Learning to Drive

Another topic which I have strong opinions on, but have never actually blogged on (to my memory) is driving. I am a young driver with just over a years experience driving and I in no way over-estimate my ability to drive a car.

I have completed the basic L test and the Pass Plus driving course and when I finish university (or at least my first degree depending on what I end up actually doing) I fully intend to undertake the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) assessment.

Just some of the books that I have on my bookshelf relating to driving:

  • The Latest edition of the Highway Code (a must for all drivers in my opinion)
  • Roadcraft: the Police Drivers Handbook (2007 edition)
  • How to be an advanced driver (published by the IAM)

I refer to these books on a regular basis and try my utmost to put what I learn from reading these books into practice. I firmly believe that driving is a process of continuing learning and passing the very basic L test is only the beginning of the learning process.

When I was learning to drive, which was not all that long ago, I was taught by an ex-police driving instructor and before being in the police drove trucks, so all and all a very experienced driver. From talking to my friends the way I learned to drive was completely different from them. I was actually taught to drive a car, while they were simply taught how to pass the basic test. Having read up on the principles behind “Advanced Driving” and undertaking the Pass Plus lessons I have come to learn that the way in which people are taught to drive is not the most appropriate way. Another way in which I know this is that I went through the pass plus course with a different instructor from a different company and he commented on my different attitude to many drivers with my age and experience towards driving.

So, what is the point of this rambling on? Well, the point is that over the past six months I have taken a great interest in road safety and in particular driver training and the way the L test is administered. It is my opinion that it is not fit for purpose any longer.

With the exception of introducing a relatively simple theory test the driving test has not changed very much since it was initially introduced. When I’ve out this argument out before I have had responses such as “it has changed, the roads are busier now than they were then.” I personally fail to see how this means the test has changed. A drive of approximately 40 minutes is not a long enough to adequately gauge a person’s ability to drive. A longer test or a test over two separate days would, in my opinion, allow a better assessment of driving capability. Re-testing after a few years (not continuous re-testing though) would also be worth looking at.

It is fairly easy to drive following the rules for 40 minutes or so when that is not how you would normally drive. We see this from the number of young drivers who speed, drive in a reckless manner etc. Also, the first few years after passing your L test is the time in which you are likely to develop bad habits – some of which might have caused you to fail your initial L test. This is where re-testing would come in handy. It would allow an assessment to take place after the driver has built up some driving experience. This might all sound rather expensive, but can we really place a monetary value on potentially saving lives. When over 3,000 people a year die on our roads and 95% of accidents are down to driver error I think it is imperative that we try and reduce this through better driver training.

The way in which learner drivers are taught also has to change! The theory test should not just revolve around the Highway Code, but should include questions on how the car works in various different situations. The theory test should actually test you on what you should be doing when driving. Things like observation, cornering and positioning are all vitally important when driving (of course, the whole package is important; I just picked those as examples). Testing the theory in a theory and practical test should be about reinforcing one another.

I also think that adding driving theory into the latter years of secondary school education (i.e. within the Personal, social and Health Education lessons) would be beneficial. Particularly as pupils approach the age at which they can begin driving. Bringing the likes of the IAM and the Police into this would be beneficial. Presentations from the police on what happens when it all goes wrong (i.e. pictures from serious and fatal RTCs), backed up with lessons from the IAM on good driving technique is what I suggest here.

Okay, so just a quick rambling on driving skills. I’ll maybe post again in the future about this.