlier generations, and they are almost as bad right now as today’s snot noses will be in 30 or 40 years’ time.

Some years ago, when they were building the tram system in Nottingham, they removed three roundabouts in Clifton and turned them into junctions. I can remember one of my pupils was on a lesson, and we drove down Farnborough Road towards where the first roundabout would have been several weeks earlier, and he actually stopped to look around. In the middle of nowhere! This shows what is going on inside some people’s heads. And sometimes, it’s not a lot.

Derby Telegraph has a video of traversing the roundabout from several directions, and it doesn’t look anywhere near as bad as is being suggested. It is clearly signed, and only a complete prat would miss it. There are “SLOW” signs, primary route direction signs, triangular roundabout signs, illuminated/flashing matrix signs, blue “left only” circles, both normal black and red “left bend” chevron signs, not to mention cones – which are always a bit of a give away that something might be ahead.

The most obvious physical “problem”, as distinct from the mental ones already highlighted, is that the approach roads are NSL – one of which is a dual carriageway. Being Derbyshire, that will translate to most of the residents as meaning “as fast as you can in your Audi or Corsa, whilst simultaneously peeling your banana and picking parasites out of your mate’s fur”.

To be fair, it would appear that some of the signage has gone up since the accidents, but not as much of it as the Telegraph (or Peter Hall) is suggesting. The direction signs – big green “primary route” roundabout signs – look very well-established, and if you know that a roundabout is coming then you start looking for it.

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Driver using mobile phoneFrom today (1 March 2017) the penalties for using a mobile phone when driving have increased.

If you get caught now, it’s 6 points on your licence and a £200 fine. New drivers – those who passed their tests less than 2 years ago – should bear in mind that the points will put them at the limit provided during the probationary period. In theory – and, hopefully, in reality – that means you’re banned.

DVSA’s photo used in the news release carries the words “make the glove compartment the phone compartment”. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen – the typical 17-year old can only put their phone in one of two places: in their hand, or between their legs. Well over half of my new pupils try that at first, and I know for a fact that however much I emphasise the dangers and penalties, when they pass they’re going to do it. I also know that they will use their phone while they’re driving – it is a condition of 17-year olds today.

I fully agree with higher penalties. The only form of education which stands any chance of working is one which carries a significant punishment with it.

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Learner car recoveryI saw this story a few days ago about a man in Norfolk who failed his driving test “in just 5 seconds”.

It reminded me of something that happened to one of my pupils about 7 years ago. He drove back into the test centre and I made my way through the waiting room to go and listen to the debrief. With hindsight, I think I heard a loud clang as I did so, but it didn’t register at the time. When I reached the car the passenger door was open and the examiner had his head in his hands and was saying:

I can’t believe you did that. I just can’t believe it.

I asked what had happened, and the examiner told me he’d asked my pupil to pull forwards into a parking bay, but he didn’t stop in time and had driven into the crash barrier surrounding the car park. I went to the front of the car and saw that there was no damage – just a very slight scuff. When I got back to the passenger side the examiner was still repeating that he couldn’t believe it. I looked at the fault sheet and said:

Do my eyes deceive me, or did he only have two faults?

The examiner replied:

That’s the whole point! It was almost a perfect drive.

Then he said he couldn’t believe it a couple more times, and added:

I’ve got to fail you because there could have been someone standing there. You can obviously drive and we’ll see you again soon.

My pupil was a very good driver, but in spite of that it took him another five attempts to pass in the end, as he picked up a different single serious fault on the four more he failed. I used to rib him about how he’d managed to fail that first one literally less than one second from the end. And I use the example to emphasise to all my other pupils that they mustn’t switch off as they head back to the test centre (which is a common issue with learners).

I should add that I have no issue whatsoever with the examiner’s decision nor with his explanation. He was 100% right. Examiners have no way of knowing how someone drives the rest of the time, which is why candidates need to be squeaky clean on their tests when it comes to safety matters. If they aren’t, the examiners have to (or should) err on the side of caution.

As for the pupil, we are still in regular contact – though I have ignored him this last weekend. He is a Chelsea supporter whose smugness is currently off the scale. And I’m not.

As for the guy in King’s Lynn in that original article, it’s a similar situation. Yes, he had a brain fart – but what if he’d had a similar fart while driving alone just as a group of school kids started to walk across a road? The examiner had to fail him, no matter how good the rest of the drive was. If he hadn’t, there’d really be no point in having a driving test system in the first place.

With new pupils, and especially (though not exclusively) those who have driven in other countries, I often say “UK rules, UK rules” at some point, as they turn into a junction and aim for the right-hand side of the road. With some, it is a deliberate act, but very new drivers it is just a steering issue.

I saw another ADI end up on a pavement and nearly through a hedge earlier this week as his pupil over steered into a junction and then didn’t straighten up (probably with a bit of gas thrown in for good measure, followed by blind panic, which usually happens). I think we’ve all been there at least once in our careers. Indeed, it was such occurrences that led me to realise that the dual controls are a useful tool for teaching beginners, and not something to avoid using at all costs.

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I originally wrote this article as the result of the most ridiculous editorial written by a female journalist in one of the usual newspapers which prints crap like that. She was trying to justify why she couldn’t drive. She was only 30, for God’s sake!Fry observes bad driving

The news story was badly written and full of inaccuracies and untruths. In fact, it was typical “femail” fodder, if you get my drift. It didn’t stay available for more than a month or so, and the exact things it said are long since gone. I’ve summarised the important details of my response to that article in the bullet points below:

  • Just because your brother or sister passed when they were 17 has no bearing on how quickly you will learn, no matter what your current age.
  • It is a general truth that the older you get the harder it is to learn new things, but that is not carved in stone.
  • I’ve had many 40+ drivers who are far better learners than many 17-25 year olds.
  • Dreading your lessons will not make learning any easier.
  • It DOES NOT take 1½ hours training for every year of your life to learn to drive.
  • On average, those who pass have had 47 hours of professional instruction and 20 hours of private practice
  • My own pupils have taken anywhere between 14½ hours and 160 hours (both extremes were 17-19 year olds)
  • Two of my quickest learners were around 50 years of age.
  • The longest I know of took 100 hours with me, 100 hours with an automatic instructor, and seven attempts to pass her test (and that was still impressive). She was in her late 40s, but I can guarantee she’d have had the same issues if she’d have been 20.
  • As people get older they branch off mentally in all kinds of directions. Some are mentally 60 years old at 30, whereas others are 20 years old at 80! Although other factors might creep in with very old people, the latter attitude will make you learn quicker.
  • Some people are already branched off as they leave the womb! They will find driving difficult no matter what – and this is often why they put off learning until they’re older and desperately need a licence, and then start blaming it on age.
  • Your likelihood of passing your test is based on how well you can drive, not on historical statistics suggesting the pass rate is falling.
  • Historical pass rates are actually quite stable.
  • Just because a teenager can run faster and for longer, play football better than you, understand technology, etc., does not have any direct bearing on how quickly YOU can learn to drive.
  • Experience comes with age, and that gives older drivers a huge advantage – if they’d shut up about the other stuff.
  • Your nervous system and muscles do not shrivel and die the day after your 25th birthday.

Can I learn to drive when I’m 50?

Someone found the blog on that term. Yes, you can! Two of my best-ever pupils were 50+. However, not everyone is the same. I can get one 17-year old who picks up everything first time, and another who should (in my opinion) give up the idea of driving for the sake of humanity and get a bus pass instead! And it’s exactly the same for older learners. Age isn’t an automatic barrier. But it can be a bigger barrier if you let it become one by thinking old in the first place.

People can pass at any age. The real question is “should they?”. You can only find out by trying.

Can you be too old?

My personal opinion on this is yes, you can. But it’s not as simple as just your age, it’s also down to how you, your mind, and your body have handled it. I had one lady some years ago who was “around” 70 – she wouldn’t admit how old, but she’d hinted that it was 70+. She was disabled through arthritis and her lessons were being paid for through Motability. She was absolutely lovely – she was learning guitar, wrote poetry, and liked music (especially rock). She’d decided to learn to drive because her husband had died and she wanted to get around.

I don’t know how long it would have taken her, but the signs from the lessons she did were not good. I had to buy extra mirrors because her arthritis prevented her turning her head, and every lesson was like a beginner’s session – she forgot everything we’d covered before. Her Motability funding ran out until she’d passed her theory. She did phone me to say she’d be back once she’d passed, but I never heard from her again.

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That well-known scientific organisation VoucherCodesPro.co.uk has carried out some “research” into the kind of music being listened to at the time people had accidents. They conclude that Adele, Justin Bieber, and Sia were the biggest offenders. The full list is as follows:

    1. Adele – 18%
    2. Justin Bieber – 17%
    3. Sia – 15%
    4. Slip Knot – 14%
    5. Rihanna – 14%
    6. Drake – 13%
    7. The Beatles – 10%
    8. Calvin Harris – 8%
    9. Eminem – 8%
    10. Kanye West – 7%

No other data are given – such as age, sex, ethnicity, or location – which would be on any scientist’s list of vital pieces of information (mind you, it’s probably illegal to identify sex and ethnicity in case they point to something the Thought Police don’t like). All they say is that respondents were “over 18”. Oh, and that the average number of accidents these people had had over a two-year period was two, with fourteen near misses!

When you combine that last part with the fact that – with only one or possibly two exceptions, and even then only just – the type of music being listened to says a lot about the mental ages of the people responding, you get a very good idea of where the problem actually lies. It’s all baby music.

By comparison, I have had one accident in 10 years – and that was because some stupid cow ran a red light in poor weather in the dark. I can’t recall any “near misses” in that same period, even with learners driving. The “research” clearly shows that the kind of person most likely to listen to Adele or Justin Bieber is the type most likely to be an inexperienced/crap driver who is likely to hit things instead of going around them. It doesn’t prove in any way that Adele and Justin Bieber are direct distractions.

When asked why the music has been such a distraction, the top reasons cited were – “I was singing and dancing when I should have been focusing on the road” (43%)…

I can’t imagine many men doing that. I’m sorry, but I just can’t.

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

Ford Focus cockpit

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is called the pull-push technique.

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

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

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

You should

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some people can’t do manoeuvres without dry steering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My instructor is teaching me to dry steer

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

I can’t master “pull-push” steering

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have to use “push-pull”?

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

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

What about “palming”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you teach a pupil to steer properly?

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

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

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

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

How many turns is full lock?

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

Is full lock the same as one complete turn?

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

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

How much do I need to steer?

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

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

What are typical steering mistakes made by learners?

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

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

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

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

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

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

My pupil keeps taking one hand off the steering wheel

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

How can I practice steering?

Well, first of all, don’t over think 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. I demonstrate it first, of course. Once they’ve done the correct hand movements once, it’s no problem after that (it’s a bit like those Chinese puzzles you get, where once you know the secret you can do it with your eyes shut). In the past, I’ve had pupils who have practiced at home using a dinner plate (and even one of those kiddies toy steering wheels would do it – as long as you lock yourself in somewhere with the curtains drawn so no one will laugh at you!)

As I said previously, once people have the ability to do pull-push, I let them develop their own method from it.

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Any half decent driver will already be aware of the shocking behaviour of many people who use the roads. If you drive for a living – especially if you are considered to be a “professional” driver – apart from the fact that you use the roads more and you see more, you’re also likely to notice more.Playing cards

Regular readers will know that I often publish registration numbers of people I’ve witnessed behaving badly on the roads. It makes me feel a lot better, and the jackasses involved can’t really make an issue out of it because I simply state the truth – they were driving as I describe (and the camera doesn’t lie). However, two similar events this morning got me wondering if the owners of companies are aware of the potential damage being done to their businesses by the Neanderthals they seem to employ to drive their vehicles.

These companies probably spend a fortune in time and money on advertising, a decent website, or a lot of arseing about on social media (I’ve never understood how a “professional” can migrate their entire business to Facebook – it’s almost as logical as my previous “professional” company’s decision to switch their official font from Times New Roman to Comic Sans), and yet the negative impact just one monkey in one of their vans can have doesn’t seem to be something they even consider.

Speaking for myself, I will quite happily boycott a company (or a particular outlet) if I get poor service. For example, I will never again set foot in the new McDonalds branch in Clifton as a result of the absolutely crap service from the moment it opened. For similar reasons, I will never use KFC in Colwick, because if there is even one person (or car) in the queue you’re looking at a minimum 10-minute wait (longer in most cases) per person, most of it because the spotty-faced oiks who frequent most KFC branches get to the front of the queue before even starting to consider what they might want. The drive-thru ordering intercom is frequently broken (i.e. vandalised) and the zit-faces in the queue will still take 10 minutes to order while another zit-face on the till writes it all down – and you know that this time the absence of multitasking via the ordering computer means that they will only start to process each order after the piece of paper has been transferred, and after the previous order has been completed. As soon as you see the notepad and pencil being used, that’s the cue to reverse out and go to Greggs, instead.

There are numerous fish and chip shops I won’t use because they’ve never got anything ready. I’ve come to the conclusion that those awards for “best chippie” they all have splurged across banners outside have about as much value as the NVQs my previous company used to issue to shop floor staff for proving they could walk and chew gum at the same time (“equivalent to an ‘A’ Level”, they used to say). They can’t all be “the best”. The only way a chip shop can hope to get one of these meaningless awards for “best chips” is if they cook each batch to order, and you know that that’s exactly what they’re doing it when you see half a dozen or more people standing around inside waiting like a scene out of Dawn of the Dead – which defeats the whole point of going for some chips in the first place. One thing you don’t want to hear when you walk into a chippie is “can I take your order, please?” It means they are putting you in a queue instead of just scooping some ready-prepared chips into a paper bag (Captain Cod on Perry Road, take note). Some of them will try to take your money before informing you that “we’re just waiting for chips”, and it’s got to the point where I specifically ask “have you got chips ready?” when I walk in. If they haven’t I walk out again.

Sandwich shops can be even worse. Often run by a single person, there’s every likelihood that when you go into one she (it’s usually a she) will be trying to fulfil a telephone order for the local building site, and will be in the middle of frying 300 rashers of bacon and 100 eggs on an underpowered electric hob using a normal-sized non-stick frying pan (I’m not making that up, either – Greedy Guts on Woodborough Road take note). You might get a sideways glance from her (or him) if you’re lucky, (The Cob Shop on Andover Road and Munch Bites on Nottingham Road, both in Basford, and Spoilt For Choice on Cinder Hill Road take note). And there’s usually some filthy-looking retard standing in the doorway smoking wherever you go, and I absolutely detest the smell of cigarettes when I’m around food.

But I digress. If they were the types of companies I was ever likely to use, Aspley Workwear and Midland Commercial Cleaners would now be on my list of places never to do business with. And all because of the most horrendous behaviour by respective drivers of two of their vans this week. Undertaking, speeding, and tail-gating are three things that do it for me.

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I was driving over Lady Bay bridge today with a pupil, and the car in front of me – a grey Mini Cooper Countryman, reg. no. FD14 TYC – suddenly swerved sharply to avoid a head on collision with another car.Grey Mini Countryman - FD14 TYC

For a split second I wondered what she was doing, but then I saw the tell-tale flicking of her eyes from lap to road in her rear view mirror, and it became rather obvious.

Texting while driving is on the increase again. Meanwhile, all the police seem to do is spend the better part of every day parked in their camera van just beyond recently-changed speed limits signs.

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The police don’t seem to bother with pulling over crap drivers these days. If they did, they’d certainly want to have a word with the driver of a black Ford Focus, X803 JBE, which was driving at speeds close to 100mph on the ring road in a 50mph zone, and weaving in and out of traffic during the late rush hour.Black Ford Focus reg. no. X803 JBE

I saw him coming and slowed down, otherwise he could easily have lost control and hit someone.

I’m not exaggerating any of this, either. It was one of those situations that happen once in a blue moon. The police really ought to be stopping this guy every time they see his car, because he’s probably got quite a few other things to hide. People like this always do.

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