Preparing Your Learner for the Road Warriors

Posted on 01 February 2018

I believe most road users don't 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 can't usually influence a fellow road user's behaviour toward their novice driver, they can explore effective ways to interact with them. L-Platers, we know, are regularly judged – so it's only fair that we view the following drivers through a somewhat cheeky stereotypical lens.

Tailgating Tom – Our first 'Road Warrior' 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 it's simply their 'normal' – others may misjudge your speed through distraction and eventually set up an appropriate crash avoidance space.

Angry Angus – Whatever you do don't get Angus, angry - you won't like him when he's angry. Sometimes he is angry with a passenger, other times it's with someone on the phone. Occasionally it is because you had the audacity to stop at a yellow light. Don't make eye contact with him under any circumstances - he doesn't like it. Sometimes he gets so angry he can't even remember why he's angry. The angrier Angus gets, the more distracted and dangerous he becomes. This guy invented Road-Rage - who would've thought - Angus is a trailblazer! Advise your learner to never buy into a stranger's 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 it's 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: 'you've got to ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?- Well, do you, punk?' 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 'Red-Light Lisa' 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 world's 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 can't 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 don't worry, he will be back in front of you before you've 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 aren't 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.

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