Starting to learn how to drive is like diving into a confusing, petrol-filled pool. Some of us dip a toe in, find that the water is too cold, and then give up. Some of us cannonball right in- creating quite a splash on the roads. Then there are learners like me who do that awkward manoeuvre to enter the pool where we sit on the side and flop in ungraciously. However, one way or another, we all end up swimming in the driving ocean. And, disconcertingly, once we are in, we realise that these waters are a lot deeper than we expected.
The Highway Code is this brightly coloured, distressingly thick book full of rules and road signs. It is the sworn enemy of anyone who has the pleasure of ever going near a road. I am trying to learn the difference between Pelican and Puffin crossings. How much new information can there be? It is very daunting! Fresh, excited learners have just tackled their biggest exams at school, yet all of GSCE science is nothing compared to your driving education.
So far on my driving journey, I have learnt so much that it is hard to believe that just a few months ago I had no idea about any of it. Theory tests have embedded the rules of the road so deep in my brain that it is impossible to think I was once oblivious of it all. Is everyone worried?!
Whilst Hazard Perception has turned me into a nervous wreck every time I see a van or a bicycle, and my driving lessons have made me appreciate how bad I was multi-tasking – I cannot help but think that there actually is a shocking amount of things that I have not learnt yet. These are the things cannot be avoided once I pass, and the things that will prove essential if I am to feel at home on the road. Marmalade recently put out a survey, which they kindly shared the results of with me. It was all about what learner drivers want in their lessons and it’s crazy to see that we all seem to be after the same thing! Here’s the top 5.
1. Motorway driving 66%
2. Driving at night 62%
3. Rush hour driving 53%
4. How to change a tyre at the side of the road 52%
5. Filling up screen wash 35%
I can’t help but notice that seeing these written down, I’ve realised I have done none of the above and that’s kind of terrifying! But at least I’m not alone, ay!
I have been contently swimming in the driving ocean, but it could be any of these things that make me drown. I thought I was lucky that I was learning to drive over the summer months, but maybe not? Winter learners get the skills of driving in the dark, bad weather; they learn how to use all of their car’s functions properly. Yes, it has been lovely and warm recently in my lessons, but if the heaven’s opened, I would not have a clue where to find my headlights, fog lights, side lights and every other type of light cars have in hiding.
What us learner drivers want!
I wish that in my lessons I was taught how to drive with music playing and in the survey from Marmalade, it seems that other learners agree with 26% wanting to incorporate this into their lessons too! My driving dream sees me cruising with the radio at full blast; but now in my lessons, the slightest noise sends me into a panic. Is it just me who needs complete silence to be able to drive?
In the future, it is only inevitable that I will have to drive on the motorway but right now I can hardly drive down my own street without causing wild chaos. I now know beyond any doubt which colour lights separate each lane, but all of this information is useless if not put to practical application. Now that the law has changed within the last month, it is the perfect opportunity for learners to be able to tackle the most petrifying part of being on the road, and finally put into practice what we learnt in our theory test!
Reinventing the wheel
Driving lessons do what they say on the tin: they teach you how to drive. But, being able to navigate a roundabout and knowing how to park are only tiny fractions of what it is like to be a full-time driver. The real challenges that drivers have to face are mechanical, trying to repair and mend the vehicle. The autopsy-style alchemy of filling up the screen wash is an issue that one day I shall have to solve, but it is a skill that driving lessons do not teach. Changing a tyre looks as easy as learning to speak Chinese- I cannot wait for the day I’m stuck at the roadside with a flat tyre and not a clue what to do. After I have used my very first tank of fuel – I have no idea how to operate a petrol station to fill it up again! Whilst it is probably assumed that applying practical skills to driving, like using auto-features, is easily learnt at the time they are required, I know it would comfort me greatly if I was sent off on my own with the ability to remedy such problems. Doesn’t it worry you how much we are not taught? The more and more I think about it, the more and more I realise- I am not cut out to be a mechanic – or just a driver it seems!
Yes- driving lessons have taught me how to swim in the driving ocean. Yes- I feel safe on the road and have fallen in love with the experience of being behind the wheel. Yes- I actually know more than I think I do about being in a car. However, there is this little voice in the back of my mind that says, “what are you going to do if you break down…What if I’m in an accident? What happens if I can’t drive in the dark after all the time I spent learning?” Is it just me that feels a little underprepared for every driving situation? A lot more could be done incorporated into the learning process, even if that meant extending it or encouraging more private practice, to assure and certify that all learners are heading out onto the roads fully equipped to live out their driving dreams, and to be as prepared as they could be!
Whilst you may not be able to get this practice in during your driving lessons, you can practice the majority of it outside of them! Check out our Learner Driver Insurance – and you can drive in rush hour as much as you like!