Saturday, 1 August 2020

How many driving lessons do I need?

When I first started working as a Driving Instructor in 2005, this question was THE most regularly asked question when customers range to book some lessons.

I started to drive in 1991 and at the time, learning to drive typically involved 1 hour long driving lessons of which I remember having about 18 before passing my driving test. Those around me had similar numbers of lessons with the exception of 1 of my friends, who had about 5 go's at his test before passing it and took lessons every week in between his test attempts - he must have had about 40 hours of lessons in total, something like that.

In line with the times, we set about "learning to drive after passing our test"...
  • 'B' hit a opening car door as he drove past it - nobody had mentioned that risk on our lessons
  • I couldn't turn right at crossroads with people coming the other way who also wanted to turn right and had many near misses and received much abuse from others as I worked it out for myself - it hadn't been mentioned on lessons
  • I also nearly killed a few of us when passing parked cars when there was on-coming traffic present that I now know has priority in such situations - that hadn't been mentioned either (and neither had the risk of rear seat passengers being thrown forward in the event of a crash - I had passengers in the back without seat belts on that day and one ended up sitting on the handbrake!)
  • Myself, 'D' and 'I' all needed work doing on our gearboxes within a year... guess what - vehicle empathy hadn't been mentioned on lessons to any of us
  • 'I' and 'A' were both rear ended at various junctions - that HAD been mentioned, but in the context that as it wasn't our fault, it didn't really matter
  • 'M' had several bumps and crashes, hitting a hedge when avoiding an oncoming car on a narrow country lane and reversing into things when leaving car parking spaces
  • 'B' skidded on gravel at a junction and came off the road, hitting a sign
  • The first time it snowed, I skidded into a busy main road with thankfully nothing coming, after driving slower, but not slow enough for the conditions. I was also driving too fast in heavy fog, and nobody had ever mentioned the words "always drive at a speed that allows you to stop easily within the distance you can see to be clear"
So could we drive and should we have passed our tests?

Definitely not!

Were we lucky not to get seriously hurt or to hurt anyone else?

Definitely!

So did our Driving Instructors do a good, thorough job of teaching us to drive?

I think they did their best in the times and culture they were operating in. The culture was very much about getting everything as cheaply and as quickly as you could and there wasn't such a focus on safety then - almost as though a certain number of people getting seriously hurt or killed in crashes was an unavoidable fact of learning to drive.

The facts of the time were that an average driver had 30 hours of driving lessons before passing a test - as we'd all generally had little more than half of that, we WERE very much a risk on the roads, not only a risk to ourselves, but a risk to everyone else too whether they were walking, riding or driving. That lad that had 5 go's at his test and more than twice the number of lessons the rest of us had has never, to my knowledge, had any incidents.

Today, Driving Instructors are trained more towards being being Road Safety Professionals. Even if turning right at cross roads isn't likely to feature on your test routes, a good Driving Instructor will still teach you to do that and the focus is very much on learning to drive, rather than learning to pass a test - putting nerves aside for a moment, if you can drive properly, then passing a driving test IS easy even if you've never driven on the roads you find yourself being tested on.

The current figures from the DVSA tell us that the total number of driving lessons needed to pass a driving test has remained reasonably steady now for many years... you should expect to have between 45 and 50 hours of professional training and around 30 hours of private practice in your own car. If private practice isn't an option for you, then you're looking at around 60 hours of professional lessons and as you get older, particularly if you get into your late 20's before learning to drive, your number of hours increases a lot - a 40 year old will take around twice as many lessons as a 17 year old, with much of that being down to the "I want to get it absolutely right before taking a test" attitude rather than any kind of inability (40 year olds will very likely have lost a few people they know to crashes and other incidents on the roads of course, so the safety messages are very real to them).

There may be a conflict of interests, but I genuinely have a lot of respect for the quality of learner drivers passing a test these days and definitely don't agree that the old saying of "you learn to drive after passing your test" still applies.

Amongst many other skills, today's learner drivers who pass their tests demonstrate that they:
  • Can interact with other drivers when turning right at cross roads, adapting their driving in response to the other vehicle being a car, bus or motorbike and using a mixture of 'offside to offside' and 'nearside to nearside' techniques depending on the situation
  • Leave enough room for doors to open as they pass parked vehicles, but don't move into the path of oncoming traffic to do so (they wait until it's safe instead)
  • Understand priority at meeting situations and when it's appropriate to give way
  • Adjust their speed to suit the limits of their visibility, being ready to stop within the distance of clear road they can see ahead of them and adapting to different weather and road surface conditions
  • Drive in a manner that reduces wear and tear on the vehicle, reducing the need for repairs
  • Know their responsibility for the safety of those in and around their cars as they drive
Those skills mean that they won't have the problems me and my friends had when we learnt and they are required to demonstrate these skills repeatedly over a 35-40 minute drive in mixed road settings, so it is unlikely that they will pass by fluke. I genuinely believe that today's new drivers drive at a standard that is higher than that of many of the drivers around them on the day that they pass their test.

So, bearing all that in mind with all that practice, discussion and money spent... it remains a statistical fact that 1 in 6 drivers passing a test go on to crash within 6 months so why don't they drive to the standard they've been trained at all times after passing?

Food for thought!



Nick Heath Driver Training is located in Rode Heath on the Staffordshire / Cheshire border and provides driving training services to those looking to either improve their driving or learn from scratch. In addition to media work, we conduct Taxi Driver Assessments for local authorities and offer Advanced Driver Training and Testing, Motorway Training and Fuel Efficient Driver Training alongside refresher courses and learner driving lessons. We are ORDIT registered to provide Driving Instructor Training and are listed on the DVSA's register of Fleet Trainers so we can help you with your business needs

More details are available on our website www.nickheathdrivertraining.org.uk
Or call 0800 820 20 38

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Handling Emergency Vehicles

I remember once being on a bus in central London when 5 Police cars came up from behind at speed and with their lights and sirens on. The bus was stuck in traffic within some roadworks and there was no room for the Police to get past.

The bus driver remained perfectly calm.

In spite of what I've been told in my own training, the lights and sirens on all of the Police cars stayed on as they waited in the traffic and the first two positioned themselves behind us in the line of sight for the bus driver in a very "Get out of the way! Get out of the way!" manner with the other's further back in the queue separated from those first ones by other queuing cars.

But still my driver remained calm.

It was almost as though he didn't know that the Police were there. We were held by Red traffic lights and coned into lanes that were only a few inches clear of the bus on each side with London rush hour traffic ahead of us - probably about 8 or 10 other vehicles in front before we got to the lights.

We were stuck, but it was obvious the Police were in a hurry at the worst possible time in the day for London's traffic.

The lights changed, the traffic moved and as we came out of the roadworks, the road expanded to 4 lanes. The driver signaled his intention to move to the left as he approached the exit of the roadworks and the Police responded by positioning to the right of the lane, inches from the cones, absolutely itching to get past.

And that's exactly what happened when exited the bottle neck and got back out into some space. The bus moved left (and accelerated normally), the Police moved right and easily out paced us on the open road and because our driver left the scene rather than stopping to let the Police past, the flow of traffic followed behind us and the other Police cars were "released" one by one to follow their colleauges.

That bus driver remains one of the best examples of how you deal with emergency services that I've ever seen on the road.

When you are approached by a vehicle responding to an emergency on the road:
  • Remain calm
  • Do what you can do to help them through (but don't stress if you can't do anything)
  • Use signals to communicate your plans to the emergency driver
  • It helps everyone if you offer SAFE opportunities to them to get past
  • It helps everyone if you consider yourself to be part of a team assisting the Police
  • Don't break any rules in the Highway Code - you must drive legally at all times and face prosecution if you don't!
It's worth bearing in mind that that emergency drivers:
  • Have formal exemptions to break three rules in the Highway Code
    • Speed limits
    • Red lights and stop signs
    • Keep left or right bollards
  • Have widespread public support in breaking other rules in the Highway Code
  • Are trained to deal with traffic - in a nutshell, they have two questions in mind at all times:
    • Is there space?
    • Are all other road users aware of my presence?
  • Are well trained in car control skills
  • Are well trained in the driving skills of observation and anticipation
  • DON'T have to use blue lights and sirens in emergency response if they feel it's better not to
  • SHOULD turn off their lights at sirens when in queues at Red traffic lights (to avoid provoking a dangerous reaction from other road users) and restart them when lights turn to Green
  • MUST drive SAFELY at all times, regardless of the circumstances surrounding their journey
So it's a question of teamwork! We can help emergency vehicles by being aware of our surroundings, creating space and trying to be as predictable as possible.

Examples of people failing driving tests for poor response to Emergency response vehicles include:
  • Drivers entering bus lanes
  • Mounting the pavement
  • Drivers stopping in dangerous places expecting the ER vehicle to over take
  • Drivers stopping in other inappropriate places and causing a blockage
That bus driver WOULD NOT have failed his driving test because there was nothing he could do.

Stay safe!


Nick Heath Driver Training is located in Rode Heath on the Staffordshire / Cheshire border and provides driving training services to those looking to either improve their driving or learn from scratch. In addition to media work, we conduct Taxi Driver Assessments for local authorities and offer Advanced Driver Training and Testing, Motorway Training and Fuel Efficient Driver Training alongside refresher courses and learner driving lessons. We are ORDIT registered to provide Driving Instructor Training and are listed on the DVSA's register of Fleet Trainers so we can help you with your business needs.

More details are available on our website www.nickheathdrivertraining.org.uk

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Advanced Driving... Reading White Lines

A few weeks ago, I did a series of articles looking at commentary driving and if you gave that a go, then you'll know that it's all about making your thoughts conscious and actively looking to read the situation around you.

In today's notes, I want to look at the subject of white lines, and specifically, the white lines down the middle of the road that define overtaking conditions.

Advanced drivers who are giving a commentary will often comment on the white lines that they can see in the road up ahead, particularly as they navigate their way around bends and over the crest of hills etc.

They'll often plan for overtaking manoeuvres based on this information and as a result they'll say something like this "the overtaking restrictions lift just around this bend, so we might get the chance to overtake this tractor here" and go on to select gears and move into overtaking positions before or as they take the bend.

I was doing this myself recently, when it occurred to me just how often the information presented by the white lines is wrong - it's got to be more than half the time!

For those who aren't sure:
  • Double white lines down the middle of the road mean overtaking is disallowed in at least one direction - if the white line on your side is solid, then you can't overtake. You ARE allowed to overtake bikes, works vehicles travelling less than 10mph (road sweepers etc) and parked cars but these lines are used where overtaking is considered to be dangerous
  • Single white lines mean that overtaking is allowed in both directions and there are two versions - longer lines and smaller gaps mean that it is "hazardous", smaller lines and longer gaps mean "non-hazardous"
  • Arrows telling people to move back to the left hand side of the road are a sign that a change in the road markings is coming ahead (sometimes you can see that if you look far enough, but other times it may be around a slight bend etc) - this would usually mean that they are becoming more restrictive / hazardous
Examples of inaccurate placement of the lines include:
  • A road near me where you come around a right hand bend with a 1/3 mile straight bit of road ahead of you, but double white lines are present for around 250 meters before the line on your side is broken and you are allowed to overtake
  • The road I was on last weekend was quite bendy but road markings were often "overtaking is non-hazardous" in places where there was less than 100 meters clear visibility of the road ahead due to upcoming bends or hill crests
  • Very bendy sections of road where clear visibility is down to less than 50 meters with "hazardous" overtaking road markings
  • "Non-hazardous" road markings past entrances to businesses, side roads or fields
I've always thought it was a bit strange that road markings attempt to define "hazardous" or "non-hazardous" overtaking conditions when so much depends on visibility in different road, traffic and weather conditions as well as what it is that you're actually overtaking.

I wonder how many crashes or near misses are caused every day by drivers taking these road markings at face value and overtaking when they can't see sufficiently far enough ahead? A driver suddenly confronted by an oncoming vehicle on their side of the road as they come over the crest of a hill will not be left thinking afterwards that that driver is a highly skilled, advanced driver will they - they'll more than likely think they're stupid!

There's nothing wrong with planning ahead of course, and I think it's worth mentioning that overtaking doesn't just mean that we're overtaking other large vehicles - overtaking things like slow moving bikes requires a shorter stretch of road, particularly if you're driving a high powered car but I find the road markings alone to be a very inaccurate indicator of the safety of an overtaking manoeuvre.



Nick Heath Driver Training is located in Rode Heath on the Staffordshire / Cheshire border and provides driving training services to those looking to either improve their driving or learn from scratch. In addition to media work, we conduct Taxi Driver Assessments for local authorities and offer Advanced Driver Training and Testing, Motorway Training and Fuel Efficient Driver Training alongside refresher courses and learner driving lessons. We are ORDIT registered to provide Driving Instructor Training and are listed on the DVSA's register of Fleet Trainers so we can help you with your business needs.

More details are available on our website www.nickheathdrivertraining.org.uk

Saturday, 11 July 2020

The first week back after lock-down & a new style of blog

This is the first of a new set of blog posts that I intend to read like a diary piece. The intention is to do them weekly and see what lessons can be drawn from each week.

I'm starting them at the end of the first full week of work that we've been able to do as an industry since the government lifted lock-down restrictions on us.

This week, everyone has worn a mask, everyone has avoided paying cash, everyone has agreed to have their temperature taken, nobody has cancelled their training session and nobody has displayed any concerns about the virus.

The only problem with those masks is that, although they're not tight, they wear grooves into the tops of your ears after about 8 to 10 hours of wearing them, leaving your ears feeling bruised and looking dented - it's certainly a relief to take them off at the end of the day and I feel the pain of all those people in care work and at the NHS etc who've been wearing them for ages!

But of course, the masks are necessary.

As ADI's, we are sitting 18 inches away from somebody else in a well ventilated, yet otherwise enclosed space and either of us may have the virus and not know it.

In everything I've read up about the virus in the last few months, the one question that remained unanswered related to the number of people who contract it without displaying symptoms but more and more reports and studies are now concluding that the answer to that question is that it is around 80%. In other words, if you deliberately infected a group of 100 people, then 80 of them would be expected to display no symptoms. If it's true, that's a horrendous figure because we all rely on people displaying symptoms in order to recognise that they have the virus, stay in and protect the rest of us!

So the masks are essential PPE for anyone working in close proximity to others and it's disappointing when you see an ADI not wearing them, or hear them saying that "I've told the clients that I'll wear one if they want me to" (which is an incredibly unfair position to put a teenager in - can you imagine ANY teenager insisting that you wear a mask??)

If people like us, in high risk situations don't wear them, then what happened in Leicester WILL happen again. Local lock-downs are a reality where there are local outbreaks and no matter how self conscious or uncool people feel about wearing masks, we ALL lose out if that happens.

It's worth saying that the majority of ADI's I've seen this week ARE wearing PPE though, and that's a good thing.

It's also worth considering if you're learning to drive without masks that they are mandatory for both people in the car when you take your driving test. DVSA have already released that information to say that the examiners will be wearing them and expect that the clients also wear them - if you're not used to it when you take your test, you're going to be at a disadvantage in the same way that you would be if you were driving a new car on test day.

Other things I've been doing in the car this week is cleaning it before and after every driver!

That's interesting when the client comes and stands in the middle of the road waiting for you to get out of the car whilst you're trying to wipe it down - you start power cleaning!! 

In order to be effective, the cleaning must cover all contact surfaces with soap, as the virus has a fatty coating that is destroyed in soap leaving it fatally wounded so not only does every surface need to be touched by a wipe, that surface needs to be coated with a fresh, soapy wipe and left wet to the touch for a couple of minutes whilst the soap does it's job.

This is again something that examiners will be doing before they enter the car for a driving test.

If you are doing it yourself, then anti-bacterial wipes from the supermarket are fine and don't damage the interior, but you must be careful not to buy ones that contain bleach - because that WILL harm the interior!

The windows have also been open this week and the Heko Wind Deflectors I purchased to allow the windows to be open in all weathers have been put to their test with all the rain we've had.

In spite of it getting pretty heavy from time to time this week, I've been pleased to see that very little rain has entered the car (any that has, has come in through the very back of the rear windows where the deflectors don't cover). Ventilation in the cabin, particularly on fast roads, has been fantastic and it hasn't been too noisey. These wind deflectors are available easily by searching on line (I got mine through EBay) - mine cost around £40 for the set and look great on the car.

So that's it for this week. Driving instruction requires an ADI to do a lot of things in their head when they're working. They watch the road, plan how they'd drive along it themselves if they were driving, plan escape routes in case anything goes wrong AND watch the client to see if their actions match what the ADI would do or are otherwise appropriate for the road conditions IN ADDITION to actually talking to the client about their driving! Mentally, a driving lesson is a busy time for an ADI and you develop a kind of fitness if you do it regularly, so you can cope. It's obvious that after 14 weeks off, I've lost some of that mental fitness and it's been a tiring week... the day off is very welcome and there are more days off next week to enjoy!

Whatever you're doing this weekend, enjoy it!



Nick Heath Driver Training is located in Rode Heath on the Staffordshire / Cheshire border and provides driving training services to those looking to either improve their driving or learn from scratch. In addition to media work, we conduct Taxi Driver Assessments for local authorities and offer Advanced Driver Training and Testing, Motorway Training and Fuel Efficient Driver Training alongside refresher courses and learner driving lessons. We are ORDIT registered to provide Driving Instructor Training and are listed on the DVSA's register of Fleet Trainers so we can help you with your business needs.

More details are available on our website www.nickheathdrivertraining.org.uk

Monday, 22 June 2020

The current situation regarding driving tests...

As the lock-down restrictions ease more and more, many people are wondering what is going to happen now with driving tests so I thought I'd write a few pieces to keep you all informed.

There are three elements to this and I've put them in priority order:
  1. You had a practical driving test booked at the time of lock-down
  2. You had a theory test booked at the time of lock-down
  3. You were either about to start or were mid-way through training but weren't ready to pass your theory test
Firstly, if you had a practical test booked at the time we went into lock-down, then you will know by now that it was cancelled and rearranged by DVSA. The process used for this was the same process they use if they cancel for any other reasons, and as such the system re-booked your test automatically. Most of those I had booked at the start of lock-down were re-booked to take place in late June and early July. Test centers were initially closed by DVSA until June 20th.

Last week, the DVSA wrote to us to say that they were cancelling all of these re-arrangements completely for the time being and test centers remain closed.

There are no general refunds being made. The way it's going to work is that when the DVSA re-open the testing system, we will be invited to re-book you into a convenient slot. The re-booking system will reopen gradually in stages, with priority give to those that were closest to taking their test at the start of lock-down (so if you had a test booked in late March, you'll have the first shot at re-booking when compared to friends that may have had tests booked in April, or May).

As a booking agent, I will take care of all of this for my clients, but I will be speaking to them all about the practice they've been able to get through the lock-down and we'll make the decision together about when a good time would be to present for test before making a booking. Some people have been able to practice a lot with parents; some haven't done anything at all and everyone will have varying degrees of confidence about going in for a test.

In terms of timing, we have no idea really as to when this system will be opened up but it is one of those things that is obviously dependent on the R value staying nicely below 1.

The DVSA have also written to us to explain that they are concerned about a whole host of things that affect reopening. Some of these things include building issues such as the risk of Legionella and staffing issues with examiners being in various states of health and at various stages of life. It is anticipated that there will be a reduced capacity for testing when it resumes.

As far as PPE is concerned, I am happy to discuss what I am doing and you'll be pretty well up to speed on that from what you're reading in the news. Basically there'll be temperature checks for everyone, compulsory wearing of masks, good hand washing practice and sanitisers available in the car, a practice of cleaning the car's controls down before every new driver and plenty of fresh air.

Like many reading this, I consider these precautions to be common sense and with, at the time of writing, government estimates of infection rates in the country being in the region of 1 in 1700,  I don't mind saying that the DVSA look pretty incompetent in appearing to be so confused and disorganised with regards to a plan to return to work. Whilst many ADI's are preparing to return to some form of service provision in early July, no testing is taking place until the DVSA decide to return to work, so watch this space.


If you had a theory test booked at the point of lock-down, the DVSA again cancelled this and you will have an e.mail telling you when you're new date is. I believe that the automatic re-booking system is managing this for us and that you'll have new dates allocated to you.

Theory test centers remain closed until at least the beginning of July at the moment and as with practical tests, the DVSA are remaining tight lipped about any plans they might be making to reopen them. My opinion is that they should be reopened immediately because a theory test center is one of the easiest public places you can go to in order to maintain social distancing - it was pretty much in place naturally anyway to prevent cheating!

Again, there is no news on what precautions will need to be put in place, but I see no reason why it should be different in many ways to a trip to your local supermarket with just a few additional measures to clean keyboards, use hand sanitisers etc.

Unlike the practical tests, it appears that you CAN still book a theory test if you want to take one. Worth remembering though, there may be a significant delay in being able to book a practical test if you pass your theory, because priority will be given firstly to all of those people who have had tests cancelled due to Coronavirus before the test booking system is opened up to the general public again.


If you were either at the start of the learning to drive journey or part way through it, then you are largely unaffected by these problems in the testing process.

I would advise you to continue to read up and practice for the theory test and where you can get practice at driving, do so. You should practice with somebody you live with acting as supervising driver (they need to have held a full licence for 3 years for the vehicle you're driving and be at least 21 years old). Strictly speaking, the practice of "just going for a drive" is still against government guidelines, but there's no reason why you can't drive to the park for a walk if you like or to the shop.

The biggest affect on this group of people is going to be the availability of Driving Instructors. The profession contains a lot of people who are of retirement age and health problems such as obesity and diabetes are rife within the cohort. As a result, it is expected that there will be a number of ADI's who leave the profession completely as restrictions are lifted and those that are left (I'm in this group) may often have availability problems caused by things like childcare. One interesting way in which this virus crisis has exposed us is that many industries are totally reliant on the assistance of grandparents for childcare reasons in order to earn a decent living with schools only being open for around half of what many modern working class people call "a working day". That isn't an attack on schools, it's a statement of fact and it'd be nice if "the new normal" re-balanced things a bit.


The long term affects of this Coronavirus will be felt in the economy for a long time to come, but the DVSA will recruit new staff to replace those that are forced to leave on health grounds, and people like me will continue to bring new Driving Instructors through our Driving Instructor Training programmes... eventually, normal service will be resumed but it's going to take a long time!

I'll provide further updates as I get them.

Nick Heath Driver Training is located in Rode Heath on the Staffordshire / Cheshire border and provides driving training services to those looking to either improve their driving or learn from scratch. In addition to media work, we conduct Taxi Driver Assessments for local authorities and offer Advanced Driver Training and Testing, Motorway Training and Fuel Efficient Driver Training alongside refresher courses and learner driving lessons. We are ORDIT registered to provide Driving Instructor Training and are listed on the DVSA's register of Fleet Trainers so we can help you with your business needs.

More details are available on our website www.nickheathdrivertraining.org.uk

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Commentary Driving In A Week - Day 6 - Weather Conditions

If you've been following these blogs this week and trying to complete the exercises, then well done!

You'll appreciate that driving at this standard isn't easy and you'll probably be finding it tricky to fit everything in. To recap, what we're doing is:
  • Looking as far ahead as we can to the limit point
  • Identifying information (ALERT):
    • Road Signs
    • Road Markings
    • Road Surface Conditions
    • Junctions (and other fixed hazards)
    • Vulnerable road users and other road users in general (and any other variable hazards)
  • Noting how if affects us (INFORM)
  • Setting out a brief, concise plan to manage that risk (MANAGE), usually involving:
    • A change in speed
    • A change in road position
If you've been doing it, you'll now appreciate how important it is to keep the speed down so that you can keep up mentally and also how important it is to be both concise AND not overly worried about terminology - "man walking in road" really is okay, even if they do turn out to be female when you get closer!

Our next step today is now to add weather conditions to the mix.

Weather conditions are well discussed as a risk increasing factor, but it remains the case that most drivers don't adjust their driving to suit deteriorating weather, until it is REALLY BAD! There are two points I'd like to make here:
  1. When I discussed limit points, I was intending to get you to look as far ahead as you can see with the aim of you gathering information about the road as soon as it became visible. Bad weather will often mean reduce visibility and as a result, this information might not be available as early as it otherwise would be - this may not be much of a problem for fixed hazards, but what about variable ones?
  2. The stopping distance problem is well documented - if the road is wet, then it takes up to twice as long to stop and the reason for that is that you have half the grip of course! In normal driving, this isn't a problem and you won't notice the car skidding when slowing for junctions or cornering... unless you do it in an emergency! This is because normal driving perhaps only uses 10 or 20% of the normal grip available in good conditions - if you wet the road and half the grip, there is still ample grip for normal driving.
Both of these factors SHOULD be altering your driving! It's not necessary to reduce speeds to walking pace just because it's raining, but advanced drivers choosing speeds on approach to bends will consider the increased stopping distance needed in their choices. Likewise they will "forget" that they know the road and know that the road is straight here and drive at a speed that allows them to stop easily if an unexpected hazard requires them to do so - fallen tree across the road in thick fog conditions for example.

Today is potentially a great day to add weather considerations to your commentary as the forecast is for a mixture of sunny, hot weather, cloudy spells and showers of rain that may turn thundery at times - a nice mixed bag to practice with!


Nick Heath Driver Training is located in Rode Heath on the Staffordshire / Cheshire border and provides driving training services to those looking to either improve their driving or learn from scratch. In addition to media work, we conduct Taxi Driver Assessments for local authorities and offer Advanced Driver Training and Testing, Motorway Training and Fuel Efficient Driver Training alongside refresher courses and learner driving lessons. We are ORDIT registered to provide Driving Instructor Training and are listed on the DVSA's register of Fleet Trainers so we can help you with your business needs.

More details are available on our website www.nickheathdrivertraining.org.uk

Friday, 12 June 2020

Commentary Driving In A Week - Day 5 - Vulnerable Road Users

In my last blog, I looked at the subject of junctions.

Junctions are an example of a fixed hazard in that their location and layout are fixed and don't change - the decision is basically "is it safe?" and isn't generally affected too badly by "what might happen here that I don't expect"

Today, we're looking at the subject of "vulnerable road users" and if I'm honest, that means "all other road users" because we can all make mistakes and when we do so, we'd all hope that those around us act in a way that keeps things safe rather than making things worse.

To illustrate this point, I'd like to share a story from 1996. I was waiting at red traffic lights behind a Porsche as the lights changed to green. The Porsche moved off, but I saw a Landrover approaching from the right that clearly wasn't going to stop at the lights and stayed still.

The Landrover hit the Porsche with a lot of force, throwing it up onto a traffic light and I got out of my car and dialed 999 as I went to see if the Porsche driver was okay.

Whilst I was handling the 999 call, an elderly man came over and asked if I was on the phone to the Police. He asked me to pass a message on to them that "I didn't mean to do it, I just didn't see the light"

Like I said, we can all make mistakes. Modern culture means we all like to imagine that we're experts in the legalities of it all and tear this situation apart trying to answer the question of "should he be driving?", but it all boils down to a simple mistake and I'd seen it coming, whilst the Porsche driver hadn't - with the result that I was safe, and the Porsche driver was injured.

Those on 2 wheels, might change position in the road to avoid grids, cats eyes and manhole covers, those on 4 legs might find their ride spooking away from hedges and those with 4 wheels might be taken ill at the wheel or react when they see a bee trapped in the cabin with them... the possibilities are endless really, but many of the most common acts of other road users can be predicted.

For example, that Landrover SHOULD have been slowing down a long time before he got to the stop line, so the fact that he didn't stop WASN'T A SURPRISE AND NEITHER WAS IT UNEXPECTED - all it needed was for the Porsche driver to look to his right as he prepared to move and he'd have seen it.

Likewise, if you can see that you've got to pass a horse, all you've got to do is look ahead and see the oncoming traffic and you avoid getting forced to move back in too early by simply holding back until it's safer.

And if you're on a motorway and you see an HGV coming down the sliproad, it's easy to predict whether he needs the same bit of road as you or not if you look... if he does, adjust your speed and position in good time so that he can get on safely without you having to take any avoiding action.

It's very important that you comment on what is actually happening based on factual evidence rather than anything else. Assuming that people are going to walk into the road in spite of the fact that they're standing at the kerb looking carefully and clearly waiting for traffic to clear is not what this is about - that's treating everyone as though they are stupid and what's we're looking for is to identify those situations that are going wrong.

I'm not going to give any specific examples of what I'd say here, because it's all so unique to the situation, but I want you now to add commentary about other road users to what you're doing already.

So by now, your commentary includes:
  • Signs and markings
  • Road surface conditions
  • Junctions
  • Other road users
Your now at a stage where you'll find that your commentary is filling your driving. This is good. Every single one of these things you're talking about is a hazard and every single one of them could develop into a crash on the right day and by commentary driving, and going through that process of seeing the hazard (ALERT) acknowledging the risk (INFORM) and describing how to reduce the risk (MANAGE) you're stopping yourself from getting involved.

Tomorrow, we'll discuss the weather in our final blog on this subject.


Nick Heath Driver Training is located in Rode Heath on the Staffordshire / Cheshire border and provides driving training services to those looking to either improve their driving or learn from scratch. In addition to media work, we conduct Taxi Driver Assessments for local authorities and offer Advanced Driver Training and Testing, Motorway Training and Fuel Efficient Driver Training alongside refresher courses and learner driving lessons. We are ORDIT registered to provide Driving Instructor Training and are listed on the DVSA's register of Fleet Trainers so we can help you with your business needs.

More details are available on our website www.nickheathdrivertraining.org.uk