That grinds my gears…

August 22, 2014
Andy Bothwell

Last week, my 18-year old niece passed her driving test.

I know what you’re thinking. No way I’m old enough to have an 18-year old niece, right? Well thanks for the sentiment but yes, sadly, it’s true.

In itself, the fact above is nothing remarkable but I was interested to hear that she was, of her own volition, paying more of her hard-earned to do the Pass Plus course for new drivers.

The Pass Plus course covers all those things that you don’t get to learn in the standard driving test lessons. Fairly fundamental things in some cases, like driving on the motorway, driving at night and driving in adverse weather.

These are things that, within a month if not a week of passing their test, a young driver is surely going to be attempting. Quite apart from it being a daunting experience for them, there are the obvious safety benefits for the new driver and everyone else on the roads around them.

That’s why there has long been a portion of the motoring nation which has called for Pass Plus, or something like it, to be mandatory for all new drivers.

Currently, it is not, but I am in the aforementioned camp.

Here at Performance Communications, we spend a good deal of our time dealing with clients who are in the business of making motoring safer, whether it’s via innovative technology like In-Car Cleverness or by educating the UK’s motoring public, like What Car?. We are, perhaps more than most, acutely aware of the stats that highlight how dangerous a place the road can be.

But the other reason I’m in that camp is because I commute 45 miles each way every single day, I spend a lot of time on the road going to and from meetings and, with a young family, weekends are spent, largely, getting out and about seeing fabulous people, doing fabulous things.

The upshot is that I spend a lot of time behind the wheel and it shocks me every day how seemingly fundamental driving skills and basic manoeuvres are entirely beyond so many people who are, presumably, legally allowed to drive.

Here’s my top 5 driving skills that motorists have either forgotten or never knew in the first place:

[acc_item title=”Pulling off slipways on to dual carriageways or motorways”]

The number of people who are unable to do this safely terrifies me; the worst offenders are those drivers who insist on coming to a full halt on the slip road – granted, sometimes there is no way to avoid this, but all too often the halt is unjustified and a result, perhaps, of nerves behind the wheel of fast-moving traffic. But, in reality, stopping completely makes the transition on to the faster road much more difficult and dangerous – there is a reason that speed differentials are such a big deal in motorsport…

[/acc_item] [acc_item title=”Roundabouts”]

This type of junction has been in existence in the UK since 1768, so why motorists haven’t mastered them yet is beyond me. Wild trajectories around the island and vehicles spearing off to exits, seemingly with no planning or awareness on the part of the driver, are commonplace and the lack of any indication as to the motorist’s intention just worsens things and increases the chance of an accident; interestingly and rather backing up my sentiment on general roundabout driving, work has just begun on the first roundabout in London to segregate cars and cyclists…

[/acc_item] [acc_item title=”Motorway lane etiquette”]

Dual carriageways are bad enough but the addition of another one or two lanes to the road turns people into morons, apparently. Middle lane hoggers have long been a massive bugbear of the British motorist, according to any poll you care to find online and the irritation has now been taken to an official level, with the introduction of fines for drivers who incorrectly stay too long in the wrong lane. How Police anywhere in the land will ever enforce this, I’ve no idea and I’m sure they imagine they have better, more important things to do with their pressured time anyway. And so the scourge will continue, I’m sure – the thing that really worries me about this, on top of the enormous rage it induces, is the complete lack of awareness of the driver about what is around them. Presumably, not noticing that they can pull in and there is no other traffic in front of them to overtake, is the chief reason for lane hogging – I hope so, otherwise we’re just a nation of idiots.

[/acc_item] [acc_item title=”Use of indicators”]

This actually IS covered in the standard driving lessons everyone took when they were going for their test – they teach you how to use all of the lights on a car. And yet, drivers are so lazy that many rarely use them, if at all when turning into or out of junctions, changing lanes or pulling to the side of a road. It seems like such a minor offence, but the problem once again is awareness of what is around when you’re behind the wheel of a dangerous implement like a vehicle. Failing to indicate gives other drivers around you no warning that you are about to make a potentially dangerous manoeuvre. If nothing else, the sheer arrogance to expect those around you to simply guess what you’re thinking of doing is breathtaking.

[/acc_item] [acc_item title=”Forward planning, or the lack of”]

This is linked to my point above regarding the lack of awareness and concentration of the average driver I encounter; it also speaks to the air of entitlement that so many drivers seem to have when they are behind the wheel. Whether it’s taking a wild swerve into a junction you need to enter but failed to spot until too late, or missing a junction on the motorway and drifting (at speed) across three lanes to reach it, these crazy manoeuvres are frighteningly common. What’s more, it is scary to think that there are so many people at the controls of something as dangerous as a motorcar who are not giving that task their full attention. You hear it all the time – “I was driving on autopilot”. But, for my money, if you make an error in your driving route, you should accept the consequences of your mistake and tack on an extra few minutes to your own journey, like it or not, rather than make a banzai, last-ditch attempt to stay on course.



I’m aware of course, dear readers, that this particular blog post comes across as a bit ‘ranty’. But, as if to prove my various points entirely, this morning I was just two seconds behind a shunt on the A3 in which an HGV crunched into the back of a Vauxhall Insignia because the latter had slowed to a ridiculous crawl in an attempt to let another HGV out of a service station slip road. A noble intent, perhaps. But a foolish, unnecessary manoeuvre, made with no awareness that he had a juggernaut up his chuff.

Your honour, I rest my case.



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