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Newbury Driving Test after Lockdown

The start of a new era of driving tests in Newbury and the rest of the country too. Today, I took my first pupil to test after lockdown. Anna Van der Zwaluw passed her test on her first attempt in Newbury with only 1 minor mark.

There were some changes to the driving test due to Coronavirus. The test times are now different due to the fact that the examiners need extra time in between tests to clean themselves and any equipment they use such as the sat nav. The number of tests conducted are now less which makes booking a test more difficult. The reason there are less tests are twofold. Firstly there are now less parking bays at the test centre compared with before. Every second bay has cones in them. That way each candidate, instructor and examiner can socially distance easier. Secondly there are less examiners. Some of them have not returned to work yet as they may be vulnerable.

Another change is that if a pupil commits a serious or dangerous mark, then the pupil will be guided back to the test centre and the test will be cut short. This is to minimise the time spent in the car unnecessarily.

Pupils and examiners are also required to wear masks. There are some valid reasons as to why a pupil may be exempt e.g. medical reasons. However being a glasses wearer and the fact that glasses may steam up is not a valid reason.

Windows are also required to partially open for test to help with ventilation and not to have air conditioning on. This can have the problem that in slow traffic especially when the weather is hot.

How to Stop Glasses Steaming Up on a Driving Test

Since lockdown has been lifted, driving tests are now starting to become available. Some of my pupils have already been able to secure a test date. One thing that has been raising concerns with some pupils is the fact that their glasses steam up when they wear a mask!

Unfortunately glasses steaming up is not a valid excuse not to wear a mask. There are some ways that can help your glasses not to steam up.

The first is to make sure that the mask is tucked underneath the glasses. That way the hot and moist air doesn’t mist up the glasses. The second way is to stick a rolled up tissue to the top of the mask to catch the moist air. The third method is to wash your glasses in soap and water. This leaves a thin, anti-mist layer on the lenses.

In fact there’s no reason why you can’t use all 3 methods together to give you a greater chance of your glasses not steaming up.

Driving Lessons in a Toyota Yaris

After many weeks of being in lockdown Peter Skelton Driving School are back to teaching again. My new Toyata Yaris is proving to be a real winner with pupils. With a 1.5 litre petrol engine it has great acceleration which at times can be an important requirement especially pulling away quickly at roundabouts and joining the dual carriageway.

My first pupil after lockdown, Annie Smith, said “Simply the best car! Very smooth to drive in and with modern additions that make reversing easier”. New pupil, Ashley Johnson, said “I like how smooth the Toyota Yaris is to drive and it’s such a pleasure to learn in.” Another new pupil who had driven before said “It’s really smooth and responsive and easy to get to grips with.” One of my old pupils who had previously driven my old car which was a Peugeot 208 said of the Yaris “The car is quite comfortable and the visibility is good within the car.”

One of my other instructors Pete Burke said “The reversing camera is a welcome addition to aide all round visibility”.

The car offers many great features such as a comfortable driving position, great acceleration, large mirrors for greater visibility, cruise control & speed limiter and great all round visibility.

The first week back at work was difficult after such a long break and getting used to thoroughly cleaning the car in between lessons. However now I’m up and running it will be good to get driving tests booked again to enable pupils to gain their independence.

So I’m looking to all my pupils to name my new car. The car can be male, female or gender neutral. Tell me the name and your reasons for the choice in the comments box below. I’ll announce the winning name next week.

Driving Lessons After Lockdown

So after too many weeks/months we’re finally back out teaching from tomorrow. Here’s my new car, a Toyota Yaris, which is the same car that our instructor Pete Burke has. Both of us getting new cars just as lockdown started!!! Along with our automatic instructor, Tomasz, we’re looking forward to finally meeting up again with our old pupils and a whole host of new ones too. Wishing our instructor Louise a speedy and safe return so the whole team will be back in full force.

Safe Driving After The Driving Test

So the day has come. You have finally passed your driving test! The feeling of happiness and a massive weight lifted off your shoulders is immense. All those months of lessons and all of the money that you have spent has finally given you something that every young person craves…. “Independence and freedom”! 

With the independence and freedom also comes a lot of responsibility. It will be the first time that you will have driven a car by yourself. It will be the first time that you will drive without anyone next to you telling you what to do. You will have to make every decision by yourself. Some of the decisions that you will have to make may be to deal with things that you may not have encountered before e.g. emergency vehicles, a real life emergency stop or parking in the real world either in a busy car park or between two cars.

However there may also be things you may encounter that may not always be scary like your first drive to McDonalds! It’s nearly always the first place young drivers go when they pass their driving test. In fact it’s something that I sometimes include on a lesson if a pupil wants to. The reason for that is that it’s part of real life driving. Some of the McDonald’s drive-throughs can be tight for space and can cause pupils to potentially hit the kerb or worse still clip a metal post as they negotiate a bend. These sort of skills are often overlooked on driving lessons but they offer a great lesson. What’s more the pupil gets a McFlurry of whatever else they want, on me! More importantly I get a “cheeky cappu” !

Teaching Nervous People to Drive – Newbury and Basingstoke

Since I started teaching people to drive 16 years ago, I have come across a number of pupils who are nervous about driving. Most people who come to my driving school who are nervous feel like they are the only ones who feel like this. In fact feeling nervous about driving is fairly common. A good opening question that a driving instructor could ask is “how are you feeling about learning to drive?” Never be afraid to tell your instructor truly how you feel.

In the past I have made the mistake of assuming the pupil was fine and that the more I encouraged them the better it would be and the quicker they would learn. After years of experience I have discovered this is normally not the case in most pupils.

No two pupils are the same. There is not a “one size fits all” solution. It is important to adapt lessons to suit each individual.

There are 4 main learning styles:

Visual – some pupils like to see diagrams, demonstrations and videos of how to drive

Auditory – some pupils like to listen to an explanation

Read – some pupils will want to read lots of information possibly from a book and they may also like to take lots of notes

Kinaesthetic – some pupils learn by trial and error i.e. they want to give it a go and see how it feels

A nervous pupil is not normally someone who will be kinaesthetic. They are more likely to be one of the other three. By asking “how best would you like to learn this” may result in the pupil simply telling you what they prefer and how they learn best. However some pupils literally don’t know their preferred style so a better why is to provide some options. For example many people don’t instinctively know that a demonstration is an option unless I offer it to them. I know myself that I learn best from seeing something done first and many other people do too.

Another option is “job sharing” which is a way to help the pupil focus on one task while you take care of other aspects of the drive. For example I may offer the option for me to take control of the speed of the car while the pupil takes care of the steering. By taking away the need to worry about the speed, the pupil is able to focus fully on the steering. In time the job of controlling the speed can be handed back to the pupil.

Breakdowns in Newbury and Basingstoke

A breakdown on your driving lessons in Newbury is something that can happen to anyone, as happened to one of my pupils who took lessons in his own car. It’s something that thankfully doesn’t happen too often. However when it does it normally takes us by surprise and it’s easy to find that you’re not prepared for it.

In order to reduce the likelihood of a breakdown, be sure to have your car regularly serviced by a reputable garage. Regular services can hopefully eliminate many of the problems that may well cause a breakdown. It can also highlight any potential problems that may need resolving before they become a major problem.

Keep a check on your own car too. A service is normally carried out around 12,000 miles, or 12 months, whichever comes sooner. It also depends on the car when the service takes place. However in between services regularly check things like oil, water, brake fluid which can all be found under the bonnet. Also keep a check of your tyres for correct pressures and tread depth. This includes the spare. Many people are unaware that an illegal spare tyre can give you 3 points on your licence.

When you do breakdown there are a number of things to do. Make sure that you try your best to stop your car in a safe place. If possible, stop the car on the hard shoulder of the motorway or at the side of the road. When you exit the vehicle be careful when you open the door and step out.

Stay Safe in Your Car in Basingstoke and Newbury

Staying safe after you pass your driving test is something that isn’t taught and something that most people don’t even think about. We take driving for granted and can often feel that once we are in our cars we are safe from any danger. We create a bubble around ourselves that we feel is impenetrable.

Women in particular should be aware of where you park your car. You may park your car in the daytime when there may be a lot of people around. However you may return at night when it’s dark and the car park may be virtually deserted.

  1. Try not to park in the furthest corner or the highest floor of a car park.
  2. Reverse into the bay so if you need to make a speedy getaway then it will be easier.
  3. When returning to your car, don’t be distracted by looking at social media on your phone.
  4. Look around and be mindful if you suspect someone may be lurking around.
  5. Have your keys out of your pocket or handbag while walking to your car so that you can quickly unlock the door, get in and lock the door immediately.
  6. If you are really nervous there may be a car park attendant who you could ask to escort you to your vehicle.
  7. If someone wants your phone, wallet, handbag etc then give it to them. Your life is worth more than your possessions.

This is only one aspect of staying safe when driving. There are many other scenarios that we need to look at which we will cover on another post.

Filling The Car With Fuel on Driving Lessons

One thing I like pupils to do is to fill the car up with fuel whilst on their driving lessons. There was a time when I would “never” fill my car during a lesson. I would always fill up at the end of the day so as to start the next day with a full tank.

However I realised that it is something that I take for granted and that many pupils would have no idea how to do it. I ask them to fill the car up while I talk them through it. For example, do you know what the little arrow next to the petrol pump symbol means in the picture above? It tells you which side the fuel cap is located. So it helps you to decide which side of the pump you should park. Having said that, modern pumps and hoses are normally long enough to stretch to the other side of the car. If you do park on the “wrong” side of the pump then you need to take extra care with your positioning i.e. park a little closer to the pump and be sure that the back of your car is level with the hose. That way you will minimise the amount that the hose will have to stretch.

Another useful tip is to always take your keys out of the car and lock the door when going into the kiosk to pay. A fair percentage of car thefts happen on petrol forecourts when people leave their keys in the ignition. If your car isn’t stolen then your mobile phone or any other valuable may be. This is especially true of a night time. There are lots of other useful tips we talk through too.

AT Peter Skelton Driving School we don’t believe that our customers should only learn enough to pass their driving test. We try to teach many of the skills that they will need in the real world after they pass. For more information please take a look at the rest of our website.

Driving Lessons Basingstoke

So the end of another year and another decade. We decided to run a little Christmas Jumper day and for those who either did or didn’t have a Christmas Jumper we added a Santa hat too.

“So not much to do with driving” you may say. That’s very true. However we took a few minutes at the end of a lesson so as not to eat into the pupils time to don our hats and have a little fun. This may not be driver related however one thing that is teaching related is building a good “rapport”, i.e. building good relationships with our clients. This can be done in a number of ways:

  • being friendly
  • being courteous
  • taking an interest in the client
  • matching the teaching to the clients preferred learning style
  • body language
  • smiling 🙂

There are many other ways to build rapport, but these are just a few. Not only that, the above list has to be genuine, you can’t fake rapport. It’s a big part of the learning process for a number of reasons:

  • the client feels more relaxed on lessons
  • they are able to attempt something without the feeling of a lecture if they get it wrong
  • the client feels free to ask any question without feeling judged or nervous to ask in case they are ridiculed
  • it can open up questions that the pupil can engage in to help them deal with real life situations e.g. “how would you feel if you were a passenger in a friends car and they picked up their phone and started texting?”

One pupil recently came to our driving school had 4 years of lessons with another school. Her driving was fairly good to be honest however what she lacked was confidence. It was the rapport that we built very quickly that allowed her to overcome her fears and pass her test first time within 1 month of lessons with us. In her own words “I have learned more in the last month than I did in the last 4 years”