April 20 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
WOULD you pass your driving test if you had to take it again? Or have you got into bad habits?
We put our reporter JAMES MARSTON under examination conditions.
It’s almost 20 years since I took my driving test.
And I haven’t really read the Highway Code since. I haven’t had a refresher lesson, I have forgotten breaking distances and I admit I am not totally convinced I could tell you what hand movements to use when turning left.
I passed first time 20 years ago so I was pretty confident I would be ok when driving instructor David Samways from the British School of Motoring turned up to test my driving skills.
Emergency Stop - If you have to brake in an emergency remember to brake evenly and progressively and try to avoid locking the wheels. Remember that in wet weather it can take twice as long to stop safely.
Following Distance - Always keep a safe distance between yourself and other vehicles. Remember on wet or slippery roads it takes much longer to stop.
Positioning - You should position the vehicle sensibly, normally well to the left. Keep clear of parked vehicles and position correctly for the direction that you intend to take. Where lanes are marked, keep to the middle of the lane and avoid straddling the lane markings. Do not change lanes unnecessarily.
Use of mirrors – rear observation
You should use your mirrors often, including exterior mirrors where necessary, and always be aware of what may be in your blind spots.
Just looking is not enough. You must know what is happening all around you and act sensibly and safely on what you see.
You must always check carefully before signalling, changing direction and changing speed.
Use the Mirror Signal Manoeuvre routine.
We started by looking in the engine.
“James, can you tell me where the brake fluid reservoir is located and how to tell if it needs filling up?”
I pointed to a small plastic receptacle in the top left of the engine bay.
“And what would you do if it needed filling regularly?”
“Get it fixed” I replied, thinking that a leak must mean something is wrong.
“Yes, you’d take it to a qualified mechanic.”
I managed to also point out where the engine coolant goes, explained how to check the oil and pointed out the windscreen washer water container. I also read a licence plate from a distance.
So far so easy motoring.
Behind the wheel I adjusted the mirrors and pulled back the driving seat.
“And you are now under examination conditions, please move off and drive to the end of the road where I will direct you.”
Even though it was a mock text the nerves suddenly kicked in. In fact I could feel my heart racing as David, clipboard in hand, and I made sedate way on to the one way system.
“Now please follow the signs towards Manningtree on the A137.”
This was what is called the “independent drive” part of the test and at least I knew where to go.
Conscious of mirrors and signalling I found myself flicking the indicator far more than I usually would just in case.
Once on the Wherstead Road I momentarily relaxed until I realised I was probably going too fast so I eased off and tried to concentrate and watch out for hazards.
Once up past the ski slope David directed me towards Felixstowe on the A14, just as the rain came down. I remembered to look over my shoulder – something told me I am meant to, but I didn’t dare go too fast over the Orwell Bridge so I stuck behind a lorry and waited until my next instruction.
“Now exit the A14 at the next junction and follow the signs to the hospital.”
Off at the old airport, down Ransomes Way and on to Bixley Road- all seemed ok. I kept looking in my mirror, indicating, doing what I thought I should.
We drove into Ashdown way, Bridport road and then St Augustine Road.
David asked me to pull over. Once stopped he asked me to parallel park alongside a car in front of us.
I executed the manoeuvre trying to remember where I was supposed to look.
In Chilton road – after crossing a busy Bixley Road, it was time for an emergency stop. I thought it went well.
Heading back to the Ipswich Star offices we drove down Foxhall Road and then cut across to Fore Hamlet around the one way system and round the Novotel roundabout.
I thought I’d done rather well and after an hour of concentrating I was somewhat relieved it was all over.
Then came the moment of truth.
“I’m afraid that if this had been your test you would have failed today James.”
I will admit to feeling a little deflated.
David added: “On the A14 you committed a serious driving error. When we joined the dual carriage way we were behind a blue articulated lorry.”
I remembered the lorry.
“You left about 1.5 seconds behind him, you should have been four seconds behind him in the wet.”
To be honest I hadn’t really thought about it.
But there was more to come.
“You also had four minor errors which add up to make a serious error.”
“Oh yes?” I replied now wanting to know what was so wrong.
“You didn’t check all your mirrors enough in advance of signalling.”
“Oh.” I replied, crestfallen. Apparently I didn’t look in the side mirrors enough.
It also emerged that I was going plenty quick enough on the Wherstead Road and I had changed lane on a roundabout and forgot to indicate at another roundabouts on Ransomes Way.
I resisted the urge to suggest that Ipswich has far too many roundabouts anyway. Instead I took the criticism.
On the plus side I used the gears well and drove with confidence a car I had never been in before.
David added: “Your parallel parking was absolutely brilliant but you did forget to look in your mirror when you pulled away after the emergency stop. Overall though you’re not too bad, you have a fairly nice standard of driving but you need to anticipate better.”
Driving is harder than I remember.