Sunday, 26 February 2017

Driving Lessons Whatever the Weather


There's been a lot of it recently.

The weather plays an important part when teaching people to drive. It adds things to teach and provides greater challenge to both learners and driving instructors alike. lately we have experienced almost all weather conditions in only a few weeks. Lets take a look at the opportunities for teaching that this provides.
  A couple of weeks back we had a bit of a snow flurry. This is the weather type that makes me assess the abilities and constitution of the pupils I have booked in for that day. Some learners just do not like the idea of snow on driving lessons. They fear skidding on corners and develop a sudden mistrust of other drivers who they see as driving too fast for the conditions. One of the most dangerous things I find is the wind tunnel effect when driving into falling snow. The tendency for the eyes to focus on the snow and the Star Wars hyperspace effect really takes attention away from the important things like other vehicles and pedestrians. I remind the pupils to constantly focus on scanning for hazards and try to ignore the snow altogether. It can spook the learner something terrible. The chances of skidding on light snow are quite minimal at normal speeds. You really need ice on the road to skid.
   But we've had plenty of that recently. The misery starts before work getting that windscreen cleared and he cockpit warm enough for human habitation. Luckily I have a driveway with a gate so I put the car well back towards the house and leave it warming up. Sometimes I will leave it for 30 minutes then easily clear the ice from the windscreen. Warm water is used to clear the ice from the roof of the car so U can put the magnetic roof box on without fear of it slip sliding away. That would be no good at all. I always give the tyres a good visual check as well. Lessons from the past when I was young and let my tyres get bald and then wondering why I couldn't get around a corner. Be sure to  check those inside edges. A nice chat about early braking before bends and allowing more room to stop pus the young learner more at ease.
   A couple of slates blew off the roof this week thanks to hurricane Doris. Of all the extreme weather conditions it's high winds that bother me most. I have visions of the roof box blowing off and flying through the windscreen of the car behind. Pupils don't like it because of the noise. Add a little rain to the mix and the noise can be terrible. Some pupils comment on how they can feel the car move in the wind when driving. They never felt the car being effected by wind as a passenger. A talk on maintaining a firm grip on the wheel while trying to keep as much safety space around the car would be a suitable topic for these conditions. High sided vehicles weaving about in the road are something to watch out for. Cyclists can have a bad time of it as well so give them plenty of room in case they swerve.
  Sometimes it seems like the rain will never stop. It has rained non stop for days recently. What is it about the windscreen wiper controls that pupils find so difficult? Push the stalk up one click seems an easy enough instruction but damned if they don't always put them on full speed. Then the rear wiper. Then turn them off and use the indicator stalk instead. Time to pull over for a full tutorial I think which would include turning the wipers off when the rain has stopped to prevent the awful dragging sound which they just don't seem to notice. The pull to the left when driving through large puddles can take some learners by surprise. I like to steady the wheel or gently move us to the right if need be to stop us drenching pedestrians with a bow wave. Apparently it constitutes assault to drench a pedestrian and they can take legal action.
   Now it looks like the weather is calming down a bit. Time for me to go out and wash the salt off the car ready for the coming week. Nothing I hate worse than a dirty driving school car. I would remind instructors that driving with your car so dirty that you can't see the rear number plate is highly illegal and sets a bad example to others. Time to get the bucket and sponge out.