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Thursday, 13 February 2014

The Dummies Guide to Dealing with Learner Drivers Part Deux

Following on from my previous blog where I touched upon the bizarre situations driving instructors and their pupils experience on our roads, here are a few more top tips for the dummies out there. These too are inspired by the real-life and bewildering antics of retired learner drivers - or full licence holders as they are better known.

#11: Driving instructors are keen to ensure their pupils cover a full learn-to-drive syllabus. Amongst the more obvious topics, such as car control and road safety, are the less obvious but equally essential Morse code classes. Morse code provides a solid foundation for dealing with drivers who use the flashing of headlights in the style of the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. For example; One quick flash means “I’m waiting for you to go” (or this can be one long flash), two quick flashes means “thank you” (or this can be one long flash) and multiple quick flashes means “You f#%king idiot, I'm waiting for you to go!” (or this can be one long flash).

#12:  Drivers suffering the debilitating effects of coming into contact with a full licence (chemical coating causing amnesia, see Top Tip #6) often find great difficulty in using the complex external communication system fitted to motorised vehicles. Whilst there is currently no known cure, (and euthanasia not yet considered ethical) scientists are working around the clock looking for a solution. In the meantime experts believe that sufferers can overcome this problem by signalling either left if they intend going left or right if they intend going right.

#13: Those drivers suffering from the acute form of signal confusion (Latin – Unpredictilitus) can take some comfort in the knowledge that they are creating opportunities for driving instructors to teach their pupils the fundamental principles of mind-reading. Roundabouts are a great place to put this into practice. Try signalling left two exits before the one you want, or swapping lanes at least twice without signalling. When faced with this test, by attempting to pull out in front of you, the learner may demonstrate that they are at the early developmental stages of mind-reading. In these situations try developing their lip-reading skills using words of no more than two syllables. No doubt you will already be familiar with many of these. (Note: if following a learner who is at the early stages of mind-reading see Top Tip #1)

#14: It is essential that learner drivers develop a good understanding of the law. You can help demonstrate its importance whenever you see a learner practising a manoeuvre outside your house. (Caution; avoid contact with the instructor, see Top Tip #6). Instead, whilst stamping both feet, shout from across the road “I'm going to call the police” The police will welcome your request to stop chasing bad guys and be grateful of the opportunity to arrest two people carrying out a legitimate manoeuvre in a safe and legal manner. “999 what’s your emergency?” “Yes operator, send someone quickly there’s a learner driver parallel parking around my car... quick, quick they’re slowly getting away....”

#15: An alternative to top tip #14 is to play hide-and-go-seek. When you see a learner preparing to reverse around your car, quickly run to it and drive off down the road or around the block pretending that you have to be somewhere urgently. The learner finds this game highly amusing and can’t wait to have another go, especially as they are hilariously left in the middle of the road looking like they are reversing around an invisible car. Bear in mind that most driving lessons are at least an hour long, so to avoid being found, it is recommended that you keep driving around the block for around 55mins. (Caution: As this game is so amusing, the driving instructor is likely to tell all their colleagues which car owners are willing participants, so be prepared for a long day)

I hope you've enjoyed the light-hearted humour I've used to highlight some of the issues faced by both learner and instructor at the hands of some experienced and apparently responsible drivers. I would like to point out that most days go without anything noteworthy happening and when it does we are trained well enough to avoid incident. I've managed to stay collision free since I passed my test in 1983 and as an instructor have had one very minor rear end bump in the 1990's. (We'd been stopped at a junction for 30 seconds when the driver behind misjudged his braking, well when I say misjudged his braking, he'd forgotten he was driving a Mini Metro and not a car with proper brakes).

Learning with a qualified instructor is actually pretty safe and people are surprised at the relatively low insurance premiums we enjoy. I'm led to believe that almost three-quarters of collisions involving a learner are actually the other driver's fault - rear end collisions mainly. 

There is a serious message behind all this humour. It raises the question of how full licence holders transform their habits from the safe practices we teach them during the learn-to-drive process, into the obvious complacency which no doubt contributes to the number of people each year who are injured or worse, on our roads.

We could point the finger at the learn-to-drive process and the limitations of the traditional techniques used, and in recent times we have done exactly that and have extended the range of techniques to include a more client-centred approach. This is an attempt to ensure learners take responsibility for their learning and future actions. Even so, this is a long-term strategy and we appear to be fighting a losing battle when it comes to continued learning for existing drivers. 

I've jokingly called full licence holders 'retired learners' In actual fact they were learning from life experiences years before getting behind the wheel for the first time - many are told by the people who care for and influence them the most that "you only learn to drive properly once you've passed your test". I wonder if this "properly" includes tailgating; speeding; cutting corners or crashing? 

No one stops learning and as soon as they're let loose on the roads they continue to learn from the environment and unfortunately begin to practice what they regularly see and experience - or in many cases, what they can get away with now that the UK's roads are so lightly policed.

A couple of questions being asked regularly are "Should driver education start at school age? and should drivers be retested periodically? Now that sounds like a good topic for another blog.

© Stu Walker 2014

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Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Dummies Guide to Dealing With Learner Drivers Part One

These tongue-in-cheek top tips have been inspired by the real-life “dummies” who every driving instructor encounter on our roads at some point in their career - if not daily. These are here for your enjoyment, but if you do recognise something in your own driving - well, maybe now is the time to change.

#1: When following a learner driver who inconsiderately stalls, quickly sound your horn a number of times. This has an instant calming effect on the learner and miraculously turns them into an experienced driver.

#2: Learner drivers need to frequently practice the ‘emergency stop’. When you see a learner who is driving slower than everyone else it's because they're giving you the chance to help. In these situations wait until they are really close before you surprise them by pulling out. The learner finds this highly educational and the instructor finds it highly amusing and greatly appreciates your kind assistance.

#3: When you want a learner driver to go faster, drive at high speed up to or close to their bumper. Many people believe this action compresses the air between the two vehicles, which in turn creates a shock-wave forcing the learner's foot down on the accelerator. (Caution: avoid this if someone is following Top Tip #2)

You know you're in trouble when even the dash looks scared....

#4: Learner drivers love the added pressure of having to move away quickly in front of an audience. If you encounter a learner driver who is waiting patiently at a crossroad, insist they take priority even if it isn’t theirs. You should do this by flashing your headlights and waving vigorously. If the learner doesn’t respond immediately, shake your head and drive on. Alternatively when they begin to emerge wait for 3 seconds and then implement Top Tip #2. (Note: If following a learner driver in these situations also see Top Tip #1)

#5: Learner drivers and their highly trained instructors frequently forget which type of vehicle they are driving, so if you see one driving along a temporary bus lane please pull alongside and shout "Do you know you're in a bus lane? You're not driving a bus hahaha!” Alternatively, you can draw the instructor’s attention by smugly driving past whilst shaking your head in disbelief.

#6: A full driving licence is coated in a chemical substance causing amnesia. Sadly this causes many people to forget that they too had to learn to drive. One of the many side-effects of this condition is an extreme feeling of possessiveness, making you believe you own the road generally but especially the bit outside your property or a nearby junction. Unfortunately there is no known cure for this condition. Caution: If you see a learner practising a manoeuvre outside your house; avoid contact with the instructor; avoid standing at your lounge window with your hands on your hips; instead go into a darkened room and scream into a pillow.

#7: Many new cars are fitted with hill-start assist. However, to be on the safe side, should you see a learner driver stopped at traffic lights on a steep hill, you can help by pulling up as close behind their vehicle as possible. Firstly, your show of confidence in their expert clutch control instantly reassures them and secondly your car prevents them from rolling backwards if they have a sudden lapse of expertise. (Also see Top Tip #1)

#8: Driving instructors go through three stringent exams before being allowed to teach. However, no one is perfect and bearing in mind that nothing has changed since the 1960’s, please feel free to correct their errors by sharing the in-depth knowledge of driving you gained during the six hours of tuition you had way back when.

#9: The space in front of a learner vehicle is subject to an optical illusion known as the "Tardis Effect". This phenomenon - similar to a ‘mirage’ - is caused by light reflecting off the L-plate and thus making a space big enough for one vehicle, appear capable of accommodating at least four vehicles. (Also see Top Tip #2) 

#10: When encountering a learner in lane one of a two lane road you can help their instructor demonstrate the blind spots by playing “now-you-see-me-now-you-don’t”. Here’s how; when you see them approaching an obstruction, quickly dart into lane two without signalling and hide in the learner driver’s blind spot and remain there for some time. If you suspect the learner has seen you, drop back until you're confident they can't. Stay where you are until they signal, then quickly reappear. This helps them practice braking. Alternatively sound your horn to keep them calm. (See Top Tip #1)

Remember, if you are a dummy, I don't want to be patronising (that means treat you like you're stupid) but these tips are for comedy value only, please don't take them literally. 

Thankfully, in reality, the vast majority of road users we encounter whilst we're out there teaching are patient and courteous. Both the learner and their instructor try their best not to inconvenience anyone and always appreciate your understanding if we do delay you slightly - even if we can't say thank you personally :)

Continued in Part Deux..... http://studidit.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/the-dummies-guide-to-dealng-with.html

©Stu Walker 2014