Anxious Drivers – Motorway Driving

Anxious drivers and motorway driving

More and more I get pupils who come to me who are nervous, anxious or simply scared of driving. Some of these fears can be because of a bad experience either when driving themselves or as a passenger. Some fears may be more of a perceived problem i.e. imagining that a certain aspect of driving or all driving is scary.

If you are anxious about driving, you’re not alone. In fact out of all the top phobias, the “fear of driving” is the 5th most common according to Anxiety UK.

Let’s use a common fear as an example, motorway driving. There are around 380,000 drivers who have never driven on the motorway and around a staggering 8,000,000 who hardly ever do it. Just the mere thought of it can spark a panic attack.

Here are a few things we can do to help us to regain our confidence while driving on motorways.

Motorways are in fact safer than many other roads. They are in fact much safer than a single carriageway. They are well designed and engineered to be as safe as possible.

Many people are also more fearful of motorways than they are of dual carriageways. This is due to the perception that the traffic goes faster and that there are more lanes. This isn’t always true. Cars can travel at 70mph on motorways and can do the same speed on dual carriageways that display the national speed limit sign. Some dual carriageways have 3 lanes and some also have a hard shoulder.

With the right guidance from an approved driving instructor you learn how to safely join and leave both a motorway and a dual carriageway. Some sections of road are easier to learn on than others due to it being less busy and “easier to join” slip roads. These are the sections that I start with first.

The lesson usually starts, depending on the pupil, a briefing of what we will be doing and an explanation of how to join and exit the dual carriageway. Once the pupil has practiced this a few times, with possibly help from their instructor, they usually find that things don’t seem quite as scary as they perceived they would have been.

More difficult and busier sections can be added to the learning as time goes on and once confidence and the skills necessary are achieved.  

There are some great techniques that I have used with pupils who suffer from anxiety have used. Not just to help with motorways and dual carriageways but in fact with all aspects of driving. I’ll cover this technique in a later blog.

Driving in Newbury – The Law Gets Tougher on Dangerous Drivers

Drivers who take drugs, drink, use their phone illegally or speed could get much tougher sentences if they kill someone under new proposed legislation. They could in fact get life sentences.

The current maximum is 14 years which could significantly increased under new reforms that will be announced in parliament early next year. The changes will affect England, Wales and Scotland. Northern Ireland has separate laws on road safety.

The Justice Secretary has listened to families of victims who say that in many cases the punishment does not fit the crime with too many drivers who cause death by reckless driving receiving fairly light sentences. The new laws will mean that such drivers will feel the full force of the law.

With a life sentence a prisoner will spend a set number of years before they are eligible for parole.

In 2016 a consultation was carried out which gave support to victims who had lost loved ones due to dangerous driving. 90% of people believed there should be a change in the law to reflect the severity of the crime. 70% believed that the maximum sentence should be life in prison.

Last year there where over 170 people convicted of causing death by dangerous driving and 20 people who were sentenced for causing death by careless driving.

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.