The first 3 minutes of practical test often determine result

Most people are nervous before any test, interview, sports game etc. – It would be really unusual if this wasn’t the case. I have had drivers going to test and be unable to control their left foot for the first few minutes; some have been sweating profusely, unable to speak and many other symptoms.
Once the test gets under way many have said that these initial nerves subside very quickly and they get “into a good rhythm”. Unfortunately this is sometimes too late, they have already made one serious error and effectively failed the test. I am not a medical person but I guess there is an adrenalin rush as part of the old “fight or flight response” to perceived “danger” – we all want to pass so much. How can a driving instructor assist with this issue?

1. Make sure that the pupil is actually ready – there is a tendency to let learner drivers go to test when they could pass, but not actually ready. It is an expensive business and that extra half a dozen lesson is not what they want to hear. I believe that if they are ready, their confidence level is higher and therefore they don’t feel the anxiety so much.
2. Perform several mock tests where you behave exactly like an examiner i.e. courteous but fairly cold, quiet and completely unsupportive.
3. Repeatedly explain to the pupil that there is no rush in the test; it will last 38 to 40 minutes and they will travel for between 7 and 10 miles. Ask them “can you drive?”, “can you concentrate for 40 minutes?” Make it sound really easy, by now you should know that they are ready and should pass.

Next blog post we will discuss some of the characteristics of a couple of test centres which make the start of the test really important.

Defensive Driving

Practicing defensive driving will help keep you safe whether you have just passed your driving test or you have been driving for years. So what exactly is defensive driving? How do you drive defensively?

  • Awareness – what do you see ahead, behind and to each side?
  • Planning – what’s going to happen next?
  • Anticipation – what happens if?
  • Staying In control – always drive within your limits, if you start to feel out of control you are probably driving too quick for the conditions – so check behind and slow down until it feels safer – trust your instincts.
  • Drive responsibly with care, consideration and courtesy.

A few examples (there are many):
You see railings up ahead, there are likely to be pedestrians crossing – we sometimes see the railing before the crossing. What if there are people about to cross? If you are expecting it, you will be prepared for it – no suprise – keep control.

You see a green traffic light, we all know it will change to amber then red, we just don’t know when. So anticipate it changing and check in the rear and be ready to stop smoothly or carry on if it doesn’t change.

Similarly you see a bus ahead, what is it most likely to do – stop at a bus stop – so don’t be surprised when it does.

Traffic calming is meant to slow traffic doen in urban areas, so try to keep steady speed around 20 mph, this will give you plenty of time to scan ahead and to the sides and react comfortably to the inevitable events such as pedestrians crossing, cars pulling away etc.

More posts soon, meanwhile check out these sites if you are looking to learn to drive soon

Traffic Calming Priority Signs

Most learners (and qualified drivers) will know that the priority in traffic calmed areas is set by the arrows within these signs. However it appears that not everyone knows about this little tip – you can also tell the priority by the shape of the sign, which you can see from much further away. The blue rectangular sign will always be your right of way and the round one will always be a give way. This allows you to plan where and when you are going to give way earlier and make it easier.

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More confusing road markings in Lichfield

Following on from an earlier post, this crossroad junction has confused many a learner. Imagine that you are the white car driving up London Road, towards the camera and want to turn right into Cricket Lane. If you follow the arrow on the road, you would enter the junction on the wrong side of the road – not recommended. Of courses if the road is clear (other turn-right box) you would drive further on and turn when you get to normal turn right position.

For top quality lessons book with a good instruction and if you need to learn quickly our intensive courses will teach you as fast as you can learn.

Here’s a couple of road markings that are confusing even to the experienced driver. This is one of the roads used by the Lichfield Driving Test Centre examiners, so make sure that you understand precisely what they mean.
Travelling South on the A5 towards Tamworth you come across a relatively new roundabout complex, required because of the M6 Toll Road. Check out the road markings in the right lane of the two lane dual carriageway; they are contradictory. The first road mark (lower image) shows it is right-turn only; the second (upper image), shows ahead only but same road numbers.

Make sure to ask your driving instructor if you are not sure and if you want to learn in Leicester check out my new website.

Is an intensive driving course a good option

OK so you want to pass your driving test as quickly as possible. Are intensive courses a good choice for you?
Let’s look at the statistics first The Driving Standards Agency reports that the pass rate for the UK car test generally hovers around 40%. They don’t report on intensive courses since they wouldn’t know how a particular candidate had been learning. However having done many intensive courses myself, I can report that the pass rate is significantly higher (in 2010 my courses had a 74% success rate). Of course one can take my experience with a pinch of salt…But let’s say that is is accepted, then why does it happen? My opinions are that:

  • People who do an intensive course are more motivated, they generally have a particular reason to pass e.g. a job offer. Contract this with a person who has just turned 17 and a family member has paid for a few lessons – not necessarily very motivated.
  • In the usual weekly lessons model, there a degree of “wasted” time where last week’s lesson is recapped and re-learned. This doesn’t affect an intensive learner so much, since should not have forgotten too much, from an hour earlier (say).
  • It is customary for instructors to teach a learner using the DSA’s standard test routes, once the pupil is competent. This is especially useful in an intensive course, at most centres I will be able to teach on all routes in the run up to a test. Because this is done in a short period, the pupil becomes very familiar with the difficult roundabouts, stop junctions etc.

Having passed your test, please, please carry on learning – I’ve been driving for 40 years and I still learn. Having said that the UK pass rate is relatively low c 40%, the accident rate amongst new drivers is very bad (check out the insurance premiums). So however you choose to learn, remember that it is a process that continues forever.
Pass quickly by taking an intensive driving course.

Independent driving, new driving test from 4th October 2010

Ok so the driving test is changing soon, is there anything to be concerned about? I’d say not. This is what will happen; at some point during your test the examiner will get you to stop on the left as normal advise you that he/she wants you to do some independent driving. They will explain that they either want you to follow a series of directions similar to the junctions shown here. Alternatively that you should follow signs for a location e.g. major town. Since it is always the second half of the test, you are bound to be driving back towards the test centre. So for example please follow signs for Lichfield or Sutton Coldfield. You may also be asked to do a combination both following a series of junction, then follow signs for wherever.
Important note: In the current test if the examiner asks you to turn left at the end of the road and you actually turn right, what happens? As long as you do it safely and commit no driving faults, the examiner will say “I actually asked you to turn left, but don’t worry I will get us back onto the correct route.” It doesn’t matter at all, really, really it is fine. Similarly in the independent driving section of the new test, if you can’t remember the route or get confused, this is what to do. Follow the route that you think is probably correct and do it safely (using you normal procedures). If there is time ask the examiner to clarify, but if in any doubt just carry on safely and the examiner will help with directions as necessary.
Independent driving is being used from October 4th 2010 and there will be one less reversing manoeuvre, you still have to be able to do all four, so keep practising.

If you looking for a good instructor, check out the websites.

RAMP and MSPSL – secrets for passing test

Following on from yesterday’s tip – let’s look at how the examiner’s are taught. Ok so there’s a junction coming up and we are going to turn right – this is what the examiner thinks: RAMP = (check) Road Ahead, (check) Mirror, (eyes on) Pupil and says “at the road ahead please turn right”. The examiner then checks if the pupil follows MSPSL. Mirrors – are pupil’s eyes looking into internal and right mirrors? Signal – is pupil’s finger applying right signal at the correct time? Position – are we steering to just left of centre? Speed – are we slowing down to correct speed for junction, correct gear too? Look – is pupil looking ahead and right? And finally is the pupil’s decision a good one i.e. to go or stop?
So every time the examiner says ” at the ….. ahead please turn ……” – you should kick off your MSPSL procedure – this is the correct way to deal with ALL hazards anyway and if you apply it correctly, you will have a better than average chance in your test.

More tips soon in the meantime check out my intensive course website

Get inside the examiner’s head to help pass test

During the practical test the examiner must to go through a number of set procedures and understanding these will help you pass. You will be stopped on the left around 8 times on your test, sometimes prior to a manoeuvre but mostly to check that that your safety check hold up when put under pressure. So to stop on the left we use MSM and it isn’t finished until you apply parking brake, select neutral and cancel any signal; you will then be told “thank you, drive on when your ready”. When you hear this, think “drive on when safe” & do all around observation finally checking right over your right shoulder. Sometimes you will be stopped on an uphill & yes your ability to use good clutch control is being tested, but the main thing is this. Since it generally takes a few seconds to pull away uphill, you MUST check over your right shoulder again & again, as often as it takes until you are off and running. You will be asked to stop on the left reasonably close to a parked car; again when you drive off it will take a few seconds to clear the obstacle; no prizes for guessing what you MUST do (again & again as often as it takes). Next tip about RAMP and MSPSL in next blog.

Learn safe driving for life AND pass your test.

Keeping a bubble of safety around your new (or old) car

Here a few tips to keep you safe before and after you pass.

When travelling in traffic & you need to stop, try to maintain a gap of around 1.5 meters to the vehicle in front. Measure this easily by checking that you can just see the tyres of the vehicle ahead touching the tarmac (road). Why why why – try the car in front breaks down & if you are too close, how would you steer around? It could also roll back – who hasn’t done that? If an emergency vehicle wants to come between traffic, it will be easier to go left or right if you leave a gap – could save a life or ….

In dry weather use the 2 second rule; by watching the vehicle ahead pass a stationary object (tree, sign
, bridge) and then saying “Only a fool breaks the 2 second rule”. If you get to the stationary object before you finish that phrase, then you are following too close. It takes 2 second to say that and if the road condition is poor e.g. wet or loose surface then double that time i.e. say it twice.

Let’s say you overtake a slower vehicle on a dual carriageway, how soon should you pull over in front of it? Well you really want to leave a 2 second gap again; but how to measure that? The easiest way is to carry on until you see BOTH headlight come into you internal mirror – works every time.

Drive safely and take care especially just after you pass.