Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Need for speed...

One of my regular readers asked me to provide more detail on a comment made in a previous post.

"...surreptitiously sneaked into the middle is the unexplained, "A pupil who's [sic] main driving role model is a dick." Perhaps you can shed some more light on this. Remember this is a public forum."
So this is for Pete.

One of the main characteristics of learner drivers is that they go too slowly in the quick bits, and they go too quickly in the slow bits.

First of all, going too slowly on fast roads...

Using the PIE model, they may physically be struggling to do what they need to do to drive at the right speed. Not being able to change into a high gear might be one reason. Not looking far enough ahead is a more common one. They may not have the knowledge that's required (that white sign with a black diagonal stripe is a national speed limit sign, which means 60 mph on a single carriageway and 70 mph on a motorway or dual carriageway) And they may be shitting themselves lack the confindence to travel at the required speed.

Secondly, going to quickly when they should be going slowly happens for some fairly well defined reasons.

Not being able to make the car go slowly enough is one thing. Clutch control takes time to master, as does using the brakes in a progressive way. But it's often not a physical thing. The emotional and perceptual play a big part.

Learners will often find the correct speed if there's nothing behind them, but will go too quickly if they can see a car in their mirror. They feel that the driver of the car behind is angry with them for getting in the way. This is sometimes true, but generally, most people are pretty tolerant, and the ones that aren't are never going to be happy with having a learner in front of them, even if that learner is travelling at 90mph.

Psychologically, if someone is uncomfortable with their situation, they don't want to be there, and will often rush, just to get it over with. The most blatant example for me was a couple of years ago, an elderly lady wanted refresher lessons. I took her to New Brighton promenade, and she shot off like a bat out of hell. I ended up taking her onto the motorway just to keep us safe. We got there in the end, but the first few sessions were pretty scary for both of us.

Finally, the speed someone chooses is based upon preconceptions. If your experience of driving comes from sitting next to a careful driver who drives defensively and carefully, your perception of what's acceptable may well be very different to someone who's spent their time as a passenger with someone who drives aggressively.  On lesson one, when I'm taking a new pupil somewhere quiet, I will generally try to drive as well as I can, to set a good example. Generally.

And so to the pupil I was referring to. Just for the purposes of this post, let's call him Steve. His real name is Dave, but let's call him Steve.

On lesson one, I took Steve to "The Dips", and was in the middle of a fairly standard first lesson when a car whizzed past us, screeched to a halt a bit further down the road, rapidly did a 3 point turn, and drove back, pulling up next to us. It was Steve's dad, and he was made up to see his son actually behind the wheel doing a bit. We spoke briefly, he wished his son and me well, and off he went. Steve's dad drives for a living, making deliveries. I get the impression that he's a bit quick.

I did a lesson with Steve a week or so ago, and it was terrifying. I spent the whole lesson trying to slow him down, as he was going far too quickly into blind junctions and upto red traffic lights. Everywhere really.

A thought struck me then, that the reason he was driving that was was because that's the way he thought he was expected to drive. At the end of the lesson, I asked him why he wanted to do it this way, and he couldn't really offer any explanation. I certainly wasn't going to start calling his dad a bad driver to his face, so I mentioned about nervous drivers and worries about the person behind thinking bad thoughts.

I saw Steve again a couple of days ago. I'd really been dreading the lesson, but he made a conscious effort to do things differently, and at some point, a whole cascade of pennies seemed to drop. He really flew, and by that I don't mean he drove at 100 miles an hour. Giving himself the time to do things properly put him in control, and he really got into the new skills he had acquired.

Hopefully, he will take a lot of what he learned and take it into his future driving. Steve is at the beginning of a career path (he plays football at youth level for a professional team) that could potentially see him make a lot of money and be given some high powered vehicles to drive.

driving lessons in Wallasey? learn to drive in Wirral? driving instructor in Birkenhead?


Pete said...

Thank you for that explanation.

As you know, I have ridden motorbikes for over 20 years. So, I am very keenly aware of the dangers on the roads. I also live in a country that has a far higher road death rate than anywhere in Western Europe and has no effective or comprehensive driver training. That's right, none. People just learn from their mates, or their uncle or aunt or replicate what they do on a moped just with a steering wheel and four wheels. The driving test involves an eyesight test, a multiple choice test of the meaning of road signs and the practical test, which is held in a car park and involves reverse parking between cones and takes five minutes. Hit the cones = try again, hit them again = fail. That's it.

Anyway, you get my point, you will see a lot of whacky and dangerous driving every day. By far the worst and most dangerous drivers on the road are those who drive for a living, unlicensed minivan drivers, delivery van drivers, taxi drivers, etc. When I see them, I give them a wide berth 'cos I know they are going to do a sudden and unannounced lane change at the worst moment, always putting on their indicator about three-quarters of the way through the manoeuvre pretending they had carried out an observation before starting it.

So, I fully understand your point about people who drive for a living, presently company excepted of course. :)

Public forum and all that - reminder

Pete said...

"presently" what was I thinking?