Judes Driving Tips
Q: My learner driver can't steer in a straight line! What's wrong?
The basic motto for steering – the car will go where the eyes take it.
Steering the vehicle ought to be done with 'peripheral vision', whilst maintaining a distant focal point. Learners who look at the kerbside whilst trying to maintain a straight line will have difficulties. Drivers should be encouraged to aim their eyes higher and further ahead.
Reading road signs or other specific information, the learner must learn to move the eyes constantly and use 'focal' vision. For a split second the eyes will pick up information to assess the road ahead.
A typical excuse after being involved in a collision is all too often: "I didn't see it!". Good observation is an absolute for safe driving.
Q: Is it necessary to apply the handbrake every time you stop?
In a manual vehicle – yes. Use the hand brake even on a level ground. It frees up the right foot in readiness to use the accelerator pedal. Stopping with the clutch down and no handbrake – a car may move by something as simple as a gust of wind, without the driver realising.
In manual and automatic vehicles, during a prolonged stop (at traffic lights, especially when pedestrians are crossing right in front of you), it is also advisable to apply the handbrake and shift the gear lever into N (neutral). Do the same anytime whilst temporarily parked, (to check the roadmap, searching for an object in the glove box or while talking to someone in the driveway etc). The car is safe while attending other matters.
Starting on a hill, even an automatic car can roll backwards, if the gradient is steep enough. Apply the handbrake firmly. Before take-off, give a little acceleration just before releasing the handbrake.
Q: How many professional lessons does it take to learn to drive?
In an automatic vehicle, the average training period is approximately 12 hours. For a manual transmission car, another 6-8 hours, depending on the learner’s ability, may be required.
Factors to consider are:
- How co-ordinated is the person?
- Is he/she a quick thinker/learner?
- How much will the learner be able to practice between lessons with family or friends.
- Older people take longer and city traffic takes extra hours to master.
After the first lesson a professional instructor should be able to give a reasonable estimate as to how many lessons may be required.
Q: Are the examiners strict on driving tests?
There are strict guidelines that Licence Testing Officers must apply to driving tests.
No one expects the new driver to be perfect and a certain number of minor mistakes are allowed.
An applicant’s driving may be quite safe, yet the standards laid down must still be adhered to. Remember that examiners don’t make the rules, they only follow them through.
Many drivers, particularly those who have completed 120 hours with family and friends, may consider themselves to be safe drivers and test ready, but unaware of the guidelines followed by VicRoads Testers. A lesson with a professional driving instructor, will rectify any flaws in a Learners driving. An assessment with a driving instructor, in advance of booking any tests, will highlight any shortcomings in the learner drivers skillset.
Q: My instructor taught me not to brake in a corner. Is this correct?
One of the rules of braking is to brake in a straight line whilst the vehicle is well balanced. Braking sharply in a corner can induce a skid and has caused many drivers to lose control – however, do not apply this rule dogmatically. If a driver has misjudged a bend and entered it at an unsafe speed, increased braking may be the only way to stop running off the road. The best approach to a corner is to:
- Read the corner (look through to the exit),
- Brake to the correct speed before the corner,
- Gently accelerate out of the corner (in the wet, wait until after the bend).