You’ve passed your driving test. You’ve bought a car. You’ve got your insurance covered and paid your road tax but there’s something else to organise. A mechanic. We cannot stress enough, how much easier your life will be if you find a mechanic before you have any major car troubles or your MOT is suddenly due.
But how do you choose a mechanic? Here are a few things to consider during your search:
- Ask your friends and family. Chances are that the people around you will happily give you their recommendations and some of them would have been going to the same mechanic for a number of years.
- Ask your driving instructor. Their job is to be on the roads every day…in a car…that works. You can’t really go wrong asking a professional driver who their mechanic is, they’ll probably be able to give you a few recommendations of mechanics in your local area.
- Know what you need. Understand your car. Some garages don’t have the capacity to deal with electronic or hybrid cars and some don’t have the capacity to deal with old or vintage cars. It doesn’t make a mechanic bad, it just means that they don’t have the tools or expertise to deal with your particular vehicle.
- Do your own research. You’ve got your recommendations so now it’s time to do your own research. Look online, check out reviews, go to the garages and ask some questions, find out what services they provide. Do they do MOT’s, are they able to look after hybrids? Take your car with you and find out if they have experience with your particular make and model. Car troubles can be stressful (and expensive) so make sure that you can not only get on with your mechanic but that you trust them too.
- Don’t assume. Don’t assume that the garage down the road or that one your mum told you about has the capacity to see you and your car straight away. Most of the time, good mechanics are constantly busy. This is also why you shouldn’t wait until you have major car troubles before finding the right mechanic for you and your car.
Finding a mechanic doesn’t have to be hard and it doesn’t have to be stressful. It will take a bit of time and a bit of research but your car will thank you for it in the future. If you’ve got no one to ask or maybe your new to an area, use websites such as The AA Garage Guide or Approved Garages Near Me.
Did you know that to become a taxi or Uber driver, you have to pass an assessment? In Portsmouth and the surrounding areas, taxi tests are conducted by The Blue Lamp Trust. They tend to call it an assessment rather than a test and just like learner drivers, the examiner wants to know that you will be a safe driver.
The assessment consists of a driving licence check and eyesight test followed by a 45-minute driving assessment across a variety of road types. In practice, this means a driver can be anywhere in a 20-minute radius of where they start the test. By failing the eyesight test, or not having the licence to show the examiner before they start, the practising taxi driver can fail their test before they even get into their car!
The less the examiner notices about their driving the better. When you get into any car and the driver is a good one you will feel safe and relaxed and this is how you should feel when you get into a cab with a professional driver. Safe and relaxed is how the examiner wants to feel because that’s how you should feel.
At the beginning of the test, the examiner will say that they want you to be smooth, safe and legal. Sound familiar? If you can do those three things you should be alright. Just like the driving test, the examiner can only mark what they see on the day.
Just like learner drivers, it’s important to have some training before taking the Blue Lamp Taxi Test. You wouldn’t take your driving test without driving lessons, so why take the Blue Lamp Taxi Test without lessons? At driving-pro, we offer training to people looking to take the Blue Lamp Taxi Test.
Our aim is to have as many safe drivers on the road as possible! And just like us, you can be sure the local council is concerned about the safety of drivers, their passengers and the people around them.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the types of training we offer, get in touch via the form below!
Learning to Drive: How to Choose a Driving Instructor
Finding the right driving instructor for you can be hard. You have to spend a lot of time with your driving instructor, you have to be able to talk to them and take direction from them. So we’ve put together a handy list of 10 things to consider whilst you’re looking for your perfect driving instructor.
1) Ask a friend! Your friends know you and they’ll know if you’ll get on with their driving instructor or an instructor they might know.
2) The bus test. If your driving instructor sat next to you on the bus, would you move or would you stay sat next to them? If you’d move, they’re probably not the instructor for you…
3) Reviews. In today’s world of information overload, reviews are a great way of getting answers to your questions, from real people. If your potential driving instructor has lots of (good) reviews, they’re probably doing something right! Check places like Yell.com or Facebook.
4) Professionalism. You are paying your instructor for a professional service, so as much as you need to get along with your instructor, they need to be professional too. Professionalism can be shown in lots of different ways. For example, at driving-pro, our instructors like to dress professionally and keep their cars are clean inside and out. There’s nothing worse than getting in a dirty car!
5) Answering the phone. If you phone a driving instructor directly and they don’t answer, that’s a good thing! They’re probably out driving, respecting the fact they’re working and respecting the law. Don’t get put off, just leave a message and they’ll get back to you!
6) Code of Conduct. Has your chosen driving instructor signed a Code of Conduct? Ask this question! You should also find out if your instructor has terms and conditions, then you’ll both be on the same page!
7) Do you feel comfortable with your driving instructor? If you don’t, we suggest finding a new instructor. There’s nothing wrong with that! At driving-pro, all of our students know that if they ever have an issue or they’d like to speak to someone who isn’t their instructor, they are able to. It’s important to us that our pupils are happy and comfortable.
8) Don’t get hung up on pass rates. It’s easy to, we know. You will pass your test. You will pass your test in your own time, and it mainly comes down to your commitment, the number of miles spent on the road and your confidence.
9) Instructor grade. There are two grades, A and B. The grade is supplied by the government. At driving-pro, although we take grades into account, most important for us is professionalism, people skills, ability and teaching methods but never be afraid to ask for credentials.
10) Price. Learning to drive is an investment. Of course, cheap lessons or special deals such as ten hours for £99 or the first five for £55 are attractive but ask yourself, why these lessons are so cheap? A good and in demand driving instructor will charge appropriately for their service, which ultimately could end up costing you less.
If you want to find out more about any of driving-pro’s instructors, you can give us a call on 02392 75 25 25 or check out their profiles!
Last week we spoke to Danny, PDI this week it’s all about Gav, ADI.
Gav’s entire career has revolved around cars and vehicles. He worked in the motor trade for years and has 12 years experience in driving artic lorries! Once you’ve manoeuvered one of those down a single track lane, every other driving task seems easy!
Why did you become a driving instructor?
Over the last three years, I’d been teaching friends to drive. I really enjoyed it and I was good at it too. I decided to get in touch with driving-pro to find out how I could become a Driving Instructor.
After lots of swotting up, help from driving-pro and of course practice, I passed my exams and qualified as a driving instructor.
And here at driving-pro, we couldn’t be more delighted to have Gav aboard. He’s already proving to be a brilliant driving instructor with some fantastic passes already under his belt.
If you want to learn more about Gav, click here and if you want to find out more about driving lessons, fill in the form below!
We asked new member of the driving-pro family Danny, what it’s like to be a driving instructor and why he decided to do it. Danny joined driving-pro in February and is currently doing his training with us too, at the moment Danny is PDI and is working towards becoming an ADI.
A PDI is a Potential Driving Instructor and an ADI is an Approved Driving Instructor. In order to become an ADI you have to pass 3 exams (after LOTS of training and practice), a PDI is someone who has passed 2/3 of those exams. If you’re being taught by a PDI it means that they are on their way to taking that all important 3rd exam which will gain them ADI status. We have no doubt that Danny will pass his part 3 and we can’t wait to welcome another fully fledged ADI to driving-pro.
What’s it like being a Driving Instructor?
Being a driving instructor is great. You have to be calm and make each pupil feel at ease (even after a near miss)! I always try and get to know all my pupils personally so we can chat like friends which really relaxes them, when they are relaxed they drive a lot better. One thing I tell my pupils is not to panic under any circumstance, if you panic, that’s when mistakes happen. Staying calm and not panicking as an instructor in an awkward situation really teaches them this is the best thing to do. Even though you may feel panicked inside, never show it on the surface or it will rub off on your pupil.
Why did you decide to become a Driving Instructor?
I’m a people person and you meet some fantastic and interesting people being a driving instructor, people with some really interesting stories to tell. I always learn something new with each pupil (I like learning new stuff)! It is so satisfying seeing a pupil start off not even knowing how to turn a car on blossoming into a great driver. I often remind them of what they were like on their first lesson to what they are like now which makes them feel really proud of their achievements.
By 1970 all driving instructors now had to be officially registered and from May 1975 candidates no longer had to demonstrate arm signals in the driving test.
From 1st May 1990, examiners started to give feedback, they gave candidates a brief explanation of faults committed during the test, plus advice on areas for improvement. From October 1990, under the new legislation, anyone accompanying a learner driver had to be at least 21 and must have held a driving licence for a minimum of 3 years which is still true to this day.
In April of 1991 reverse parking became part of the driving test, this was as a result of more and more traffic on the road and people passing their driving test but not being able to park!
On 1st July 1996, the (separate) theory test was introduced. It replaced questions asked about The Highway Code during the driving test. A lot of people tried to beat the deadline meaning the driving instruction industry boomed and then, of course, slumped.
Photographic ID was required for both practical and theory tests from 1st March 1997. From 1st June 1997, if a new driver gained 6 or more penalty points during the first 2 years of driving, they lost their licence and must retake both the theory and practical driving test before being allowed back on the roads.
On 29th September 1997, waiting times between tests were reintroduced for unsuccessful candidates. For car drivers, there was a minimum wait of 10 days between tests.
In February 1999, the newly revised Highway Code was published, with current advice and up-to-date legislation for all road users.
On 5th May 1999, the Bay Park is introduced. Glen Robbins of driving-pro lays claim to being the first test pass on that day in the South of England, if not the whole of the UK.
As you can see, as the roads got busier the rules had to evolve more quickly. Imagine today not having to learn how to park your car or not having to take your theory test. Yes, it might be easier but do you think you’d be a safe driver?
Welcome to the last instalment of The Story of the Driving Test. This week we’ll be discussing what changes were made from the early 2000s to today.
In 2002 a hazard perception element was introduced into the theory test; this uses video clips to test candidates awareness of hazards on the road. The ‘Show me’ and ‘tell me’ vehicle safety questions that we always go on about were added to the beginning of the driving test on 1 September 2003.
It was only since 6th April 2010, that driving test candidates have been encouraged to take their instructor with them on their test. Then on 4th October 2010, independent driving became part of the practical driving test, this is when candidates have to drive for 10 mins making their own decisions.
On 7th April 2014, driving test candidates were stopped from being able to use foreign language voiceovers and interpreters on their theory and practical driving tests. The change was made to cut out the risk of fraud, to make sure that all drivers can read road signs and fully understand the rules of the road.
Some of the biggest changes to the driving test were introduced recently on 4th December 2017. These included following directions from a sat nav and testing different manoeuvres. We said goodbye to the corner reverse and the turn in the road. In came, driving into a bay and pulling up on the right. Fast moving country roads were also included in the test in response to the accident rate on those roads by new drivers. The Show Me Tell Me questions and how they are conducted changed, these questions are now asked on the move. All in all, it’s a lot more like real life although some driving instructors predict that these changes will mean the end of western civilisation as we know it.
The latest change on 4th June 2018 was for learner drivers and not the driving test. The change in law meant that learner drivers were allowed to take motorway driving lessons for the first time, although they have to be with an ADI and driving a car with dual controls. The welcome change in law was made to help to make sure more drivers knew how to use motorways safely and confidently. Driving-pro instructor (Liam Greaney) lays claim to being the first instructor with a learner on the motorway. He even made it into the local news!
All in all, since the driving test was introduced it has responded to the needs of society, as have the roads and the law. As roads become more congested the test becomes harder to pass but at the end of the day, the driving test is a test of competence and to evaluate if you will be safe on the roads. Yes, it’s frustrating to fail a driving test but it’d be devastating if you were to cause an accident because you weren’t ready to drive.
What do you think about how driving and the driving test has evolved? Do you think it’s evolved enough? Do you think there should be more changes made? Let us know over on Facebook!
Being a Driving Instructor is not just about teaching someone to pass a driving test but to drive safely. By teaching you to drive safely, you would then pass your test. We have an overriding moral duty to you, the pupil, ourselves and society in general, to ensure that everyone is safe. Nothing could be worse for an Instructor than to read that someone you have got through a driving test has been in an awful accident.
Instructors work in different ways, for some, it’s their full-time job and for some, it’s part-time…but most work around you and your availability. It’s important when you’re learning to drive that you’re not distracted by stress or time constraints which is why we try to be flexible.
As driving instructors, we deploy a variety of techniques which have been learnt through our training and experience. Which techniques we use are dependant on you and the circumstances we find ourselves in during a lesson. You’ll find that the skill of the instructor is in how these techniques are deployed to you, to give you the best advantage.
Being a driving instructor can be very rewarding (we wouldn’t do it otherwise) as we have the satisfaction of being a positive change in someone’s life. But a strange part of the job for some is that we share an aspect of our lives with a pupil and may get on really well with them. Then that pupil passes their driving test and it becomes a bittersweet moment as they move out of your life.
However, overall it’s a people job and helping people from all walks of life, become safe and confident drivers equals huge job satisfaction for us at driving-pro.
If you’d like to learn how to drive, fill in the form below and we’ll get back to you!
Driving in the UK started to evolve rather quickly after the 50s. Did you know that the M6 Preston bypass was the first stretch of motorway built in December 1958? The M1 officially opened on 2 November 1959 but in the early days it had none of the following:
- speed limit
- central reservation
- crash barriers
- motorway lighting
Moving into the 60s…from 1 April 1962, people who had held more than 7 provisional licences were required to take a driving test. If they failed to do so, the licensing authority could refuse a further application for a licence.
In 1964 a voluntary register of approved driving instructors (ADIs) was set up under the Road Traffic Act 1962. In order to become an ADI, you had to pass stringent written and practical tests.
New drink-drive laws came into force on 8 October 1967 where the legal limit was 80mg alcohol in 100ml blood. In 1968 the test fee was increased to £1 and 15 shillings (£1.75p) and changes to the driving test from 2 June 1969 included:
- vehicles used in the test must not have dual accelerator control unless this had been made inoperable
- a separate driving licence group for automatic vehicles was introduced
- candidates were required to produce their driving licence to the examiner at the test and sign the examiner’s attendance record – examiners could refuse to conduct a test if these requirements were not met
It’s hard nowadays to imagine not having a motorway, not having a drink driving limit and only paying £1.75 for a driving test! But as our roads got busier these changes were essential. Motorways kept traffic flowing and drink driving limits saved lives. Imagine what our roads would be like if these things weren’t implemented?
Stay tuned next week to find out more about the recent history of the driving test.
1st June 1935
The law changed on 1st June 1935, making the Driving Test compulsory, but in order to not create too big a rush, voluntary testing was introduced on the 16th March 1935. The first person to pass was a Mr R Breere who did so at a cost of only 7/6d (37.5p) on that day!
This change of law meant that compulsory testing was for all drivers and riders who started driving on or after 1st April 1934.
The Examiners were trained ‘on the job’ and were responsible for handling the booking of driving tests. They used to meet candidates at pre-arranged locations such as car parks or railway stations because there were no test centres. The first overall pass rate was 63% which seems slightly scary considering that some of the people who failed were already driving!
When World War 2 arrived, driving tests were suspended from 2nd September 1939 until 1st November 1946. During the war, the examiners were redeployed to traffic duties and supervision of fuel rationing.
By 1950 the pass rate had gone down to 50%. Remember, last week we mentioned that the driving test was and still is self-regulating? Well more traffic and more interactions with other cars mean more chances to fail. All the time the pass rate was falling the test fees were rising. In 1950 the test cost 10/- (50p) and by 1956 it was £1, the equivalent to almost £25 in 2019. You’ll have probably noticed but the pass rate falling and the test fee rising are a theme throughout the story of the driving test!
Why do you think test prices rise as pass rates fall? Let us know over on Facebook!
So what is a driving test?
It is a test of driving competence, judged on what the examiner sees at that exact time and place. Essentially, it is the same test it has always been however, it has evolved to meet the ever-changing conditions.
The test can be described as self-regulating. This means that while in itself, it’s pretty much the same, the extra traffic on the road makes it more and more difficult.
The test means different things to different people. Here we will take a quick look at what those differences are.
To Society: It’s a right of passage from which you receive your freedom. Even The Queen has a Driving Licence. The fact she doesn’t need to drive, as she has 8 chauffeurs from the Royal Household to call on is neither here nor there. She still learnt and learning to drive is one of the things that binds us together as a people. A common experience that is shared by most.
To Government: The DVSA are the people who run The Driving Tests. Their aim is for you to be consistently safe with a bit of confidence in your driving. As we are all equal in the eyes of the law, all driving tests are as similar as possible. Obviously, we can’t all do the same test route with the same examiner but all tests will be to the same standard over similar routes. Another common experience shared by most.
The Candidate: If you’re ready, The Driving Test is easy, it’s the examiner that adds the pressure and makes it difficult. The way to cope with the pressure and for the best chance of passing is by giving the DVSA what they want. Being consistently safe but showing confidence in your driving. How do you know you’re ready? Would you be happy driving by yourself the day after you pass your test? Make sure you have an honest conversation with your instructor before you book your driving test. They will know when you’re ready.
The Instructor: It’s a bittersweet moment when your pupil passes. You have grown to know and love them, and then they leave you! The knot in your instructor’s stomach becomes a feeling of joy when a pupil passes their test. For an instructor, the happiness that comes with a Pass surpasses the saying goodbye to a pupil.
The Examiner: These are the people who conduct The Driving Test. What might they be thinking? Their job is to see that you are consistently safe and driving with confidence. But how? Think about what an examiner might ask themselves during a test. Maybe it’s questions like, would I want them driving my car or would I want them driving near my car?
What do you think about The Driving Test? Have you taken one? Did you pass? How long ago did you take the test? Do you think you could pass now? Let us know over on Facebook!
The origin of the Driving Test comes from The Motor Car Act 1903. The act meant that both vehicles and drivers had to be licenced. In those days, the licence cost was 5 shillings which is only about 25 pence! Once The Motor Car Act was brought in, you could be fined £5 for not having a licence. It also brought the speed limit up to 20 mph and made sure that the brakes met a certain standard.
The next major piece of legislation was The Road Traffic Act 1930. This abolished speed limits for vehicles with less than 7 seats and brought in various offences like dangerous, reckless and careless driving. The Road Traffic Act 1930 also introduced The Highway Code. It made Third Party Motor Insurance compulsory and required driver testing for the disabled.
So the driving tests for the disabled were the first driving tests for ordinary car users. What they wanted to know was that the disabled driver was able to control their vehicle and the control of the vehicle is the basis of all driving tests today.
Road Traffic Act 1934:
Now that all drivers had to be licenced it was decided that they should also all be tested, not just those with disabilities. This was introduced by The Road Traffic Act 1934 and was a direct response to the level of road casualties. The other major provision was the re-introduction of the 30 mph speed limit.
For about 2.5 million cars there were 7,300 road deaths, of these deaths over half were pedestrians with three-quarters of these occurring in built-up areas. Compare this to the 30 million cars nowadays with about 1,700 road deaths of which only 470 are pedestrians casualties.
Naturally, motoring organisations like the RAC and The AA resisted this new legislation. Moore-Brabazon MP rallied against it in the House of Commons. “Yes, he conceded, 7,000 people a year were being killed on the roads, but it is not always going to be like that. People are getting used to new conditions. Older members of the House will recollect the number of chickens we killed in the early days of motoring. We used to come back with the radiator stuffed with feathers. It was the same with dogs. Dogs get out of the way of motor cars nowadays and you never kill one. There is education even in the lower animals. These things will right themselves. Why such concern over 7,000 road deaths a year?” He demanded. More than 6,000 people commit suicide every year, and nobody makes a fuss about that.
The thing is, he was a decent bloke. Served his country both in peace and in war. Decorated for bravery during the first world war and served as a minister during the second. Was a pioneer in the words of aviation, yachting and motoring. But he had a certain view and it’s opposed to what we would think today. But also not entirely uncommon amongst his peers either.
What do you think? Was Moore-Brabazon right or wrong?
Let us know what you think over on Facebook!
You may or may not be surprised at the number of people who report suffering from stress and anxiety whilst driving but there are ways to deal with it. Last week we talked about chewing gum but maybe you’re not a gum kinda person so why not try, shaking?
No, we don’t mean trembling with fear or drinking a shake (although who knows, a milkshake could help?!) What we’re talking about is the act of loosening the body. We are all familiar with how our bodies become tense and we stiffen up when we’re under stress. So, how can shaking help?
What the act of shaking should do is loosen our muscles, ligaments and joints. If we are loose we are relaxed. The process of doing this will increase oxygen to the brain which in turn, will promote alertness and memory. An NHS therapist we taught used to tell us that the therapists where she worked often came back into the staff room shaking. She implied this was as a stress relief strategy, rather than anything they had learnt from the client during therapy.
The way we have used this is sometimes we get the pupil when pulled over just to shake the stress off in the car. If you were ever at one of the local test centres and saw some idiot with his pupil doing star jumps that was most probably one of us.
One of our pupils was a teacher and knew about these types of stress-busting techniques so we went for it. Another pupil of ours when stopped at the traffic lights would bounce her legs up and down. The dance she called it. For both of them, it worked.
So next time you’re feeling stressed or anxious when driving, pull over and have a shake.
We all do it and if we don’t…well you know. But breathing is another technique that could help calm you down. So to be more specific it’s diaphragmatic breathing or what’s more commonly known as belly breathing that can help. This is a deep breathing technique that promotes relaxation and hence reduces stress. According to the University of Texas Counseling and Mental Health Center, “Diaphragmatic breathing allows one to take normal breaths while maximizing the amount of oxygen that goes into the bloodstream. It is a way of interrupting the ‘Fight or Flight’ response and triggering the body’s normal relaxation response.”
So what’s the technique? When pulled over (safely) breath in through your nose for a count of three deep down into your stomach. Hold for a count of one, then out from your mouth for a count of four, emptying your stomach of the breath. As instructors, we quite often tell our pupils “in with the calm and out with the stress”. A cycle of three or four of these deep breaths will quite often a calm state.
So next time, if the gum and the shaking haven’t helped. Try belly breathing. But remember, pull over and stop. Don’t try doing it on the move!
Besides the physical techniques we have spoken about in our previous blog posts there are others that good instructors will use instinctively. The first of these is laughter. A few good jokes can make the driving experience more pleasant and less stressful. While driving could be a matter of life and death the process of learning will not be helped by making it so serious. To laugh together at a mistake and then to ask how can we improve on that mistake next time will do so much more to aid learning than any criticism.
The process of laughing is good for us. It increases our oxygen levels which in turn leads to greater alertness and memory retention. Some jokes may not get a belly laugh but a lightened mood helps reduce stress whilst driving. One of our young pupils summed driving instructor Liam up brilliantly. She took great delight in telling Liam that his jokes were as bad as her dads and that he told the same ones each week. Needless to say, that didn’t stop him.
Occasionally, as instructors, we come across pupils who don’t respond well humour and this is okay. It’s our job to respond to these pupils in a manner that’s appropriate for them. If they’re stressed and don’t respond to humour, we suggest belly breathing, shaking or chewing. We find what helps them and what will help them in their driving career.
Whether you’re learning now or you passed your test 30 years ago. How you learn to drive and the techniques you pick up on those lessons mould you as a driver. We encourage our students to find stress-busting techniques that work for them and will continue working for them.
Lastly, we’re going to be talking about coaching, we are driving instructors after all. So why does coaching help reduce stress?
Any good instructor knows and practices a peer to peer style of driver development. Instructors are not lording over their pupil but working with them. Instructing in its extreme can become very negative. The instructor can be frustrated by a pupils inability to comprehend the instructor’s ‘words of wisdom’. Think back to when an authority figure was telling you to do something and you did not understand. That stress of dealing with an authority figure when things were not going well made you feel worse. But when one of your mates took you to one side and explained it all, it became clearer.
The instructional style is fault-based and looks back at what has been done. Coaching looks forward to what will be done. The difference here is that we go with the positive rather than dwell on the negative. This creates a more positive environment for the pupil. If a pupil begins with a positive environment they are more likely to continue down that road, even when they’ve passed their test. GROW models come to mind. The GROW model is a simple method for goal setting and problem-solving. Obviously, certain things need to be done but pupils should be aware of these things and will work with you to achieving the goal.
With coaching, there should be an awareness and a sense of responsibility from the pupil. A driving instructors job, for which they are being paid is to provide the knowledge, skills and a safe environment for this to happen. Note the last bit: a safe environment. It is an instructor’s job to create this environment and the pupil’s to be receptive to this.
When we feel safe, when we have the right knowledge and when we have or are developing the necessary skills with the right kind of support we feel happy that we were achieving something. This is certainly less stressful than struggling with something your not sure about or trying to do something you’re uncertain of.
Learning to drive and even driving can be stressful and we wanted to look at some ways it can be made less so. We are grateful to our NHS Therapist ex-pupil who shared her techniques with us and allowed us to pass on these tips to our other pupils.
In turn, we hope that some of the techniques we have spoken about in the past few weeks have helped you or someone you know. Yes, driving is stressful and in turn, can create anxiety but you are in control.
A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of guiding a professional NHS therapist through her driving test. What I got from her, that I would like to share with you is a series of stress-busting strategies that I use for myself and my pupils.
The first group of these strategies are physical. Stress shows itself in our bodies so if we can get our bodies to relax this will help to reduce stress.
The first of these is chewing gum. It goes along the lines of if you are chewing gum your brain thinks that your body is eating. It’s safe to eat, we do it every day, therefore your body can relax a bit more. If you look at some of the most highly stressed people in the world, premiership football managers. You will quite often see them chewing gum.
If you were to google the benefits of chewing gum you will be pleasantly surprised by the sheer number of benefits. The act of chewing can increase oxygen to the brain, which increases alertness and memory. A 2008 study led by Australian researcher Andrew Scholey, a professor of behavioural and brain sciences at Swinburne University in Melbourne, showed that chewing gum reduced the stress hormone Cortisol in participants. They reported feeling less stressed and more alert.
As a driving instructor, I always have some gum in my training vehicle and within easy reach of my pupil. I always tell my pupils it’s there for them and to help themselves. I make a point of the fact they do not need to ask and I offer if I think they could do with reminding of it. So, if you ever feel stressed when you’re driving, reach for the gum!
Welcome to the last instalment of How Our Roads Came To Be.
Roundabouts replace crossroads and required the car entering to give way to the traffic on the roundabout which was fine when the traffic was relatively light. But consider that, nowadays at a normal roundabout you will have four roads feeding traffic into a small space. It’s understandable how they can go into gridlock.
Our most effective solution is traffic lights. The meaning of the lights is universally recognised. You can be colour blind and still know which light is which as they each have their own position. The interesting light is the one in the middle, the yellow one. As we approach and the light goes yellow do we stop or go. This is called the dilemma zone and where mirrors pay off.
Lights can be programmed to allow for the peaks and troughs of traffic flow. They can be linked and respond to traffic conditions so the flow cascades down the road. Emergency service vehicles can be given priority by transmitting a signal to the lights allowing them through.
All in all, they connect us as drivers because we need to use them in the same way this gives us a shared experience and commonality. They are how we cooperate with each other for the greater good.
Without our smooth roads, speed limits, road signs, markings on the road and traffic lights our roads today would be a very different and a lot more dangerous. All these things are not there to slow us down, they’re there to keep us safe and to keep things running smoothly.
Last week it was speed and this week its traffic.
As cars began getting faster and the traffic more intense, crossing the road safely became a bigger problem. The initial crossings were a parallel set of studs with two Belisha Beacons. As these were being ignored both by people and car drivers, a number of improvements were made. The Belishas started flashing and coloured stripes were introduced, leaving us with the black and white crossings we know today as Zebra Crossings.
If the number of people wanting to cross is so many that it holds the traffic up for to long or the traffic is moving to fast to make stepping onto a crossing safe. We put in a set of lights. At traffic light controlled junctions we can put in a pedestrian crossing phase. With the use of textured paving and buttons to press they become blind friendly.
As the roads became more congested it became necessary to control who had priority. For example, a busy road will always require a minor road off it, in order to give way.
Those of us who are a bit older will remember a policeman wearing white gloves, controlling the traffic. They were a good solution when the traffic only had certain peaks. The downside is, that if they were controlling traffic they were not available for other duties. However, nowadays this fine instrument of law enforcement has totally been replaced by roundabouts and or traffic lights and just like our good friend the Bobby they will keep going until something breaks or is worn out. But without human costs.
Stay tuned next week for the final instalment of How Our Roads Came to be.
This week it’s about speed limits, why we have them and how they help.
As the roads improved and vehicles got better things became faster and the need for speed limits became apparent. These limits are based around stopping distances and in the case of hitting a person, their chances of surviving the impact. Interestingly the 70 mph stopping distance is not too dissimilar to the length of most sporting pitches and the 30 mph stopping distance is just over the length between cricket wickets.
A problem with speed is, the faster the speed the greater the likelihood of death if you hit a pedestrian. At 40 mph studies showed that the chance of death is over 80%. At 20 mph it drops down to 5%. The reason it jumps from 5% at 20 mph to over 80% at 40 mph is down to the laws of physics. As the impact speed doubles, the energy imparted to a collision quadruples. Blame Sir Isaac Newton for that one.
This brings us back to 30 mph, and it is all to do with people surviving their mistakes. Children do run out into the road, old people maybe can’t cross the road as quickly as others and people who have been drinking are less aware. At some point in our lives, we all make a mistake. Without a speed limit, these mistakes could be a death sentence.
The greater the difference between the speeds of the different road users, the more likely a collision and the worse the impact. So if a bike is doing 10 mph and is rear-ended by a car doing 30 mph. The difference is just 20 mph. Not nice but hopefully survivable. But if hit doing 30 mph was 40 mph the difference could well be life or death.
So don’t forget to check your speed and come back next week for more on our roads and how they came to be.