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Defensive driving - some tips from me to get you started...

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Click here to view video

I've had a request on YouTube to talk about defensive driving. Thank you to that person...you know who you are! I've put together a short video on how you can get started driving defensively. The following list are just some of the things that will help you stay safe on the roads for many years to come, in no particular order!


  • Don't be competetive...think safety first. 
  • Pay attention at all times to what's going on all around you...think "safety bubble", Google it!
  • Always think about an escape route...you never know when you might need it.
  • Think "eco-safe" driving...practice deceleration skills, and not using your brake when in slow moving queues, unless you need to of course.
  • Stop wasting energy getting cross about other driver's actions...use your energy to concentrate on what you're doing.
  • Don't get too close to the car in front...and think about how close the driver behind you is...you might have to take evasive action.
  • Always expect the unexpected...other drivers may not always do what you expect them to do.


The following link will take you to some more defensive driving tips...enjoy!

http://www.gecapital.co.uk/en/docs/GE_Capital_Safe_Driving_Top_Tips.pdf


Talk soon, take care out there!

Helen Adams ADI.
www.purple-driving.co.uk

Normal road position...and some tips on how to develop it...

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My thoughts on normal road position...and what you can do to help you be in the best road position. This is just a short video to help any of you that are currently learning to drive and finding it difficult to be in the correct road position.

Over the years, I have helped hundreds of learner drivers to achieve their goal of passing the driving test and gaining that all important freedom. Some students don't ever seem to have an issue with their road postion, and some do. One of the most common issues I've observed is that students like to either be really close to the broken separation white lines (that separate the two sides of the road), or be really close to the kerb.

Just click on the link below to view video...

Normal road position...some tips..


One important factor to consider is for you to remember that you may not "get" it right away. These things take time and practice, so I'd always advise that in the first few hours of your training, that you aren't too hard on yourself, be kind to yourself, allow yourself to make a few mistakes. The other tip I would give you, is to be honest with your driving instructor or accompanying driver. Tell them what your fears are, brcause they will probably come up with some useful information that will help you. However, they can't help you if you don't verbalise your anxietites.

Talk soon, take care out there!

Helen Adams ADI.
www.purple-driving.co.uk

My YouTube Channel - Purple Driving

Mini roundabouts

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At some point in your driver training you will come across mini roundabouts. A lot of my students have struggled with these. The aim of this blog post is to inform you of the rules and regulations pertaining to mini roundabouts and to introduce you to some tips on how best to deal with them as a driver.

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Mini roundabouts differ from other roundabouts because they have a small white painted circle in the centre that replaces the central island. The Highway Code has specific advice about these paint blobs, stating, that, "It is important to remember that all vehicles must pass round the central markings, unless they are too large to do so." This is important advice because the painted circle and other road markings are designed to direct the traffic flow. When negotiating mini roundabouts during your driving test, it won't always be possible to not drive over the painted circle. All you can do is make the best effort to go around it. Please be very aware that some drivers ignore these road markings totally!

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This double mini roundabout is located at the Pink Pub in Bognor Regis, West Sussex.

Usually mini roundabouts come in two different layouts...three exits or four exits. I advise my learner drivers to treat them just the same as they would for normal roundabouts. Having said that, there are a couple of things that you need to be aware of when dealing with them...

One noticeable difference is that it can be difficult to signal left off mini roundabouts because you are so busy steering, so, be careful of other road users who may not have time to signal left off, and take extra care! If you find you are unable to do so, don't worry, you won't be marked down for not signalling off a mini roundabout on your driving test.

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These two can be found in Chichester, West Sussex.

Another question that arises occasionally is, do I need to give way to the person opposite at the 12 o'clock position? You need to assess this carefully (ask yourself if they will have started turning before me?), and, if you have any doubt, then it's best to just let them enter the roundabout before you. If in doubt, don't pull out!

I have been asked if a signal is required if following the road ahead at a mini roundabout. It depends on the layout. If I was approaching one that didn't have a right exit (so you could only go left or ahead), then I would signal left because it would help the oncoming traffic. If it ahead and right exits, I wouldn't signal at all. Some have been taught to signal right when going ahead, but I think this could be misleading as some drivers may think your'e doing a U turn.

Occasionally, you may come across a double mini roundabout. You should treat each roundabout separately and apply the same rules as already discussed. I do hope you dont have to deal with this beastie on your driving test!

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Whatever kind of mini roundabouits you have in your area, try not to be too afraid of them, apply the same rules as you would for normal roundabouts, and take your time when dealing with them. Happy driving!

Helen Adams ADI

The Highway Code gives very useful information about how drivers should negotiate roundabouts and advises that you should apply these rules to mini roundabouts. See this link,

Highway Code roundabout tips

 

Show me tell me questions

Car "show me, tell me" vehicle safety questions.

 

Show me questions

 

I will have mentioned these at some point during your driver training with me. Previously I have asked students to Google these questions, but I thought it would be useful to write about them in a blog. Let's assume you know nothing about them...

 

Before you take your driving test, the examiner will ask you 2 vehicle safety questions. You may also know these as the ‘show me, tell me’ questions. One of the questions will usually involve you opening the bonnet of your vehicle, and the other will usually take place once you've got into your car...unless it's raining in which case both questions will be asked inside the car!

 

Your examiner will ask you one ‘show me’ question, where you’ll have to show them how you’d carry out a vehicle safety check, followed by one ‘tell me’ question, where you’ll have to explain to the examiner how you’d carry out the check.

 

If you get one question incorrect, no driver fault will be marked. If you get them both wrong, you will get one driver fault. That's why, in my opinion, its worth revising them all! It's important that you take some time to really understand the question and answer in your own words, rather than just repeat the answer parrot fashion.

 

1- Show me how you would check that the direction indicators are working.

A- There's two ways to check these. The best way is to turn the ignition on (under no circumstances must you switch the engine on), and then apply the indicators. An alternative way is to turn the hazard warning lights on. You would then explain you'd need to walk round the car to check that all the bulbs are functioning.

 

2- Show me how you would check the brake lights are working on this car.

A- There are two ways to do this. The first is to turn the ignition on (under no circumstances must you switch the engine on), apply the brakes and check the bulbs are working by seeing them in a reflective surface. The second way is to ask a friend to stand behind your car whilst you apply the brakes.

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3- Show me, or explain how you would check that the power assisted steering is working before starting a journey.

A- Power steering is powered by the engine. That's why the steering wheel is difficult to move when the engine is off. It's simple to check. Place your thumb on the steering wheel and apply gentle downwards pressure (the wheel will hardly move), before you turn the engine on. As soon as you turn the engine on the wheel will move quickly downwards.

 

4- Show me how you would check the parking brake (handbrake) for excessive wear; make sure you keep safe control of the vehicle.

A- Apply the footbrake to secure the car. Apply the parking brake. It should secure itself and not be at the end of its working travel. In other words, it should stay on and not stay in too high a position.

 

5- Show me how you would check that the horn is working.

A- Press the horn!

 

6- Show me how you would clean the windscreen using the windscreen washer and wipers.

A- Turn ignition on and demonstrate that you can operate them.

 

7- Show me how you would switch on the rear fog light(s) and explain when you would use it/them.

A- Turn the ignition on and then turn the fog light on. Explain how you would know it's on by pointing out the red light on the instrument panel, and when and why you would use it to demonstrate that you understand the law. Please see extracts from Highway Code below for explanation.

 

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You MUST NOT use front or rear fog lights unless visibility is seriously reduced (see Rule 226) as they dazzle other road users and can obscure your brake lights. You MUST switch them off when visibility improves. Law RVLR regs 25 & 27 Accessed online at, http://www.highwaycodeuk.co.uk/driving-in-adverse-weather-conditions---fog-234-to-236.html

 

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You MUST use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced, generally when you cannot see for more than 100 metres (328 feet). You may also use front or rear fog lights but you MUST switch them off when visibility improves (see Rule 236). Law RVLR regs 25 & 27 Accessed online at, http://www.highwaycodeuk.co.uk/driving-in-adverse-weather-conditions---overview-226.html

 

8- Show me how you switch your headlight from dipped to main beam and explain how you would know the main beam is on.

A- Turn on the ignition, turn on the headlights and then demonstrate how you would put main beam on. Point out the blue switch on the instrument panel when main beam is on.

 

9- Show me how you would set the demister controls to clear all the windows effectively.

A- Set relevant controls including fan, temperature air direction / source and heated screen to clear windscreen and windows. You do not need to start the engine; the examiner just wants to know that you know how to do it!

 

10- Open the bonnet, identify where you would check the engine oil level and tell me how you would check that the engine has sufficient oil.

A- Its important that your driving instructor shows you how to open the bonnet and explains where the dipstick is and how you know if your car has sufficient oil. The examiner will ask you not to touch anything in the engine bay. So you will only be expected to point out where the dipstick is located. You'll have to explain how you know the oil is at the correct level and how you use the dipstick to check it. It's also important that you do this before driving so that the oil is cold. Your instructor will be able to explain this to you.

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11- Open the bonnet, identify where you would check the engine coolant level and tell me how you would check that the engine has the correct level.

A- Show the examiner where the high/low level markings on header tank where fitted or radiator filler cap, and describe how to top up to correct level.

 

12- Open the bonnet, identify where the brake fluid reservoir is and tell me how you would check that you have a safe level of hydraulic brake fluid.

A- Show the examiner where the high/low level markings are located on the brake fluid reservoir.

 

 

Tell me questions

 

1- Tell me how you would check that the brakes are working before starting a journey.

A- Tell the examiner that the brakes shouldn't feel spongy or slack, and when you use them, the car shouldn't pull to one side. You should check this just after moving off.

 

2- Identify where the windscreen washer reservoir is and tell me how you would check the windscreen washer level.

A- I find it a bit strange that this is a "tell me" question, as it is more difficult to tell the examiner where it is than it is to show them! However, you would just explain that you'd need to open the bonnet to fill it up and that there aren't any minimum or maximum marks, so it's just a visual check to see where the level is. That's why the windscreen washer fluid is bright green!

 

3- Tell me where you would find the information for the recommended tyre pressures for this car and how tyre pressures should be checked.

A- You'll find this information either in the handbook or some cars have a sticker on the doorsill. Tyres should be checked before driving so that they are cold otherwise you wouldn't get a reliable reading, using a pressure gauge. Remember the spare tyre and be sure to replace the dust caps.

 

4- Tell me how you make sure your head restraint is correctly adjusted so it provides the best protection in the event of a crash.

A- Tell the examiner that the top of your ear should appear in the centre of the head restraint.

 

5- Tell me how you would check the tyres to ensure that they have sufficient tread depth and that their general condition is safe to use on the road.

A- Explain that the minimum tyre depth is 1.6mm across the centre 3/4 of the tread, and that you would check it with a tyre depth gauge. There should be no cuts or bulges visible either on the tread or the wall (side), of the tyre.

 

6- Tell me how you would check that the headlights and taillights are working.

A- Tell the examiner that you would need to switch the ignition on, turn the headlights to the on position, and that you'd then need to walk around the car to check that all the bulbs are on.

 

7- Tell me how you would know if there was a problem with your anti-lock braking system.

A- Explain that an amber warning light would come on on the instrument panel.


I hope you find this useful...it might save you searching the internet for them! It is important that you have at least a basic knowledge of the functioning of your vehicle, so it's useful to learn this, not just for the driving test!


Helen Adams ADI

What's the best way for my son or daughter to pass their driving test?

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Pictured above, one very happy Hannah, who now has a full driving licence!

 

I am asked my opinion on this on a very regular basis, so I thought a blog post would be of benefit to you. Please note that these are my own personal observations and recommendations, and are intended to be taken only as such. You must work out and decide the best way forward for you and your child.

One of the first things to do is to get your son or daughter to apply for a provisional driving licence.

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When can I apply for my provisional driving licence?

 

The following information was copied from the GOV.UK website at, https://www.gov.uk/apply-first-provisional-driving-licence You can apply for a provisional driving licence when you’re 15 years and 9 months old.

You can start driving when you’re:

17 - if you want to drive a car

16 - if you want to ride a moped or light quad bike

Your licence will say when you can start driving different vehicles.

You can drive a car when you are 16 if you get, or have applied for, the enhanced rate of the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Use the following link to apply for your provisional driving licence. https://www.gov.uk/apply-first-provisional-driving-licence

 

When can I start my driving lessons?

 

Your son or daughter can start their driving lessons as soon as they are in possession of their provisional driving licence. However (funny how there's always a "however" isn't it?!), I would strongly advise you to encourage your child to pass their theory test first!

Yes, you read that correctly! In my experience, my students aren't at all keen on studying for or taking the theory test at all! Therefore, if I had a child who was desperate to get driving, I would definitely "make" them pass this before taking any driving lessons!

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Theory test - what you need to know.

 

One way to practice for your hazard perception and theory test at this "Safe Driving for Life" website as recommended by the DVSA.

https://www.safedrivingforlife.info/take-official-free-practice-driving-theory-test/

You may also find the following links helpful.

 

This is a link to info on the DVSA app,

Official DVSA complete-theory-test-kit-iphone-app-app

https://www.safedrivingforlife.info/shop/car

DVSA complete digital learning pack

The DVSA Learning zone, DVSA Learning zone

This link is to a DVD that I would recommend,

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Driving-Test-Success-Tests 2014/dp/1843265931/ref=sr_1_1?s=software&ie=UTF8&qid=1410862559&sr=1-1&keywords=focus+hazard+perception

In addition, this is to a book that I would also recommend. It has all the Theory questions in the back, and does go into a lot more detail about what I will be introducing on your driving lessons.

Learn to drive

The Official DVSA Guide to Driving 2015 - The Essential Skills Driving - The essential skills

The link below will take you to The Highway Code for an online version. This and Know your traffic signs are essential reading if you wish to become a safe and responsible driver.

Online Highway Code

Know your traffic signs, for a free download.

Know your traffic signs - free download!

Best/cheapest car insurance, Car insurance for young drivers

Please, please don't take your theory test unless you are confident that you will pass it. Most of the revision material that I have mentioned will let you take mock tests, and these are a brilliant way of finding out where your knowledge may be lacking.

 

How do I book my theory test?

 

The best place to book your theory test is via the following link, which will take you to the official Government website. At the time of writing, it costs £32. If you live in West Sussex, the nearest Theory Test Centres are based in Worthing and Portsmouth. See below for link.

Theory test centres - Find your nearest Theory test centre.

Book theory test - https://www.gov.uk/book-theory-test

 

Choosing a driving instructor

 

Personally, choosing the right driving instructor for your child is an important decision if you want to make their learning as efficient and enjoyable as possible. I don't think learning to drive needs to be stressful or difficult; you just need to find the best driving instructor...and the best one is the one that has the ability to unlock their student's full potential. Here are some important things that I think you should consider before you choose your driving instructor.

  • How did you hear about them? Personal recommendation is best if you're looking for professional services. If I were looking for a decent painter, I'd ask my friends and work colleagues. The same applies to driving instructors.
  • How soon can they start? This may seem an obvious question, but I think it's a good indicator of how good the instructor is. Those who can start the same week you call them might be convenient, but those who have a waiting list generally have a list because students are prepared to wait for them; and if they're prepared to wait for them there must be a reason.
  • What do others think about them? If you can't get any personal recommendations, have a look at their website review or testimonial page. Make sure there is a photo of the student included in the review. Even more important are the Google reviews, as students have to make an effort to leave a review on Google.
  • Have a conversation with them. You can tell a lot from a conversation. Are they actually listening to you, or are they too busy selling themselves? Make sure to make a list of things you want to discuss before you ring.

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Private practice

 

Is it a good thing? You'll get conflicting views on this! I am a strong fan of students having private practice, as I believe it forces them to take responsibility for their own actions very early on in the learning process. Without a doubt, you will get something from it, and all my students have found it worked out cheaper in the end, as they didn't need as many driving lessons.

 

Progression

 

Another crucial point that is often overlooked is, how well are you progressing with your driving instructor? Can you measure that progress? Do you feel as though you're driving is improving? How are you measuring your progress? Have you done a mock test? This is a good way to find out exactly where you're at. Have you discussed your progress with your instructor? Have you been given advice as to when you'll be ready for your driving test?

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Frequency of driving lessons

 

Does your son or daughter know how they learn best? I'm not only referring to their individual learning style (see diagram), but the frequency of lessons. Would they prefer to have one lesson per week...or more than that? Some students have said that they forget things after seven days, and that they learnt so much better when they did two or even three sessions per week because they didn't forget what they'd learnt on their last lesson.

 

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In conclusion

 

Learning to drive can be fraught with difficulties but it doesn't need to be. Do some research. And, remember, if after all your hard work something still isn't working as it should and your child isn't enjoying their driving lessons and making progress, don't be afraid to make some changes.


Helen Adams ADI - Please remember, I am always happy to help if I can!

Would you like my job? I could train you to be a driving instructor!

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Have you ever thought about changing your life and becoming a driving instructor? If so, I can help! 

I'm not going to rant on at you about all the benefits and drawbacks of being a driving instructor, because the easiest place to start is to click on the following link, Becoming a driving instructor and you can read all about it!

Once you've had a read, and are still curious to know if what I do would suit you, then check me out on the DVSA Ordit Register. I offer Pay As You Go driving instructor training, which gives you the freedom of knowing that you will never be tied to a contract and have to pay large sums of money upfront. 

One final thing, If you are still pondering about whether being a driving instructor is for you, please feel free to call me and we can have a chat...

Helen Adams ADI, Dip DE



The Big Learner Relay 2015

The Big Learner Relay 2015

Last year I was lucky to be included in The Big Learner Relay as lead car. My pupil, Thomas drove up to Midhurts and we swapped the Pudsey Bear Roofbox over and relayed it to Petersfield. This year it was the turn of Steve Pearce to be lead car, and I was proud to be his support (as he was mine last year).

The Big Learner Relay was the brainchild of driving instructor Louise Walsh, and last year driving instructors from all over the UK and Northern Ireland helped raise just over £65,000 for BBC's Children in Need. I have taken the liberty of copying the following from The Big Learner Relay's official website as Lou explains it much better than me! I hope you don't mind Lou!

"In November 2013 whilst watching The BBC’s Children in Need Appeal Show I started to think of how Driving Instructors could get involved with the charity… and The Big Learner Relay was born!

After months of planning, The Big Learner Relay for Children in Need became a reality and in November of 2014 Driving Instructors across The UK came together to make it a fantastic success.

Over 2,500 miles, over 14 days, over 135 instructors and pupils relayed the Big Learner Relay Top Box from one driving lesson to another! Over 1000 instructors got involved either by going spotty, fundraising and sponsoring or by joining the relay. Some legs of the relay had convoys of instructor cars as far as the eye could see!

We smashed our rather conservative target of £5,000 and handed over a whopping £65,500 to Children in Need in 2014 showing that Driving Instructors can make a difference.

With last year’s relay being such a resounding success how could we not do it all again this year?!

There are many ways you can get involved – join the relay, get spotty, support our merchandize shop or simply donate and follow us virtually. There is an opportunity for everyone.

On this website you will find all the information you need to get involved. Please also follow us on Twitter and Facebook for all the latest BLR news.

The task of making this event a reality is only possible due to the enthusiasm and support of so many instructors.  This year’s route has been planned to take in as many places as we can over the two weeks and to involve as many driving instructors and pupils as possible.  We hope you will be able to join us along the relay route.

We have asked a selection of driving instructors to be involved on a more committed level by being lead cars. This is to ensure that every leg of the relay has a confirmed instructor and pupil in place so that the relay runs without a break in the chain.  Lead cars were selected based on location, availability and response.

To see the full route and find a leg near you please click the route tab above. All lead cars would love you to be involved and will welcome you along. Feel free to just turn up, no booking involved. The relay will only have the impact we are hoping for if as many instructors with pupils come and join it. Last year’s pupils really enjoyed their drive and said it was a lesson like no other! Instructors reported their pupils driving rose to the occasion and many said it was a turning point in their pupils learning!

Not wanting to miss out on any of the fun, I am travelling the whole route in the back of each lead car.  I am looking forward to meeting so many of you, taking photos, cheering you on, updating the live feeds, communicating with the media and wearing my Big Learner Relay T-shirt with pride, as we travel around the country.  Please come and say hello!

The relay starts with one day in Northern Ireland on Monday 26th October. The Isle of Wight then kicks off the main route on Friday 30th October. The relay then continues its convoy around the UK finishing in Swindon on the 13th November – Children in Need Appeal Day 2015 – 15 days, 3000 miles, 180 lead driving lessons and many hundreds of instructors and pupils joining the convoy – Come and join us!
See you in the relay!"

Click on this link to go to the official website - The Big Learner Relay 2015

Below are some of the photos from this year's ceremonial swapping of the roofbox!

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Louise Walsh - the creator of the Big Learner Relay

Road position - how can I sort it?

Road position - how can I sort it?

This issue crops up regularly on my student's driving lessons, so I thought it would be useful to explore the subject a bit further. There is some really good online information on this subject entitled "Your position on the road" which you can access via the Safe Driving for Life website; see References below. The information in the article discusses how, 

"Driving in the correct position on the road is important for safety and helps traffic flow freely."

And it does it so well that I see little point in repeating their advice! 

For this reason, I'd simply like to discuss how YOU, as a learner driver, can help yourself learn how to drive in the correct road position. I'm sure your driving instructor will have gone through various methods to help you achieve a normal road position already, but I'm hoping you will find some of the following suggestions effective. 

Reference points

I'm hoping you will already be familiar with and understand what I mean by reference points? For those of you who aren't, let me explain. Reference points are...simply, points of reference that help you consistently get your car in the right position again and again and again. Let's look at how to use them. 

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I want you to park your car 10 cms (or a palm's width), away from the kerb. Now, I'd like you to look at where the bottom of the kerb cuts into the bottom of your windscreen...and take a mental snapshot and remember it. Now look in your left mirror and do the same for where your passenger door handle sits in relation to the kerb...and take another mental snapshot. These are your reference points for parking at the side of the road. 

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Every time you want to park 10cms away from the kerb all you have to do is to drive slowly (walking pace), and steer gently towards the kerb until your front reference point lines up on the bottom of your windscreen. Then check that your left reference point is where it should be in relation to the door handle. And that should be you, perfectly parked! 

You know where this is leading now don't you? Yes, that's right, you can get a reference point for your normal road position! You'll need to find a really quiet road so you can get your car in your normal driving position so that you can take your reference point. Notice I say point and not point? You won't be able to use the door handle as it will be too far away from the kerb and it will take your eyes too far away from the road ahead. Once you've got your reference point, take a mental snapshot and use it when you need to keep your car in the correct position. 

Personally, I have to admit, I don't like this reference point as I find it very difficult to line up the kerb on the bottom of my windscreen when the car is moving! So, I came up with a couple of my own that I'll happily share with you. The first one, and my personal favourite is, 

The steering wheel

I love this one cause it's so easy! It's so easy (and effective), that you can get it while you're on the move! Again, find yourself a nice quiet road because that way you're minimising risks. Then simply position your car so that your steering wheel appears to be in the centre of the lane. It's best to use a road that has centre white lines...for obvious reasons! You can do it on a road without the white lines, but it's much harder! When you get this right, you'll find your car is positioned just left of centre, which is your ideal road position for normal driving. 

Driver's door

I don't use this one as much as the last one but it's still worth a mention. As before, get yourself in a very quiet road so you don't annoy the neighbours! Then, driving slowly, so you stay in charge, line up the centre white line so it appears to line up with the top of the door sill. You want it so it looks like the centre white lines appear to enter the bottom of the driver's window...or the top of the door sill. 

As a novice driver, I'd advise that you take the trouble to really "get" yourself a reference point that  works for YOU, on a regular reliable basis. The more you use them, the more you'll trust them, which will increase your confidence 

Parked cars - clearance

When your driving instructor introduces this subject to you, you'll be able to get a reference point for knowing when you're a foot away, two feet away and three feet away from the parked cars. This time, you won't be able to use the kerb, you'll have to draw an imaginary line from where the tyres of the parked cars are on the road, and use that as your kerb! If you really want to, you can do this for all three positions. Do be careful that you just glance to make sure your reference point is in the correct position, otherwise you'll find yourself steering towards the kerb! 

Mirrors

I feel I have to make mention of your exterior mirrors under this subject. I'm not going to suggest that you can use them as a reference point, however, some students have used them very effectively to ensure they stay in their normal driving position. Regular use of them will improve your general spatial awareness and some find they prefer them than using a reference point. 

I hope that you have found this article useful and that it will encourage you to go out and find yourself some really useful reference points that you can use on a daily basis when you drive. 

If you have any questions for me you know how to contact me! 

Helen Adams ADI,  Dip DI, Ordit registered ADI trainer. 

www.purple-driving.co.uk

References

Your position on the road. Accessed online on 22 September 2015 at, https://www.safedrivingforlife.info/drivers-and-ri...

Eco friendly driving - why should I bother?!

Eco safe driving - why should I bother?! 

Within the last 10 years, DVSA examiners started assessing the candidate's ability to demonstrate driving techniques that measure their fuel efficiency. This was introduced in order to comply with European Union legislation.

So what does Eco safe driving mean? Well, the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as, 

"The practice of driving in such a way as to minimise fuel consumption and the emission of carbon dioxide"

Let's delve a little further and discover more about Eco friendly driving and how you can benefit from practising it on your driving test and beyond. The DT1 (which is a document that provides guidance for DVSA driving examiners), states that, 

"'Eco-safe Driving' is a recognised and proven style of driving. It contributes to road safety while reducing fuel consumption and emissions and is part of the EU 3rd Directive on Driving Licences, which reflects the increased awareness and need for economical / environmentally friendly driving."

On your driving test there are two Eco-safe headings: control and planning. The Eco safe driving boxes on the marking sheet (DL25), are used by the examiner to record an assessment of the driver's ability to drive economically and with the environment in mind. The DVSA recognises that learner drivers are not expected to be experts at Eco friendly driving, to the extent that it doesn't contribute to the result of the test. 

Let's have a closer look at each of these categories in detail, starting with control. A good understanding of how to use the controls correctly and smoothly will result in the development of something called vehicle sympathy, which will naturally lead to Eco friendly driving. 

Control

Accelerator  

Gentle acceleration will use less fuel so it's important to develop gentle feet from the very start of your driver training. Take your time getting used to exactly how little pressure is needed when using the throttle; a gentle squeeze is all that's needed. I like to get my students to understand the importance of getting your feet coordinated when using the gas and the clutch to move off from a standstill; a lesson I call "pedal confidence"! It's also important to understand about what happens when we ease off the accelerator, this is known as deceleration. Development of deceleration sense will also aid fuel economy. 

Brakes  

As a new driver I think it's important to understand why you should aim not to use the brakes harshly. Take your time to practice smooth use of the brakes, and learn when to brake. What we're aiming for is something called progressive braking, which is the art of easing off the brakes as the vehicle comes to a stop. As for when to use the footbrake, this will take practice and a good understanding of when to come off the gas and use deceleration sense as mentioned under use of the accelerator (see above). When you first start to learn to drive and you have used the brakes a few times, my advice would be to ask your driving instructor if you can just practice braking. This way you can find out just how long it takes your car to come to a stop where you want it to stop, and how much pressure is needed to develop a smooth way of braking; always much nicer for your passengers! 

Gears  

Being in the correct gear for the speed you're travelling at also impacts on the amount of fuel your vehicle uses, and therefore affects your Eco friendly driving status by releasing less pollutants into the air. 

A lot of people believe that in order to achieve maximum fuel efficiency, they need to be in the highest possible gear for their speed. This is generally correct, but be very careful to remember it's also important not to let the engine "labour". This is where the engine is under strain because the revs are too low for the speed and this can lead to some of the fuel in the cylinder not burning, which can harm the engine and engine oil. 

Ask your instructor to tell you about and teach you "block changing" too. This is a relatively simple technique that can also save fuel. 

Planning

Forward planning and anticipation can have a huge impact on how Eco friendly your driving style is. Unfortunately, as a new learner driver, you will not be able to plan ahead at all in the very early stages of your training. This is because all of your brain is struggling to deal with the very basic car control skills. 

However, once you are further into your training, you will find it easier to look further ahead and begin to anticipate how other drivers may affect the way you use the controls as already discussed in the "Control" section above. The list below highlights some poor planning techniques that will increase your fuel consumption. 

- Not anticipating what you will need to do at junctions and roundabouts, resulting in harsh braking. 

- Getting too close to the vehicle ahead in queues, resulting in unnecessary braking. 

 - Not looking far enough ahead reduces your ability to plan block gear changes.  

- Poor anticipation of other road user's intentions, resulting in you having to stop instead of keeping your vehicle moving. 

- Responding late to speed limit road signs leads to late/harsh braking which wastes fuel.

In this blogpost I have only mentioned a few Eco friendly techniques and "do's and don'ts"; there are many more ways that drivers can utilise that can lessen the impact your driving has on the environment. Please ask your driving instructor for more guidance. 

Helen Adams ADI www.purple-driving.co.uk

References

"Eco-driving advice - Get more out of the fuel you buy". Accessed online on 20 September 2015 at,  http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/fuels-and-env...

Definition of Eco friendly driving. Accessed online on 18 September 2015 at, http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/engli...

Instructing or coaching?

Instructing or coaching?

I'd like to introduce you to the concept of coaching and discuss the benefits of using coaching versus traditional driving instruction. The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) scrapped the Check Test early in 2014, and replaced it with the Standards Check. Shortly after, a couple of real buzz words started flying around the driving instruction world, namely coaching and client centred learning (CCL).

Before looking at the differences between coaching and instructor further, a brief word about CCL from the DVSA. They believe that,

"In the context of learning to drive or ride, the instructor brings to the learning process their hard- earned knowledge, understanding and experience. If they rely simply on telling the learner what they should do they will probably be able to teach them enough to pass their test. However, all the evidence suggests that learners in this sort of relationship do not really change the way they think and quickly forget what they have been taught. There is a better chance of a long-lasting change in understanding and behaviour if the instructor

  • presents their knowledge, understanding and experience clearly and effectively
  • listens to the learner’s reactions to that input
  • helps the learner to identify any obstacles to understanding and change
  • supports the learner to identify strategies for overcoming those obstacles for themselves

In this context the phrase ‘client-centred’ is taken to mean, broadly, the same thing as ‘student- centred’ or ‘learner-centred’.

Driving instructors can use coaching techniques as part of their "toolbox" when delivering client centred learning. I started discovering the benefits of coaching very early on in my career, and I would thoroughly recommend it because the results are amazing!

Instruction

Google provides a definition of instruction as,

"Instruction is vital for education, as it is the transfer of learning from one person to another. Any time you are given directions or told how to do something you are receiving instruction."

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"The noun instruction is related to the word structure; both share the Latin root structus, "built." The use of the word as we know it today appeared in the early 15th century from the Old French. Today it refers to the action of teaching and the job of a teacher. It can also be used to denote the directions themselves. Consider the word's connection with structure: effective instruction is presented in an orderly, structured manner."

Even though the DVSA are now singing the praises of client centred learning and the benefits of coaching, the qualifying process for becoming a driving instructor is still based around instruction.

Coaching

One of the definitions that Google gives as a definition of coaching is, "Coaching in its truest sense is giving the responsibility to the learner to help them come up with their own answers." Vinci Lombardi, US NFL Coach.

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Coaching techniques and learning to drive

When I first qualified as a driving instructor in 2005, teaching people to drive was accomplished mainly by using instruction, along with occasional demonstration. A lot has changed since then, and the DVSA now recognise the importance and effectiveness of coaching techniques.

In the ADI1, the DVSA state that, "Coaching is a powerful extension of the range of options. It is not an automatic replacement for any of the existing ones. There will be many times when it is useful to use a coaching technique. The principle that underpins coaching is that an engaged pupil is likely to achieve a higher level of understanding and that self-directed solutions will seem far more relevant."

The DVSA also comment on coaching in the National Standards for Driver And Rider Training, saying that coaching is, "...about engaging in a conversation with the learner to help them identify obstacles to learning and strategies for overcoming those obstacles."

Duncan Brodie of Goals and Achievements helps accountants and health professionals to become highly effective leaders and managers. He believes that there are eight key skills that are required for effective coaching. I believe they can easily applied and used in driving instruction. They are, 

Listening

He states that, "you need to learn to listen with real focus, suspending all of your judgements and opinions. 

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You also need to be listening not just to the words but also to the non verbal signals such as body language."

Questioning

Most of us can ask questions. 

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When coaching, you need to be using powerful questions. These are questions that:

  • Are short, typically 7 words or less
  • Are open rather than closed
  • Deepen the learning of the person being coached

Examples include: What do you want?, What’s important?, What’s the first step?

Constructively Challenging

Challenging constructively is about not holding back but at the same time not destroying the relationship. Many people associate coaching with helping, which clearly it is. 

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At the same time if the coaching never rocks the boat it just becomes another nice chat. Playing back contradictions is a great way of constructively challenging. For example:

"I hear that you want to get your MBA but at the same time you seem to be resisting making the time for for assignments."

Holding to account


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Accountability is one of the most powerful aspects of coaching. It has been suggested that people have a 95% chance of achieving an objective when they have accountability in place. When someone gives a commitment to doing something and they know that they will be held to account, it drives them forward.

Seeing different perspectives

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where it feels like you are pinned into a corner and there is nowhere to go? If so, the chances are you were stuck in a perspective. When coaching, you need to be able to help your client to explore different perspectives, so that they can choose those that are most powerful.

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Encouraging and supporting

Encouraging and supporting when coaching can be the difference between someone keeping going or giving up. Acknowledging another person is an incredibly powerful way of keeping them motivated.

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Trusting and using intuition

We all have a hunch about something from time to time. The chances are that you have probably started to analyse it and make it logical or not. When coaching, your intuition is a powerful tool. Throw it out if it might be of benefit. The worst that can happen is that it is off the mark.

Keeping the focus on your client

When you are in the role of coach your focus needs to be 100% on your client and their agenda. What this means is putting all of the attention on the client and keeping your agenda out of the way.

Where do I go from here?

There are many courses and books on the subject of coaching available that are tailored towards driving instructors. If you're interested in developing your skills I can certainly recommend the value of coaching after attending a one day course a few years ago. Self development is crucial in my opinion, as you can pass on what you learn to your clients. Reading a book about coaching or attending a coaching course will also count as continuous professional development (CPD).

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I find coaching an incredibly powerful tool that has definitely expedited learning in my pupils. It gets them to think for themselves, take charge of their learning, and take responsibly much earlier than when I used traditional instruction.

If you've not tried it or are a bit sceptical about the benefits of coaching, then I would thoroughly recommend that you research it so that you and your students can benefit. One more thing before I go. Have you ever thought about the benefits of using self reflection...for you and your student? 

Helen Adams ADI

Purple Driving

17 January 2015

References

Definition of instruction. Accessed 13 April 2013. Available online from, https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/instruction

Definition of coaching. Vinci Lombardi, US NFL Coach. Accessed 13 April 2013. Available online from, http://internationalinstituteofcoaching.org/coachi...

Teaching and learning strategies. Accessed 17 January 2015. Available online from, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidanc... page 86.

Coaching. Accessed 17 January 2015. Available online from, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploa... Page 16.

Client centred learning. Accessed 17 January 2015. Available online from, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploa... Page 9.

Duncan Brodie. http://www.goalsandachievements.co.uk/aboutus/

Purple Driving, an independent driving school run by Helen Adams ADI, providing you with quality driving lessons in Bognor Regis & Chichester, West Sussex. Nervous students welcome - driving with dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dyslexia - confidence boosting driving sessions - female driving instructor.