A Driving Instructor's Blog

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Dumped baby rabbitSomeone dumped a baby rabbit in Bestwood. Its mother died, but it was rescued. It’s the cutest little thing.

Knowing Bestwood and its denizens, I’m surprised they dumped the rabbit. Most of them would have eaten it – and the box it was in, as well.

And I promise to stop posting this sort of cutesy stuff. If I’m not careful, I’ll be posting blurred selfies of me with a trout-pout.

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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’ve noticed that the newspapers are increasingly relying on “selfie” photos when they’re reporting on various stories. It must save them a fortune being able to harvest pictures from social media pages operated by the people they’re writing about instead of having to send a reporter out and take an actual photograph.A selection of Googled selfies

What bugs me about selfies is that they always involve an identical pose by the immature and socially inept female being written about. It occurred to me that there might be a market for a selfie kit, consisting of some oversized plastic lips and a pair of clip-on doe eyes. The image above is a collection of the first photos which come up when you Google the word “selfies” (just out of interest, you have to scroll quite a way down to find any male selfies).

I don’t use Facebook much (or Twitter – and I don’t use any of the other social networking sites at all), but the fact that I have an account means that I get almost daily spam alerting to me to people “who I might know”. It’s quite spooky that a lot of the time I actually DO know them. And all of the females have their albums plastered with these bloody pictures – every single one of them conforming to the same contrived pose. And none of the ones I know look anything like they do in their selfies.

It was while I was looking for pictures of fake plastic lips pictures and clip-on doe eyes that I discovered someone got in there before me, albeit in a different way – and this might easily explain why so many of these pictures look the same. It turns out you can buy suction devices which are designed to make bigger pouts! One listing on eBay contains no fewer than 20 photos showing such a device, how to use it, and the results you apparently get – including a load of selfies.Lip pout developer

It says that you might suffer bruising, which isn’t surprising. Basically, it’s the equivalent of a love bite (or hickey). And you look a complete prat while you’re using it.The lip sucker in use

It suddenly reminded me of something that happened when I was about six. You used to be able to buy a cough sweet called Zubes which, if my memory is correct, were strange grey-coloured lozenges with black centres (like a sugar pill which had then been sugar coated). I have mixed memories of them tasting bloody horrible, since they contained Aniseed (which I hate), but with an animated TV advert featuring a horse, I think, and the strap line “go suck a Zube”. It seems you can still get them, but they come in a bag now. But back in those days they came in a sturdy round metal tin. One day, and in typical six-year old fashion, I was playing with an empty tin and I remember putting it over my mouth and sucking so that it stuck to my face. Also in typical six-year old fashion, I kept it there for some time.  When I eventually released the vacuum I almost shit myself when I saw that my lips were about four times bigger than before. They stayed like that for an hour or two, though I was firmly convinced I was going to look like Mick Jagger forever.The original Zubes tin

Back then, a selfie – if anyone had been inclined to waste the limited number of potential shots on their roll of film – would have required a trip to the chemists with a Kodak cartridge, and the certain knowledge that 80% of your pictures wouldn’t “come out” when you went to pick them up a week later, because the Instamatic you’d used could only focus on objects between 2 metres and ∞, and those that did would show pretty much everything except your face (blurred thumbs, trees, next door’s cat, and so on).

It’s also worth noting that the standard selfie is taken from a slightly elevated perspective in order to also take in an exaggerated cleavage. There are plenty of well-documented ways of enhancing that part of the body already, so we only need to focus on the lips and eyes part. I am convinced that many selfie poses have been Photoshopped to make the person’s eyes look bigger. It’s so easy to do.Embiggening the eyes and lips

And it’s even easier when you consider that there are dozens of apps out there which are specifically designed to enlarge the eyes in selfie images! Better still, there are apps to enlarge the lips, too. That was something else I discovered while I was writing this.

In a nutshell, it seems that the reason all those selfies look the same is that the idiots posting them actually HAVE taken steps to enlarge their lips and their eyes.

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The story below is from 2009. A more recent one (January 2016), which has generated renewed interest in the subject, suggests that scientists have found a way to make the old-style bulb more energy efficient (better than LEDs). I should point out – since the Daily Mail skims over it – that it is only “proof of concept”. Such bulbs are not being manufactured yet, and I would suggest that they are years away – and they may not even make it to market. For one thing, they will still “burn out”, whereas LED bulbs don’t.


The Daily Mail has outdone itself – and that’s really saying something where this middle-class rag is concerned. The humble incandescent light bulb has been around for nearly 200 years (or 130 years if you believe that Thomas Edison invented them first). It’s a long time by any standard.Incandescent light bulb

The typical filament-based light bulb is extremely inefficient – most of the energy used to power it is wasted as heat, and they don’t last very long. The 40 watt bulb my desk lamp used to take typically lasts a couple of months before I hear the familiar ‘plink’ when I try to turn it on. However, the fluorescent energy-saving bulb I switched to had been in for almost a year and no problems at all. Of course, fluorescent bulbs only use around a fifth of the energy that an incandescent one needs to get the same light output.

The EU has determined that incandescent bulbs will be phased out by 2012, and the UK has targeted 2011 – by which time retailers will only be offering energy-saving versions to customers. The move would save something like $12bn (£8bn) a year throughout the EU , and cut down massively on greenhouse gas emissions.

The problem here is the term ‘ EU ‘. You see, any time the letters ‘e’ and ‘u’ appear next to each other in that order is guaranteed to turn the Mail’s hacks apoplectic with rage. This is then quickly followed by a Zimmer frame frenzy as the Mail’s Tory-voting readers jump on the bandwagon. This light bulb situation is a prime example. I mean, how dare those damned Johnny Foreigners try and tell we True Brits what to do? This is the Mail’s approach to just about everything: oppose Europe, and blame Europe. For everything (after you’ve blamed Tony Blair (yes, even after all this time), the Labour party, and anyone or anything else you don’t like) . It’s one reason why we’re still bloody well stuck with an antiquated weights and measures fiasco, when the Metric System is sitting there just begging to be used. It’s also why we’re not in the Euro (€) like we should be.

But anyway, the Mail published the story back in 2009 and said it had bought something like 50,000 of these bulbs to give away to punters. It has changed its tune a bit the next day due to being overwhelmed by middle-class morons anxious for a freebie and has had to limit its offer.

But never one to give up on an anti-Europe crusade, the Mail then embarked on a crusade against energy-saving bulbs (a further push was made in the print version of the paper).LED light strip

To be honest, fluorescent bulbs are not the future. LED is the way to go.

Maplin Electronics (or loads of sellers on eBay) sell a range of flexible, high-brightness LED strips . I’m using one right now to light my computer desk – they operate off 12V and have a power consumption of about 2.5W (that’s less than a quarter of what a fluorescent bulb needs). And they have a lifetime of 100,000+ hours ( over 11 years ) continuous operation.

LED light bulb

You can also buy LED bulbs with a standard screw or bayonet fitting to run from  a standard light socket. When I wrote this article back in 2009 they were still quite expensive – something like £25 each – but I predicted that the price would fall. As of January 2016 you can pick them up for little more than £3 and considering that each will last for perhaps 50 years if run for 6 hours a day I don’t think that this is a bad price.

As I mentioned at the start of this updated article, scientists in America have produced incandescent bulbs in the lab which are more efficient than LED ones. It strikes me as an odd thing to do – it’s like trying to make a steam engine fly in spite of all the drawbacks associated with steam engines!

Incandescent bulbs have more issues than just being inefficient. They’re fragile, and the filament gets very hot so it inevitably burns out. From what I have read, I would expect the modified bulbs to burn out even quicker.

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I’ve mentioned before that Nottingham City Council (NCC) seems to be out to ruin this city. Nottingham is filthy. There is litter everywhere, the roads are full of potholes, and white lines are barely visible on most of them. Designs for new office buildings only seem to be acceptable if they’re submitted in wax crayon by local children, and no new building is permitted to bear even the slightest resemblance to any previously approved design, even if the two are going to be adjacent (or even connected) to one another. Symmetry is out, and the non-glass parts are painted in light colours which look dirty after the first storm (magnolia seems to be the favourite choice), and which start to peel after a year or so. Many have gaudy plastic facades designed to fade dramatically on first exposure to sunlight or pigeon shit. The preferred asymmetry provides ample nesting space for pigeons, who move in before the tenants do. Buildings are only let to companies which allow their employees to stick crap all over the windows on the inside. And at least 80% of any new builds must be student accommodation.Twenty's Plenty signage

But this still isn’t enough for them.

A while back I wrote about the NCC’s proposals for a “blanket” 20mph speed limit on urban roads. I made the point that 20mph is far too slow in most places.

In the absence of any clear reason for introducing them so widely, NCC came up with the following idiotic list:

  • streets more cycle and pedestrian friendly
  • greater community ownership of streets and parks
  • improved air quality
  • safer road junctions
  • reduced traffic noise
  • minimal effect on journey times
  • potential reduction in number and severity of accidents

As you can see, in NCC’s eyes 20mph limits are pretty much able to turn base metals into gold. In reality, these reasons range from the stupid (i.e. “community ownership”) to the downright wrong (driving at 20mph instead of 30mph may result in 8% fewer emissions, but the car is present for 30% more time; and journey times take 30% longer). However, at the time it was merely “a proposal” – which is council prat-speak for something which has already been decided, and it was only after they realised that they’d better do it properly that “a formal consultation” was arranged. I duly completed this and sent it back.

Before I continue, let’s understand that 20mph speed limits directly outside schools make perfect sense. But virtually anywhere else – and I include many roads quite near schools, and certainly sixth form colleges (where the attendees are technically adults) and shopping areas – they are completely unnecessary. They’re yet another manifestation of the nanny-state mentality of the very naive people who worm their way into politics and highly-paid council jobs.

What I didn’t realise when I completed the consultation was that identical ones tailored by area were being conducted in many other locations. More on that later.

Now, no one in their right mind – and especially if they drive a car – would ever agree to a blanket 20mph speed limit on roads. On the other hand, the kind of people whose brains turned to mush the instant they became parents, those who don’t (or can’t) drive, and certain people with a spandex fetish who favour two wheels would quite probably agree to it without question. It would not surprise me in the least to discover that the council deliberately targeted these groups when it sent out its consultations, but even if it didn’t I would be extremely dubious about the council’s claims concerning the response. As I say, they had already decided to introduce 20mph speed limits, and even if 100% of respondents were against the idea it wouldn’t have changed things.

Bearing this in mind, here is the council response sent out a few weeks ago announcing the “result”:

Dear Sir / Madam,

Having provided feedback as part of the formal consultation process previously I am now writing to inform you of the decision made by the Portfolio Holder of Planning and Transportation regarding the 20mph speed limit proposals for the [named] area.

The consultation period for these proposals ran from the 1st November 2013 and concluded on the 22nd November 2013 and the advertisement ran from the 15th October 2014 to the 12th November 2014. All comments and objections received during this time were forwarded to the Portfolio Holder for Planning and Transportation to enable a final decision to be made on the future of the scheme. All of this information has now been considered by Councillor Urquhart and on balance it was decided that the scheme be approved and implemented accordingly.

All A and B roads in the area will remain at their existing speed limits. This includes the [named road], [named road], [named road] and [named road]. Please see the enclosed plan which shows these roads highlighted in black. Furthermore all private roads will retain their existing limits. Please be assured that we will continue to monitor accidents on all roads within the area and consider additional road safety measures where appropriate.

All remaining roads on the attached plan will be included in the 20mph speed limit.

Yours sincerely,

The Road Safety Team

Just to clarify: the “Portfolio Holder for Planning and Transportation” is Jane Urquhart. I’ve mentioned her before, and I will mention her again when I get on to the subject of the tram and other road works in subsequent articles.

The idiots had already started introducing 20mph speed limits before the consultation was even initiated, and I am certain that it was negative public reaction to these suddenly springing up which made them decide that they’d better “consult” over it. They started putting in those traffic monitoring devices on all the roads where they planned to cut the limits. The supposed purpose of this was to try and fit real data into the RoSPA guidelines for where 20mph limits are recommended, one of which is that roads should already have average speeds below a certain level. The irony here was that the council’s complete and utter incompetence over the tram extension and “ring road improvements” had already caused virtual gridlock throughout the city, and any average speed measured now was completely non-representative of normal traffic flows. Many of the roads being monitored were at a standstill for large parts of the day during the monitoring period, whereas previously they had been free-flowing. In summary:

  • the council was going to introduce a blanket 20mph limit anyway
  • following criticism, it set out to retrospectively obtain data to support that decision
  • the data were flawed since they did not represent normal traffic flows
  • the council made the the decision that it was going to make in the first place

I was only aware of the changes in my area, and I hadn’t allowed for the size of the “blanket” the imbeciles were planning to throw over the city. Having ignored (I am sure) true public response, as of March 2015 it is impossible to drive for more than a few minutes without encountering a 20mph zone. And this is where the unforeseen problems arise.

First of all, drivers only discover that a road in any area outside the one they were “consulted” about has a 20mph limit imposed by driving on it – and only then if they notice the signs. For someone like me, who (and I don’t mean this to sound big-headed) is an experienced professional driver, it comes as a bloody great surprise to turn into a road I have driven hundreds of times before only to discover it is now 20mph, and I will not disguise the fact that I have been caught out several times – including on lessons – where roads that were 30mph in the morning (and had been for the last 30 years) were suddenly 20mph in the afternoon. God only knows how other drivers will handle it (and judging by how many of them overtake me and my pupils every day, we have a good idea on what the answer to that one might be).

Secondly, their stupid “blanket” has a lot of holes in it. If you take North Gate/Haydn Road in Basford/Carrington/Sherwood as an example (a single straight road about a mile long), you encounter a 20mph sign as you turn in, a 30mph sign at the first junction, a 20mph sign a few hundred metres after the second junction, and a 30mph sign at the end. If you turn off into any side street while you’re on the 30mph stretch then you encounter a 20mph sign. A more complex route on several roads – turning left, right, left, right, and so on – can easily present a speed limit change at virtually every turn. It is dangerous beyond belief.

Then there is the appalling inconsistency of the signage. NCC – being peopled by idiots similar to those I used to work for – appears to have separate highways departments for putting up the big signs (at the start of a zone), putting up the posts they’re fitted to, putting up the small repeater signs (which appear throughout the zone), and for removing the old ones. In almost every case they erected the repeater signs before the main ones, and they didn’t take the old ones down immediately. On The Wells Road, for example, the old 30mph sign just after Ransom Road remained for several weeks after all the others had been put up (and it might still be there, as I haven’t been that way for a while). Similarly, on many roads it was weeks before the main signs went up after the repeaters had. There was absolutely no coordination and no haste. The Wells Road example (and it wasn’t the only one I encountered) caused massive confusion for my pupils on several lessons until I realised what they had done.

The “blanket” – however many holes it has in it – is huge, and the number of new signs required must run into the thousands. Apart from the cost, and the already mentioned confusion for drivers at the myriad changes on a once simple journey, the chances of there being a signage error are now that much greater.

To the best of my knowledge, the police have said that they will not enforce these limits. They hardly have enough personnel to enforce the existing ones, so covering these 20mph ones is pretty much a non-starter. But if they did, the danger created by having drivers forever on guard for the next change would be enormous.

The icing on the cake is that, certainly at the present, the “blanket” policy only applies to the city area – the boroughs haven’t applied it. Now, don’t think that “city” means a small circle in the middle and “borough” means a bigger one outside. Nottingham’s boundaries are far from symmetrical, and Clifton – which is about 5 miles from the centre – falls within the city limits, whereas West Bridgford – half the distance away from the centre – is part of a borough. Furthermore, unless you have a suitable map, you would never know where one boundary ends and another begins, as they are political and not geographical. None of West Bridgford’s side streets are marked as 20mph, but virtually all the city ones (and many of the larger roads) are. This detail means that the chance of meeting multiple or confusing speed limits on a short journey is higher still.

Then we come back to the matter of 20mph as a speed in its own right. It is too slow. It is not easy to adhere to it in the first place on a wide and clear road – even if you’re trying – and especially not over extended distances. If you drop below it by a couple of mph, half of the drivers in the city are trying to get past or sounding their horns at you (and although they are still in the wrong, you can understand their frustration). If the police ever did enforce it, they would catch a lot of people who weren’t actually “speeders”, but who were still technically speeding. Assuming that the they followed the ACPO guidelines of 10% + 2mph, a speed of 24mph would get you a ticket, but from what I can gather Nottinghamshire police do not use the ACPO guidelines. That means even 22mph could get you a ticket, points, and perhaps a ban if you’re a new driver who has already got one violation against your name. I have no doubt that at some stage we will see the tap on this particular cash cow turned on, especially since very few people appear to be making even the slightest attempt to stick to 20mph in these areas. NCC will be anxious to avoid having to do a u-turn over its policy, so enforcement is the next logical step for them.

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Someone found the blog with this first question.

If my driving test is cancelled, can my instructor still charge for the lesson/car hire?

Unfortunately, there is no law which says your instructor cannot do this (that I’m aware of, anyway). However, if he or she tries it then they are the biggest scumbag in the history or the world, so dump them and find one who isn’t a crook. And make sure you tell your friends so they don’t end up using the same instructor.

If a test is cancelled by DVSA, it is beyond your control. You should not have to pay extra as a result.

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I’ve been watching a big argument on a web forum on the subject of when to use your indicators, and when not to. There are some very confused people out there!Night lights

The general rule is that you should signal whenever it would help another road user, including pedestrians, to understand your intentions. Unfortunately, too many instructors seem to be hung up on trying to find reasons not to indicate just to show how clever they are, and they lose sight of everything else.

Using a simple example, when you are moving off from the side of the road or pulling over you should check your mirrors/blind spots and decide if a signal is needed. Although a PDI who was doing their Part 2 test would probably pick up a fault if they signalled when no one was there, learners on their driving tests almost certainly wouldn’t as long as they had checked their mirrors first. At the other extreme, not signalling to move off/pull over when someone is behind you is almost a guaranteed serious or dangerous fault.

Unfortunately, many ADIs appear incapable of dealing with things which aren’t cast in stone, and strive for all-encompassing “rules” to teach to their pupils. As a result, some will advise their learners to always signal whenever they move off or pull up. This is wrong, even though the examiners will nearly always let it go if the correct observations have been made and any other traffic allowed for. Personally, I always teach my own pupils to signal only if there is a need – it gets them checking their mirrors – although some will fall back towards signalling when it isn’t really needed as their lessons progress. I don’t really have a problem with that… as I say, as long as they have checked their mirrors first.

When it comes to turning left or right at junctions, though, the confusion really takes hold. Neither The Essential Skills or Roadcraft state explicitly that you must signal for every junction, but neither state explicitly that you might not need to, either. So what many ADIs do is attempt to apply the guidance given for moving off/pulling over to turning at junctions solely on the basis that the indicators are involved. As a result they usually end up teaching incorrect or inappropriate things. Let’s consider some examples to try and understand what should be taught.Car indicator cluster

To start with, learners should be taught to use the MSM routine (and not the IPSGA routine mentioned in Roadcraft). This is where the “experts” who begin to dissect DT1 get the whole thing badly wrong.

MSM is specifically mentioned in the Highway Code several times, and it stands for “mirrors-signal-manoeuvre”  (acronym collectors will also use MSPSL (mirrors-signal-position-speed-look), MSPSGL (mirrors-signal-position-speed-gear-look), MSPSLADA (mirrors-signal-position-speed-look-assess-decide-act), or any number of similar variants). The basic application of this is that on approaching a junction the driver should check their mirrors (M) and signal (S) in good time (though not too early), adjust their position (P) and speed (S) – which usually involves dropping into a lower gear (G) – look (L) at the junction as they get closer, assess the situation (A), make a decision about how to proceed (D), then act confidently (A) and complete the manoeuvre.

The vital detail here is that the signal stage is initiated long before the point at which the driver could be certain that there was no one around to benefit from it. By definition, and except in the most theoretical of situations which are unlikely to prevail in the real world, you would only know that the signal was unnecessary way after the point at which you should have signalled for you to be anywhere near applying MSM properly. Any learner who delayed applying their signal for that long – and particularly if it then turned out that one was needed after all – would definitely be chasing down a test fail.

Now, if you had such an imaginary junction which was in the middle of a vast, flat expanse of closely-cropped grassland where you could see for many hundreds of metres in all directions as you approached it, and you could therefore be completely and utterly certain that you were the only road user around, then there would be absolutely no point in giving a signal to turn left or right. The problem is that 99.9% of junctions are not like that at all (especially when they’re on test routes), so there is little point droning on and on about the remaining 0.1% (which are probably located in the Outer Hebrides anyway, even if they exist outside the American prairies or African savannah). In the real world you will have reduced visibility due to parked cars, buildings, hedges and trees, your own limitations, and so on, so there is always a significant possibility that someone is around the corner who you haven’t seen yet, and who needs to know what you are doing. This detail alone dictates that you should signal when turning left or right.Indicator dashboard light

Then there is the question of how close another driver has to be before they enter the very vague “zone”, where you and your actions are likely to interfere with theirs. Let me give an example of that.

Imagine that I am at Point A on a major road and I see someone emerging several hundred metres in front of me as I’m driving along. On the one hand, the fact that they have pulled out is of no consequence, because I am so far back that I haven’t got to slow down for them. However, on the other hand, their signals are of significant value to me (though many drivers on our roads may not even see the other car emerging that far off, let alone have any interest in what signals it is giving) since they will enable me to plan my next actions and react accordingly. Now flip the scenario around, so that it is me who is emerging, and another driver is approaching from that same Point A several hundred metres away. From my point of view, if I try to be clever I might easily decide that that other car is too far away to benefit from a signal (which he probably is), or I could think many moves ahead and realise that he might want to know what I am doing. In other words, the “zone” is a huge grey area which varies depending on the skills of the driver(s) and where the the drivers are observing things from. The whole situation is far too complicated to expect learners to be able to take in all the nuances and make a decision about whether to signal or not quickly enough to prevent more obvious confusion right next to them.

The information in DT1, The Essential Skills, and quite possibly Roadcraft, does not specifically refer to turning at junctions. It refers very specifically to general signalling when changing your road position, etc. That is because MSM covers junctions, as I have described above. Yes, you use MSM when changing direction, as well, but you do not have the same issues with knowing if it is clear that you do with junctions.

I’ve lost count of the times one of my pupils has approached a junction or roundabout, seen that it is apparently clear while they’re a few car lengths short of the line, gone for the emerge – only for me to have to use the dual controls because someone else has suddenly turned up. They have made their decision too early, and it happens far too often to be able to justify teaching them to behave like smart arses just because an ADI has misunderstood Roadcraft or something. Quite simply, when pupils don’t signal it is far more likely that they have forgotten, not looked properly, or are just being lazy. The possibility that between the last time I saw them a week ago and today they have somehow acquired X-ray vision, the gift of prescience, and 30 years of driving experience along with RoSPA and IAM certificates (and the ego which goes with them) is quite a long way down the list. The thing about learners is just that: they’re learners.

While we’re on the subject, I’ve also lost count of the times a pupil of mine has emerged somewhere without checking properly (and I have, and seen that it is safe, which is why I’ve let them do it), and when I’ve pulled them over to discuss it they’ve said:

But there was no one else there!

This immediately earns the lecture about how they couldn’t possibly know that if they hadn’t looked properly, and especially if they couldn’t actually see – which in most cases they couldn’t at the point where they made their decision to go. The lecture works even better if they do it and there is someone coming, because then I can give my supplementary “I told you so” lecture, as well. It often helps to drive them slowly through the junction again with me doing the controls so that they can see how far away they were from being able to see clearly, and how close to the give way line they really needed to be before making a decision.

The whole debate about not signalling at junctions for learners is stupid, pointless, and dangerous. Leave it to the anoraks at IAM and RoSPA – and even they cannot agree on it when it comes to awarding their certificates.

What is MSM?

It stands for “mirrors-signal-manoeuvre”, and it is the procedure you should use whenever you are driving and want to change course or direction. You don’t just use it for turning corners.

Some people refer to it by other acronyms – MSPSL, MSPSLADA, MSPSGL, and so on (as I explained above). But it is the same procedure they are talking about. Note that MSM is not the same as IPSGA, which is the system mentioned in Roadcraft. Roadcraft is the police drivers handbook and it is absolutely not intended to be the primary source of training material for normal drivers. Unfortunately, many ADIs have ideas well above their station and are incapable of understanding this, and try to teach too many Roadcraft-only principles to people who can’t even steer yet.

MSM is only a guiding principle. You often need to supplement the first M with blind spot and/or shoulder checks, and in the case of the S a signal may or may not be required depending on the circumstances.

Should I always signal when I am moving off?

Technically, no. You should check all around and only signal if there is someone there to benefit from it. People who might benefit include pedestrians and cyclists as well as other drivers. However, as long as you have checked you are unlikely to be penalised on your test for signalling to move away if there is no one there. Personally, I teach my own pupils the correct way from the outset, but as long as they have checked that it’s safe, and as long as they signal just before they move off (and not before they’re ready to go), I don’t worry about it too much.

Should I always signal when I am pulling up?

Same as I explained above. Technically, no. But be careful if you decide to do it anyway, because there is now the risk of signalling too early and so being marked for a poorly timed signal (i.e. if there is a junction on your left) which isn’t an issue when you’re moving off.

How do I tell if someone will benefit or not?

This is why the whole issue is not as black or white as some would like it to be. For example, if there is a car parked in front of you as you move to pull up alongside the kerb, and there is someone in it, your signal would benefit them by informing them of your intentions. But can you be certain there is someone actually in the car? Sometimes you can see them, but other times – and particularly when there is poor lighting – you can’t be sure. So if in any doubt, just use a signal.

Should I signal if I’m in a lane which only goes one way?

Technically, there is no need to signal if the lane you’re in has a left- or right-only arrow painted on it. However, sometimes people use these lanes incorrectly and giving a signal might make sense (remember that when a signal is “of benefit to other road users”, it doesn’t just mean the good ones). As long as you don’t mislead or confuse anyone, you shouldn’t be penalised for indicating in these situations.

When should I give the signal?

It needs to be properly timed and not misleading. If you’re going to give a signal for moving off, do it just after you release the handbrake (just before is OK, but I prefer just after). Don’t start signalling before you’ve even got the car into gear – it drives me mad when my pupils do that. Leaving the indicator on for too long is confusing to other road users. Signalling should be the last thing you do before you move away after you’ve made sure it is safe to go.

When pulling up, don’t signal too soon such that people might think you are turning left, or that you are going to stop sooner than you are.

Will I fail if I always signal to move off or pull up?

No, not if you have checked to see if it is safe first. However, signalling unnecessarily when moving off or stopping is technically wrong, so try to do it properly instead of just trying to play safe.

Should I always signal when I am turning left or right at a junction?

You should be using the MSM routine, and this means that you should be signalling to turn left or right long before you find out if anyone was in the road you are turning into. So the answer is pretty much yes – unless you have one of those magical open junctions that everyone seems to think of when they start getting confused about signals, or if you want to play Russian Roulette with the examiner on your test.

But what if I can see that there is no one around to benefit?

Look, it’s up to you. If you are 100% certain – and I mean really 100% – that there is no possibility of someone turning up even when you’re back at the point where you should have begun your MSM routine, then there really is no need to signal. But what have you got to lose by signalling for a left or right turn anyway? Except in the Magical World of perfectly flat and featureless landscapes you are unlikely to be able to guarantee no one will turn up, and it won’t be marked if you do signal (even if it was it would only attract a driver (minor) fault). On the other hand, if you choose not to and the examiner disagrees that a signal was unnecessary you’re chasing down a serious fault. Don’t be a smart arse, and especially not on your driving test!

Should I signal to overtake a bus?

It depends. If it is clear ahead and you’re travelling at a normal speed, and if the bus has only just stopped, a signal probably isn’t needed. Anyone following can see what you’re going to do, and the bus driver is dealing with his pick up and wouldn’t benefit from your signal.

If the bus has been stopped for a while, there is an increasing likelihood that he will want to move off. A signal would inform the bus driver of your intentions, and if he is even partly a good driver he will wait until you’ve passed. Just allow for the fact that a lot of bus drivers aren’t even partly good drivers, and may well move off as you are passing, so be prepared to stay calm and get past promptly and safely.

If you’ve had to slow down or stop behind the bus to wait for oncoming traffic, and then intend to pass the bus when it becomes clear, a signal for traffic following you becomes important. It warns them that you are going to overtake, so they ought not to try to overtake you and the bus together. Allow for the fact that some drivers will still go for it – BMW and Audi drivers especially, because they have go-fast pratmobiles that can accelerate quickly.

If there are pedestrians or other road users around who look like they’re going to try and cross the road, a signal would benefit them, and that would apply even in the first case I mentioned.

Essentially, if there is anyone who would benefit from a signal, then give one. But still be careful.

Should I just signal anyway to be on the safe side?

It depends. If you mean just blindly signal so you don’t have to check the road properly, then it is just a cop-out, and one which could get you in serious trouble if you miss something important. On your driving test, examiners are quite relaxed about unnecessary signals, but they will nail you to the wall if you miss a mirror or blind spot check, or if your signal is confusing.

If you have checked, and still signal even if you really don’t need to, then that’s not so important unless it is confusing to other road users.

What if the test in question is my ADI Part 2 test?

Signalling unnecessarily can be marked as a fault on the Part 2 test. You certainly want to be doing it properly when moving off and pulling over, but trying to be clever at junctions by not signalling might backfire.

As far as turning left or right at junctions is concerned on your Part 2, if you have one of these magical open junctions on your test routes you need to get advice from your trainer and/or the examiner(s) who take ADI tests in your area to find out what is expected. The examiners would be more than happy to advise you.

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I’ve mentioned many times – most notably, in the About Me page – how I had to put up with increasingly moronic policies and attitudes when I worked in the rat race. I’ve also written frequently about how society is on a continuous downward slope as things which were once illegal or taboo became almost normal – in some cases, actually encouraged. There is no longer any fitting punishment for many types of criminal behaviour, and I’ve commented many times on examples of bad driving where the perpetrators have almost literally got away with murder.

When I was young, you knew the difference between right and wrong. Your parents taught it to you, and even if they didn’t the threat of arrest and prosecution was a powerful deterrent to the vast majority of people who, thanks to their ineffectual parents, were missing a chromosome and who would otherwise have run amok. Every few generations some scumbag like Hitler (or Stalin, or Saddam Hussein) would appear and threaten society, but society (or nature) would eventually manage to deal with the issue.

Recently, Boris Johnson – a guy who I actually quite like in spite of his unfortunate political allegiance – has been getting a lot of bad press over some comments he made about jihadists. It turns out what he actually said was considerably more graphic than what the paper publications dared to publish. In print, he appeared to merely allude to jihadists being “wankers”. In fact, that’s exactly what he called them.

Let’s remind ourselves for a moment what these jihadists have been guilty of over the last couple of years. This year alone, they have beheaded two Japanese hostages. Last year they beheaded French, Australian, and American hostages. There are stories of monkey-see-monkey-do jihadists in primitive countries beheading children simply because they are Christian. And the most recent gut-churning episode sees the burning alive of a Jordanian pilot they captured.

They are the lowest of the low. Scum. Murderers. Loved by no God – whatever name He might go by. They’re worse than Hitler and Stalin by a long chalk. And they’re cowards who hide under a group name instead of being personally accountable for their insane public antics.

I think Boris Johnson was much, much nearer to the mark than the do-gooders who are on his case are capable of realising.

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