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Halfords To Commence Hosting Of Driving Tests

An email alert from the DSA says that Halfords has been given the “green light for driving tests”. I wish they’d word the headlines properly so that it doesn’t lead to confusion!

Halfords LogoHalfords is NOT going to be providing driving tests, and the spotty oiks who hang around out back smoking roll-ups (and who all have modded Corsas parked outside) are NOT going to be climbing inside the car with you to decide whether you pass or fail. It will be DSA examiners just like it is now.

What is happening is that Halfords is going to be used as the start and finish point for driving tests (instead of it being a purpose-built test centre). It is commencing from Tuesday 5 February in Wellingborough.

All that the email says is that other branches around the country are expected to be offering tests in the coming months. It doesn’t say ALL of them, and it doesn’t say when.

I can’t see the need for Nottingham to do it, for example, when it already has two test centres (as well as something in the pipeline concerning “Clifton Campus” – part of Trent University).

The Crassest Parents On The Planet

This one appeared on the newsfeeds today. Up in Scotland, an example of the crassest parents imaginable filmed their 7-year old daughter driving the family BMW.

You can view an original YouTube clip here, although I don’t think this is THE original. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the parents who posted it in the first place haven’t pulled it down now, having realised what a deep pile of shit they’ve gotten themselves into.

The girl is clearly not wearing a seatbelt. She appears to be controlling the pedals herself, though the news article says she’s on her mother’s lap. Either way, several laws are being broken. A seven year old girl driving a car is not something decent parents should be encouraging. The father has defended it, saying his father did it with him and he “passed his test first time”.

Yeah. But look what a crap parent it’s turned him into. He hasn’t worked that one out for himself yet, has he?

In the article, the stunt is condemned by IAM, but they need to be careful about sending out mixed messages to people with the IQs of frogs, as they also support the young driver initiative I have criticised on several previous occasions. Because when it comes down to it, the parents of this Scottish girl are not that much different to those who gleefully send their 11-year olds for driving lessons.

The parents of that girl are going to be in serious trouble. And it serves them right.

Chalfont Drive Move Being Scuppered By ADIs

This is an old story. As of September 2014, tests are conducted at Colwick, Beeston (near the train station), Clifton (on the Trent University campus), and Watnall (the old LGV testing station).

Chalfont Drive stopped doing tests in 2013. Clarendon Street (the Trent University campus in the city centre) ceased conducting tests in late August 2014 a few weeks prior to Watnall commencing operations.

UPDATE: The move is postponedread this article.

I wrote a couple of months ago reporting that Chalfont Drive test centre in Nottingham is relocating to Beeston, subject to planning permission.

I bet the DSA is ruing its decision to keep ADIs informed, because I saw a notice on the wall at Colwick asking instructors to stay away. Apparently, the place has been gridlocked by idiots taking their pupils there to have a look!

The problem is that the deal isn’t done yet, and there’s a good chance it won’t be as a result of morons driving down there and causing hold-ups for the tenants who already rent there.

No ADI has any need whatsoever to take their pupils there. Those who do are just bloody stupid.

Know Your Left And Right

I heard someone recently criticising their pupils’ education because they sometimes got their lefts and rights mixed up.

I encounter left-right confusion frequently when I’m teLeft or Rightaching, but never – for even a moment – have I attributed it to the standard of someone’s education. In fact, it is a known – but not completely understood – scientific phenomenon (it’s also one of the symptoms of dyslexia, though not necessarily one experienced by all dyslexics).

Kids are taught their lefts and rights from the earliest age, and when they turn 17 – unless they’re dyslexic and this is one of their symptoms – they know exactly where left and right are.

Indeed, when I was a child I had no problem at all with telling left from right, or in being able to identify one or the other instantly, and I don’t have a problem now. But for about 4 or 5 years in my late teens and early 20s I went through a phase where I often had to think hard about which was which when challenged to do so for some reason. As a typical teenager, it really had me worried because I knew there was an issue where there wasn’t one before. But it disappeared as suddenly as I’d noticed it appear. In later years I have always attributed it to the changes that occur as people mature physically. I am not dyslexic in any way, either.

The problem, as distinct from dyslexia, apparently affects around 20-25% of the population. Even if you leave out my own theory of it affecting young people more than older ones, that still means a quarter of your pupils are likely to encounter difficulties.

It can be a particular problem on driving lessons and driving tests. Why? Well, if someone is just driving to Tesco or to see their gran, they usually know where they’re going and don’t need to think about right or left – it’s just “this way” or “that way”. But on lessons and tests directional instructions are given, and the driver then has to translate “left” or “right” into real actions. That’s when the left-right confusion kicks in.

The one thing to remember is that no matter how badly someone is affected by this left-right confusion, it is not terminal as far as learning to drive is concerned.

There are all kinds of things the instructor can do or advise to try to help them. Here are just a few:

  • When you hold your left thumb and forefinger out straight, they make an ‘L’ shape
  • Draw a big dot on the left hand remember that that’s LEFT
  • Actually write ‘L’ and ‘R’ on your hands
  • Put ‘L’ and ‘R’ stickers on the dashboard (or the mirror)
  • The ADI can use gestures as well as the words ‘left’ and ‘right’ when giving directions
  • The examiner can do this, too, so ask them to use a hand gesture if you think it will help on your test
  • Stay calm and take your time when making decisions

Some of those are also advised by the British Dyslexia Association. The mirror one came from a reader.

But one thing you should never do is assume that the person in question is somehow lacking or deficient – educationally or any other way.

Left/right confusion in older people

Someone found the blog on that search term. I am not aware of a specific problem developing as people get older (that is, as they pass from their 20s to their 30s or 40s). However, confusion and slower mental response can occur when people become much older (60s and 70s onwards), and I guess left/right confusion may be one of the possible symptoms of that.

Bear in mind that some 30-somethings can be mentally older than some octogenarians, and there are no sharp divisions. Everyone is different.

If it is becoming an issue that worries you, see your GP. That’s what they’re there for. It’s unlikely, but there may be something else wrong that can be treated.

A Good Idea In Theory, But Still Missing The Point By A Mile

Another story from the newsfeeds. It involves IAM – but I won’t diss it outright since just for once they haven’t tried to blame the behaviour of the last 10 generations of young drivers on their driving instructors. Not directly, anyway.

There’s a scheme in Scotland being sponsored by a former racing driver who is now a car dealer. Basically, he has agreed to pay for 100 young drivers to take an advanced driving test. He is now trying to get other dealers to provide the same offer to further young drivers throughout Scotland.

Police in Scotland appear to be beside themselves with gushing praise:

Acting road policing Inspector Brian Jones, of Lothian and Borders Police, said: “We cannot support this enough. This is an excellent opportunity for all young drivers to take advantage of a skill for life.

“It could almost be seen as a Holy Grail – it would take five to six years to get the same experience as you get from taking the test.”

On the surface, it sounds like a good idea. But is it really the Holy Grail that everyone is looking for as the Scots police are suggesting? Let’s think about it a little more deeply – which is something none of those in the article seem to have done.

The most telling observation comes from a young driver who completed the course:

Matthew Bushell is among ten young drivers in the Borders to have had the cost of their advanced driving course refunded after passing the test.

Mr Bushell, 27, who took the test two years ago, admitted to having had a completely different attitude behind the wheel in his earlier driving days.

Note the part in bold. What he is clearly saying is that when he was young he felt differently and had a different attitude to the one he has now. His decision to complete this course – apart from the fact that it was free, I would imagine – was based on his 27-year old level of maturity, and he wouldn’t have done it when he was younger. Can we really conclude from all this that a mid-twenties male completing this course is any sort of Holy Grail for the problem of all young driver death statistics?

You have to get older before you can get wiser. By definition, maturity is age- and experience-dependent. It’s a basic law of nature, and there is no suggestion that this course could have any meaningful effect on young and very unwise attitudes that, say, a properly delivered Pass Plus course or decent learner lessons couldn’t. The article continues:

Mr Bushell signed up for the advanced driving course after meeting Bill Allison of the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) at his local car club.

And there’s another problem: the piston-head mentality. Both the sponsor and the sponsored were piston-heads – members of a car club. It is hard to imagine that the sponsor (a former racing driver, now a car dealer) is financing this for purely philanthropic reasons, particularly when you bear in mind it is costing him around £13,000. The advertising he is getting from it must be offsetting that somewhat, no matter how much he might deny it. And certainly you get the impression that the sponsored Mr Bushell might not have bothered at all if he’d had to pay over a hundred quid, instead of getting it for free. But even if the meeting of these two from this particular club had what is essentially a positive outcome, there are many, many clubs where the overall attitude of the membership is far less mature. Let’s face facts here: if a group of people who own fast cars meet at the “fast car owners’ club”, the main discussion topic is inevitably going to be about driving those fast cars fast!

The sponsor is also pictured holding a copy of Roadcraft – the advanced driver’s bible. It’s worth reminding ourselves of the full title of that publication: Roadcraft – The Police Driver’s Handbook  (and yes, that’s the same emphasis that is given on the front cover). But in spite of the book’s foreword suggesting that it is also for anyone wishing to take their skills “to a higher level” (cue: a bunch of anoraks falling over themselves to copy every aspect of it), you do not invite anyone who feels like it to drive as if they were police officers on emergency calls to do so when they’re just taking the Jack Russell to Tesco to pick up their milk and a copy of The Daily Mail.

It isn’t training which is the problem. It is attitude. Advanced driving is for drivers with experience, not beginners – and even then, it’s not suitable for all of them. The sooner IAM realises this and keeps its nose out of driver training at grass roots level, the better the chance something can actually get done in the areas where the problems really lie.