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Winter Driving tips help and advise this winter

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With winter finally upon us and shop windows everywhere filled with stick-on snowflakes and winter-themed drinks, are we ready for the real winter outside? According to the weather forecasters, we are set for a particularly cold one! This I find means different things to different people, my 5-year-old sits in the window watching for the first snowflake, my Nan buys in supplies and hibernates and driving instructors … well, try to survive the cancelled tests and lessons.

Winter theory 10 times stopping distances in ice

10x Normal Stopping Distances in Icy conditions

So are we.. the royal we.. prepared for icy roads, snow blizzards and the general chaos of winter traffic? The forecast for this winter is for the exact opposite of last winter, colder, less rainfall and less storms. It is predicted that there will be a higher incidence of wintry weather including snow, frost and low temperatures. I have already had to defrost my car once.. which would have been a lot easier if i’d prepared by buying some de-icer! So on the news of further bad weather to come our way and my lack of preparation I thought.. How many of us do actually make any preparations for winter driving? Our driving instructors are out in all weather and to them filling the boot with emergency essentials is common place, I’ve seen shovels, blankets, cereal bars and hot flasks.  Also many new drivers passing their tests in the summer may never have encountered icy roads before and does everyone remember the theory of driving in wintry conditions? And thats different wintry conditions as one journey in this country could entail rain one minute and hail the next, so we need to know how to adjust to all extremes.

This blog was actually good for me to research too, not being an instructor like my fellow colleagues it was great to test myself on how much I remembered from taking my theory test. I found that not only did I not remember some of the theory a lot of it was new advice, practical tips that I feel make all the difference to being a more confident winter driver. It maybe that the process of revising for our theory tests focused our minds only on the questions and answers rather than all round safe driving knowledge. So even if you feel that you know all your winter driving theory and are a seasoned pro, its worth a read!!

So here is our 123-drive guide to winter driving to keep you and your car safe over the winter period! 

1) take the bus

…. only joking !!

2) Don’t eat yellow snow!!…… only joking, but seriously don’t!

The best way to be prepared is to first ensure your car is fully checked and it a good idea to have your car fully serviced before the winter period. The RAC gets more call outs for battery related breakdowns down any other and at this time of year thats one thing we could do without. so try to have your battery checked and avoid being stranded. below are a list of checks that you should be able to do your self ( for me with the help of a handbook!!)

1) Check that all lights are clean and working properly

2) Windowscreen, wiper blades and all other windows are clean and that the washer bottle is filled with screen wash.

3) Check the condition of all tyres, tread depth and pressure.

4) Brakes are all working properly.

5) check anti freeze levels ( needs to be accurate concentration ) and also oil.

 

Rospa the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents also recommends that you have an emergency kit containing the following; tow rope, shovel, wellington boots, a hazard warning triangle, first aid kit, working torch, car blanket, warm clothes, emergency rations, de-icing kit and ensure that your phone is fully charged. Now all this may seem a bit extreme if all you do is go to the local shop once  week. However if considering a long journey or a journey on remote rural roads and being mindful of the latest weather report if you think theres a slightest chance its better to be safe than sorry.

Rospa also suggests that you prepare yourself for the journey ensuring that if you are travelling to meet someone that they are aware of your Expected Time of Arrival therefore will be alert if you do not arrive. Have an alternative route just in case your previous route is no longer preferred. Ensure that your fuel tank is full and if you do become stranded be careful not to waste all your fuel on keeping the engine running to keep warm. And although tempting to leave as soon as possible, try to wait until your heater is blowing warm air first to avoid window screens misting up.

At this time of year many of us will be suffering from colds etc, consider if you are fit to drive and check any medication to ensure it will not cause you drowsiness. But importantly prepare yourself knowledge wise consider how you will have to adjust to each different type of weather.

Snow/ Ice and hail driving

As with most hazardous conditions adjust to a suitable speed always baring in mind stopping distances, and as the chances of skidding in ice and snow are far greater your stopping distance will be increased massively. Only travel at the speed at which you can stop within the distance you can see to be clear.

1) Avoid harsh braking and accelerate gently, also avoid sharp steering. If you see a sharp bend ahead reduce speed as soon as you can and try to keep steering and actions smooth.

2) Always reduce speed gently and in plenty of time on slippery surfaces. ( bear in mind that some ice may not be visible).

3) Don’t brake on corners and bends as the centrifugal force will continue to pull the car outwards and the wheels on icy surfaces will not be able to grip the road having dangerous consequences such as spinning the car.

4) when braking drop into a lower gear and earlier than normal to allow the car to lower its speed and you may need up to 10 times the normal stopping distance.

5) Ensure your vehicle remains well ventilated, car heaters turned up will cause drowsiness. Be aware of how you feel and if your concentration is reduced.

6) If visibility is reduced used dipped headlights.

7) Remember that just because you cannot see the ice it does not mean it is not there. As roads defrost it can lead to patches of ice and these may be hard to see.

If you do get stuck in snow don’t panic, revving your engine to try and power out of the rut will cause you to make the rut worse. Instead use a higher gear to try and edge forward and backwards out of the rut…. if you are firmly stuck a kind passerby may be needed to give you a push!!

Hail unlike snow however can be dangerous to drive in and cause damage to your car and you. In a severe hail storm do not leave your vehicle, hail can fall at speed and cause you bodily harm. In severe hail try to pull over to avoid damage to your window screen, if you can try to stop under an overpass. If the hail is particularly bad park your car at an angle directed into the hail as the window screen is reinforced whereas the side windows and rear window are not.

Heavy rain and floods 

Rain although common all year round ( as we all know) hits us even harder over the winter period and when combined with cold weather and steamed up windows becomes harder to contend with. With recent years seeing record levels of rainfall and flooding becoming more common, knowing how to drive safely in these conditions is becoming more and more important. But rain also poses greater risks to the our cars, with engines these days having more electrics damp weather can cause a great deal of problems. The RAC says that during the winter months and periods of heavy rain there is always a huge increase in engine and electrical based breakdowns mostly due to people driving through standing water, which will cause catastrophic engine failure. Whereby water can be sucked into the engine and cause it to ‘lock up’. If you are unsure of the depth of the water don’t attempt to drive through it and bear in mind that the deepest part of the eater will be near the curb.

Other advice that the RAC suggest is that if you are unfortunate enough to breakdown do not leave the bonnet open whilst awaiting help as the engine will get wet and cause electrical damage.

Another problem with wet weather is the chance of Aquaplaning. This is when water on the road comes between the road and the tyres causing a lack of contact so that the car is technically floating on the water giving no grip. Its usually caused by driving too fast through standing water. Similar to driving on ice and losing grip, do not break sharply as this will cause the car to skid, instead ease off gently until you can feel the car grip again and always re test your brakes to ensure they are effective again.

Fog and poor visibility 

I am someone who knows how thick fog can get and how terrible visibility can become, living down a rural lane with ditches either side travelling along that road in impenetrable fog was a common scary jaunt. The highway code states that headlights must be used when visibility is less then 100m ( roughly the length of a football pitch)  so make a point of learning how to put your fog lights on, it may sound obvious, but many of us don’t ever have to use them and may not remember how to operate them. Ensure that your headlights are dipped all the time and try not to tail gate the lights of the car in front as you may without realising it lose your stopping distance and not pay due attention. It may help when at junctions to wind your window down if visibility is so bad, you may be able to then hear approaching traffic. But most importantly if you cant see DONT drive! its simply not worth it, take a break and wait.

If visibility improves again don’t forget to turn the fog lights off!

Driving in high winds

After last years gales and storm damage we all know how dangerous wind can be, high winds can get under a car quickly and effect your steering. Also be aware that exposed areas may be prone to strong side winds, keep your speed reduced and both hands on the wheel and keep an eye out for these exposed areas. Be careful of exposed high bridges and debris on or at the side of the road.

Other vehicles to be cautious of are those towing caravans, motorcyclists who are greatly effected and do not be tempted to use a roof top box in high winds. Tall sided vehicles may get caught by the wind so beware when overtaking. They will also protect you from the wind as you overtake but then be aware that once you pass you will again be exposed to the high winds.

Lastly it may be prudent to park away from tall trees etc, there are often lots of reports on the media of cars crushed by falling trees!

Have you got all that??

It is all a lot to take in and for the most part common sense! But I did as i was writing learn a lot myself and with our weather hitting a particularly cold spike at the moment I have even put into practice my own advice. When in a crazy hail storm on Parbold hill at the weekend I felt re assured from the research into winter driving that if the storm became worse i would know how to deal with it and keep me and my car safe! Previously i have looked out of the window and felt a sense of trepidation about going out in the car. Although I have learnt previously for my test all those years ago the theory of driving in different weather conditions the re cap was much needed!

lastly enjoy the winter driving, if it wasn’t so cold its actually quite beautiful!!!

Please leave us a comment or your best winter advice below..

Post by Samantha Richards.

Chris RichardsWinter Driving tips help and advise this winter
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❄️ Out of Power ❄️

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picture of battery powered by a mouse that has stopped due to cold

Battery flat??

Winter is definitely the season to be jolly, but it can also be stressful… and not just for us, but for our cars too!

This year has so far seen temps below average and I have heard quite a few foreboding sounds of car engines refusing to start!! Not what anyone needs when its cold and traffic will be building up the more you are delayed!!

So why does it choose the coldest most inconvenient time to run flat?

Unfortunately, car batteries contain chemicals ( not mice!! ) that require a certain temperature before they can work effectively, in the cold winter these chemical processes struggle to work. Added to this is an increased workload as engine oil thickens in the cold, making it even harder for the battery to crank the engine into life! It is more common the older your car battery, but it can also happen in some cars after just 3 years! it all depends on the Cold Cranking Amp (CCA) rating of your battery, the higher the score the greater amperage the battery can supply. The amperage is recorded by testing at -18℃ for 30 sec, a battery that gives out 500 Amps will have a CCA rating of 500, the range for all batteries is from 300-600, not much of an issue in young cars, but the older the battery and the more drain we exert on it, the more initial power it will need to start effectively.

Hints and tips to avoid the non-starter!!

It’s not all doom and gloom and there are things we can do to make for a better start in the morning, before considering investing in a new battery.

  1. After your previous journey, try to make a habit of turning off as many functions as possible before turning off the ignition, such as Heating and AC, demisters, headlights, wiper blades and unplug any devices such as chargers. All these drain from the battery and increase the starting workload for your battery the next time you start it.

  2. Try to keep the fuel tank topped up, in the winter fuel can condense and form ice in empty tanks and in the pipes, fuller tanks prevent this.

  3. If your car is not kept in a garage, try to keep it warmer via other means, such as car covers or even purpose made battery blankets!

  4. Always depress the clutch pedal! This reduces the load on the battery when starting.

  5. Between attempts to start the engine, leave it for a few moments, allowing it to recover before hopefully being successful the next attempt.

picture of Battery Booster power pack

Handy battery booster for those non-starters!

If you have regular problems starting your car or are at risk of being stranded when travelling, there are handy battery chargers that can be stored in the boot for emergencies and just clip onto your flat engine to give it the boost it needs to crank the engine. If all else fails, it may be worth investing in a battery with a good CCA score and remove the winter worry!!

 

Samantha Richards❄️ Out of Power ❄️
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Can I learn to drive before I pass my theory test

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Can I learn to drive before I pass my theory test?

As a trusted driving school we get lots of questions asked about learning to drive etc. So we have decided to create blogs for all the FAQ’s about learning to drive. This blog post is part of our Frequently Asked Questions on learning to drive.

Yes is the short answer!

You can have driving lessons before you pass your theory test. We advise you to book your theory test and start revising for it as soon as possible.

Advantages of passing your theory test fast!

Even though you don’t need to pass your theory test before you start your driving lessons if you are looking to minimise the number of lessons you need and save money then booking and passing your theory test early on in your driving lessons will help you do this.

The main reasons for this are that you will have the knowledge of the rules, road markings and have a greater depth of understanding without the driving instructor having to go through everything and spend time explaining and giving you the knowledge. This will allow you to have more time practising instead of discussing the topics at the road-side.

Ways to practice your theory test.

We use Theory Test Pro and give our students access to it as part of our lessons. This allows the user to practice topic questions and decide what areas they need to practice and revise more. To have a quick test click on the banner below and sign up for a free quick test:
Theory Test Pro in partnership with 123-drive.com

You will also need to know the Highway Code.

A lot of the theory test and driving is based on the highway code which is available for free on the government site:  https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-highway-code

If you have any thoughts or comments on this post, we would love to hear your opinions or views. Just leave us a comment below.

Chris RichardsCan I learn to drive before I pass my theory test
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How long will it take to learn to drive?

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How long will it take to learn to drive?

As a trusted driving school we get lots of questions asked about learning to drive etc. So we have decided to create blogs for all the FAQ’s about learning to drive. This blog post is part of our Frequently Asked Questions on learning to drive.

When you are trying to work out how many hours it will take you to learn to drive, you have to remember an old cliche “everyone is different”.

Everyone is different so you may need 30 hours and your friend may have 60 hours! But you can do a few things to make sure you reduce the number you need (see below)

Our average number of lesson from a beginner to passed.

We do find that as a driving school we do have an average of around 30 hours from a total beginner. This is a lot less than the DVSA published in 2008 after a major study of learner car drivers found that on average people who passed their driving test had 47 hours of tuition and 20 hours of private practice. But that also means we have learner drivers who take longer or have had fewer lessons. Don’t be fooled by some driving schools saying they have an average of 20 hours! They may not be talking about complete beginners!!!

What you can do to minimise the number of lessons you need to pass your driving test.

We have asked our learners, driving instructors and also looked into the patterns of learner driver’s behaviour to give you these top 10 ways to reduce the number of lessons you need. The learner drivers with the best habits tend to progress the quickest.


1. Make sure you have a great driving instructor that you get on with.

It seems sensible to suggest that you need to be able to “get on with” your driving instructor. But it will make a huge difference. You have to be able to relate to them trust them and they should be able to help you understand and reflect on your performance while working with you to hit your goals. This alone will help you reduce the number of hours you need. If you don’t like your instructor, you won’t learn as quickly, the time between lessons will be spent worrying about them and time in the car will drag and not be used effectively.

Make sure you get on with your instructor to ensure you learn quicker

So what makes a great driving instructor? Aren’t all instructors the same?

All driving instructors who are legal, are registered with the DVSA. But we do find that the quality of driving instructors differs dramatically. If you have an instructor who is just “doing it for pocket money” as they are near retirement, or took early retirement and are just keeping their pension topped up, they often are not enthusiastic and will not put the effort in that a dedicated and enthusiastic instructor will. Also, the DVSA have also been working to change the way driving instructors are trained as they want a more client-centred approach, with coaching and reflection as the main training tools. This is due to come in anytime around December 2017 to February 2018 after they have got parliamentary approval (it was originally scheduled for October 2017). Lots of the older generation of driving instructors will never have had any training on client-centred approaches or coaching techniques. They will be able to tell you what you need to do to pass a test, but a trained coach will be able to help you with your needs and ensure you learn the areas that you need to improve on and skip the areas you don’t, this will minimise the lessons you need but also keep you safe on today’s roads – thus making the driving test easier to pass.

Find an enthusiastic driving coach to minimise the hours you need


2. Ask and plan what you can do between lessons.

At the end of your lesson, you can discuss your goals and reflect on your lesson. But, asking simply “what can I do before my next lesson”, will give you the ideas of what you can do. Some of the things you can do to minimise the time you are paying for in a car are:

Watch Videos

Quite often, you can use youtube (you instructor can recommend good videos) to watch videos on the topics you are learning, need to improve on or even the next lesson’s topics. That way you will minimise the time needed for your instructor to give you the knowledge and they can just help you with putting your knowledge into practice.

Observe your parents/friends driving

We spend a lot of time in cars, but most people don’t ask or observe others driving. Just asking whoever is driving you, what they are doing, why and observing if you would have done the same thing, can help you massively. If you keep thinking about driving between lessons, your brain will subconsciously also think of ways to solve the problems you may have. Just learning to drive on your driving lessons will extend the number you need. However, the learner drivers that we have who are more dedicated and excited to learn to drive tend to do this automatically and have a better knowledge and understanding of their lessons.

Reflective Logs

Completing a reflective log between lessons will keep your learning points and aims fresh in your mind. This will also help you learn and think about driving when you are not just in the car.

Use handouts

Does your driving instructor have handouts or other learning material you can use? If so then use them! 🙂


3. Book your theory test as soon as possible.

When you are revising for your theory test, the knowledge and understanding you gain will dramatically help you when it comes to driving in your lessons. The learners who book, revise and pass their driving test earlier in their lessons progress the quickest. Also, you cannot book your driving test until you pass your theory test. With the current waiting times for a practical test (at the time of writing this) being long and the examiners striking, you don’t want to be ready or at test standard in your driving and have to wait longer, keeping regular lessons so you don’t drop the standard just because you didn’t pass your theory in time to book your practical test for when you are ready to take it.

We give all our students free access to Theory Test Pro to encourage this. To have a quick free test or to sign up click on the banner below:
Theory Test Pro in partnership with 123-drive.com


4. Book your practical driving test and make a plan to pass it.

Once you have passed your theory test, book your practical test! Work with your driving instructor to estimate how many hours you need, book those in the diary and then find a practical test that matches the date you will be ready. This way you can make a plan and it ensures that driving lessons are a priority, we all know that sometimes other things get in the way but if you have booked your test, then make sure you are committed to those lessons. You don’t have to worry though if you are not ready in time, you can change your test (giving at least 3 clear working days notice) to another date or ask if you can book extra lessons in on the run-up to the test to help.


5. Listen to your driving instructor and discuss topics with them.

My dad was chatting with a guy in the pub…

Yes, your driving instructor does know best! I have lost count of the number of times over the years I have been told “my dad was chatting with a guy he knows at the pub, and he said ….” Driving tests, situations, training and roads have changed a lot over the years so your “dad’s mate” who used to be an instructor 40 years ago probably is trying to help but, it’s likely not to be correct for you.

My mum said I was getting too close to the curb, or I’m driving too fast…

It’s great that your parents or guardians are getting involved and helping with private practice. But chat with your instructor on what is best. Remember, when your parent learned to drive, a lot was different. Also, they are not used to being passengers. Often, we find that after being out with parents, a learner then can’t keep to the left or they drive so slowly they become dangerous! Ask your driving instructor to explain to your parents what’s required now and what to work on. Or if your driving school has a workshop on supervising a learner or advice on the topic, encourage your parents to go to it or use it.


6. Don’t have long gaps between driving lessons.

If you have long gaps between each lesson, you will need a longer time to get back to the standard you were in the last lesson. Also, you can forget things as you may not have developed the skill into the long-term memory or developed muscle memory for that skill yet. This all adds up to wasted time in the car and means you will need more lessons 🙁


7. Get some private practice.

One of the main reasons people fail their driving test isn’t because they are not good enough, it’s often because they are not confident enough. If you are not confident in your abilities, you will overanalyse and do silly things when you are in a pressured environment – under test conditions. Be calm, get practice (legally – see our post on what you need to have private practice), with someone who isn’t your driving instructor so you know you can do it without them! If you can’t then try asking if you can have a mock test with another instructor from their driving school, this will help you become more confident.

Have a mock test with another instructor if you can’t get any private practice. This will help you be more confident.


8. Seach for workshops in your area.

If you want to save money and have fewer hours in the car with a driving instructor, then a workshop or classroom session on practical topics, theory topics and the driving test can help you minimise the number of hours you will need in a car 1-2-1. This will reduce the cost for you overall. Ask if your driving school provides this.

Workshops and training sessions can reduce the overall cost of learning to drive by giving you the knowledge and understanding of the topics in a group environment.


9. Join your driving school’s private Facebook group.

If you have questions to ask, can you ask them between lessons? Your driving instructor may not be able to reply to you as he is teaching someone else, by the time they do you are then doing something else. Giving you extra support and a place to ask questions that you can get correct answers to is another way to help you pass faster.

Join our new group today:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1559261187446106/


10. Have more than a one hour lesson a week.

If you want to maximise your learning, having at least a 2-hour lesson a week will help. If you want to learn faster, then having several 2-hour lessons will give you much more of an advantage. If you have more spare time in a week then have a look or ask about doing an intensive or semi-intensive course over one to six weeks.

 

If you have any thoughts or comments on this post, we would love to hear your opinions or views. Just leave us a comment below.

Chris RichardsHow long will it take to learn to drive?
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Driving Test Changes – New Changes to the practical test 2017

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All you need to know about the new changes to the DVSA practical test – starting in December 2017 and what effect it will have on driving lessons and the learner driver.

The driving test is changing to make it more realistic and assess the changes and challenges in driving on the UK roads today.

Will passing your driving test look any different in 2017?

Will passing your driving test look any different in 2017?

This is a long-awaited change to the driving test. The DVSA have been trialling the changes since August 2015. So why has it taken so long and will it make the drivers of tomorrow safer? I’m not sure, I will give you my full opinion later in the post but for now, let’s just say that it’s a long time coming and have a look at the changes that will take effect in December. If you have a driving test before 4th December 2017, then you will still have the old style test, so these changes won’t affect you. However, it is a good idea to read the information below and ask your instructor to train you more for post-test driving using the points below.

The four changes to the DVSA driving test:

The DVSA have made four changes to the driving test. These are good changes aimed at improving the ability of new drivers. These changes are:

1 – The independent driving part of the test will be extended from 10 minutes to last 20 minutes

The independent driving part of the test was first introduced in October 2010. The reason for this was that the biggest challenge for new drivers after passing their driving test, is learning how to make decisions; such as choosing what lane to be in, processing road signs and markings, taking in new information and dealing with distractions. It was made apparent that the DVSA has to assess these to ensure the candidate can cope with the modern-day post-test challenges. To do this they devised a way to test the candidate’s ability to drive unsupervised and to make decisions in unfamiliar situations without guidance – The Independent driving section of the driving test was born!

The changes in 2010 as outlined above was a great “wake-up call” to lots of driving instructors who just “instruct” people to drive. I saw a huge change in the way instructors conducted their driving lessons and started to think about what skills the new drivers would need. This was also backed up with the National standards for driving and riding training syllabus, developed by the DVSA in August 2013. Overall I see this a massive positive in terms of having better-skilled drivers on the road who can assess, scan and plan their journeys. This was the end of the old saying “you learn to drive when you pass your test” as all instructors (some already did) had to then teach people how to drive post-test!

So how does the new change to the Independent driving affect a learner and why has it changed?

The independent drive has basically changed to 20 minutes, double the current time of 10 minutes and around half the time of the overall test (38-40 minutes). This will make sure learners are of a higher skill level as they now have to concentrate, scan, plan and assess the situations for longer independently. You may be thinking that performing a skill for longer isn’t much of an issue? But when we train driving instructors, the driving test is longer from 40 minutes to 60 minutes. Just this simple change means that the standard of the driving has to be more consistent, and of a higher standard and is a lot harder for them to achieve (not to mention the other criteria and fewer faults allowed). So in making the independent drive longer in duration, the DVSA is increasing the standard that a Learner driver has to reach in order to pass the driving test. This point has been missed in the reporting of the changes. It will in some situations mean that the learner driver who struggles with concentrating will need more lessons to be able to perform at the level required, independently for 20 minutes. Also, the fact that they drive for longer will mean that the test routes will be changed, more challenging situations can be encountered on the route (also the reason for removal of some manoeuvres – see below). This, in theory, should increase the level of skill that a learner driver has when they pass the driving test. This can only be a good positive for road safety. 

In the independent drive, you may also be asked to follow the directions from a sat nav (see below).

2 – The learner driver will have to follow directions from a Sat Nav. Well, 4 out of 5 will!

In the Independent drive, a learner would be asked to follow directions from a Sat Nav, provided by the DVSA and the examiner will have it with them set-up ready to use. However, one in five tests will use road signs for the independent driving (you can assume this is in case a sat-nav breaks and they don’t have to have spares so they will then use signs to continue. Also it saves costs in having spares etc.). You will still be able to ask the examiner where you’re going if you’re not sure and it won’t matter if you go the wrong way unless you make a fault while doing it. However, having experience on this topic from observing and having feedback from lots of tests, the examiner won’t want to help you and will try to  get you to work it out yourself by answering your questions with responses such as “it’s your driving test, just do what you think is correct” or “I’m here to assess your driving ability, I can’t help you with that, just do what you think is best”. In defence of the driving examiners, they will help you if they think it’s a genuine question, but lots of learners just don’t want to do it so ask all the time, leading the examiners to try to get the learner driver to help themselves.

The introduction of the sat nav will make it harder for the learner to scan, plan and drive safely! It also provides a massive distraction to the driver, making the learner driver watch the sat nav, work out the diagram/map it’s showing, listen to the directions, while at the same time they may be thinking about developing situations. All in all, it will stretch the average learner driver. It will also provide the driving instructor who is training the learner driver a great opportunity to link the distraction of using a sat nav to that of a mobile phone. This can be a great tool in bringing the extra hazards of post-test driving to reality in a controlled pre-test environment.

This should have been introduced earlier as we currently have a huge problem with the modern day distractions while driving.

3. The reversing manoeuvres will be changed and some not tested anymore.

You will still be required to perform one reversing manoeuvre on your driving test, however, you will not have to perform a reverse around the corner or turn in the road manoeuvre. This is good in a way! Hardly anyone uses the reverse around a corner manoeuvre post-test and if they do it’s nothing like what is taught. The Turn in the road manoeuvre is used post test and is also a great learning tool when teaching control, coordination, reversing and observation. The DVSA still want driving instructors to teach these manoeuvres. I can see lots not bothering to teach the reverse around a corner manoeuvre, especially when learners are putting on the pressure to pass their driving test in as little time as possible and for as cheap as possible.

Another by-product of removing the turn in the road and reverse left manoeuvre is that DVSA are getting more time to assess on-the-road driving. This will be because finding and getting to an area to practice the now old manoeuvres takes time out of the driving test. They can often be only found in quieter housing estates and away from the more challenging roads.

One last positive for lots of the public will be less driving school cars practising the left reverse. Quite often in test centres, you have notices for instructors not to practice left reverses on certain roads as lots of complaints are received from residents who own the houses on the corners that are used to practice or are on test routes. The removal of the testing of the manoeuvre will lead to fewer people practising it, fewer complaints and a better standard of living for those unfortunate people who live in the houses on the corners.

The manoeuvres you may be asked to perform will include:

  • parallel park at the side of the road –No change
  • park in a bay  – Changed
  • pull up on the right-hand side of the road – New

Bay parking manoeuvre Changes:

The Bay parking manoeuvre will be changed so you will either be asked to drive in and reverse out or reverse in and driving out of a bay. This will be better as lots of people post-test, drive into a bay and are not aware of the extra dangers or hazards in reversing out of the bay, especially if you have a large high sided vehicle next to you!

New – Pull up on the right manoeuvre.

Pull up on the right-hand side of the road is a new Manoeuvre. You will have to pull-up on the right-hand side of the road, reverse for 2 car lengths and then rejoin the traffic. This part is one of the most controversial parts of the new test. As the Highway code Rule 239 states “…wherever possible. If you have to stop on the roadside: do not park facing against the traffic flow”. So in teaching people to pull up on the right hand side of the road, it may be seen that we are not only encouraging the new generation of drivers to pull up on the wrong side of the road, but then also saying “you can in a test” and giving them the impression that it is ok! It’s also much more dangerous a situation, to set off from the wrong side of the road. The last time the DVSA (then DSA) changed a test with as many people worried about it, it caused chaos and crashes when they changed the motorbike test in 2009. Let’s hope it doesn’t cause crashes or danger. This is a cause of concern for me and lots of other instructors.

4. You will be asked to answer a vehicle safety question while you’re driving.

This change won’t worry most people. But it will cause more nerves on the test. Often, as a driving instructor, I’m asked will the examiner ask me any questions while I’m driving? When we used to say no, the relief on the learner’s face was huge. Now they will be worrying about when the examiner will ask them a question and “what if I can’t remember”. When people are nervous they often worry about things they wouldn’t normally. This will lead to more nerves on a test. We normally call these “Show me, tell me questions”.

Will asking a question on the move make a difference?

It will allow the learner to demonstrate to the examiner that they can operate the controls and judge when it is safe to do so. Overall it won’t make a massive difference as most controls will be adjusted by the driver on a lesson at some point. It will also allow the driving instructor to have more conversations about distractions, taking their eyes off the road and planning when to use the controls more. So this could be a good idea.

The changes will be in the show me questions, you will now be asked one of the following show me questions:

  1. When it’s safe to do so, can you show me how you wash and clean the rear windscreen?
  2. When it’s safe to do so, can you show me how you wash and clean the front windscreen?
  3. When it’s safe to do so, can you show me how you’d switch on your dipped headlights?
  4. When it’s safe to do so, can you show me how you’d set the rear demister?
  5. When it’s safe to do so, can you show me how you’d operate the horn?
  6. When it’s safe to do so, can you show me how you’d demist the front windscreen?
  7. When it’s safe to do so, can you show me how you’d open and close the side window?

For a full list of the questions click: Show me tell me questions from December 2017

 

The Official DVSA change to the driving test video:

Our thoughts about the changes to the driving test in December 2017

Overall the changes are a good idea. They have been implemented to help prepare the learner driver with the changing demand in post-test driving. This can only be a good thing.

The changes will have an impact on learner drivers as they will have to learn new skills, improve their scanning and planning and think more about their actions and timing of their actions they are performing as a driver.

The Driving instructor will have more chance to teach more relevant skills and try to get the learner drivers to understand the risks involved with post-test driving. This hopefully will create a better, more skilled and understanding driver who can deal with the distractions in modern driving.

The driving instructor ADI part 2 (driving ability) test, currently will not have the changes replicated. This will mean that it’s different from the learner driver test. This is a mistake in my opinion.

What are your thoughts? Please comment below:

 

Chris RichardsDriving Test Changes – New Changes to the practical test 2017
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To phone or not to phone…it’s no longer a question!

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Eyes on the road campaign

Tomorrow the law changes in regards to using handheld devices whilst driving. The new legislation means that motorists who are caught using a mobile phone whilst driving will receive 6 points to their licence and a £200 fine. This is double the previous punishment and is in support of a tougher stance on those breaking the law. Whereby motorists were previously subject to 3 points or an educational course with only a £100 fine, there will now be no ‘get out’… the punishment will be instant. Those caught by a Police officer will be automatically issued with a penalty notice or reported to the courts, dependent upon the circumstances of their offence. With many people admitting that they thought taking a quick phone call or texting whilst driving was acceptable, this new legislation hopes to outline that it is not a matter of opinion!

This will mean that new drivers who have held a licence for less than two years, will automatically lose that licence.  With evidence from a recent RAC survey showing that the age group 18-24 is the second biggest offender, those caught posing this risk will find themselves off the road for a while and have to re-apply for their provisional licence. With the majority of our learners fitting into this age category and knowing how hard they worked to get their driving licence we hope they are not tempted to pick up the phone!

But it is not just the law that is changing, it is also going to be better enforced with a week of action starting tomorrow. this will include the deployment of safety camera vans, targeting the hot spots where complaints have been received, such as schools and major trunk roads. There will also be marked and unmarked police cars at checkpoints and observation points.

Chief inspector Damien Kitchen stated ” Inattention and distraction, are as big an issue to road safety as speed, seatbelt use and drink/drug driving. The consequences of even a moment’s distraction can be devastating and our message is simple. It’s simply not worth taking that call or sending that text message, killing or seriously injuring someone, just because you picked up your mobile phone will live with you forever and destroy families. In addition, you could go to prison, lose your job and your licence”. The chief inspector was also quick to refute that it is another way of making money from fines, the police will not receive any revenue from the issued fines and instead, this will all go to the treasury and for him success will be ” that we don’t issue any fines again because people will simply stop doing it”, he also urges that people do not call or text someone who they know is driving and distract them from their task with the communication.

Here in Lancashire, Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw says he welcomes the new legislation and hopes it encourages drivers to stop and think before they use their phones and they launched their awareness campaign #eyesontheroad a while ago to keep drivers informed of the risks and the changes, effective tomorrow.

So what do we need to know to stay within the law? Well according to Lancashire Constabulary, the law is still in reference to handheld devices and that the use of hands-free is still allowed but may be disputed if you are found to be distracted.  In a discussion on their facebook page,  a commenter asked about the use of hands-free sets. the constabulary responded ” you can use a hands-free kit which is properly installed as long as your phone is secured and you do not need to touch the phone to initiate the call, dial the number or end the call etc. You should also bear in mind that you may be committing an offence if you are distracted, whether or not the phone is hands-free. Hope that helps”.

RoSPA (the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) believe hands-free mobiles are not enough and that whether hands-free or hand-held, the device poses a significant distraction.

After substantial research, they found that drivers who used a mobile device are:

  • Less aware of what is happening
  • fail to see road signs
  • fail to maintain lane position
  • react more slowly, take longer to brake and longer to stop
  • more likely to enter into unsafe gaps
  • suffer feelings of stress and frustration

They say that these risks are not reduced by using a hands-free device. This is because the risks are due to mental distraction and divided attention, which is taking part in the phone conversation whilst driving.

There is little point in having both hands connected to the steering wheel, if the brain is not connected to those hands

This phrase really illuminates what the real problem is and it is sometimes hard amongst all the media to remember, that it’s not just about breaking the law, the law is there for a reason and hopefully this will make our roads safer! We know from our driver training, how important reading the road is, it takes a long time to learn to react to possible hazards and without a driving instructor to check your brake, it is really up to you to ensure you can read the road yourself. Especially when other road users depend on you to drive safely.

 

Other devices are also covered by the legislation, such as sat navs and driving apps, to be clear, anything that separates your attention for a moment from driving, breaks the law. While it is ok to use a sat nav, the key must not be in the ignition, the engine must not be started and any route input must be done before the drive commences. Any adjustments during the journey can only be made by stopping off your route and without the engine running. Another Facebook commenter asked if it was ok to use a mobile phone as a sat nav? the constabulary responded “if your mobile phone is in a holder and being used as a sat nav this is OK as long as you are not touching it to change your route etc. If you want to do this you should park up in a safe place and switch your engine off”.

The change has also been a long time coming, with many campaigning for better enforcement by the police of the law and harsher punishment. Especially when it has become a growing problem, the RAC found that there was an increase from 7%- 19% of drivers using their mobile device whilst driving to call, text, email, post on social media and take pictures, from 2014-2016. What is even more shocking is their data showing how many surveyed admitted to taking photos and videos whilst at the wheel!

Rac survey into Mobile device use whilst driving

This graph shows the influence of social media on driving with a smart phone, as in the age category 17-24 a whopping 36% said they took photos or videos whilst actually driving and 44% thought it was ok to do so whilst stationary at traffic lights, many such images are often shared on social media sites. The next biggest offenders are the age group 25-44, where 31% surveyed had taken photos or filmed whilst in traffic. The new legislation will hopefully clear up any confusion, making it clear that any time on the road, whilst en route and behind the wheel, use of a mobile device is against the law.

Whilst researching the new legislation, I came across a few shocking images, the results of distracted drivers and the devastation those lost moments cause, a reminder of what the risks are. A great video that demonstrates this is on the Think website.

We hope you find our blog useful and just as we tell our learners to keep safe, we hope you do too, remember

“eyes on the road”!

Chris RichardsTo phone or not to phone…it’s no longer a question!
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GOOGLE CARS : THE FIRST CHOICE FOR A ROBOT SOCIETY

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GOOGLE CARS : THE FIRST CHOICE FOR A ROBOT SOCIETY

STOP!!!! DON’T DRIVE INTO THE BACK OF ME!! PICTURE: CHRIS URMSON

STOP!!!! DON’T DRIVE INTO THE BACK OF ME!! PICTURE: CHRIS URMSON

GOOGLE SELF DRIVE TECHNOLOGY CANNOT ERASE HUMAN FLAWS

In the recent news ( yet again), Googles pioneering Self Drive Car has had its first injury involved accident. The car involved was a Lexus SUV outfitted with the self drive sensors and cameras. On 1st July it was travelling through traffic in Googles home town of Mountain View when it was rear ended in the approach to an intersection. The two cars in front of the google car stopped at the junction, the google car travelling at 15mph behind them also stopped, whilst a further fourth car travelling at 17mph failed to stop and collided with the Google Lexus. In car telematics showed that the fourth car responsible for the crash did not brake.  The driver of the fourth car clearly must have not been paying due attention to the traffic in front and although no police accident report was filed, Google did file a report to the California Department of Motor vehicles.

In this incident there were three injuries to passengers of the Google car. One was a driver that California law requires to be present in order to take control of the self drive car in an emergency, the second was a passenger that Google employs to take reports and observations on Google cars journeys and the third was another employee. All suffered only minor whip lash and were cleared for work.

Google has been in the media before in regards the new self drive technology. It has a lot to prove and is very keen to ensure that all accidents that we see in the media are not blamed on their technology failing. In deed they are not wrong, so far they have had 14 collisions. 11 of which were due to their self drive cars being rear ended. Another collision was a google car rear ending another car, but this turned out to be an employee driving at the time and not the self drive technology.

Chris Urmson the head of the Google Self Drive Tech recently blogged ” Googles SUVs are being hit ‘surprisingly often’ by distracted drivers, perhaps people looking at their phones”  What Google believe,  is that these crashes are doing nothing to damage the Google self Drive reputation and credibility, more to contrary, they are actually proving an argument in favour of their technology.

URMSON STATES ” THE CLEAR THEME IS HUMAN ERROR AND INATTENTION. WE’LL TAKE THIS AS A SIGNAL THAT WE’RE STARTING TO COMPARE FAVOURABLY WITH HUMAN DRIVERS”  

 In a telephone interview Urmson commented that his team were currently exploring whether their cars could do anything to alert distracted drivers before a collision… he stated that they had considered honking, but was worried this would annoy the residents of Mountain View. 

Quite clearly Mr Urmson is enjoying a humorous take on the events in Googles home town and also the medias frenzy over the overstated collisions. After all he does seem to make a good point. Google have tested their cars over 1.9 million miles with 20 prototypes. 14 collisions is possibly not a lot. Especially when they have clearly been due to human error in other cars.

BUT THATS JUST THE POINT…

The roads are full of other drivers that do not plug into a lap top or sync with a google control system. Drivers that have a better battery life and un programmed thoughts! And the issue here is not that the Google cars are better drivers at all, we as humans can very often predict and react to the mistakes of others a

HONK! HONK! LOOK OUT!! GOOGLE’S ABOUT!!!

HONK! HONK! LOOK OUT!! GOOGLE’S ABOUT!!!

nd adjust our driving to avoid collisions.

WE CALL IT DEFENSIVE DRIVING. 
AIM: TO REDUCE RISK OF COLLISION BY ANTICIPATING DANGEROUS SITUATIONS, DESPITE ADVERSE CONDITIONS OR THE MISTAKES OF OTHERS

I’m sure that Google cars will work perfectly on a road populated by other self drive vehicles. But they are not going to be doing this… well I personally hope not for a very long time! So the question is not can they drive, but more.. Can they drive with other road users safely?

Lets imagine a scenario where a self drive car encounters a learner driver. It is likely that the learner driver will at some point make an error of judgement, with normal road users we would already ( heres being hopeful again!) expect this may happen and we would give the learner more space and consideration. We may predict that as they come towards us they may cut the corner and enter our own carriageway as they struggle to master the steering. So we adjust our own course to fit around them. We might not be happy about it, but we know these things can and will happen and that we all make mistakes …. well us all being the non robot variety!!!! The examples of such scenarios are not hard to imagine, we’ve all seen a car in front behaving with hesitation and suspected it may try to change lanes without indicating and therefore treated it with caution. Most of these suspicions are right, we can pretty much rely on each other to make errors of judgement, of we didn’t insurance companies wouldn’t be able to charge young drivers more.

THIS PREDICTIVE SENSE IS OUR HUMAN INSTINCT.

The amount of times I will say to a passenger whilst driving ” I knew they were going to do that!” as someone ( very often in a white van) tries to cut into an impossible space or a young lad pulls out at the last minute causing me to slam my breaks on is considerable. I as an experienced driver could see the warning signs and anticipated their error. This is human instinct and what Google call ” a collision that was not our fault” . Yes Google, your driver less car may have not caused the collision… But it did’t avoid it either. When all other road users have to take a driving test assessing not only their ability to get from A-B, but to do it safely, it seems crazy that a driver less car doesn’t.  If they cannot drive safely with other road users then i’d say that is a fail!

If we look at the majority of the collisions that the driver less cars have so far suffered, they have mostly been from other road users hitting them from behind. In defensive driving if we had been in the google cars position, we would be checking our rear mirror and if it looks like a car coming towards us cannot stop in time we would move forward or to the side into the extra space left between our selves and the car in front. Therefore avoiding such an accident. You would have thought that after so many rear end collisions the driver less car would have learned from his (her? it?) mistakes. It could learn and adapt, building up road experience so it could read the road better and avoid such accidents in the future….. but I guess its just not that clever and after all you could just add a horn!

For the moment at least, google are happy to report on collisions, after all they can say they were all human error and it suits their cause too. But I will always be in favour of a human driven vehicle, what can I say ” I prefer to keep my bumper in tact!”

 

Bibliography

The India Times ( picture insert at top of blog)

Mashable

 

Chris RichardsGOOGLE CARS : THE FIRST CHOICE FOR A ROBOT SOCIETY
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