A DVSA alert came through yesterday informing us that they’re investigating the possibility of introducing graduated driver licences (or something along those lines). Again.
First of all, let’s look at the facts surrounding this news (i.e. what’s actually in it, and not what the media headlines are saying).
- They’re only exploring the possibility. It won’t happen anytime soon.
- There will be a consultation before – and if – any changes are made.
- They are talking about new drivers’ “first few months on the road”.
- They don’t know exactly what – if anything – will be introduced.
- “New drivers” means everyone, and not just 17 year olds.
- Any changes would be for future new drivers.
- The impetus for this comes from the Government, and not DVSA per se.
Don’t forget that it took over 40 years to get learners able to go on the motorway, and even in my time as an ADI there were numerous “nearly” moments within different governments. Even the final kickstart took over two years to implement.
So why is the issue of graduated licences coming up once again?
Data show that 20% of new drivers have a significant accident within the first 12 months of passing their test, and it is that statistic which is being addressed. However, if we look at separate data, which has been reported many times previously, there is an enormous blip in the accident statistics where the following points are identified from individual cases of those involved:
- 17-25 year old
- rural road
- on a bend
- at night
- more than one occupant in the same age group
- excessive speed involved
- no other vehicle involved
If you translate this data, it basically means young show-offs with little experience driving too fast for their skill set, distracted by their mates, and whipping the wheel round to take a bend they only saw as they entered it, then spinning off into a tree or field. Frequently, at least one passenger is fatally injured. Although males feature highly in these figures, females are still represented, where the distraction is often slightly different but equally stupid. This whole scenario is why insurance is so high for that age group.
It comes down to inexperience. Inexperience of driving, and inexperience of self-preservation. And whether you like it or not, it applies to more 17 year olds than it does 40 year olds – a) because there’s more of them, and b) 17 year olds are more likely to exhibit behaviours which compound their inexperience. The whole issue is about actual accidents and actual deaths. It’s not some random game to moan about because you think your son or daughter is an angel and shouldn’t be treated in a manner that you consider to be unfair.
I’ve mentioned this before, but many years ago I had what was then my best ever pupil. He was a smart lad, from a wealthy (-ish) family, high-achiever at school, pleasant (as was the whole family), and a quick learner. He was an excellent driver when he passed his test first time after only 23 hours of lessons. And he promised me he’d drive safely.
His mum wanted him to do Pass Plus, because she was concerned at his lack of experience – a sentiment I readily agreed with because he’d passed so quickly. Six weeks later – during which time he’d been driving in the beaten-up little Fiesta his mum had bought him – I was amazed at how far he’d drifted away from what I’d taught him. He was cornering too fast and taking chances when crossing the path of other traffic. I pulled him back during the Pass Plus and left him with some words of wisdom once it was completed.
Sometime after, I began teaching his then girlfriend, who his mum had referred to me. The girlfriend told me that he had already damaged his car by hitting a kerb cornering too fast (he hadn’t told me that), and that when he was out with his mates he would drive very fast, sometimes over 70mph in 30mph zones (he didn’t tell me that, either). I was concerned for her, but she said he’d never do it with her or with his mum in the car, because his mum would kill him if she knew. And I can promise you that he was in no way unique. Some of those I’ve taught since have made it absolutely clear how they’re going to drive when they pass. And they do.
And that’s why something has to be done. Far too many young people behave like this as a matter of course. They know full well they are in the wrong (which is why they hide it), but they do it nonetheless because it gives them street cred with the other monkeys in the jungle, and is the next best thing to sex for a 17 year old. Being inexperienced doesn’t enter the equation as far as they’re concerned. It’s no use pretending that your little darling doesn’t do it, because he or she almost certainly does to some extent. I even saw an ADI making this claim. Quite frankly, if a teenager is in rebellion mode – as many are – being the offspring of an ADI might even increase the likelihood of them behaving like prats.
So although I think DVSA isn’t addressing the root of the problem, it is at least trying to deal with the possible outcomes of that problem. Any restrictions placed on new drivers would at least give them time to gain some experience before they’re let off the leash, and the testosterone (or oestrogen) is able to kick in fully.
Not all young people are dangerous
Potentially, yes they are. They are inexperienced, and that alone is enough to lead to errors of judgment. Bad behaviour just compounds it.
When I was younger, going skiing every year was risky and fun, and resulted in a broken collar bone the first time I did it through going too fast when I was still crap. I discovered that snow-ploughing at speed (i.e. as fast as possible) over moguls on a glacier in Verbier with almost no surface snow down a black run is actually not as good an idea as I had originally thought. At the time, having the entire lift system shut down so mountain rescue could get me off the glacier and to the hospital, then being temporarily disabled and off work for a few weeks when I got back was a badge of honour. These days (and as soon as the following year, in fact), I would see it as bloody dangerous and wouldn’t be that stupid again – even though I’m a much better skier. Being unable to drive and off work now would be a royal pain in the ass, and enormously embarrassing. That’s what maturity and experience does to you.
It’s unfair to penalise only young people
They’re not. They are talking of penalising all new drivers. The fact that younger drivers would be most affected is a statistical thing, as is the fact that 20% of new drivers have a significant accident in their first year of driving.
I see older drivers driving more dangerously
That’s a separate issue. The one being addressed here is lack of experience.
My son (or daughter) doesn’t drive like that
This makes me laugh. Yes they bloody well do! Inexperience, by definition, applies to all new drivers. Furthermore, unless you are with them every time they drive, you haven’t got a clue what they get up to. I’ve lost count of the times some prat (often with “P” plates on) has pulled out in front of me or cut me up, and the only reason there hasn’t been an accident is because of my anticipation and reactions (both as a driver, and as an ADI using the dual controls). Those drivers could easily be your son or daughter. You have no knowledge of it and no control over it whatsoever. In my opinion, coming out with this statement is one of the contributing factors as to why there is a problem in the first place (along with letting them have an Audi or BMW as their first car).
Actually, that’s another thing. The only reason anyone buys an Audi (or BMW) is to drive fast, so a new driver who gets one is not going to be sticking to the speed limit or driving cautiously. The only time you’re likely to be stuck behind one being driven slowly is when the driver is texting or pissing about with the stereo. The rest of the time, they’ll be trying to get in front. You can argue as much as you want about that, but it is a simple fact. I see it every day.
This is the kind of thing you have to deal with when you’re driving on Britain’s roads these days. Complete wankers like the driver of this white Mercedes, registration number KL68 TLY.
This was on a 50mph road, with me driving (at 50mph), and there was no one behind me.
If Nottinghamshire Police had managed to at least drag themselves into the latter part of the 20th century, I’d be able to upload this for them to deal with. But no. The only way of even informing them of it is to send my memory card in its entirety, with zero chance of getting it back, and even less chance of them following up on the situation anyway. And that’s coming from someone who has a lot of respect for the police.
It is clearly a precondition to owning a BMW, Audi, or Mercedes that you have to be a certified f***ing twat, with no discernible brain activity in the head area (it’s all concentrated in the groin, of course). Their behaviour happens too often and too consistently to be a coincidence.
I didn’t have my dash cam on because I’d just been to the hand car wash, so I couldn’t catch the idiot on film, but driving past Chilwell Golf Club – at the traffic lights – there was a lorry, then me, then this f***ing halfwit in the silver BMW M240i (FE17 DKF) racing up at speed. The lights were on green, the lorry and me were moving, and twat boy decided he would still go for the overtake. He misjudged everything, and ended up slamming his brakes on and forcing his way between the lorry and me. There was no one behind me at all, so the manoeuvre was as pointless as it was dangerous.
It’s wan*ers like this who are directly responsible for the daily incidents involving injuries and death on the motorways and trunk roads. It was an oldish-looking guy, bald head, and the fact that he was in an automatic in the first place suggests his mental faculties were such that he ought not to be trying stunts like this.
If the police are interested – and they should be, although they probably won’t – he appears to live in the Rylands, since that’s where he turned off (ironically, he was stuck at red lights as I went by).
On the subject of arsehole drivers, I saw on the local newsfeed yesterday that drivers in Leicestershire were being advised to stay away from the notorious Watery Gate ford at Thurlaston. Water levels were already high, and were expected to rise further with overnight rain. They did, and the level gauge shows that there was 1 metre depth of water for about 40 metres of road to drive through (if you were stupid enough to try in anything other than an off-road vehicle).
Cue: a Mercedes driver, who was stupid enough to try.
They had to get a fire engine and a dinghy out to rescue the prat, and there’s an ambulance because he or she is probably “traumatised”. The poor dear. Note how the water is over half way up his doors!
They should have their licence taken away permanently for something like this. Or at least be charged for the emergency service call out.
I take most of my pupils through the ford on Beanford Lane near Oxton at some point during their lessons. Most haven’t a clue what the “FORD” sign means in the Highway Code – even if they’ve ever seen it. Almost no one knows what a ford is in the first place, these days. The Bean ford isn’t very wide, whereas Watery Gate is.
But I won’t go through it if it’s been raining hard, and I stop or slow down to assess the depth using the level gauge before I do. Attempting to take on a metre depth of water in a normal car is unbelievably stupid, especially over such a long distance.
Original article published in 2008. Updated August 2016, and June 2018.
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:
- 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.
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. I have much less of an issue with it than I once did when doing manoeuvres. However, it can 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 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 could 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. However, your car is not going to spontaneously fall apart in the middle of the road if you dry steer occasionally, so don’t worry about it too much.
Except where pupils have a genuine problem and need to dry steer, as the default steering method in all situations 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 relatively 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 it can usually be overcome. Having said that, as time has gone by, I have less of an issue with dry steering than I once did during manoeuvres. 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.
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
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, and I now have much less of an issue with dry steering on manoeuvres than I used to. However, it is bad practice to do it when you definitely don’t need to. It can damage your tyres and other things and it is something you need to avoid whenever you can. If you’re parked in a tight space, the only way you’re ever going to get out is by dry steering.
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.
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.
Stop keep repeating things you heard as if they were fact without knowing what you’re talking about. 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, the arms cross and they can’t steer any more – even though the corner probably needs at least another half turn of the wheel. That will be marked under steering control.
Hand over hand steering – where the hands do cross over each other – is perfectly OK. It’s actually better in some cases. This has always been the case.
If crossing the hands has ever been worthy of a fail in its own right, it must date from so long ago that the people who keep going on about it probably weren’t even born, so it’s about as relevant as marauding dinosaurs. I mean, they used to have more rules for horse-drawn carriages than self-propelled ones in the Highway Code, but no one worries about what the sign of waving a whip over your head means.
The whole issue of “not crossing hands” comes from people who have misunderstood what their instructors told them. Indeed, some instructors so obviously misunderstand the issue even now that it is easy to see how this nonsense is perpetuated.
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.
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 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.
This has made my day. Excellent story on the BBC about how the Met Police are ending chases involving scumbags on motor scooters. Look at their response when they get rammed. No attempt to run off, just shitting themselves. Well done to the Met!
All we need now is for the policy to be extended to everywhere else in the country, and maybe – just maybe – these little pricks might start to wonder if it’s really worth it.
Mind you, if I was going to put any money on it, I suspect the Met will come under pressure to stop doing it, especially if one of the little darlings gets hurt.
Well, that didn’t take long. Less than two hours after that first story, the BBC is now reporting that the Met is under investigation by the IOPC for “three cases involving ‘tactical contact’”.
The IOPC says that one case involves a 17-year old who sustained head injuries in Bexley a year ago. It serves him f***ing right.
Let’s hope the IOPC comes to the same conclusion, and tells him and/or his idiot parents where to go.
I originally wrote this article back in 2011 following an RAC story about bad car posture. I must confess I was dismissive of it – and still am to some extent – but my writing style has changed in the nine years that have passed. I’ve also had a string of hits on the subject recently. So an update was due.
We’ve known about repetitive strain injury (RSI) for many years. It’s where repetitive movements usually involving the hands and arms can result in tendon and muscle damage. True RSI can be a very serious and debilitating problem for some people, but there are many more people who either mistakenly attribute every ache and twinge to it, or who are just pulling a sickie at work. This is largely due to the difficulty in diagnosing it.
The RAC decided to coin a new term – repetitive driving injury, or RDI. They went on to claim it affects half of all British drivers, and said that it was due to poor posture. Symptoms apparently include foot cramps, aching sides, stiff necks, headaches, and eye strain.
Sorry, but if we are using RSI and RDI in the same breath, eye strain is not an RSI issue – if you have a rest your eyes are fine again, and you’re not going to do them any long-term damage just by using them to look at things. The same goes for cramps, aches, and stiff necks in the vast majority of cases. Yes, they might be brought on by bad posture or doing something your neck and legs aren’t used to (going on a six-hour drive, for example, when you normally don’t go further than Tesco half a mile away once a week). But again, a bit of a twinge a couple of times is not going to do you any lasting harm. Christ! I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve pulled my back cleaning the inside of my windscreen due to leaning and stretching, and that isn’t RDI. And there is no way that “half the population” is suffering from it, when genuine RSI only occurs in up to 10% of the population.
The original eBay Motors source survey (described as “a study”, when it is merely a poll) says that it is caused by people not knowing how to adjust their seat. What? Half the population doesn’t know how to do that? It’s more a case of people choosing not to adjust their seat properly, or simply not bothering.
- left leg should be able to push the clutch right to the floor with a slight bend at the knee (i.e. no stretching)
- seat height should be adjusted (if possible) so that the eyes are about half-way between top of the wheel and top of the windscreen (also if possible)
- the seat back and steering wheel position should be adjusted for optimum comfort, but so that with outstretched arms the wrists will rest on top of the steering wheel (if possible)
- the head restraint pad should be level with your ears (if possible)
I say “if possible” in the above list, because some pupils are very short or very tall, or are carrying extra body weight, and they have to adjust things as best they can. By doing it in a structured way, the driver will not have to stretch to operate the pedals or contort themselves to operate any of the controls.
However, I have no control over them once they pass their tests, and many – the males in particular – will be intent on cultivating an image to take precedence over everything else. For example, sitting in a bucket seat in a reclined position, eyes barely level with the top of the steering wheel, right arm draped over it so they’re leaning about 20 degrees towards the middle of the car so they can see how they look in the mirror and fiddle with the stereo to find the most irritating thump-thump-thump-thump-thump track possible (or the one where they lean 20 degrees to the right, elbow on the door arm rest, stroking their bum-fluff stubble)… you see (and hear) it every day. I had one recently who, for some reason best known to himself, had decided to start changing gear by twisting his wrist round and gripping the stick from above – resulting in finding 1st instead of 3rd about 80% of the time. After I bollocked him about posing he went back to the way I’d originally taught him and the problem went away (and he passed first time a few weeks ago).
Pupils often have to be pushed into the cockpit routine for quite a while after the first lesson. A lot of them (again, mainly the males) will leap in and try to put it in gear, even though at that point they can barely reach the pedals when they’re up (and don’t get me started on the mirrors). Others (mainly the females) will insist on moving the seat so far forward that the steering wheel is literally a few centimetres from their chests, their arms are cramped right up, and the pedals are almost underneath them.
On more than one occasion a pupil has complained of cramp or leg discomfort during a lesson, even after doing proper adjustments. It’s most common with new drivers, especially when doing a manoeuvre, or if we’re driving in heavy traffic (with a lot of clutch work).
And it is not RDI.
It usually comes down to poor “driving fitness” in people who may not use their leg muscles very much. It goes away after a few lessons – though I’m sure it will come back if they start trying to “be cool” by posing once they pass.
I was on a lesson with a pupil recently, and we were driving from Chilwell through Long Eaton. It was busy, and traffic was queuing in both lanes for both of the roundabouts in the town centre.
My usual mantra to pupils is “stay in the left hand lane unless you know what you are doing”, and you’ll see why when you read on. In this case, just before the first roundabout in Long Eaton, there was an HGV waiting to turn left towards the Tesco store at the 1st exit. The exit was backed up with cars – presumably heading for Tesco – and on the 2nd exit (our destination) I could see there were two stopped buses, one of which was blocking the entire left lane. Beyond the second roundabout at its 2nd exit there were two lanes of queuing traffic merging into a single lane.
I saw all this in advance, mentioned it to my pupil, and instructed her to negotiate both roundabouts in the right-hand lane.
Once we had got through the roundabouts (see top picture), we approached the merge into single lane. We were alternately stopping and moving, and kept pulling alongside another car (the yellow one in the picture, above). As we came to the merge, I instructed my pupil to keep up with that car, but to let it go ahead of us, and we would merge behind it. I explained about merging in turn and not trying to cut other people up by being greedy.
Now, you’d think everything would have been all right. I mean, traffic going nowhere in a hurry, we were actually in the process of merging, with no intention of trying to cut anyone up, just dealing with the road conditions in the safest and most sensible way possible…
Except as we started to merge, a prat in a silver Corsa (what else?) came up alongside us – eyes staring straight forward, because that makes everything all right, of course – and forced her way in. You can see from the third picture what she did.
She had come around the roundabout some considerable time after us, and judging by her apparent age, the ink was probably still damp on her licence. It was absolutely clear what she was thinking and intending to do – and it wasn’t to allow us to complete the merge.
She had all the finger actions down to a ‘T’ when I turned to look at her. I rolled down my window and asked if she’d ever heard of “merge in turn”, and elicited some more finger gestures. She then accelerated forwards and tailgated the yellow car just to be doubly sure that she “won”. A typical chav.
She knew exactly what she was doing right from the start.
To make matters worse, an arsehole of a cyclist who was alongside commented “she had the right of way, mate” as he passed (I don’t think I really need to say much about cyclists and their understanding of the Highway Code). No. She. Didn’t. Not at that point, and under those circumstances. She was forcing her way in in a situation where she shouldn’t have. There was only one lane at that point, and my pupil was at least six car lengths past the end of the two-lane section.
The Highway Code recommends merging in turn in precisely these situations. It’s in Rule 134 if the chav or that smart-ass cyclist is reading this. It only advises against merging in turn at high speeds, because it would be dangerous.
Of course, my pupil was not in the wrong because she didn’t force her way in and wasn’t trying to do so. We were already in the only lane available at that point, and were moving in slow traffic. Right of way didn’t enter into it – other than that we already had it.
Rule 144 of the Highway Code refers to driving without due care and attention. This rule was rewritten not long ago to include more detail about what is acceptable and what isn’t, and I doubt that most road users (and especially chavs) can even remember what was in the older version, let alone this one (most cyclists are probably unaware that there’s even a Highway Code). And earlier this year, the RAC wrote an article, titled Driving without due care and attention – are you an offender? In it, they say:
The offence of driving without due care and attention – also referred to as careless driving – covers a multitude of motoring sins, from tailgating to tuning the radio…
Driving without due care and attention is not necessarily a ‘clear cut’ offence…
What comes under this offence..?
Examples of disregard for other road users may include [list shortened]:
- Driving aggressively
- Overtaking on the left-hand side
- Not giving way where appropriate
Rule 217 also has something interesting to say about behaving like a prat around other road users:
Learners and inexperienced drivers. They may not be so skilful at anticipating and responding to events. Be particularly patient with learner drivers and young drivers. Drivers who have recently passed their test may display a ‘new driver’ plate or sticker (see ‘Safety code for new drivers’).
Some people manage to tick all the boxes in one go, and those who are really into ‘P’ plate territory themselves are often the worst. I feel a proper article on merging coming on.
It’s funny, but ever since I became a driving instructor I have often explained to my pupils about the “caterpillar effect” on motorways. This is where you will be travelling along at a steady 60 or 70mph, suddenly to be faced with a wall of traffic at a complete standstill. You’ll be wondering what has happened – and be lucky if you move more than a few metres over the next 10 minutes or more – when suddenly everything starts moving again and there’s no sign of what might have caused it. Then, if you’re on a long journey, it could happen again some time later – perhaps several times. It’s like a huge caterpillar, in the sense that you have chunks of motorway moving freely, and others at a standstill, and these alternate along the network – just like a caterpillar moves.
What causes it is people not driving either at the speed limit, or exceeding it, by more than about 10mph either way. A slower driver will cause cars behind to have to slow down, and the laws of physics mean that each car slows down a little more than the one in front, so eventually someone has to stop. It might only be for a second, but the same laws of physics then mean that each subsequent car stops for longer. It happens both when a normal driver encounters a slower one, or when a speeder encounters a normal driver.
Obviously, less confident drivers will usually be in one of the inner lanes, and the faster ones in the outer lanes. It usually starts in the Audi lane (the one on the far right), and then quickly spreads as the Audi (or BMW) driver moves over to try and get past, and begins to encounter all the Miss Daisys on the opposite side.
Now, to me, the most obvious fix would be to ban Audis, BMWs, and old people from the motorways. Then we could all drive at 60 or 70mph in peace. But the Americans reckon that Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) would address the problem better.
In the USA, they use the term “phantom traffic jam” – a term I can’t get my head around, because the traffic jam is actually very real when you encounter one, and it has been caused by the very real situation of people driving badly. The article I’ve linked to says that drivers cause the problem themselves due to their “delayed reactions having a ripple effect”. It’s a rather naïve and politically-correct assessment, since I’ve already pointed out quite correctly that it is mismatched speeds that are the problem and, if anything, it is over-reaction, lack of experience, and bad attitude which causes it. In other words, crap drivers.
ACC uses radar to detect what’s in front of it and adjusts the car’s speed accordingly. Hopefully, it is a few notches better than reversing sensors which are great both at detecting things which aren’t important (blades of grass and twigs on bushes), and missing things which are (lorries, metal barriers, and other big heavy things which are not in the sensor plane).
Given that the typical Audi driver is likely to set their standard cruise control at 90mph, I suspect they’d be switching ACC off the minute it tried to take them below 80mph.
I still think my solution would work best.
Oh, if only the f—ing halfwits who have licences had even a grain of a clue, how much easier my job would be.
Here, you can see a black VW Touran, registration number FD17 VWE, decide that lane markings didn’t apply to her as she cut dangerously across the lanes. She deliberately used one of the left-only lanes in order to cut over at the last moment and go straight ahead. She was also speeding, and pillocks like this usually have their brats in the back if Social Services are interested in checking for any unfit parents right now.
This is a still from the full video which shows absolutely clearly what she did. Stupid cow.
My pupil was following the sat nav, and we were turning right. We’d just passed a light-controlled junction with all the mummies backed up and I’d told the pupil to carry on to next junction away from the road the school is on. As we approached it, this stupid bitch in a silver Honda Civic (old style), registration number BN05 OLH, cut us up dangerously.
This is a still from the full video showing what she did.
We followed her for about a mile, and she went into the Hemlock Stone pub – most likely either to pick up her brats from an agreed meeting place, or to get pissed on Prosecco as part of her anger management programme. Either way, she was a crap driver who shouldn’t be on the roads.