Saturday, January 14, 2012

Changes to the theory test


Only joking. Its not really that bad. In fact, you probably wouldn't even notice.

What they used to do, was print all the answers in big theory test question banks, so you could literally go and buy all the questions and answers. I remember I had the car one and motorcycle one to do the two respective theory tests I took. They were big, heavy books with around 1500 questions and answers in them.

The changes to the theory test mean they're changing all the questions to basically the same subject matter, but worded differently, and they're not going to print the question bank.

This is to stop people from just memorising the question bank and then using that to pass.

I think that's a little bit paranoid. If you can memorise 1500 questions and answers, you probably have photographic memory and a very high IQ. I don't think you could memorise 1500 questions and answers without picking up theory knowledge.

Honestly, its easier to just learn the subject matter for the theory test than memorising 1500 questions. The highway code isn't exactly massive either.

So before the theory test change, the best thing to do is buy the official DSA theory test study materials (PC CD Roms, DVDs), study as you would for any exam, practice the hazard perception element and go for it.

Taking a theory is pretty cheap, and you can take as many attempts at it as you want, the waiting lists are generally very short.

And good luck!

James Richards, ADI

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Driver behaviour

Spending my working week on the road provides me with lots of things to think about and talk about during my free time.

Personally, I find it akin to 'people watching'.

Every day I'm shocked and appalled at how people drive, its almost as if when people get in their cars they lose all manners and decency. 

If you are walking down your local high street or supermarket, and someone steps in front of you, and then you walk into them, do you apologise or yell at them?

I'm probably not the best 'test subject' for this, at 6"5', but people normally apologise if I accidentally walk into them, and vice-versa. I have asked some more average sized people, and it would seem if two people walk into each other they both reflexively apologise then carry on without giving it another thought.

But for some reason, that all changes in a car.

Think back to being a passenger. Try and recall what happens when someone pulls out in front of a driver. Alarmingly, the common response is a long beep on the horn and a torrent of swearing. 

It always surprises me that doing that is almost taken as socially acceptable JUST because you're in a car and road-rage is so commonplace its almost normal. Just because its commonplace, it doesn't make it right. Just look at chart music. Personally I think its because most people are angry and depressed at some aspects of their life, and their daily commute is the only place they feel safe enough to vent. Not participating in sports or anything doesn't help. They can't yell like that at work - they'll get fired. And they're not going to yell at strangers in the street, because they'll get arrested or beaten up. So all this anger and tension finds its way into driving, which really isn't very safe or clever. If you let emotions take over your driving, you won't be thinking rationally, and your are much more likely to have a crash.

Not to mention you don't know who you are yelling at. Search for 'road rage assault' and 'road rage murder', and you'll be surprised at how many incidents of it turning violent there are. 

The way I see it, is if someone pulls out on front of you, they probably misjudged the gap, or made a mistake, didn't see you or are just so clueless they don't really know what they're doing. Either way, beeping and yelling won't accomplish much.

Its generally accepted amongst ADIs that better drivers are calmer drivers, basically the better your hazard anticipation and defensive driving skills, the less likely you are to come across any 'surprises'. Practice developing your hazard anticipation and defensive driving skills and you'll be be surprised at the results.

Its all learnt behaviour. If you drive aggressively, your children will see that and imitate that in their driver behaviour, your friends will think its acceptable behaviour and the problem will continue. The less people that drive in an aggressive, angry manner, the less socially-acceptable it will become.

So please, drive considerately, and be forgiving of people's mistakes.

James Richards, ADI

Learners with bad habits

So as we all know, the most effective time you will spend with your learning in a car, is with an Approved Driving Instructor or Potential Driving Instructor. They'll know what to look for, and how things should be done properly, and assuming they are keeping up to date, the most modern and effective way of doing everything.

Of course, if you have access to a suitably insured car (and a parent with nerves of steel), "private practice" (what we ADIs call driving without an ADI - friend or relative), private practice can be a pretty helpful way of gaining experience and confidence on the road.

I've noticed a trend in private practice - it seems to go one of two ways. If your "supervising driver" (usually mum or dad) literally just supervises you driving, it's very helpful, and can save hundreds of pounds in lessons, make you a safer driver post-test, and get you to test standard quicker. I've seen this happen may times, and it really relies on the supervising driver assuming the learner knows best as their knowledge is more up to date.

But if your supervising driver is convinced they know the best way of doing things, and decides to teach you how they drive, you can wind up developing bad habits as a learner, which will cost a lot of money and time to put right with lessons.

I've seen some excellent examples of this recently. One of my passing pupils, a week before his test, started stopping at every junction without any real reason. If a junction has good enough visibility you can go through without stopping (assuming there's no stop sign) if you can see it's clear. What had happened was his mum thought you were supposed to stop at every junction. I've also had pupil who's speed was continually too high- once again the result of private practice.

You can't expect your parents to know how to driver properly. I thought I was a brilliant driver, I was still doing my mirrors and signals like I thought I was supposed to, and then I started training as a driving instructor, and realised that in fact I'd just developed a lot of bad habits and my knowledge was all out of date. I was 24 when that happened, and I passed at 17. If you pass at 17 and you're in your 40s - you have got over two decades of bad habits, and your knowledge is over 20 years out of date.

So to summarise - if you are a supervising driver, you probably don't know best, and its your job to just supervise the learner, so sit there and be quiet, unless its a matter of safety.

James Richards, ADI