Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Driving Outside My Comfort Zone

Easy peasy for a driving instructor who knows the roads.

I am out there on the road all day every day during the week. Like we all are. I have come to know the roads of Nottingham like the back of my hand. I don't know many street names so I could never be a taxi driver. Drop me off anywhere in this fair city and I'll always find my way straight back home.
   It's not often I drive outside Nottingham to be honest. Come the weekend I have had enough of sitting in the car and can't wait to be out in the open air, or on an bus. I took the kids to Newquay for a holiday a couple of weeks back and it brought into focus the shortcomings in my hazard awareness and planning. I am used to knowing what comes next and what the speed limits are on any given stretch of road. Surprising how difficult things can be when the familiarity is taken away.
 My sat nav is really old now. It costs £100 or something to update the maps so there's no chance. Sometimes I will drive onto a road that doesn't exist and the thing will recalculate. No big deal. The problem is that many of the speed limits have been lowered since the maps were done and the device is telling me it's a 60 when really it's a 50mph road. I got that unsure feeling learners get when they aren't sure what the speed limit is. I started to pay much more attention to signs as the week progressed and was back on form after a few days.
  A couple of times I took the wrong turning at roundabouts. Easy to follow the lane changes when you know exactly where the lanes are going in advance. A bit tougher on unfamiliar ground. I had to  struggle with my temper and keep it cool as I drove off in the wrong direction. It brought it home to me how much of my driving is done by memory. Plenty of country lanes in lovely Cornwall. As a city driver they aren't something I practice regularly. Tight turns straight after a hill which can't be seen until the last second kept me on my toes. Hard to be slow when the locals are 2 feet off your rear bumper and looking impatient.
  The caravan site got a bit muddy towards the end of the week. Trying to make it up the hill in a front wheel drive car with the wheels skidding left and right gave me some much needed practice in clutch control. On the way home it was a game of dodging the aggressive idiots on the motorway and trying not to be a centre lane driver. It is so much more convenient and safe to stay in the middle lane as opposed to bobbing in and out of the left hand lane I think.
  So it was good to realise my skills needed some work and to put the work in. When you stop thinking you're a good driver you start being one I've heard it said. It's true as well. None of us can afford to be complacent.

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