Colourful Theory

You may have read Kieran’s Story on his studies towards passing his theory test. In his article, he mentions using the Theory Test Colouring Book: an excellent resource if you struggle with traditional methods such as books and websites.

The theory test colouring book is similar in style to the anatomy and physiology colouring books used by university students such as doctors and dentists

Learners have found it useful for varying reasons:

  • Being black and white from the outset, it’s not “in your face”. As you colour the pages yourself, you can choose colours that suit you, or choose not to colour it at all.
  • Having words on one side and pictures on the other, helps learners who need a tidy, organised format.
  • If a keyword on a practice theory test is confusing, the index usually leads to a picture explanation of the topic
  • Colouring is fun and relaxing; possibly the best state of mind to have when studying!

If you want to buy your own copy, it retails for £14 and can be bought directly from the publisher: click the image below.

K is for Kieran

I suffer with ADHD and autism. This affects my concentration and actions.  I have problems remembering things too, even the simplest of things can seem much harder for me.  My anxiety makes it hard for me to communicate what I am feeling, and what I am trying to say.

Kieran used the
Theory Test Colouring Book
to help his studies

When I wanted to learn to drive, I was worried I would have problems with remembering basic skills, especially the Highway Code and that people would not be able to understand my needs.

I found Richard’s website online stating he taught people like me and other special needs etc. We decided to give driving a go, thinking if it was too hard then I could just stop the lessons.

Richard came to visit me at home and talk to my mum and dad about my needs etc so that he could understand my issues and how they affect me on a day to day basis.

Richard was very kind and understanding and I felt at ease with him straight away and this made me more relaxed during my lessons.

Richard was understanding, he would explain things in a way I could understand if I did something wrong whilst driving. I had two hours of lessons every week and we went through all the topics required and if I needed longer to understand it properly then Richard would calmly go over it again with me until I felt confident.

I was concerned about learning the Highway Code and being able to complete my Theory Test as I have problems remembering things. Richard showed me an online site where I can answer questions like those on the actual test. When I started doing this, I was getting low scores and I was worried that I could not do this. I bought the Theory Test Colouring Book and studied that alongside the online site that Richard recommended.

I kept studying the website every day and I started getting better and my scores were getting slowly higher each time I did the test questions. I struggled at first with the hazard perception tests but after using the guides every single day, my results for these tests got better and better.

When Richard said it was time to book in for my Theory Test, I started to become nervous, as I do struggle with reading and writing and the understanding of things. My mum contacted the Test centre and they were so helpful and kind. They understood everything perfectly and they offered my mum some ways that would help me out.

They offered a reader who would read the questions and answers out to you. They offered a private room so that you don’t get put off by other people in the same room doing their tests too. They also offered extra time so that you didn’t have to panic trying to complete everything. Also, they would offer someone who would explain the question to you if you didn’t understand the question itself. Sometimes I am not sure what a word means. They would say the sentence so that you would understand the question, without telling you the answers.

Due to my own personal problems, I accepted the reader, the private room and the extra time. If I didn’t pass the first time, then I was going to ask for the extra help from the person who would explain the questions to me.

My mum booked in my test date and the lady explained everything to her, what I needed to bring etc.

When I arrived at the centre, I was met at the Reception by a man who was very nice to me and kind. He made me feel relaxed as he was funny and softly spoken.  He took my details and explained what I needed to do with my coat etc. I emptied all my pockets and they checked I had no phones, mics etc on me. The man was friendly and made me feel less panicky. I waited in the waiting room and then I was called into a room where another staff member rechecked my pockets and up my sleeves again.

The man who met me on Reception called me into another room which had one computer set up. He opened the programme and told me what to do i.e. using the mouse to choose my answers. He then started to read the questions out, and I clicked on the ones I thought were correct.  After completing this part of the test, he then opened the hazard perception test and after telling me what to do he left me on my own to complete the test.

When I had completed that I was met by the same man again who handed me my test results.  I was so happy that I had passed the first time.

The extra time, reader and private room really helped me to do my tests more confidently. I had plenty of time to think about the answers without worrying that I was taking too slow to have the questions read to me and then for me to think about the answers.

I highly recommend Richard, he will teach you all that you need to know to pass your driving test. He remained calm and supportive with me. I was nervous to start to learn to drive, but he was completely patient with me throughout and made it all an enjoyable experience.

To buy your own copy of the Theory Test Colouring Book, click here

Bay Parking: how many attempts do I get?

Your driving instructor may have told you that if you attempt the bay park but don’t get the car in the bay first time, you can shunt forwards & backwards to correct it. For this, you may be awarded a driving (‘minor’) fault.

But how many shunts are allowed? One or two? Three? Unlimited?

According to the Driving Examiner guidelines, there is no set number of shunts that is acceptable.

Here are some real experiences of some other instructors…

They only give them a few tries to get it right
Usually, 3-4 is the average

LF

I had a student this week who completed the reverse after 3 adjustments. At the debrief the DE said if she hadn’t got the car in then, she would have been failed

PM

There’s no limit […] if it was woefully bad so as to demonstrate little/no control they can just get candidate to drive on without opportunity for correction.

KB

on a test one of my learners took a 2nd shunt and passed. He asked the examiner who said one more and you would have failed.

AC

I’ve had someone pass with 5 attempts, as long as you are making progress they will let you continue. If you keep going back and forwards without changing […]they will call an end to it

SC

As you can see, there seems to be a lot of variation in what has been acceptable on real driving tests.

My opinion, which is backed up by a very well respected instructor (who also trains people to become instructors in the first place) is that we need to look at what is happening on each shunt.

If the first attempt is way off the mark because of a complete loss of control, lack of observation or lack of understanding on how the steering should be applied then no amount of shunting is likely to work.
Similarly, if the candidate is shunting back and forth but not actually achieving anything (e.g. just ending up back in the same place each time) then the examiner is likely to award a serious fault and fail the candidate.

However, if each shunt is taken with good observation, the end result is getting closer each time, and the candidate is demonstrating that they understand, then the examiner is likely to be more lenient.

There is no limit… it’s all about making reasonable progress and improvement
If the attempts being made are doing nothing but confirming a lack of knowledge, understanding or ability then the examiner won’t be allowing that to be demonstrated again and again.
If, clearly, the pupil ‘gets it’ and is making sufficient efforts to rescue themselves in the right way, they will be given adequate chances to do so

LW

My top tips for a successful bay park:

  • Move the car slowly and steadily, giving you time to observe, think, and adjust.
  • Make a plan before you move.
  • Every time you finish moving forwards or backwards, ensure the front wheels are straight.
  • Keep looking in different places: this gives you a general sense of position, and will make you more accurate than staring in just one mirror.

N is for News (23rd Jan 2020)

Queen Elizabeth II seatbelt: The surprising reason the Queen doesn’t use a seatbelt

Queen Elizabeth II seatbelt: The surprising reason the Queen doesn't use a seatbelt
What is the surprising reason the Queen doesn’t use a seatbelt?

Drinking then driving to get kids ‘shameful’

Drinking then driving to get kids 'shameful'
Police note trend of lunch drinking before driving to pick up kids

People we share the roads with…

People we share the roads with...
a trainee driving instructor in a Citroen Cactus was hit head-on’ when Mohammed reversed into him.

Electric car range revealed to be lower than manufacturers claim in blow to EV industry

Electric car range revealed to be lower than manufacturers claim in blow to EV industry
We know that ‘range anxiety’ is a big concern for people thinking about switching from petrol to electric

Speed awareness course – a client’s perspective

Speed awareness coure - a client's perspective
the session was not as painful as we were all expecting and that humour was allowed

Environmental policy update

In accordance with our Environmental Policy, we have previously offered a financial incentive to customers who chose two-hour lessons instead of a one-hour lesson. This has had the desired effect of discouraging one-hour lessons and reducing unnecessary mileage between customers and also allowed us to offset the additional mileage in accredited carbon-reduction schemes.

This policy has been so successful that we have decided to stop offering one-hour lessons to new customers. We will continue to offer a financial incentive to customers who use public transport to attend lessons locally, rather than the instructor driving longer distances to the customer’s home, thus further reducing unnecessary car-mileage and the resulting carbon emissions.

S is for spotty car

It’s the time of year when Driving Instructors all over the country work together to raise money for Children in Need. There are two main ways that we do this:

  1. Going Spotty. Next time you see me, my car will be covered in spots. Please consider sponsoring a spot. You choose how much to donate; no amount is too small (or too big), and then you are granted use of the Sharpie Pen to decorate your spot.

2. The Big Learner Relay. This is a 3,000 mile journey around the UK, driven entirely by learners. With several stages each day, each leg has a new lead car and the chosen learner heads up the convoy. It’s a big resposnibility as Pudsey Bear comes along for a ride on top of the car, clinging on to the L-plate roof-box.

I need a learner to help me, as I have the honour of leading the procession out of Wolverhampton with my student driving across Cannock Chase to Shugborough Hall. It’s going to be names in a hat as I can only take one lucky learner … but if you would like to be considered for it then let me know! The date is 4th November 2019

Since 2014 the Big Learner Relay has raised over £400,000. Can this year take it over half a million?

F is for Following Distance

What is your following distance?

Maintain a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front

This is also known as a ‘separation distance’. It refers to the gap that we leave between our vehicle and the vehicle in front.

It’s important that we leave a good gap in case anything suddenly happens in front – it gives us time to react and slow or stop safely. Road traffic collisions are often caused by vehicles following the vehicle in front too closely.

It’s essential that drivers are able to judge a good separation distance in all types of conditions – whether it’s bad weather, heavy road traffic, different road conditions etc.

Slow-moving traffic

Sometimes in heavy, slow-moving traffic, it may not be realistic to leave a large separation distance. This could waste valuable road space especially in queues, and as you’re moving slowly, you will be able to stop quicker anyway. Even so, your separation distance should never be less than your thinking distance.

Rule 151 of the Highway Code says

In slow-moving traffic. You should:

  • Reduce the distance between you and the vehicle ahead to maintain traffic flow
  • Never get so close to the vehicle in front that you cannot stop safely
  • Leave enough space to be able to manoeuvre if the vehicle in front breaks down or an emergency vehicle needs to get past
  • Not change lanes to the left to overtake
  • Allow access into and from side roads, as blocking these will add to congestion
  • Be aware of cyclists and motorcyclists who may be passing on either side

Stopping distances

Last week in our ‘Emergency stop’ blog we looked at stopping distances, which is also relevant to our following distances. Your overall stopping distance is made up of your thinking distance and braking distance.

Thinking distance – is the time it takes you to think and react to the incident. If you’re feeling tired or unwell, it may take longer for you to process and react.
Braking distance – is the time it takes from when you start applying the brakes, to when you actually stop.
You need to leave enough space between you and the vehicle in front so that you can slow down or stop safely if the vehicle in front suddenly brakes.

Stopping distances can depend on a variety of things, including

  • How fast you’re going
  • Whether you’re travelling uphill or downhill
  • The weather
  • The conditions of the road
  • The type and age of your vehicle
  • The condition of your brakes and tyres
  • The size and weight of your vehicle
  • Your ability as a driver, and your reaction times

Judging a safe separation distance

A good way to judge a safe separation gap is to use the ‘two-second rule’. This is measured by counting two seconds from when the vehicle in front passes a stationary object, to when you pass the same stationary object.

If you are still counting to two when you pass the stationary object, this means you are too close to the vehicle in front and you need to drop back to give yourself a safer separation distance. If you have finished counting to two by the time you pass the stationary object, this means you have a good, safe separation gap. You may find it easier to use shadows on the road as the stationary object.

Sometimes it can be difficult to count to two properly! This may sound silly, but some people may count to two quickly and some may count slower. A good way to get around this is to use the phrase ‘Only a fool breaks the two-second rule’ – this takes approximately two seconds to say!

If the road conditions are wet, you should double the two-second rule, making it four seconds. One phrase for this is ‘Only a fool breaks the two-second rule. When it’s wet on the floor, then make it four!’. (Personally I just say the two-second rule twice). Also, remember spray from the vehicle in front may make visibility even worse – consider leaving an even bigger gap so that you can see clearly ahead.

When the conditions are icy or snowy, you should times the two-second rule by ten, making it 20 seconds! We haven’t yet come up with a catchy phrase for this – so brownie points if you can find a good phrase that takes 20 seconds to say! 😊


What can I do if a vehicle is following too closely behind me?

When a vehicle is following you too closely (sometimes called “tailgating” or “being a space-invader”), gently ease off your accelerator and gradually increase the gap between you and the vehicle in front. If you have a bigger gap between you and the vehicle in front, should anything happen, you will have even more time to react and can brake more gradually, which will give the vehicle behind time to react too.

Pay it forward: If the vehicle behind steals your space, give it to the car infront.

Chevrons

Image result for motorway chevrons

Some motorways may have special chevron markings in the centre of the traffic lanes, spaced 40 metres apart. Keeping two chevrons between your vehicle and the one in front will provide a safe separation distance at 70mph. There will be signs advising you to check your distance.


Overtaking

When overtaking, remember to give the vehicle you have passed enough distance before you pull back in.

Remember to keep your distance from the vehicle that you’re trying to overtake. This will give you a better view of the road ahead – especially if you’re trying to overtake a lorry. Also, remember that large vehicles and motorcycles need a greater distance to stop, so consider leaving extra distance between yourself and them.

E is for Emergency Stop

The emergency stop, also known as the controlled stop, is often practised during driving lessons. This involves simulating an emergency situation and getting the student to stop as quickly and as safely as possible. It could be that a pedestrian has suddenly walked out on you, or a car has pulled out on you.

How is it performed on a test?

Your examiner will pull you over at the side of the road and explain what they are going to do. They won’t just suddenly shout STOP whilst you’re driving along and expect you to stop!

  • They will choose a safe, quiet road for you to do this on, although the speed limit could be anything.
  • They will explain that they would like you to do an emergency stop and that the signal they give will be by raising their right hand and saying ‘STOP’
  • They will ask you to drive on when you’re ready. The examiner will look around, and then give you the STOP signal
  • You will be expected to react quickly and safely
  • Once you’ve stopped the examiner will ask you to drive on again, and you will not be asked to do the emergency stop again
‘STOP’ signal given by instructors & examiners

1 in 3 tests does the emergency stop – so it’s not a definite that you’ll get the emergency stop on your test. However, it is good to practise this with your instructor so that you are prepared – and in case it happens for real one day!

The official DVSA examiners guidelines state the following;

An emergency stop should be carried out on one-third of tests chosen at random. It can normally be carried out at any time during the test, but the emergency stop exercise MUST be carried out safely where road and traffic conditions are suitable. If an emergency has already arisen naturally during the test this special exercise is not required. The examiner should explain to the candidate that they will be looking over their shoulder to make sure it is safe to carry out the exercise and that they should not pre-empt the signal by suddenly stopping when the examiner looks round but should wait for the proper signal to be given.

How do I do an emergency stop?

In an emergency, brake immediately. Try to avoid braking so harshly that you lock your wheels. Locked wheels can lead to loss of control.

(Highway Code)
  • Firstly, it’s important to note that you do not need to check your mirrors in an emergency stop. Looking in your mirror will waste valuable time when you should be braking
  • When you are given the STOP signal (or when the poor child runs out in front of you), you must react quickly and brake firmly, keeping two hands on the steering wheel
  • Once you’ve come to a complete stop, ensure you do not allow the car to roll (maybe apply your handbrake, and select neutral)
  • If you are on your driving test, the examiner will ask you to drive on when you’re ready
  • Remember to move off safely – including checking all around you – blind spots and mirrors, etc.

Driving the Essential Skills says the following;

  • Always keep both hands on the steering wheel. You need as much control as possible
  • Avoid braking so hard that you lock any of the wheels. A skid may cause a serious loss of control
  • Don’t press down on the clutch pedal until just before you stop. This helps with your braking and stability
  • Don’t use the parking brake while the vehicle is moving. Most parking brakes work on the back wheels only. Extra braking on the back wheels can cause skidding
  • Don’t give a signal – you need both hands to control your steering (and your brake lights will come on at the rear to signal to people behind that you are braking anyway)
  • Don’t make a special point of looking in the mirror – if you’ve been using your mirrors regularly you should know what’s behind you
  • Stop as quickly and as safely as possible, keeping your vehicle under full control
  • Look all around again before moving off

You can try and avoid the risk of needing to brake in an emergency. If you are planning well ahead, you will be aware of what’s going on around you. Look out for children playing, pedestrians, be aware of school times, and telltale signs such as a ball rolling into the road – children will follow it! Also, drive at a speed in which you can stop safely in the distance you can see to be clear.

Skids

Skids are caused by the driver asking too much of the car for the amount of grip that the tyres have on the road at that time. A skid happens when you change speed or direction so suddenly that your tyres can’t keep their grip on the road. Slippery surfaces also increase the risk of skidding.

Skidding is usually caused by the driver braking, accelerating or steering too harshly or driving too fast for the road conditions. If skidding occurs, remove the cause by releasing the brake pedal fully, or easing off the accelerator. Turn the steering wheel in the direction of the skid. For example, if the rear of the vehicle skids to the right, steer immediately to the right to recover.


Anti Lock Braking Systems (ABS)

ABS has been compulsory on new cars since 2004. If ABS is fitted, it will activate automatically if you need to press the brakes firmly or stop in an emergency. It prevents the wheels from locking so that you can continue to steer the vehicle while braking. ABS works by locking and unlocking the wheels many times a second, to allow you to steer. If your wheels were to stay locked, you wouldn’t be able to steer around the obstacle that you are trying to avoid.

ABS doesn’t necessarily reduce your stopping distance, but remember to keep your foot firmly on the foot brake. Some older cars need ‘cadence braking’ where you pump the foot brake – however, this actually reduces the effectiveness of the ABS system. ABS is only a driver aid, it does not remove the need for good driving practices such as anticipating events and assessing the road conditions.

ABS lets us steer when braking harshly by applying and releasing the brakes several times each second

M is for Mini Roundabout

Image result for mini roundabout

Mini Roundabouts are the white circles painted on the road.

They follow the same rules as normal roundabouts: give way to traffic on your right.

Mini roundabouts are often found where there used to be a T-junction. Replacing T-junctions with mini-roundabouts serves three purposes:

  • To improve traffic flow by giving each direction an equal chance to proceed.
  • To slow traffic down in residential/school areas as a form or traffic calming.
  • To confuse learners.

The reason for the confusion is because mini roundabouts are small, and everybody seems to be “on top of each other”. Stick to the rules: if you have priority then take it but proceed with caution in case the next driver is also confused.

Identifying a mini-roundabout.

Image result for mini roundabout
Image result for warning roundabout sign

Mini roundabouts can be identified by a blue sign with three white arrows. Strictly speaking, this means you must proceed clockwise. The need to give way to the right is indicated by a single dashed line on the road at the entrance to the roundabout. You may also see a triangular warning sign; but not always, so always keep alert.

Go around the roundabout (round and around)

The Highway Code states that All vehicles MUST pass round the central markings except large vehicles which are physically incapable of doing so. Remember, there is less space to manoeuvre and less time to signal. Avoid making U-turns at miniroundabouts. Beware of others doing this.

This does not mean making an effort to go around as best you can: it means you must go around, and if doing so requires you to slow down to a handful of miles per hour in first gear then do so. After all, one of the purposes of a mini-roundabout listed above is traffic calming.

Because you will be doing lots of steering in a short space of time signaling on approach and on exit may not be practical. It is quite acceptable to signal your intention on approach and then omit the exit signal.

Making a U-turn at a mini-roundabout is not illegal but it is often impractical unless your vehicle is very small and the roundabout is large. The Highway Code discourages it, although you should be aware that any vehicle signaling right might be about to double-back on itself.


Who goes first?

I am not sure about […] mini roundabouts, most of the time, around here, it just adds to the confusion. I just work on the cars speed, position and eye contact if possible with a side serving of common sense.

Anon

Because mini-roundabouts are small, and other vehicles are quite close to you, it is easy for new learners to get a little confused at who has priority. The rule is the same for any other roundabout: give way to traffic already on the roundabout and traffic on your right but let’s use some diagrams to demonstrate the possible situations.

I encourage my learners to approach a mini roundabout with their index finger on the right hand raised, and for them to say out loud, “you go“. Then for them to swap hands and raise their left index finger and say, “you stay“.

In the diagram above, the yellow car must be prepared to give way to the red and blue cars, as they are to the right. However, look carefully at the direction signals are cars A and B; they will not actually cross your path and so you could proceed with caution. Note also that we have a stalemate situation with each car giving way to the right in an endless loop. In this scenario, somebody has to go first, and it may as well be you … proceed with caution and be prepared to stop if other vehicles begin to move. The main rule for surviving a mini-roundabout is expecting others to be as confused as you are, and be nice to each other.

At a three-way mini-roundabout, the layout may resemble a T-shape, and this is often where the confusion is greater, especially as it will appear different depending on your approach direction.

Three-way mini-roundabout with T to the right

With the T-to the right, Cars A and B technically have priority, however, if U-turns should be avoided then car A is unlikely to cross your path and you could proceed with caution. You may then find that car A gives way to you because you are on their right! If car B is signaling right then it is likely to cross your path: if it is signaling left then you could proceed with caution. Be nice to each other and be prepared to give up any priority you might have.

Three-way mini-roundabout with T to the left and right

With the T going both left and right, Car B has priority over the yellow car, although if it is signaling left then it will not cross your path and you could proceed with caution. Car A should give you priority if you are turning right.

Three-way mini-roundabout with T on the left

Explaining this one is up to you. Put your answer in the comments. Remember the key principle of giving way to the right and being nice to everyone!

Z is for Zebra Crosing

And we may find a tiger too…

Zebra Crossings are low-maintenance, cheap to install, and are simple to use for able-bodied pedestrians. Quite simply, if a pedestrian steps on to a zeba crossing, any vehicles on the road MUST stop and allow the pedestrian to cross.

Originally simply called a “pedestrian crossing”, the path for pedestrians was defined by silver studs: these still appear today. After they were ignored by pedestrians and motorists alike, they were made more obvious with belisha beacons and red/white stripes. Altered to black and whte in 1951, the layout is the same today. See how to use a pedestrian crossing 1940’s style here: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/films/1945to1951/filmpage_pc.htm

Clearly, if you are very close a crossing at more than a handful of miles per hour, and a pedestrian decides to go for it, the pedestrian will end up worse off. But the driver will be at fault. Therefore, we need to slow down in anticipation of anybody on the pavement who may be about to cross. As you approach, scan both sides of the crossing for pedestrians either waiting to cross, or nearby the crossing who may need to cross by the time you arive.

If you cannot see both sides of the crossing then slow down until you can. Other vehicles, trees, and bends in the road can all obscure your view. By slowing in advance the likelihood of timing it right and not needing to stop completely is quite high. You can improve pedestrian safety by leaving the space beyond the crossing clear (1-2 car lengths is enough); this makes it easier for drivers in the opposite direction to see pedestrians on your side of the crossing. Now if only everyone did that!

You can usually see zebra crossings from a good distance by the flashing orange “Belisha Beacons”; and there is often a warning sign for a zebra crossing ahead if visibility isnt perfect. (For the geeks the belisha beacon is covered by BS8442, and the flash rate is 750ms on, 750ms off).

Two-part zebra

A zebra crossing with a central island for pedestrians should be treated as two separate crossings. In this example the traffic travelling left to right must stop for the pedestrian: vehicles travelling right to left may continue. But think … how long will it take the pedestrian to reach the central point? If you are more than a few car lengths away then you’ll probably need to stop (or better, slow) anway.

Slow and go

Ideally, you’ll plan ahead and use your anticiaption skills to prevent the need to come to a full stop. But certain pedestrians e.g. elderly, blind etc may take a long time to cross, and coming to a complete stop provides them with some reassurance that they will be safe.

Zigzags

The zigzags serve two purposes: they indicate the place near the crossing where you must not park (this would make it difficult to see pedestrians). They also indicate a no-overtaking zone: you must not attempt to overtake the vehicle nearest to the crossing. It does not matter if the lead vehicle is moving or stopped to allow pedestrians across: do not overtake it.

Tiger Crossings

Cyclists should not cycle across zebra crossings but they do, and their approach speed and ability to “appear from nowhere” makes them an additonal hazard to look for. A recent invention is the Tiger Crossing, which specifically allows cyclists to cycle across (think of it as the equivalent of a Toucan Crossing). Anywhere you see cycle paths on the pavement, the zebra crossing may have been upgraded to a Tiger. The same hazards of fast approach speed means that you’ll need to be extra cautious when drivng towards this type of crossing