Rather than write a blog post every time I sat behind the wheel, last week I decided to write up how I felt after each trip out in the car, and do a sort of mini diary. It went well on Friday and Saturday, but then I was ill on Monday and Tuesday, so didn’t get as much driving done as I’d hoped. However, here’s the three entries before today’s driving lesson.
Friday 28th June
Drove from the office to Tesco, including the uphill t-junction I’ve been avoiding up until now. Nothing too scary, and a route we’ve done literally hundreds of times over the years, with me as a passenger. I pulled into Tesco, parked in a bay (forwards) right next to one other car, stalled when his reverse lights came on and I panicked and forgot to get the clutch in. Otherwise the drive over was excellent. After shopping I reversed out of that bay. Way, too, fast – but then drove home successfully, and put the car on the drive at a much slower pace than the previous 3 attempts. Overall, felt pretty good after this, especially given I’d missed having a lesson this week.
Saturday 29th June
Drove from home to Tesco, including reversing off our drive. Reversed too quickly, but the rest of journey was really good. Need to spend some time just reversing our car around, it’s far more energetic than the car I’m learning in. Pulled (forward) into a Tesco parking bay at a very slow, controlled speed which felt good. Left Tesco, reversed almost fully out of the bay at the right speed, but too quick right at the very end. Then too many mistakes on the way home, wrong gear, changing down too early, one awkward stall due to pressure. Ended up putting the car on our drive too quickly again.
Wednesday 3rd July
Drove home from work before the lesson. Quite confident overall, and feeling pretty good about my driving – this is probably when learner drivers are at their most dangerous. One stall while sitting in traffic at a set of lights, but just restarted the car, and one stall on a hill start, as I stopped (i.e. before I had to pull away), but again, just restarted the car and didn’t worry about it too much. Cyclists are tricky – I’m prepared to go as slow as required and give enough space as required, but it’s tough to do that when the 10 cars behind aren’t prepared to let you and start trying to overtake. Challenging. The examiner will expect me to give cyclists 2 metres of clearance during the test, when no one else in the world will be prepared to let me do that.
I really am feeling much more confident about my overall driving. I have enough skill to get the car moving without any fear; I know that if I’m sitting on a junction I’ll be able to pull out in the right sized gap. Sure, I stall it once or twice a lesson, but that confidence that you’ll be able to move off means you can give up worrying about stopping. I can’t stress this enough, if you’re learning to drive and want to get one thing right that will help, learn how to successfully get the car moving every time.
I was approaching junctions, roundabouts, and other cars too fast because I didn’t want to stop. The mere thought of stopping, and what follows it (moving off) just meant I was tense. Now that I know I can stop, stick the handbrake on if necessary, and then promptly get the car moving again gives me so much more confidence at handling everything else.
My junction approaches were better, my roundabouts were better, and ‘meeting traffic’ scored my highest yet. My instructor took me down a few roads with cars parked on both sides, so very much a stop/start/stop/start process through blocked roads, and I handled it no problem, very pleasing.
As we came down through Beeston, I was chatting, and so when my instructor said ‘next left’ I just sailed on past it. We were on a road we often used to go to work, and so I was on autopilot in some regards. Given that I can’t drive yet (legally), being on autopilot this early is probably a bad sign. Anyway, we ended up driving around a bit in that area, and down near Beeston Marina, when my instructor told me to pull over, so we could do a ‘turning in the road’ manoeuvre. We’d been driving probably 40 minutes by this point.
After I stopped, I looked a few car lengths down the road and noticed I couldn’t read the number plate of the car ahead of me. At which point, I realised we’d driven the last 40 minutes without my glasses on. Luckily, I can see pretty well without them, I only need them for long distance and even then it’s a weak prescription. Still, we both had a bit of a chuckle about that (well, I was chuckling anyway).
Hopefully I won’t make that mistake in my practical exam – which my instructor encouraged me to book straight away (having passed the theory). She’s confident I only need about 4 or 5 more weeks; due to various timings I can’t do the exam in the first week in August, so instead, it’s booked for the 2nd week.
It’s a little terrifying to think that I might only need another 10 hours of lessons before I’m judged fit to pass the exam.
Subdued post today, I’m still ill and not feeling 100%. Maybe we’ll get more laughs next time.