Test Day

Posted on 01 March 2018

Nerves and the driving test go hand-in-hand. Realistically, the main reason we get nervous on test day is because the outcome means a great deal to us -- that being the case, telling people not to worry, wonít help. And of course, nerves donít have to be debilitating – they can actually help keep us focused.

As with any test, preparedness helps build confidence and alleviate nerves. Your hard work in conjunction with the support of your driving supervisor/instructor will have hopefully prepared you well in terms of your driving ability. The aim of this article is to provide learners with ĎTest Dayí insights into the New South Wales driving test – insights that will ideally further increase confidence and reduce butterflies.

About the New South Wales Driving Test

Five separate assessments are made within each of 25 predetermined zones travelled.All (5) key performance areas are assessed on a continual basis throughout each zone. In addition to the 25 zones, learners are required to complete a kerbside stop and one other manoeuvre - a 3-point-turn, reverse-parallel-park, or a bay-park. The (5) key performance items are:-

1. Speed Management

2. Road Positioning

3. Decision Making

4. Responding to Hazards

5. Vehicle Controls

The test officially commences when you sign the score sheet. A non-roadworthy vehicle results in test termination without refund (ensure all brake and indicator lights are working). A minimum score of 90% and NO Fail Items is a pass. If a Fail Item is recorded, the test continues so that you may receive a full assessment. You are not advised of a fail during the test.

A Licence Application Form must be completed before the driving test commences -Ö/45070018-licence-application.pdf

- At Service NSW Centres itís a green form marked as Form 1001 on the bottom right of page 4.

Sign and date ALL 20 learning goals in the coloured section at the front of your logbook. The Declaration of Completion page needs to be signature certified by a parent/guardian or whoever has undertaken the majority of logbook entries. You, as the learner driver also need to sign-off on this declaration page.

About the Testing Officer (Examiner)

Many people feel awkward when it comes to silences. Try not to over analyse silences during the test. The environment may sometimes feel somewhat sterile; however the testing officer simply doesnít wish to distract you with any unnecessary information.

After the testing officer walks around the outside of your vehicle and checks that all brake and indicator lights are working, and they are seated, they will say something like: "We will be going for a short drive. I will be giving you directions when to turn. We will be doing two manoeuvres, a kerb side stop, and ... (a reverse park / three-point turn / angle park). If you have any questions please ask now, if you are not sure during the test what I have said, please ask for clarification.Ē "Are you ready to commence driving?Ē

Resist the urge to look at what the testing officer is writing during the test. They have at least 150 boxes to mark off regardless – so if they are writing, it doesnít necessarily mean you have done something wrong.

At the completion of your drive, the testing officer is not authorised to advise you how you went – so donít panic when they walk back into the service centre without saying anything. Once they have completed the score sheet, they will call you up to the counter to advise your result and provide feedback.

About You (The Learner)


Do your best to get a good nightís sleep.

Try to have something to eat.

Stay hydrated.

Try to explore the test centre carpark and the exit area PRIOR to test day.

Try to have a Ďwarm-upí drive before your test.

Arrive at the test centre 10-15 minutes prior to the scheduled test – donít rush.

Breathe. Try breathing in for 3 seconds and out for 6 seconds.

Smile. It doesnít matter if the testing officer doesnít know how to.

Turn off your mobile phone.

If you didnít clearly hear the testing officerís direction, ask them to repeat it.

If you make an error, donít panic. Not all errors are fail items.

Remember, if unsuccessful, youíre eligible to reattempt the test in 7 days!

Preparing Your Learner for the Road Warriors

Posted on 01 February 2018

I believe most road users donít stereotype and judge learner drivers solely by their L-Plates, however I do wonder if such ignorance is becoming a little too familiar.

Whilst parents and other supervisors canít usually influence a fellow road userís behaviour toward their novice driver, they can explore effective ways to interact with them. L-Platers, we know, are regularly judged – so itís only fair that we view the following drivers through a somewhat cheeky stereotypical lens.

Tailgating Tom– Our first ĎRoad Warriorí sits about 1.2 nanoseconds behind the vehicle in front. He likes to intimidate other drivers into changing lanes so that he can speed away without being inconvenienced. Quite often, at the precise moment you find a safe gap to change lanes, Tom will also decide to change and nearly crash into you. He will then decide whether to flash his lights, sound the horn, physically gesture, or combine all three as he speeds off to restart the process with another unsuspecting road user. Tom is the single leading cause of crashes on our roads today. If your learner is being tailgated advise them to increase the following distance from the vehicle ahead to minimise the risk of sudden stopping. If possible, change lanes (be sure to indicate for at least 3 seconds before altering speed or position). Advise your novice that not all drivers tailgate to intimidate like Tom – for some itís simply their Ďnormalí – others may misjudge your speed through distraction and eventually set up an appropriate crash avoidance space.

Angry Angus – Whatever you do donít get Angus, angry Ö you wonít like him when heís angry. Sometimes he is angry with a passenger, other times itís with someone on the phone. Occasionally it is because you had the audacity to stop at a yellow light. Donít make eye contact with him under any circumstances - he doesnít like it. Sometimes he gets so angry he canít even remember why heís angry. The angrier Angus gets, the more distracted and dangerous he becomes. This guy invented Road-Rage - who wouldíve thought Ö Angus is a trailblazer! Advise your learner to never buy into a strangerís world whilst controlling a tonne and half of steel and metal. There is nothing to be gained by watching an adult throw a tantrum that a 3 year-old would be ashamed of. Sometimes itís a case of a good driver having a bad day – either way, stay out of it.

Red-Light Lisa– Lisa NEVER stops for a yellow light and as a result occasionally plays T-Bone roulette at red traffic lights. When police issue her with a $439 ticket and 3 demerit points for unnecessarily driving through a yellow light she is genuinely perplexed. Entering an intersection with Lethal Lisa at the crossroad reminds me of the famous line from the movie, Dirty Harry: Ďyouíve got to ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?Ē Well, do you, punk?í Advise your learner to ALWAYS look left and right before moving off at a green light – especially if in the first row of traffic.

Speeding Sam– If Sam were a spider he would probably be a Black Widow or Funnel Web. Even young children are bemused when Sam floors it every time the traffic lights turn green - only to get passed by mum at the next red light. I worry that Sam may speed off on the green one day when ĎRed-Light Lisaí is performing her party trick at the cross-road. Advise your learner to drive in the left lane whenever possible; Sam owns the right lane.

Texting Tina– If Speeding Sam is the Black Widow of the Arachnida world, Tina would have to be the Great White of the fish family. Tina is generally quite a good driver, however when she becomes distracted by her electronic apparatus she quickly mutates into one of the worldís most dangerous road users. Advise your learner that Tina travels 30 metres blindfolded when she looks at her phone for just 2 SECONDS at a speed of 60 km/h.

Lane-Hopper Harry – This unfortunate fellow suffers from the rare affliction - antsus-in-the-pantsus. Harry simply canít stay in a lane for more than ten seconds. The moment he spots a vehicle two lanes away advancing by half a car length he makes a dash for it (signalling optional) - but donít worry, he will be back in front of you before youíve had time to blink.

Horn Beeping Betty – If you even dream that you are going to drive within 20 metres of Betty she will honk that horn. If you take longer than a quarter of a second to move once the lights change to green she will flush out your eardrums. Prepare your learner for the reality that many drivers simply love the sound of their own horn. Try not to over-analyse it - remain focused!

As supervising drivers we are ultimately responsible for choosing environments that our learner can cope with. If we select roads and conditions that arenít appropriate for their current driving abilities we will place them in situations where they are regularly challenged by other road users.

Encourage your learner to form a balanced view of fellow road users -- they're not all Road Warriors. Try to recognise those drivers who interact in conscientious and positive ways. Acknowledge the many considerate drivers you encounter with a wave or a smile.

Be the Tortoise and Avoid Rushing the Learning Process

Posted on 01 January 2018

This video reminds me a little of the Tortoise and Hare story and the Driving Instructor Dad has cast himself in the role of the Hare.

It's not only teenagers who get a little giggly and ahead of themselves when they are handed their learner's licence – we mums and dads have also been known to become a little over excited. I recently shared a video of a Dad taking his daughter out for her very first drive and commented that although he made some technical errors, he performed quite well and established a good rapport. This particular Dad is certainly pleasant and reassuring enough, and potentially capable of providing good instruction, however I believe his daughter may have benefited from a more informative and structured approach from the beginning.

To be fair, we possibly should consider that the 'Deep End' approach may not be too uncommon within the rural counties of Texas. I know when I was taught to drive - back when Australia had seven million less humans, I was the recipient of the 'Baptism of Fire' technique and survived ... just. The principal aim of this post is to encourage preparation and structure - especially in the early stages of instruction. Try not to be influenced by those who declare "My son was driving on the highway on his second drive". Some proud parents genuinely believe their teen is driving; however, they're unaware that it's often they who are really driving – from the passenger seat.

The Dad in this video is clearly eager to get his newly permitted daughter out onto the road and to surprise mum with video evidence. In fact, so keen is he that his excitedly scared teen goes from learning to shift the gear lever from park to drive -- to moving a tonne and a half of aluminium and steel at 80 km/h -- all in the space of 60 SECONDS - with her very cheerful younger sister seated at the back for good measure.

It's SO important to cover the early stages of the learning process in small chunks. Granted, it won't be anywhere near as exciting as this teen's first lesson, but it will provide a solid foundation for everything that follows. Admittedly, it may also not be as much fun and I'm certainly not against having some fun whilst learning to drive -- provided it's timely and somewhat measured.

Our Instructor Dad displayed a pleasant reassuring tone and I'm confident he will have improved technically following this first outing. Below are a few basic things he could have done BEFORE his daughter turned the engine on.

  • He could have suggested his daughter ditch the Ugg boots for more appropriate footwear.
  • He could have discussed vehicle controls and practised using them before moving off. Travelling at high speed is not the best time to receive a lesson on indicator location and operation.
  • He could have advised his learner to only use her right foot on the pedals.
  • He could have instructed the driver to adjust her mirrors.
  • He could have first driven or at least advised his daughter where he proposed to drive and what to expect along the way – such as; motorist interaction, travelling speeds, hills, acceleration, braking and turning.
  • He could have discussed and demonstrated steering techniques.
  • He could have discussed blind-spots before moving onto the road.
  • He could have asked his daughter if she had any questions or concerns before moving off.

An effective approach is to discuss, demonstrate, practice and review. Ensure your learner is engaged in the process by asking open-ended questions and allowing them to explore their own way in a safe environment -- These learners typically develop more rounded skills, and ironically quicker than the learner who goes straight out onto a main road with almost every action choreographed from the passenger seat.

Try to make decisions with the end in mind -- Don't be afraid to be the tortoise.

YES, he passed! -- Oh NO ... he passed

Posted on 01 December 2017

Congratulations; you passed – those three simple words change the game for parents and their young drivers in more ways than one. In addition to a significant lack of experience, newly licensed P-Platers face many driving distractions, including: peer passengers, late night fatigue, eating/drinking, grooming, music, satellite navigation and of course, mobile phones.

Testing standards are somewhat challenging; however the examiner has only a relatively short amount of time to assess your teen against key performance criteria. Donít allow your son or daughterís birthday and test result be the ONLY evidence of their readiness to drive unsupervised – trust your parental instincts. Even though they may pass a thirty minute driving test after demonstrating their knowledge of some road rules and an ability to control a vehicle – they still are, and will continue to be for quite some time, a Ďnovice driverí – in fact, on the day they pass the driving test they will transition from the safest they will ever be behind a steering wheel to statistically, by FAR, the most dangerous 6-12 month period of their driving life.

Some parents associate their teenager passing the driving test with crossing a finish line. The reality is, at this stage, they are closer to a metaphorical start line than a finish line. While a parentís chaperoning duties decrease significantly, their teenís responsibilities skyrocket.

P-Platers possess relatively limited driving ability and judgement, and many teenagers underestimate risk and knowingly engage in risky behaviours – especially males. Their new solo driving status provides them with numerous opportunities - unfortunately one of them is the opportunity for risk.

Does your teenager or their peers possess an appetite for risk-taking in other areas of life? There is international data that shows for every similar aged passenger you add to a vehicle with a teen driver, the chance of a crash incrementally increases. Statistics show that adult drivers however, are at no further risk of crashing when driving with additional peer passengers.

As parents, we generally donít want to hover over our adolescentís every move. We understand that risk-taking is a normal part of their wiring and overall development; however, we can have some control over the odds by managing their Ďrisk opportunityí during this precarious stage. Graduated licensing schemes have proven to be by far the most effective way to reduce serious young driver crashes. Parents have an opportunity to broaden government provisional licensing regulations. During the first few months consider limiting the amount of teenage passengers they may carry and imposing weather, location, and night driving restrictions.

Discourage Ďjust cruising with the boysí type journeys during this vulnerable period – itís safer to restrict it to point-to-point trips as greater risk accompanies joyriding. Try to delay them owning their own vehicle. If possible, share the family car - it will enable you to control access to the vehicle and set conditions of its use. Research has shown adolescents tend to exercise more caution when the car isnít theirs. Talk to them about the dangers of driving tired, upset or angry. Discuss Plan B options - let them know that they can always call you.

Delaying novice drivers from owning their own car is not always an option and some parents form the view that itís better for their newbie to drive an older vehicle initially because thereís a possibility they will collide with something - so therefore it makes more sense to trash an old jalopy than a new vehicle. Their rationale is sound in that they certainly are statistically FAR more likely to be involved in a crash in the initial 6-12 months of unsupervised driving, however thatís the very reason why itís paramount they drive the safest vehicle possible during that time. Once we place safety higher than economics on our list it doesnít take long to realise it makes zero sense for the most vulnerable driver in our family to be driving the most unsafe car in our household. Older vehicles simply donít possess the safety features of their late model contemporaries. Carefully investigate safety ratings and insist on features such as anti-lock braking (ABS), electronic stability control (ESC) and side airbags. Research indicates midsize vehicles, as opposed to small, are generally the safest option for inexperienced drivers.

Finally, your own driving experiences leave you well placed to offer practical assistance to your greenhorn. So, before they drive off unsupervised for the first time ensure you have prepared them for the many variables that arenít generally covered during driving lessons – here are (5) items worth sharing:-

  1. Demonstrate how to change a flat tyre - or if thatís not for them, how to stay safe whilst waiting for roadside assistance to arrive. Sadly there have been many tragic instances of people killed whilst changing tyres or sitting in stationary vehicles in dangerous traffic situations.
  2. Demonstrate how to check and adjust tyre pressures.
  3. Show them how to check fluid levels.
  4. Explain the practical, legal and moral process to follow at the scene of a crash.
  5. Discuss road rage and how to avoid buying into another road userís bad day.

It Begins With Establishing Rapport

Posted on 01 November 2017

The main purpose for sharing this YouTube video of a dad supervising his daughter on her first driving lesson is to demonstrate what effective rapport between a learner and their supervising driver looks like. It's important that parents don't underestimate the influence parent – teen dynamics has on the learning process.

The supervising dad did make numerous technical errors and even though exploring them isn't the principal objective of this particular post, I will address them to an extent. I must state he more than balanced any errors with his teaching attitude. He used great tone; was reassuring and encouraging; BUT still effectively corrected his learner when appropriate without breaking rapport. For the most part, his directions were timely and concise.

Okay, so let's review a few specific items:

A great location was selected for the first drive. The learner's dad got her to begin off-road to familiarise herself with vehicle controls. They rather quickly proceeded to on-road, however there was no traffic so it helped facilitate road positioning; indicating; turning; stopping and speed management practice.

The learner appeared to be seated quite close to the steering wheel. If the arms are excessively bent it can interfere with steering control and cause fatigue. A 40-45 degree bend at the elbows is fine. When your learner is seated with their back against the back-rest ask them to fully extend their arm - In this position the driver's wrist should make contact with the top of the steering wheel – if contact is with the forearm they are too close; if it's the fingers that are touching the steering wheel they are seated too far back.

The steering wheel airbag area appeared to be facing the learner's throat region. If the seat can't be raised any higher, the steering column can be lowered to ensure the airbag strikes the driver's chest area if deployed.

At 2:35 dad realised his daughter was using her left foot to brake. He needed to spend more time covering vehicle controls BEFORE moving off. Because we parents are generally unconsciously competent drivers, we often over estimate how much our teens actually know about driving. Advise your learner that there is a raised floor section for them to place their left foot and to get into the habit of having it anchored there from the start.

Between 7:10-7:40 and again at 8:35 are examples of timely and concise directions.

Between 9:15-11:00 the instructions around the STOP sign are excellent.

15:06 is an example of what happens when the supervising driver is NOT concise – "You're too far to the right – You're going to hit the trash can – so go to your left. Following an over-correction at 15:12 "Not too far left." We must be specific – such as; move a metre to the left – ("Too far" isn't good enough).

19:16 is another example of not being specific – "Go through this way" -- "This way?" "No, this way." dad should have said "Go Left" and pointed left at the same time.

What I believe may have benefited the process is a commentary drive from dad at the very beginning. What he said between 19:32-20:00 would have been perfect if he was driving and modelling the technique. Steering was one area he was finding a little difficult to articulate - so if he drove for ten minutes or so it would have given him the opportunity to better demonstrate it as well as talk about where his left foot was located and how he was approaching intersections and curves.

It's usually not only the learner driver who is negotiating a steep learning curve during the initial hours – the supervising driver is too. Car-parks and other quiet locations offer a lower risk environment to develop vehicle control skills before traffic and hazards are thrown into the mix.

In terms of establishing a solid working rapport, I feel this dad and daughter team were very successful.

Situational Awareness

Posted on 15 October 2017

In my work with parents I often reference various driving situations for them to focus on with their learners. Here are a few short videos courtesy of that I have commented on in the hope it assists learner driver development – as the old saying goes -- a picture paints a thousand words.

This first video provides parents and supervising drivers with an opportunity to discuss situational awareness with their learner. There is little doubt that the driver of the white car who crashed into the side of the Dash-Cam car is the "driver at fault" – however, could the other driver have done anything to avoid the collision?

The white car does appear to initially indicate left, albeit briefly, BUT does it look like a vehicle that is committed to a left turn? Where is it facing? Why is it stationary in the intersection of a priority road at the turning point? An advanced driver may wonder if they're indecisive because they are perhaps looking for street names or house numbers. An inexperienced but nonetheless focused driver would have at least surmised that something didn't look quite right with that scene.

Overtaking a stationary vehicle in an intersection obviously involves risk, however given the driver did choose to proceed, could he have buffered further to the right when passing? Could a light tap of the horn on approach have helped alert the other driver of his presence? At no stage did the Dash-Cam driver appear to reduce speed or adjust road-position on approach to the intersection and potential hazard.

Ask your learner what options they can think of in this situation. When they drive do they conduct a risk analysis of the constantly changing scene and anticipate potential hazards? Do they plan a course of action in the event of their hunch becoming reality; and do they execute that plan?

The lesson for learners is to try and become a predictable driver and expect ALL other road-users to be unpredictable.

I always go to great lengths to warn learner drivers about the perilous right turn at green lights without a turning arrow.

Regardless of whether the road user in this video was legally permitted in the bus lane, it is always VITAL that the turning driver only turns when they are 100% sure that a safe gap exists.

The kerbside lane is particularly dangerous with this manoeuvre as vision is often limited. No doubt the driver in the bus lane was travelling way too fast on approach to the intersection (situation); but isn't that what a low risk driver is always looking out for?

Even though the driver of the truck in this clip is being courteous, the driver of the white car takes it as an invitation to turn. The size of the truck creates a visual block-out for both the car driver and motorcyclist who is dangerously passing blindly in the left-turn only lane.

As with the previous video, you must see a safe gap before proceeding -- Remind your learner not to proceed unless they can see it's clear with their OWN eyes.

If you're finding it difficult to convince your learner to check for red-light-runners before heading out into the intersection, share this vision with them.

It's obvious who the "at fault driver" of the crash in this video is, however, I feel the vision provides an opportunity for parents and supervisors of learner drivers to discuss approaching the crest of hills; crash avoidance spaces; and how to communicate with vehicles travelling behind by using brake lights.

What's quite noticeable throughout the clip is the amount of heavy braking the Dash-Cam vehicle and the green car in front of it is required to do. Setting up and maintaining a three second gap with the vehicle in front prevents the need for this. In wet conditions it is safer to increase that distance by another second or two.

All vehicles appeared to approach the crest of that hill particularly fast – so if there are brake lights just on the other side -- how much distance will be available to stop?

There was very little the driver of the white car that was crashed into could do in this situation as there was nowhere to escape. When stopping or slowing in heavy traffic or in blind-spots (like just beyond the crest of a hill) encourage your learner to leave a couple of car lengths between them and the stationary vehicle in front to allow for road-users behind who don't stop in time. Even if those extra few metres you escape to don't prevent collision, they will at least lessen the impact.

Learner drivers generally think of the brake pedal solely as a tool to slow down and stop the vehicle, however, it's also of course a visual communication aid. The white car that was hit at no stage displayed brake lights. In a potential "sitting duck" position, lightly tapping the brake pedal may have enabled the negligent driver to determine sooner that the vehicle wasn't moving and at least brake a second or so earlier – reducing impact.

A lesson for young drivers is to not 'zone out' once stopped in traffic ... plan an 'escape' in advance; and continue to check mirrors whilst stationary.

This is a great clip for parents to share with their learner drivers. It helps explain speed management and scanning principals.

There is no question that it was the parked 4WD's responsibility to ensure it was safe before leaving the kerb and to stop and exchange details after the collision; BUT the dash-cam driver could have avoided the collision if they had of acknowledged the potential risks associated with parked vehicles relatively close to the corner. If they were travelling at a more appropriate speed for that situation they may have had more opportunity to recognise the outward turned tyre and had more time to react to the hazard.

Minimal driving experience, satellite navigation, night hours, and in this case, tight delivery schedules (the P plater was delivering pizza) can place teenagers at considerable risk. They are very easily distracted in this environment.

As is often the case, a more focused driver could have identified the red flags well before they collided with this distracted [P] plater and taken appropriate crash avoidance measures.

Supervising Driver Tips - Part 3

Posted on 01 October 2017

This is the third and final instalment of 50 TIPS - designed to support parents and other non-professional instructors who are supervising novice drivers.

10. When travelling near schools and sporting fields, encourage your learner to increase low scanning, including in-between and underneath parked vehicles – looking for small feet and rolling balls etc. Look for reflections in vehicle panels - (they can be used as a mirror in visual block-out situations).

9. Novice drivers are over-represented in 'T-Bone' crashes relating to turning across the line of traffic. Ensure your learner makes safe decisions when negotiating these dangerous turns whilst you are still supervising their driving.

When selecting a safe gap their movement should not force other road users to alter their speed or position.

When turning across traffic ensure their vehicle clears the intersection by at least 3 seconds before the approaching vehicles arrive at that point. When joining a traffic stream select a gap that allows them to reach the traffic speed before the trailing vehicles are within 3 seconds of their car.

8. I refer to the first six months of P-plate driving as the SORRY, NO RESULTS FOUND phase. We're all familiar with that pesky message that pops up when we type something into a search engine. An Intermediate level driver faces this message constantly because they simply don't possess a big enough bank of driving data to accommodate every situation. During this phase consider - limiting the amount of teenage passengers they may carry; and imposing: weather, location, and night driving restrictions.

7. It's important to choose your battles wisely. If you point out EVERY minor error your learner driver makes, you run the risk of type-casting yourself - "Oh Dad just criticises my driving ALL the time." Too much criticism could cost you much needed credibility later on in the process. And, the reality is you are likely being Mr Obvious anyway - they often know what they did wrong and will appreciate you not launching a Royal Commission.

If it is a big ticket item that warrants discussion, try asking them to tell you what happened before providing solutions. It's far more productive when they share what they believe happened. Even if their assessment is not accurate, you still have an opportunity to correct and offer constructive feedback.

6. According to Royal Life Saving Society-Australia's 2016 national drowning report, there were 280 deaths in waterways between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016. 23 of those deaths were young people aged 18-24 - representing (8%) of all drownings – that approximate age demographic accounts for about (25%) of all road deaths; despite only representing around 10% of licence holders.

Most parents would concede it's unrealistic to expect to train a novice to be competent in challenging water situations within twelve months; yet surprisingly, many assume they can produce competent motorists in that relatively short period of time.

Given their chilling over-representation in serious crash data, does it not make sense to introduce our children to safe driving principals several years before they acquire their L plates?

5. Remember that old saying: "Teenagers think they are 10 feet tall and bulletproof?" It turns out that isn't exactly correct. Research shows that adolescents do take more risks than any other age demographic, but not because they are ignorant. In fact, if anything, they often overestimate risks but choose to take them anyway. Why? - A hit of dopamine. Dopamine is that feel good brain neurotransmitter central to our internal reward system. When we reach the legal driving age we have more dopamine gushing through us than at any other time of our life because its release in response to experience is at its greatest.

4. A question frequently asked by learner drivers is - 'How do I know if I'm close enough to a stop or give way line?' An effective reference point for them is to position the car so that the stop line appears to run underneath their right side-mirror.

3. When teaching your learner to turn right at intersections with oncoming traffic or pedestrians crossing, edge out into the intersection and stop at the turning point - keeping the steering wheel centred so that the wheels are facing straight ahead - (if hit from behind the vehicle is less likely to be shunted into oncoming traffic or pedestrians).

2. Advise your learner driver that flashing indicator lights merely proves they work. Is there sufficient evidence to suggest the vehicle is actually moving in that direction?

1. A low-risk road user is someone who believes driving is more about brain and eyes than hands and feet.

Supervising Driver Tips - Part 2

Posted on 15 September 2017

Throughout the first month of spring I am sharing 50 TIPS to support parents and other supervising drivers who are instructing learners.

30. When your learner is conducting left shoulder (blind-spot) checks, ensure they only turn their head so that their chin is in line with their shoulder. Too many novice drivers turn all the way around to look through the rear window - causing their arms to move the steering wheel which of course results in the vehicle drifting. Use the rear vision mirror to check behind ... the 'head-check' is for blind-spots at the sides. One occasion when they should turn to look through the rear window is prior to reversing.

29. The need for your involvement does not disappear once your teenager gets their licence. That letter [P] at the front and back of their car stands for PROBLEMATIC - especially the red one during the first 6-12 months!

28. If your learner is consistently cutting the corner or travelling past the turning point on right turns, advise them to start steering when their right-side mirror lines up with the centre line or midway point of the road they're turning onto to.

27. Encourage your learner to self-assess whilst you are still supervising their driving because once they become licensed, they will essentially become their own instructor. You can help them develop a realistic and measured view of their driving performance and capabilities.

26. Teach your learner driver to look as far into the distance as they can comfortably see. Avoid tunnel vision by not over-focusing on lane markings or the vehicle immediately in front. It also lessens the risk of veering or drifting. It's important to scan high and to the sides for regulatory and cautionary signs.

25. Sudden and frequent braking is a sign that a learner driver isn't scanning far enough ahead.

24. Learner drivers have a tendency to over-use the brake pedal and under-use the accelerator pedal to manage speed. Encourage Eco-driving by teaching them to reduce speed by easing off the accelerator pedal. This is much easier to achieve when scanning about five vehicles ahead.

23. To develop effective speed perception, have your learner guess their travelling speed before they check the speedometer. (They can start this exercise as a front seat passenger). Developing a sense of speed is useful because constant speedometer glancing can be distracting.

22. Learner drivers often comment that judging safe gaps using mirrors is the most difficult part of the lane-changing process. As a MINIMUM, they should be able to at least see the headlights of the trailing vehicle (new lane) in their centre (internal) mirror – however, NOTE: this is a guide and is not a substitute for a shoulder (blind-spot) check. REMEMBER: Mirror- MirrorShoulder.

21. Learner drivers frequently slow down whilst changing lanes. This potentially dangerous action is often done unconsciously. They take their foot off the accelerator pedal and sometimes even apply the brake. Despite initially selecting a safe gap, the gap very quickly disappears when they slow down. Ensure they maintain momentum!

20. Modern day cars are increasingly being equipped with automatic daylight running lights (DRL) which also illuminates the instruments on the dashboard. As a result many motorists don't switch their headlights on during early morning and dusk HALF-LIGHT PERIODS. Advise novice drivers that even if they can see clearly they should switch their headlights on so that others can see their TAIL-LIGHTS which aren't generally activated with DRL - (especially important if driving a dark or silver coloured vehicle).

19. Sunrise and sunset low sun glare generally coincides with peak traffic periods (nose to tail crashes) - teach your learner to stop 1.5 – 2 car lengths behind traffic initially until the vehicle behind comes to a stop and then roll forward to the standard one car length position. Always plan an ESCAPE!

18. The prefrontal cortex area of an adolescent's brain (that enables them to determine when risk OUTWEIGHS reward) is not yet fully developed – so basically, they possess the impulsive "GO" part (the accelerator pedal); but not the higher cognitive part - the "BRAKE" pedal.

17. I have heard some interesting anecdotes about learners trying to locate and use windscreen-wipers for the first time when travelling at 60 km/h with outside conditions resembling a scene from a Steven Spielberg movie. Whilst parked in a controlled environment:-
Demonstrate the slow and fast operation of the wiper lever and the washers function.
Locate and demonstrate the demister and air ventilation system and refer to the vehicle's owner manual.
Demonstrate hazard lights and horn function.

16. As tailgating drivers direct their attention solely on the vehicle in front of them (in case they need to brake suddenly), they also pose a risk to road users in adjacent lanes because typically they don't scan and their field of vision is compromised. Ensure your learner stays out of the tailgater's blind-spot. If your learner is being tailgated, instruct them to increase the following distance from the vehicle in front - CONTROL the controllables!

15. Encourage your new L Plater to wear thin-soled enclosed footwear so they have sufficient feel of the pedals. It's not unusual for them to press down on the pedals quite firmly when starting out. The sudden take-offs and stops may leave you feeling like you're inside a washing machine at times. I recall several years ago I had a learner go for his first drive after work – every time his heavy steel-capped size 12 squashed the accelerator pedal I thought I was aboard a Saturn 5 rocket – (I'm certain the investigators at CSI would still find fragments of my DNA buried deep inside the back-rest of that seat today).

14. Advise your learner driver to rest their right heel on the floor in line with the brake pedal and to press down on it with the ball of their foot. From this position their foot can swivel across to the accelerator pedal. We do it this way because we need to apply more pressure to the brake pedal than the accelerator pedal.

13. Be aware that learners often fall victim to 'target fixation' when they first begin to drive -- meaning when they see an object they don't want to collide with, they continue to look at it - that of course results in them inevitably steering towards the object or hazard. Instruct them to focus on the safe area they want to drive towards - not the object they wish to avoid.

12. Novice drivers can become quite anxious when changing lanes in congested traffic. Sometimes a 'sympathy signal' can assist. If a safe gap isn't opening up, they can apply their indicator to show other road users their intention. It generally prompts other drivers to react ... whether they back-off or speed up, a safe gap often ensues. Don't forget the blind-spot check before changing.

11. A few years ago the psychology department at Temple University in Philadelphia conducted a study into adolescent development and decision making.
They created a driving test simulator to study the risk behaviour of adolescents and adults - both when alone and when being observed by a group of their peers.
When not being watched by their friends, the adolescents took no more risks than the adults; but when being observed, they did ... no great surprises there, however it got interesting when they conducted brain imaging tests to compare brain activity when completing the tasks alone and whilst their friends were viewing via a monitor in another room. When being observed by friends it activated the reward centre of their brain, despite not even seeing their peers - (simply believing they were being watched was enough).
When the adult's brain activity was monitored there was no change in the reward centre of the brain when informed they were being watched by their friends.

Their lab then conducted an experiment with mice - they took a group of new-borns from different litters and created individual peer groups by raising them in separate cages with the intention of learning how much alcohol the different groups would consume.

They conducted the test with half of the mice being adolescents and the other half adults. And, they tested half of each group both alone and with their friends.
They found the adolescent Mickeys drank more when with their friends compared to when they were alone. The adult mice on the other-hand consumed the same amounts whether by themselves or partying with their peer group.

Those alcoholic rodents suggest we humans are not the only mammals whose brains are impacted by peers. So, rather than deny that risk-taking is an inherent part of an adolescent's pathology, we adults could perhaps manoeuvre our way around it by managing the 'opportunities' for risk.

Supervising Driver Tips - Part 1

Posted on 01 September 2017

Parents are, on the face of it, the largest group of unofficial driving instructors on the south-east coast of the Milky Way -- so throughout the first month of spring I will be sharing 50 TIPS to support them and other supervising drivers who are instructing learners.

50. Prior to conducting your first driving lesson with your learner, reacquaint yourself with ALL road rules and regulations. A lot can change in 25 years.

49. Commence lessons in quiet locations such as: carparks and industrial areas; at non-busy times; in good weather conditions. Avoid night drives in the early stages.

48. Always give careful consideration to routes your learner can handle – drive it first yourself to prepare for potential challenges. Discuss lesson goals with them in advance; this helps reduce unnecessary anxiety.

47. The person sitting next to the learner is the supervisor/instructor. Any parent or other individuals seated at the rear should avoid providing feedback until they are outside the vehicle.

46. Your ACTIONS (both verbal and non-verbal) will evoke REACTIONS from your learner. Your feedback should be relevant and constructive.

45. When your learner makes an error, resist the urge to immediately say something. Pause for a moment and give them space to mention it first. If they don't acknowledge it, discuss it with them by asking open-ended questions.

44.Coach your learner to always check mirrors prior to any movement of their hands or feet.

43.Try to use the term "priority" rather than "right of way" with learners. "Priority" is something that is GIVEN to us, whereas "right of way" is something that we TAKE. This subtle difference in thinking is sometimes the difference between a safe and unsafe road user.

42.Develop a plan with your learner that deals with the event of a lesson not going well. It may be to simply pull-over when safe; turn the engine off; breathe; discuss what just happened and agree on a way forward.

41. Try to create a driving schedule at least seven days in advance. Momentum is very important – aim for at least (2) driving hours per week.

40. Provide clear and early communication and directions - both verbal and non-verbal. Don't be vague like "slow down" or "drive slowly" – say "press the brake pedal" and "drive at 40 kilometres per hour."Comments such as "be careful" and "watch out" are not specific enough.

39. To avoid confusion, when replying to your learner, don't say "right" say "correct."

38. Remain mindful when selecting "quiet" local streets to practice with your learner, that various hazards often exist such as vehicles parked on crests and curves; kids playing with balls and riding bikes and vehicles reversing out of driveways.

37. When teaching someone to drive it's impossible to over-emphasise the fact mirrors don't display the complete scene, and that blind spots need to be physically checked by looking in the direction we are about to travel. The rear of the vehicle also presents a blind-spot, so the driver must look over their shoulder through the rear windscreen prior to any reverse movement.

36. Coach your learner to move their head to see around visual block-outs that are found inside and outside the vehicle. Internal block-outs may include the front, middle and rear pillars of the car; passengers; rear vision mirror; head-restraint; windscreen labels and sun visor. Examples of external block-outs are; trees, parked vehicles and fences.

35. Instruct your learner to signal for (5) seconds before moving away from the kerb. Anything less in the New South Wales driving test won't be enough.

34. Try not to compare your learner's progress to your own or their siblings and friends. Learning to drive is unique to each individual. We never expect everyone's athletic, academic or musical skills to develop at the same rate. Even peripheral vision levels vary depending on an adolescent's exposure to activities such as horse-riding or football.

33. When instructing your learner, you may sometimes sense that you are losing them via too many corrections. In that situation, resist the urge to point out the occasional minor error in the interests of the big picture. Be prepared to sacrifice a battle or two in order to win the war.

32. In the initial hours of learning to drive, teenagers have enough challenges simply steering and using the pedals - so avoid introducing multiple responsibilities too soon. To begin with you will need to check the mirrors, speedometer, blind-spots and just about everything else for them.

31. Set up a detachable mirror on the passenger side of the windscreen to assist you and keep a notebook and pen in the glovebox.

Peer Pressure or Peer INFLUENCE?

Posted on 15 August 2017

We parents are very familiar with the term 'peer pressure' even our parents knew of it way back when we were still pimply. However do we fully understand the influence of peer PRESENCE?

Advancements in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) now enable scientists to discover much more about the brain than ever before. They can now study sensitivities around specific areas including reward circuitry.

In this short video the renowned psychology professor and adolescent development expert, Dr Laurence Steinberg, discusses the 'Stoplight' game. What I find incredibly interesting is it's not simply pressure applied by an adolescent's contemporary that influences their actions – it's their mere presence.

This type of research has been instrumental in giving birth to the worldwide graduated licensing schemes we see today.

Teenagers take risks – especially males; and that problem exists worldwide. The Australian Transport and Safety Bureau released a report in 2002 that highlighted, just like Australia, young people from countries in the European Union, including the United Kingdom, in the 18-24 age group, have a rate (per 100,000 population) of dying in a road crash that is, on average, twice as high as that for the remainder of the population.

On the day adolescents pass their driving test they:-

  • Lack experience
  • Possess relatively limited driving ability and judgement
  • Sometimes underestimate risk
  • Sometimes knowingly take risks including the use of alcohol and drugs

On the day they are awarded their provisional licence, their OPPORTUNITY for risk skyrockets.

Does your teen possess an appetite for risk-taking in other areas of life? If not, what about their peers? There is international data that shows for every similar aged passenger you add to a vehicle with a teen driver, the chance of a crash incrementally increases. Statistics show that adult drivers are at no further risk of crashing when driving with additional passengers.

As parents, we generally don't want to hover over our adolescent's every move. We understand that risk-taking is a normal part of their wiring and overall development; however, we can have some control over the odds by managing their risk opportunity during this precarious period. Graduated licensing schemes have proven to be by far the most effective way to reduce serious young driver crashes. Parents have an opportunity to broaden prescribed provisional licensing regulations.

I refer to the first six months of provisional licensure as the SORRY, NO RESULTS FOUND phase. We're all familiar with that pesky message that occasionally pops up when we type something into a search engine. An Intermediate level driver faces this message constantly because they simply don't possess a big enough bank of driving data to accommodate every situation. During this period, consider limiting the amount of similar aged peer passengers they may carry.

P.S. If there are any topics you would like me to cover feel free to let me know via the Comments or Contact Page.

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