Chavs from Bulwell this time. Standard behaviour on the Nuthall roundabout.
The pupil was just driving home, and roundabouts are one of his current worries. Everything going smoothly, then these prats appear – at speed, in the wrong lane, across three lanes of traffic, and then they’re in the wrong lane anyway and cut across again at speed and head off the way we were going. Registration number MW16 ZUD.
And another one from last week. Heaven only knows what was going through their tiny minds.
In this case, it was a relatively new pupil who can also be a little jumpy. She wanted to be dropped off in the city centre, and at that time in the evening it is pretty quiet. The Mercedes (reg. no. FP20 JDZ) just stopped inexplicably at green traffic lights, and didn’t move even with us coming up behind. They weren’t even aware we were there until I sounded the horn.
And a couple of weeks ago, this one. Another elderly driver, though that’s not why I am posting these.
The pupil in question on this one is quite jumpy, and he just about shit himself when this happened. Then I just about shit myself when I saw a 3.5 tonne truck behind us slam his brakes on at the last moment.
Once more, the driver who emerged – and I couldn’t quite see his registration on the video, but it was FH14-something – likely has a clean driving licence, and would use that as evidence he wasn’t a danger on the roads. But he is a danger.
Sometimes, the message that you should hang up your driving keys is loud and clear. You just don’t hear it.
This happened on a lesson last week (it was an elderly driver). Click the video to start it. As the clip opens, note the dark red car (YG65 FPT) in the left hand lane on the roundabout in the distance. He’s all but committed to taking the exit, but decides at the last minute to cut across firstly two lanes of traffic, and then across another once he’s managed it in order to take a different exit. I knew he was going to pull in front of us, which is why we made no attempt to go past in our lane. Then, for reasons best known to him, he stopped at green traffic lights with traffic going past on all sides. Finally, he decides to move back over into the left lane. He remembered he had indicators for that one.
There is another roundabout about 200m further along where he was originally heading, where he could safely have doubled back if he’d gone the wrong way.
Ironically, he probably has a clean driving licence, and uses that to argue his age group shouldn’t be questioned over their driving ability.
I originally wrote this way back in 2008, but update it regularly. The topic keeps coming back because it is relevant to all learner drivers.
At the time of the original, DVSA had just updated its Internal Guidance Document (DT1) to say:
To ensure uniformity, when conducting car or vocational tests and ADI qualifying examinations, only assess the candidate’s ability to control the vehicle and do not consider it as a fault if, for example, they do not hold the steering wheel at ten to two or quarter to three or if they cross their hands when turning the steering wheel. The assessment should be based on whether the steering is smooth, safe and under control.
The highlighted part was an addition, and prior to that DT1 had not mentioned the steering technique at all. In my area, none of the examiners had ever failed people for ‘crossing their hands’, anyway, and what DVSA was apparently doing was making sure that those around the country were clear on the subject (‘[ensuring] uniformity’). Reading between the lines, there had been a few complaints about some examiners faulting candidates unnecessarily.
The bottom line is that as long as steering is under control it doesn’t matter how a pupil does it. They can steer with one hand, with their palm, use hand over hand… it simply doesn’t matter. It hasn’t mattered for a very long time – not officially, anyway – and DVSA’s addition to DT1 was a clarification and not a major change in policy.
I think the root cause of the issue is that a lot of examiners are ex-ADIs, and many ADIs (and PDIs) get massively hung up on the whole business of ‘crossing your hands’ and holding the steering wheel ‘correctly’. This leads to more problems than it solves, especially if the person teaching it doesn’t understand what they are saying. Driving: The Essential Skills (TES) is the official syllabus that instructors should be working to, and at least two editions ago it said:
Turning – When turning the steering wheel, avoid crossing your hands. Except at low speeds, this can reduce your control and can cause an accident. Feed the rim of the steering wheel through your hands. Vary your hand movements according to the amount of lock you want.
This is called the pull-push technique.
This was not saying that you mustn’t cross your hands. It just quite correctly pointed out that the rapid steering action a hand-over-hand method can lead to might give rise to a loss of control at higher speeds – a subtlety lost on many people. But there is a huge difference between the effect produced by whipping the steering round quickly as you’re turning into a road at 20-30mph and the same action at 5-10mph.
The most recent editions of TES 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 versions before this. It is part of a dumbing down process, and far too many instructors are ready to interpret it as some sort of admission that the ‘pull-push’ method is wrong. It most definitely isn’t. The pull-push technique – where steering is achieved by alternately pulling the wheel down with one hand, then changing grip and pushing it with the other – certainly isn’t the only way to steer, but for most beginners, who have not yet developed a suitable technique, it should definitely be the starting point. It requires hand coordination which, in turn, becomes a foundation for good car control.
A good analogy would be with a professional footballer. He can play ‘keepy up’ for hours on end in training because it is an important basic control skill – but you will rarely see him do it on the field. However, the coordination required to do it enables him to do other things during matches that he would otherwise struggle with.
It’s the same with steering. Being able to use pull-push properly is an important foundation skill that drivers should possess, even if they rarely using it in favour of a more chav-like style. Once beginners can do pull-push, they can steer easily without going wide on bends and corners. They are less likely to over-steer into kerbs, and are more confident as a result, being able to adjust their steering in a controlled manner. A major drawback to hand-over-hand steering for beginners who know no other way is that they can easily panic and over steer, and pull-push can help to address this.
Incidentally, when someone pull-pushes the steering in one direction, the natural return action frequently involves push-pull. They’re not two separate methods like some people seem to believe. It doesn’t matter whether you pull first, or push.
Why shouldn’t I turn (dry steer) the wheel when the car isn’t moving?
Moving the wheel when the car is stationary is called ‘dry steering’. There’s no rule or law which says you mustn’t do it, and examiners do not mark you on it. I have much less of an issue with it than I once did, especially when doing manoeuvres. However, it is bad general practice for several reasons:
- it can damage your tyres
- it can damage your steering mechanism
- it can damage the road surface
Scrunching your tyres over gravel instead of rolling over the road surface leads to more wear. Doing it on glass or nails can give you a puncture. The extra strain involved when dry steering leads to more wear in the steering mechanism of your car. And scrunching your tyres on tarmac in hot weather can chew up the surface, which holds water in winter, and which can cause cracks if the water freezes – leading finally to potholes. You’ll get some smart arses telling you they’ve never come across an example where dry steering has caused actual damage, and others who insist the car will spontaneously disintegrate if you do it. The reality is that you should simply avoid doing it needlessly.
I find that many pupils can’t control the car and steer at the same time, and they need to dry-steer
That’s fair enough. However, in all the years I have been teaching, the number of pupils who couldn’t be taught to control the car at low-speed and steer pull-push at the same time have been relatively few.
Some people can’t do manoeuvres without dry steering
I agree, but it can usually be overcome. Having said that, as time has gone by, I have less of an issue with pupils dry steering when doing manoeuvres than I once did.
I can’t master ‘pull-push’ steering
If you can steer safely and in control, it doesn’t matter how you do it. However, being able to pull-push is a basic skill to have, even if you don’t use it once you have acquired it. You can easily practice it at home using a book or dinner plate as a dummy steering wheel.
Don’t overthink steering, and don’t dismiss not being able to do it the very first time you try as some sort of permanent problem, because it almost certainly isn’t.
Do you have to use ‘push-pull’?
It’s actually called pull-push, but whatever you call it the answer is ‘no’. As far as I am aware, you have never had to do it that way, and you’re probably confused about being told that by your own instructor. The examiner doesn’t care how you steer as long as you’re in control. Pull-push is just an extremely useful basic skill to have, especially at the start.
What about ‘palming’?
This is what I refer to as ‘chav steering’ – it’s where someone uses the palm of one hand to rotate the wheel, and is the favoured method of people who are trying to cultivate an image. In all my years of driving, I have never felt that I need to use it, and have never tried to use it purposely. The only time I ever get close to it is when I am demonstrating something from the passenger seat and need to reach over and steer full lock one way or the other (something I learned when I was training and my tutor asked me to show him how to do a turn in the road from the passenger seat).
I often pick up pupils who use it, and I don’t immediately try to change them. However, if my guts flip even a small amount as a result of the change in momentum when turning a corner or bend then I’m right on it, and they will learn how to steer using pull-push.
Is it OK to teach learners to ‘palm’ the wheel?
As I have repeatedly said, if someone is in control when they steer, how they do it is irrelevant. But if instructors are purposely teaching this as the default method to beginners, you have to ask the question ‘in God’s name, why?’ A decent instructor should not be teaching palming as a preferred steering method for beginners. There’s too much that can go wrong with it.
They used to fail people for ‘crossing hands’ when steering
I’m going to stick my neck out here, but no they bloody well didn’t”!
Crossing hands has not been an issue in itself for the 40 years I’ve been driving. The only time it is a problem is when the learner grips the wheel and turns from the shoulders. At some point – less than half a turn – their arms cross and they can’t steer any more, even though the corner probably needs at least another half turn of the wheel. That would be marked under steering control and could easily lead to failing a test.
The whole issue of not crossing hands comes from people who have misunderstood what their instructors told them, quite possibly because their instructor didn’t understand it, either.
How do you teach a pupil to steer properly?
It isn’t rocket science, so don’t lead your pupils to think it is. Teach them how to pull-push first, and then let them develop their own style from there. Pull-push requires fundamental skills that they can use in their own style. Let them practice with a large book or diary – if you have a dummy steering wheel, so much the better.
My pupil can’t steer in a straight line
This is usually because they are thinking way too hard about what their hands are doing. Some will even be looking at the car logo in the middle of the steering wheel as if that is going to help.
The important thing here is ‘let your hands follow your eyes’. The way I deal with it is like this. I find a big empty space – a car park at weekends or in the evening is usually a good bet. Then I point out a few landmarks, such as ‘that blue door’, ‘that chimney’, ‘the front of that lorry’, and so on. Then, I take control of the car using the dual controls and tell them to aim directly at whichever landmark I identify.
I get them to turn their heads and keep their eyes fixed on whatever I have pointed out to aim for, and not to look at their hands. We might stop to do a quick pull-push refresher using my diary as a steering wheel, then maybe practice it at very low speed, but we get back to aiming at the various targets. We might start by purposely driving in a figure-of-eight pattern, but that quickly becomes a rote action, so I then randomly start naming targets so they have to steer in directions – and to degrees – they decide for themselves.
How do I correct someone’s steering while they’re driving?
This is an actual search term used to find the blog. It might be necessary for an instructor to position the car correctly for a learner simply by holding the steering wheel and steering slightly from the passenger seat. The pupil can then zero in on their position relative to the kerb or white lines and learn from that.
How many turns is full lock?
This one gets a lot of hits. It varies from car to car. In my Ford Focus it is currently just over 1¼ turns either way, but in the previous model it was just under 1½ turns. One of my pupils had a car where it was nearly 2 whole turns. The easiest way of finding out is to try it – but don’t get hung up on it, because you need to steer enough to make the car go where it needs to go, and not worry about numbers.
Is full lock the same as one complete turn?
Full lock is when the steering wheel won’t turn any further. It will go “clunk” against the end stop. One turn is one turn. If full lock is more than one turn, then no, full lock and one turn are not the same.
How much do I need to steer?
You need to steer enough to make the car go where you want it to go, and not to hit things you want to avoid. Don’t get bogged down counting quarters or halves of turns of the wheel (except perhaps during some manoeuvres). Steer as much as you need to by watching where you’re going and making the car go there.
I steer too much on bends. Is this wrong?
The clue is in the question. Too much of anything is likely to be wrong. If you steer ‘too much’ on bends you are liable to clip the kerb or put too much sideways force on the car, which could lead to you spinning out or losing control (among other possible bad outcomes). So, yes. It is dangerous – and wrong.
What are typical steering mistakes made by learners?
In my experience, the following are all high on the list:
- looking at the steering wheel
- looking too close to the front of the car
- looking at the kerb
- not looking ahead
- being distracted by other things
- gripping the wheel too tightly
- not moving their hands when steering
- steering too much or too quickly
- steering too little or too slowly
The list is really endless, but not all learners make all these mistakes. Most pupils who have problems tend to major in just one of them. It’s their ‘thing’.
Whatever fault they are experiencing, it is important to identify the precise cause. It’s usually because of where they’re looking, or what they’re thinking about when it happens (fiddling with indicators is a classic example, or struggling with the gears).
My pupil keeps moving the steering wheel all the time, even on straight roads
It’s probably because they’re not looking far enough ahead. Learners tend to look just in front of the car, and react to things with jerky actions. An experienced driver will be looking well ahead, making minor steering corrections all the time to maintain a straight line. Since learners don’t see as far ahead to start with, they tend to drift closer to kerbs and centre lines, and only realise this later and so react in a jerky way. Trust me, if you ask your pupil to stare at something in the far distance – ‘that big tree’, ‘that bollard’, ‘the back of that lorry’, and so on – their steering nearly always becomes silky smooth immediately. Make sure you explain to them what just happened, and how to use it, otherwise some are likely to think that just staring at the back of any lorry is the solution to everything!
This is often where I park up and do my ‘perspective’ session. I sketch a horizon line, and build up a drawing of a road with buildings and pavements all meeting at the ‘vanishing point’. I explain that if they always aim for the vanishing point, they can’t possibly hit any of the buildings or pavements. There’s more explanation to it than this, but that’s the basics.
My pupil keeps taking one hand off the steering wheel
If they’re in control it doesn’t matter. They should try to keep two hands on the wheel, but dropping to one hand now and then isn’t a problem. It can even be a good exercise to get them to steer with one hand – their road position often improves dramatically, because they are concentrating more.
How can I practice steering?
Well, first of all, don’t overthink the subject. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a pupil who couldn’t steer within a few minutes – and certainly not within 20 minutes or so – so you shouldn’t worry too much about it.
Occasionally, I do get people who have an initial problem with pull-push steering if they’ve never done it before. What I do in those cases is whip out my diary, which is A4-sized, and get them to pull-push-pull one way, then the other. For many, it’s a bit like those wooden Chinese puzzles you get, where once you know the secret you can do it with your eyes shut. Once they get the hand movements for pull-push once, they’ve cracked it.
In the past, I’ve had pupils who have practiced at home using a dinner plate, and one even used the toy steering wheel one of her kids had. Years ago, one of my pupils used to practice parallel parking at home on the bed using a dinner plate (when I asked, she said she didn’t make the engine noises to go along with it). As long as you lock yourself in somewhere with the curtains drawn no one will laugh at you!
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.
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.