Archive for the ‘Driving’ Category

Driving Lesson #12

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

Breaking my streak of 11 blog posts on the day of my driving lesson… I had a driving lesson yesterday. Strangely enough I feel that my driving is getting worse, I don’t think it actually is getting any worse I am just getting more confident and trying to do more things at once, at which point Kev steps in (literally) with the foot break.

Interesting experience today as we were driving round in the pouring rain, it was quite disturbing at first as the windscreen wipers were distracting, however once I got over that I was more or less ignoring them. The main issue I had was large blobs of rain obscuring entire cars, again once I got use to checking a bit more carefully I got over that too.

Kev went through reverse parking today which was actually easier than I expected, perhaps because I had been doing amazingly boring task of “paper work” before my lesson today so my brain was ready to learn something. The essence of the manoeuvre is as follows, please remember that this may be TOTALLY INCORRECT and much of it will only apply to the particular model of car I am driving:

  1. Start about a meter beyond the car you are going to park opposite (i.e. with the front of the car facing).
  2. Do the checks from your blind spot round to the rear window.
  3. Reverse until the car disappears behind the head-rest of the car (this bit may not work unless you are in Kev’s car!).
  4. Check your blind spot.
  5. Do one whole turn to the left (i.e. towards the kerb).
  6. Once the wheel arch starts to obscure the kerb, turn the wheel two whole turns to the right.
  7. Once the car is parallel with the road straighten up.

At this point you should be there. I was stopping between each step to figure out what I was doing next, although it could be done without stopping I suppose.

Driving Lesson #11

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

Had quite a break between lessons this time, found it much harder to get into the frame of mind after an 8 day break, came back quickly enough. Kev has been trying to get me talking through what I am doing to improve my concentration and awareness of the situation, I am still struggling to get junctions and roundabout quite right, I still tend to come up to the junction to fast not giving myself enough time to get into position, change gear down and look.

It is helpful talking may way through the things I find harder, because I often answer my own questions, or at least know where I am going wrong when I say it. We spent some time turning round in the road (three point turns, although they can be done in more than three) looking at hazards and improveing the frequency that I check mirrors.

Driving Lesson #10

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

20 hours of driving lessons completed now, and Kev and I took the time to go through the Driver’s Record that the Driving Standards Agency provides people who book a theory test for the first time. The Driver’s Record is broken down into twenty driving skills and four other skills related to car ownership. You can read more about the Driver’s Record on direct.gov.

Each of the 20 driving skills are rated between 1 and 5, where 1 is Introduced and 5 is independent without prompts from the driving instructor. In total I have one of the skills at level 5, three at level 4, twelve at level 3 none at level 2, two at level 1 and there are two that I have not looked at yet (emergency stops and parking). I am pleased with the progress I have made although I expect I will need another 40 hours of lessons before I will be close to being able to take my practical test.

Onto the actual content of the lesson, we spent some more time reversing round corners which along with turning round in the road, I find quite difficult. We also covered some more roundabouts and junctions both of which I am improving on, but still find difficult.

Kev also taught me a technique for moving off faster, essentially it is moving from the step by step approach to moving off to being about to prepare to move off quickly. Here is the process I have been using up until now, taken from the safely stopped position (i.e. handbrake on and in neutral):

  1. push the clutch down
  2. change into first gear
  3. give the engine a bit of gas
  4. bring the clutch up to biting point
  5. put more gas on to get the revs back up
  6. check the internal mirror, right door mirror and right blind spot, only move on to the next step if it is safe.
  7. take the hand brake off
  8. keep feet in the same place until moving
  9. come off the clutch and add more gas until up to speed

The technique Kev taught me today was to combine 3, 4 and 5 with a single movement to bring the clutch up to biting point and the gas down to provide sufficient power from the engine. It was good fun, I don’t think I have got it yet but I am improving.

Unfortunately I haven’t got a lesson until next Wednesday, I know how learners feel now if they have to wait a week between each lesson.

Driving Lesson #9

Friday, August 15th, 2008

Well roundabouts went well today, I am still not anywhere near confident on them but I was bringing my speed down most of the time. I must admit I am itching to get out in a car again to practice more. I will have to wait as my two weeks of regular lessons have come to an end, could only book one lesson next week as Kev is off to Rivercamp on Friday, and has lessons the rest of the week.

So anyway, enough lamenting about driving lessons. Kev introduced reversing round corners to me, which I found similar to turning round in the road, in terms of things to think about. Certainly skills I learnt in turning round in the road helped, particularly controlling the car with the clutch and foot brake.

On the basis I have only done this twice, this may be wrong… very wrong. Essentially this is another way turn the car round so that it is pointing in the opposite direction. After doing the five point check – right blind spot, right door mirror, front windscreen, left door mirror and rear window – I reverse round the corner keeping the kerb an equal distance from the car all the way round,  Once straightened up round the corner reverse the car into a parked position.

Driving Lesson #8

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

If you are following me on Twitter you will have seen that Peacehaven was very wet this morning, of course by the time I have left my basement office it was bright sunshine. I was glad of it as we went off towards Shoreham and then onto the A27 to head back towards Newhaven. It seems that driving fast and overtaking comes fairly easily to me, perhaps being on my bike has provided me with practical practice.

Roundabouts unfortunately don’t come so easily to me, at the moment there is too much to think about. For some reason I struggle with slowing down in time, changing gear, seeing what is coming round and getting the indicators properly. Practice I feel will be the order of the next few lessons.

So anyway here are some “pretty pictures” of roundabouts and what I have in my head with regards to what to do with them. As always this is not intended to be instructional, and it may well be inaccurate, I have had to make corrections to several of my previous posts.

Priority on Roundabouts

I made the sudden realization when in the car today that roundabouts are circular one way streets, traffic will only be coming from the right! As an analogy it is not very useful, I thought it was quite amusing.

In this diagram the red car is me, I will try and describe what the other cars are there for as I go along.

On roundabouts you must give way to cars already on the roundabout (in the picture the yellow car). Assuming that the green and purple cars moved off at the same time as me at the same speed (which should be slow, i.e. 10mph), then the three of us would move round the roundabout without affecting each other.

Again this was not something I had thought about before, but roundabouts allow traffic at intersections to split, merge and continue very quickly.

Turning left at a Roundabout

On the approach to the roundabout first thing I need to remember is to slow down to 10mph or below (I will mention this several times). This will allow for the maximum amount of time to assess the situation.

Essentially the roundabout is treated in the same way as a T-Junction on a one way street. On the approach to the junction I need to use the Mirror-Signal-Manoeuvre-Position-Speed-Look procedure.

So on the approach, I need to check the left hand mirror then signal to the left, the manoeuvre comprises of: position, that is being in the correct lane and being in position to make the turn, speed, below 10mph and in the correct gear – second gear if moving or first gear if stopped.

Once the way is clear move round the outside of the roundabout and out of the first exit.

Going straight ahead at a Roundabout

This section used to be titled “Going straight over a Roundabout”, Kev since mentioned that wasn’t the way to describe it, however I must point out that the Police and local council don’t take kindly to driving over roundabouts… it tends to damage the floral displays.

Again going straight over requires the use of the MSM-PSL procedure, however in this instance you do not indicate until you have passed the first exit. This prevents following vehicles from expecting you to turn left onto the first exit.

It is important to note that the outside edge of the roundabout should be followed as if you use the inner lane of the roundabout you are cutting up the drivers turning right.

Going right at a Roundabout

MSM-PSL procedure as expected; So first check the internal and left mirror signal to the right, positioning myself to turn onto the roundabout, if the way is clear I would continue or move off onto the roundabout.

Unlike the previous examples I would use the inner lane of the roundabout continue to indicate right until I pass the exit before the exit I wish to take, at this point I apply the MSM-PSL procedure to move off the roundabout on the exit I wish to take.

Summary

As I mentioned, I find roundabouts very difficult, I never really got them when I was on a bike, as it felt like you were putting yourself in the middle of the traffic on a vehicle that appears to make you invisible.

I am sure that I will spend more time practicing roundabouts, and over the course of the next lessons I am sure I will be able to update everyone on my progress. Still enjoying it all, although today was particuarly tireing.

Driving Lesson #7

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

I don’t have much time to blog today, so it is fortunate that much of what I described yesterday was practiced today. It was a narrower road and it was much harder to get it right. I have got the procedure down in my head now though, will need more practice but I am making progress.

Tomorrow is “driving a bit faster” which should be fun, not to0 fun mind… I am not one for speeding… intentionally.

Driving Lesson #6

Monday, August 11th, 2008

Today’s lesson was very distinctly split into two, Kev allowed me to drive off from work in Hove much to the amusement of the caretakers who didn’t know that I couldn’t drive. From there Kev took me through the area between the Old Shoreham Road (A270) and the coast road (A259) drilling the MSM-PSL junction procedure I had been taught previously. I have been having trouble linking up the stopping at junctions and starting off again, basically I spent too long at a junction that in some cases I shouldn’t have to stop at.

The second part of the lesson focused on turning round in the road, as the title suggests this is the process of going down the road in one direction and ending up going in the other direction. The skills involved are the based upon the skills acquired in previous lessons with some extra checks built on top.

The basic steps are to start off on the left and steer the car towards the opposite side of the road, this should place the car at a diagonal on the opposite side of the road. In reverse the car is steered to the left back to the other side of the road, this then places the car on the left hand side of the road facing the right hand kerb. From there the car can be steered onto the correct side of the road for the desired direction. The whole procedure should be using the full range of the steering (that is full lock) and the full space of the road and as slow as possible.

The whole process is broken down into three phases, I have tried to describe these below in conjunction with the diagram above. Again this is not meant to be instructional, it may well be wrong, if you believe it is please do feel free to let me know in the comments below.

Phase 1

Before moving follow the five point checks: rear window, left door mirror, straight ahead, right door mirror, right blind spot (in moving between rear window and left door you should see anything in your left blind spot). Start moving off in first gear and turn the steering wheel full lock to the right as you approach the other side of the road straighten up.

Phase 2

Again check the five points, this time in the opposite direction: right blind spot, right door mirror, straight ahead, left door mirror and rear window. Keep looking out of the rear window and start to move off in reverse gear turning the steering wheel full lock to the left, again as you approach the kerb straighten up read for the next phase.

Phase 3

Check the five points in the original order: ear window, left door mirror, straight ahead, right door mirror, right blind spot. Move off in first gear turning the steering wheel full lock to the right this should eventually place you in the normal road position allowing you to drive off.

I found the whole thing complicated and hard to keep everything in my head, it is going to take quite a bit of practice before I can do it without holding up the traffic, and some considerable practice learning where to try it in a safe, legal and convenient manner.

Still enjoying the whole thing though, not got a lesson tomorrow as Kev has got a full day of driving arround so the next driving update will be on Wednesday.

Driving Lesson #4

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

Spent some more time driving round Woodingdean, Kev went through who has priority in which situations. For example if an obstruction is on your side of the road then the oncoming traffic has priority, the situation can obviously be reversed if the obstruction is on the other side of the road the you have priority.

I have been drawing out some of the diagrams from Kev’s folder of pictures, to save anyone else the trouble I have included the source files here for anyone to play with all licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported Licence.

I suggest that you use Inkscape to edit the following Scalable Vector Graphic file, first and foremost it is Open Source and thus freely available and two the images were created in Inkscape in the first place.

Cars and Road – Scalable Vector Graphic

If you come up with some derivations of this image please feel free to comment on this post with your version and I will be happy to provide a link back to your work.

Anyway, back to the lesson we spent about an hour and twenty minutes in Woodingdean I came across a couple of funny situations and stalled right in front of a Brighton & Hove Bus Company bus which was threw me somewhat, so much so that I couldn’t start the car again. I did it eventually thanks to some gentle coaching from Kev. Got followed for a few hundred meters by the police who seemed to find the snail on the top of the car and the fact I was going at sub 20mph quite amusing.

I also spectacularly managed to plough into the kerb which sounds awful (the noise it makes that is), it seems however that even practised drives have problems when parking though – Felicia Day of Dr. Horrible and The Guild fame managed to kill a tire backing into a parking space, not entirely sure why but that made me feel much better.

To end the lesson Kev had a little treat for me, he guided me through out of Woodingdean, Rottingdean, onto the A259, Past Saltdean and into Peacehaven. I think I was gripping the steering wheel quite hard, although I think I was so concerned about getting something wrong and ending up bouncing off the kerb or oncoming traffic that I got through it without any major trauma.

Of course after going at 30mph for a bit, I totally lost the ability to drive round Peacehaven at 20mph, I suppose adapting to different speeds comes with time. I hope so!

So in summary, all going well – I really enjoyed today and got a tremendous sense of satisfaction driving home. Thanks Kev 🙂

Driving Lesson #3

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Third driving lesson went really well, Kev taught me about hill starts specifically if you are going up the hill I need a little more gas than and keep the clutch just above the biting point when on the flat. When going down the hill the clutch can be fully depressed and thus the accelerator isn’t needed, you can basically just roll down the hill – must remember to bringing the clutch up once I am moving as engine braking is actually quite substantial.

I was taught to take some left and right turns on the roads round Woodingdean, which gave me a bit more of a challenge over the flat straight roads in Patcham. I stalled quite a few times as I got the pedal order when braking wrong, although I am improving – still haven’t quite decoupled my feet yet to use them totally independently.

I am pleased I am enjoying it more than I expected.

Driving Lesson #2

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

So today went well, I am starting the cement the moving off procedure in my head now and I got a bit more comfortable breaking (which is always good when moving at anything above stopped). I edited the previous post with corrections from the previous day. Most notably I forgot about checking the position of the mirrors before putting my seat belt on and the hand brake should be the second thing to check after getting in the car.

So on to stopping! The technique it seems is to be able to decouple your feet from each other, I don’t think I do anything else that requires me to use my feet independently so it is a little difficult. The exact procedure from memory goes as follows:

  • Take your foot off the accelerator, this seems fairly obvious but is quite important really.
  • Squeeze the foot brake very gently, this may not even be necessary if you are on an inclining hill as gravity may well counteract the drive provided by the clutch.
  • Steer into where you want to park, by turning the steering wheel to the left
  • Once the front of the car is in position, steer the back in by turning the steering wheel in the opposite direction – straightening up the vehicle to the kerb.
  • Finally straighten the front wheels by returning steering wheel to the “12 o’clock” position.
  • Push the clutch right down to the floor (this is where I tend to press the foot brake down to the floor too).
  • Push the foot brake more so that you come to a total stop, again this may not be required depending on the inclination or of the hill, the reverse is true too, more brake may be required if you are going down hill.
  • Put the hand brake on.
  • Return the gear stick to neutral.

As I said I have been having some problems decoupling my feet, I seem to be getting there though. All in all a very positive lesson.