Diary Of An ADI

A Driving Instructor's Blog

COVID imageA potential COVID vaccine in Queensland, Australia, has been kicked out because… trial participants gave false positive test results for HIV – even though the trial coordinators had already suggested participants might produce antibodies that would do this.

You can only wonder if they’d have kicked it out for lower profile false positives. For flu, for example. Or Chickenpox. Or if it was more effective in men.

Just imagine. You might eventually have had a vaccine which was 100% effective against COVID. But because it gives a false positive for HIV – an automatic trigger for stupidity in the modern world – in the early stage trials, it is automatically designated 0% effective.

This world is mad. Really, it is.

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Pro Pod - map history viewOriginally published in 2014, but updated due to several recent enquiries.

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of people looking for test route information. Once upon a time, official test routes were published by DVSA (when it was still DSA) and available for download. They stopped publishing them in 2010, but that didn’t prevent people who had already downloaded them circulating them. In later years, certain unscrupulous instructors were even selling them at silly prices.

The major problem with test routes is that they change over time as DVSA adds new ones or removes others. They can even change on the day of the test for reasons such as roadworks or road closures. And unless they are being officially published you have no way of knowing if ones given to you are correct – or if someone has just cobbled together some old information into a crude list of road numbers and names and perhaps charged you a tenner for it. I can absolutely guarantee that many of those advertised on old-fashioned HTML websites are these original out-of-date lists.

You don’t really need to know the precise test routes used. All you need is a general awareness of key features where pupils might have problems.

It isn’t difficult to work out where the examiners go on driving tests, even without using technology. To start with, they’re never going to travel more than about 20 minutes away from the test centre in any direction, so all the roads leading to the test centre are going to be involved (minus motorways in most cases). If you know the examiners to look at, you’ll see them from time to time during your lessons, so you now know they use that road or location. You can also ask your pupils where they went after their tests, and although this can produce more confusion than it does answers, you might be able to extract a bit of useful information. The examiner will often give you some details in the debrief, especially where faults were committed. And finally, you can sit in on tests (when there isn’t a pandemic) and actually watch where they go. You can quickly work out which specific areas to concentrate on by putting all of this together into your lesson plans.

The best way, though, is to use some sort of tracking device, which logs the precise route taken by the car. These days, most satnavs have a feature which allows you to do this. Personally, I don’t like it because it tends to be tied in with the satnav software, or be satnav-specific. It can be a right pain trying to download it and manipulate it on standard mapping software. The other problem is that you’re unlikely to be able to leave it running while someone is out on test, because the examiner will be using theirs, and thinking back to my old satnav years ago, it didn’t always get a signal if it wasn’t stuck on the windscreen. I’m not saying they’re like that now, but they are designed to be used in that position – and not in the glove box.

Dashcams are another way. The better ones also record GPS data, though often you can only manipulate this within the camera manufacturer’s specific software.

Another solution is to use one of any number of apps for smartphones. These log routes in a format that mapping software understands. I’ve tried them, and they do work – with a few limitations. Firstly, you would need to leave your phone in the car when it went out on a test, meaning you’d be phoneless for the duration. A spare phone would work, but obviously this feature uses data, so you’d need a separate phone account. And when I tried them, the free versions of apps tended to be restricted to sample rates of 20-30 seconds – and that could mean a route through a junction and roundabout system might show as a straight line across a field or lake. If you wanted a 5 second sampling rate, you had to subscribe.Pro Pod - Hybrid map and satellite history view

My solution was to use a dedicated tracker. I use a ProPod tracker from Trackershop. It’s a small device the size of a matchbox, which I keep in the car, and I can use my phone, a laptop/PC, or a tablet to both watch where the pupil is when they’re on test (so I know when they’re nearly back), and to log test routes so I know where they’ve been. If I ever had to find a pupil after an abandoned test, I’d know exactly where they were (I’ve not used mine for that yet).

The picture at the top of this article shows an old test route for Chilwell Test Centre (click on the image for a larger view). This is my tracker dashboard view, with a specific historical time period displayed. The picture just above (click it for a larger image) is the same route with the map view enabled. You can zoom in to a level where individual pedestrians are visible.

The Trackershop cloud service keeps journey history permanently (as long as you have an active account), and you can download and edit data as necessary whenever you feel like it – you just need to to know the date and time of a past test, for example, then go and find that route in your dashboard. You can view data in real time, and watch the pointer moving every 5 seconds while your pupil is out on test – I find this useful for knowing when they are due back.

Pro Pod - KML file in Google EarthThe cloud data can be exported and downloaded. As well as GPS coordinates it also logs times, speeds, and postal addresses for every data point. The picture above (click it for a larger image) shows the same test route displayed as a KML file rendered in Google Earth (note that I had to physically extract the GPS data to create this, but it isn’t difficult if you know what you’re doing).

You don’t want to be doing your lessons across such precise routes – as I said earlier, they can change at short notice anyway. But they do give you an idea of where tests go.

Where can I download test routes?

You can’t. Not unless some ADI has recorded them and is publishing them independently.

Why don’t you provide your test route data?

A point of principle. DVSA stopped publishing them because instructors were trying to teach only the test routes. I know full well that that’s why people want the information, and I’m not going to go against DVSA. My logged routes are for my own use – I don’t stick to test routes on lessons, but I want to know where the routes are so I can deal with any weird stuff.

Should I pay for downloadable test routes?

My advice would be no. DVSA stopped publishing them for a reason, and if some smart aleck is trying to profit from selling them then he or she is behaving in an unprofessional manner. If you buy into that then you’re not much better. There’s a good chance you’re being sold old routes, anyway.

How do I know the routes I’ve bought are correct and up to date?

You don’t – and they’re probably not. They might be totally imaginary, or simply cobbled together to be reasonably close to actual routes in order that the unprofessional person selling them has some justification for the price they charged you. Judging by some of the ancient-looking sites that list them, they’re quite likely to be the original ones that they stopped publishing in 2010. As I said above, routes change with time.

Is it possible to record test routes?

Yes. There are free and paid for apps available for both Android and iPhone which use GPS to record journeys. Similarly, there are numerous GPS tracker devices available which do the same (I use a Pro Pod tracker). If you use a phone app, you have to leave your phone in the car, which raises various problems (if it is paired with your in-car audio system, for example), plus you can’t play Angry Birds at the test centre if you’re not sitting in.

You can also record routes using dashcams. As well as my tracker, I also have a dashcam recording all the time. On more than one occasion I have been able to show a pupil exactly where and why they failed, even though they had no idea what the examiner was talking about in the debrief.

Do I need to know the test routes for my test?

No. The examiner will give you directions as necessary, or ask you to follow the satnav or road signs. However, if there are one or two awkward features – big roundabouts, steep hills, or so on – then your instructor should know about them and make sure you know how to handle them well before your test.

How many test routes are there?

It varies from test centre to test centre, but there could be 10, 20, or more. You couldn’t possibly memorise all of them – and to be honest, even if you drove down your own street on your test the chances are that you might not notice! You will be nervous, and you will be concentrating. The last thing you want is to have to try and remember a detailed list of directions, then to start fretting if you think you might have forgotten something.

Can I use my tablet to log routes?

Potentially, yes. If it has a GPS chip inside, it doesn’t necessarily need to be connected to the internet or a phone network to log GPS positional data, though it would if you wanted to use it as a satnav. However, you’d need some software that could make use of the chip. It would also depend on your device’s specification as to how accurate the data were, but you’d still be able to get decent route maps – they just wouldn’t always be necessarily precisely lined up with the roads on maps you laid them on to. I understand they are accurate to around 6 metres or better.

From what I know of Apple iPads, only the more expensive ones with phone connectivity have GPS chips in them. The WiFi only ones don’t.

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

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

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

129

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

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

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

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

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

(b) in order to pass a stationary vehicle;

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

(d) in order to avoid an accident;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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DVSA logoUpdated again: A further DVSA email in mid-November ‘clarified’ the restart date. Another update today (see the end of this article) clarified it back to where it was the first time. I can’t be arsed to rewrite the whole article, so let’s leave it as a testament to how well the COVID pandemic is being managed.

DVSA has just sent out an email, which I suspect is intended to clarify things for those in this industry who find things more difficult to understand than most. I can’t see any other reason for it, since there’s nothing new in it.

In summary, it says:

The Government has announced new national restrictions will be in place in England from Thursday 5 November until Wednesday 2 December (inclusive) to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

Driving lessons in England

The Government has announced that during these dates, driving lessons should not take place in England.

What this means for driving tests

Further to the announcement from the Government, all driving tests in England will be suspended from Thursday 5 November and restart on Wednesday 2 December Thursday 3 December.

Critical workers tests and lessons

Given the short period of time the new restrictions will be in place, we will not be offering a critical worker priority service. We will keep this under review.

Waiting rooms in England

During the national restrictions in England we will also be pausing our plans to open up other waiting rooms in England until after 2 December.

There’s more words in the email, and a bit more information, so read the full message in the link at the start of this article. But this is the crux of it here. The strikethrough is the ‘clarification’ in the first update email.

Now let’s see what social media manages to pick out of this one to argue with. My money will be on that last one.

Update 1 December 2020: OK, I give up on this one. Another email has come through and apparently lessons CAN start again from 2nd December, unless you’re in Tier 3, where it is still the 3rd. Unlike most ADIs, I’m not blaming DVSA for this confusion. They originally said 2nd December, but the government ‘clarified’ it and it became 3rd December. Then we got the ‘tiers’ just to ‘clarify the situation even more’. Now we’re back to the 2nd. Or the 3rd.

It doesn’t affect me, anyway. I’m still holding out for either/both of a) the vaccine or b) infection rates similar to what we had during summer. With infections as they are right now, going out into the thick of it is only going to have one result – likely to end in another lockdown.

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

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

The Highway Code (HC) says this about roundabouts:

Rule 185

When reaching the roundabout you should

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

    Rule 186

    Signals and position.

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

  • signal left and approach in the left-hand lane
  • keep to the left on the roundabout and continue signalling left to leave

    When taking an exit to the right or going full circle, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise

  • signal right and approach in the right-hand lane
  • keep to the right on the roundabout until you need to change lanes to exit the roundabout
  • signal left after you have passed the exit before the one you want

    When taking any intermediate exit, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise

  • select the appropriate lane on approach to the roundabout
  • you should not normally need to signal on approach
  • stay in this lane until you need to alter course to exit the roundabout
  • signal left after you have passed the exit before the one you want

    When there are more than three lanes at the entrance to a roundabout, use the most appropriate lane on approach and through it.

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

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

    Unmarked Roundabouts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Marked Roundabouts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Schematic showing lanes crossing each other

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

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

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

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

    Are roundabouts classed as junctions?

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

    What are the signalling rules at roundabouts?

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

    What is the Highway Code 12 o’clock rule?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Use signals

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

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

    Should I always indicate to go straight ahead?

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

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

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

    Isn’t this Highway Code roundabout diagram wrong?

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

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

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

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

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

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

    But ‘the 12 o’clock rule’ works!

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

    Do you always position left for going straight ahead?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Which lane should I choose?

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

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

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

    • choose the appropriate lane or position on approach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What does ‘lane discipline’ mean?

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

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

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

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

    What do roundabout exit numbers mean?

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

    Does a satnav tell you which lane to use?

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

    What about service roads?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Why do other people signal if it’s wrong?

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

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

    What about these appendices to the Northern Ireland Highway Code?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What is ‘local knowledge’?

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

    How do I enter a gridlocked roundabout?

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

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

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

    What is a spiral roundabout?

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

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

    Why did I fail my test on roundabouts?

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

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    Christmas CardIt suddenly occurred to me today that Christmas is only about six weeks away. Come to think of it, I always realise this late every year without fail. And about now, I’d be buying my Christmas cards from Asda – and I’m thinking like last year, with just walking in and browsing as I usually do.

    This year, doing that among the nutjobs who are intent on spreading COVID as a result of their low IQs is a definite no-no, so it’s Amazon this time around. And I was surprised at what they had on offer. There’s even some pop-up ones, and I’ve never seen those in Asda before!

    I read today that the guy who bought HMV out last year has said:

    Look, the reality is – and obviously this didn’t happen – but if Amazon and the governments of the world sat down together and came up with a plan to give Amazon the best possible advantage, this would have been it…

    He’s darned right. But although I sympathise with him and all high street stores, the reality of the situation simply cannot be denied.

    I’ve never had any major issues buying from Amazon or anywhere else online. I buy what I want at the price I want, and if that means online – from Amazon or anyone else – then so be it. In the vast majority of cases, it is it. Better range, fast delivery (often less than 24 hours with Amazon if you order first thing), and better prices for many items (though not groceries, I admit).

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    MeowTalk from AkvelonMankind has this never-ending belief that animals have their own languages. There’s maybe a possibility with apes and monkeys, but when you start moving to different branches of the evolutionary tree, I think you’re stretching it a bit.

    The latest story is to do with a cat translator app – called MeowTalk – which aims to translate your cat’s meows into meanings.

    The article on the BBC website says:

    Research suggests that, unlike their human servants, cats do not share a language.

    Each cat’s miaow is unique and tailored to its owner, with some more vocal than others.

    Apparently, this isn’t seen as any sort of problem to the engineers who developed the app. But let’s be honest. It is. A big problem.

    We had a cat once where visual clues were far more important in knowing what she felt. If she hissed and drew up to 20mls of blood from you, she was happy – but now fed up with being stroked (she could become fed up anywhere from 5 seconds to 20 minutes after commencement of stroking, but there was no obvious way of knowing which one it was going to be on any given occasion). If she hissed and drew 40-50mls of blood, it meant that she didn’t want to take the tablet you were trying to give her, but which she’d swallowed voluntarily when the vet had demonstrated how to do it only yesterday. If she hissed and drew more than 50mls of blood, she didn’t want to be flea-treated. Sometimes, as you walked past her on a chair, and if she was in a playful mood, she’d lunge at your leg and draw varying amounts of blood depending on whether she hit a vein or an artery without making any sound at all.

    I don’t think they have an app for that, though if they did let me just say that ‘PsychoMeow’ is copyrighted.

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    I just had to get me one of these!

    I’ve been fascinated by drones for years, and always had plans to get one. They’re a tad expensive, I admit, but I saw that DJI were just about to release the Mini 2, and I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to get in on the ground floor. So I ordered the Fly More Combo pack through Amazon, and it came next day.

    The Mini 2 weighs just under 250g. When you fold out the four propeller arms and remove the gimbal (camera) cover, you’re ready to take off. Well, you are once you’ve set everything else up – which isn’t difficult at all.

    The kit comes with a remote control unit, and you need a smartphone to use it. You have to download the DJI Fly app and run through the setup process, which only takes a few minutes, but then you’re good to go.

    I wanted to be within the Law, so I went to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website and passed the necessary test to become an approved drone pilot (it’s free). That gave me my pilot/flyer number, which I’ve stuck on the side of my drone. It’s valid for three years. Technically, I didn’t need to do this for the Mini 2 as it weighs less than 250g – but only just, so I thought I may as well in case I upgrade at any point (in any case, the sticker I put on it with my flyer ID has probably taken it to 250-251g).  It only took about 15 minutes of revision to pick up some of the numbers about how close to people and buildings you should be, and that was that.

    The Mini 2 records at up to 4K video, so it is broadcast quality. You can alter the video quality down to HD, and change the frame rate, but 4K can record at up to 30fps. In HD, it goes up to 60fps. It doesn’t record automatically the moment you turn it on, and you select the function through the app as you’re controlling the drone. This is a sample of what I recorded recently, showing the three levels of zoom available at 4K.

    And this is an example of a slow pan at around 80m altitude.

    Incidentally, I was terrified of how well I’d be able to control it, so I made sure I was in a big field with nothing I might hit anywhere near me.

    The Fly Combo kit comes with three batteries, and each will give about 30 minutes of flying time. You also get a spare set of propellers (4 x 2) and screwdriver to replace them with. A spare set of propellers (if you needed one) currently costs £11 from DJI, so no big problem. The thing is, they are very fragile, and if you were to let them hit anything then they could easily shatter. I think they’re made from carbon fibre, but they are very light.

    Control is smooth and easy. You’re not going to fly into things unless you’re a total klutz. You can buy propeller protectors if you’re worried, anyway. When hovering, it is rock-steady up to Beaufort Scale 5 (fresh breeze). You can also get a 1-2 year accidental damage warranty, which is offered when you sign up to the app during registration – and I recommend doing it, just in case. It isn’t expensive.

    The Mini 2 has a range of 4km (4,000m), but you should never let a drone out of your sight, and in the UK you’re limited to 120m (400 feet) altitude and how close you can get to people.

    If you’re buying someone a Christmas present – and if you’re going to splurge, as opposed to buying them socks or deodorant – this is the way to go! It is brilliant fun, with the bonus of superb quality video.

    As I say, these samples were taken in a field not too close to buildings when I was out testing it just after I got it. It’s a great experience flying it around, seeing it ascend and descend, and race around a large open space. But it is also good for stable stuff – checking the pointing on chimney stacks, for example. Once we’re out of COVID, I’ve got lots of plans for where I want to fly it.

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    I should point out that DJI drones are probably the best you can get (certainly one of the best), but there is a plethora of cheaper drones that are ideal for kids or those on a smaller budget. This is just a sample.

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