Modern Driving Lessons

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Chat' started by BigHorn, Jul 30, 2010.

  1. BigHorn

    BigHorn Active Member

    I am asking this question here as I know tMP has many young adults and students who are currently or have just took driving lessons.

    I am being driven to distraction by my daughter who I have been teaching for a while in our little Toyota Aygo. She was progressing really well and is very good at driving in traffic and her use of gears.
    As she is so advanced she decided to get some professional instruction in preparation for her test. Her gear changing has since gone to pot. I was always taught you must be in the appropriate gear for the needs and speed of the car. When you slow down you change down through the gears 4th,3rd, 2nd and only use 1st to pull away or do walking speed manouvres.
    She is now being taught to slow right down to a stop in 4th. If she is going along and comes to a slowly moving queue she is being taught to slow down in 4th and go straight into 1st on the move. This to me seems lunacy. She can be slowing down in 4th to say 15mph, the cars in front move off and she then has to fumble around getting into the appropriate gear to pull away where in my old style method she would have been in the appropriate gear already.
    Another thing is that in many cars the synchromesh on gears means you physically cannot change from 4th to 1st gear without a real fight with the gearstick and crunching the gears.

    So how do you new drivers do it?. Does my daughter need to do away with my old methods or find a new professional driving instructor.
  2. sunshine

    sunshine Member

    Although I passed my test over 20 years ago "block gear changes" were used then. At the approach to a roundabout/queue of traffic you would change from 4th to 2nd, missing out 3rd, and then move into 1st only if you need to stop. I should mention I was originally taught be a sweet old lady, who did teach me to go down all the gears as you suggest, but then I failed my first test - on "gears" !!! I then failed my second text on "gears". Neither of my parents drive and were able to teach me - so I presumed she knew what she was doing. After the 2nd failure I decided to try another instructor who basically laughed at me within 5 mnutes of getting in the car, and said "I bet you failed your test on gears, didn't you? We haven't done gear changed like that since the 70's."

    Young friends who have passed recently still do 4th to 2nd. I don't actually recall anyone stopping in 4th then changing to 1st. That's my experience.

    Best to let her instructor teach her their way as they will know the most up to date methods that your daughter will need to pass the driving test.
  3. Rapier

    Rapier Supporting Member

    Definitely not 4th. to 1st. Gearing is too low. Use the brakes to slow the vehicle and then select the appropriate gear for the road speed. Gears are not for 'slowing a vehicle', [unless on a long steep hill descent].
  4. scotchgirl

    scotchgirl Active Member

    You have to use the correct gear for the conditions you are approaching. This means that you might have to change down the gears, but you can miss gears out (say from 5th to 3rd or 4th to 2nd) fact I'm sure that when revising for my theory test (which I passed last week 50/50! yay!) missing out gears can actually improve road handling and reduces fuel consumption.
  5. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    I took two blocks of lessons from two different instructors - one in 2003 (leading to a failed test), and one in 2008 (leading to a passed test). The first instructor (who was not even born in the 70s!) taught me to work down the gears on slowing down, while the second instructor taught me to block-shift ("only select a gear if you're going to use it").

    Now, I generally put the clutch in soon after I start slowing down, then simply select the next gear that I need in order to move at the point in time when I need it. A lot less fuss and fewer potentially distracting actions to perform while doing things like approaching a queue at traffic lights.

    Mind you, my old banger has a disconcerting habit of stalling while moving when out of gear when it's cold! When the weather is a bit parky, I do shift down gear-by-gear in order not to find myself moving towards the back of a queue but deprived of electrical power to the brakes!
  6. Rapier

    Rapier Supporting Member

    Ignore MoominDave not only does he play a trombone, he disengages the clutch for no good reason. ;)

    And I'd fail him on an IAM Test too. (but mostly because of the trombone thing.)
  7. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    I didn't say I was right! So what should I change? I put the clutch in when I intend to slow down beyond the comfortable range of the gear I'm currently in - a detail I didn't mention, looking back. Is my approach wrong?
  8. themusicalrentboy

    themusicalrentboy Active Member

    do what the instructor tells you to - you are passing a test. Once you've got past the test you can do whatever the heck you like with or to the car.
  9. lynchie

    lynchie Active Member

    I was taught that, in general, you should slow down to the appropriate speed with the brakes, then change gear to the appropriate gear. If you're slowing down anyway, there's no need to change out of the gear you're in, or engage the clutch, because you're not trying to pull away.

    Changing down through each gear every time you slow down involves numerous unnecessary movements of the gear stick and clutch. I'd suggest it's usually best to keep things simple, especially when approaching a junction or roundabout (for example) where your attention should be on judging the traffic.
  10. timbloke

    timbloke Member

    Don't know what I do, never really thought about it - I think a bit like MoominDave, I engage the clutch when I think the car is too slow for the gear and then select the gear I'll need when I next need to accelerate. Then again, I failed 5 driving tests - so shouldn't really be consulted.

    My driving instructor did however used to always say....

    "Brakes to Slow, Gears to Go!"

    so I guess that conforms to the approach everyone else is using.
  11. Keith

    Keith Member

    Instructors don't teach people just to pass a test they teach people to become safe and competant drivers after they've passed their test.

    I am a driving instructor and how your daughter is being taught is right. Think of it this way. While your daughter is driving along slowing down, going through the gears 1 at a time she is only stearing 1 handed, and while she is going through the gears the clutch is down too. If the clutch is down longer than it needs to be then this is classed as coasting (the car is basically just rolling cause the engine has been disengaged due to the clutch being down). So technically your daughter is driving 1 handed while the car is just rolling. This isn't safe!!! What she need to be doing is looking further ahead so she can make a decision about what gear she needs to be taking for the scenario that happens in front of her.

    The instructor should be taking her through MSPSL (Mirror, Signal, Position, Speed, Look) at the speed/look stage the instructor should be mentioneing LADA (Look, Asses, Decide, Act). If the speed part of the 'MSPSL' phase is too quick then she isn't giving herself enough time to do the LADA, or like I said not looking further enough ahead to get clues from cars in front or signs that warn you about traffic lights or potencial reasons why she may need to slow down etc.

    But I think you can be rest assured that the instructor is teaching the right method. Its just that it is going to take some practice for your daughter to get it right, but it will suddenly click for her. Trust me i'm a driving instructor!!:p

    Good Luck!! :tup
  12. scotchgirl

    scotchgirl Active Member

    Thank God my driving instructor is telling me exactly the same thing...too much faffing about with gears is unnecessary and distracting while you should be concentrating on what's ahead on the road so you can prepare and get into the correct gear for the speed you're travelling at.

    It took me ages to get the hang of it lol! for doing the reversing round the corner manoeuvre would be greatly appreciated coz I know that's what I'm gonna fail my test on! lol!
  13. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    There seems to be this perception amongst driving instructors that braking is to be used for slowing and that gears are only used for accellerating. This is simply not the case. I spent a lot of time reading DSA driver aids before I took my own test (a couple of months ago) and they all state the need to be in the right gear at the right time. I use a lot of engine-braking on the road, in combination with my brakes, and I honestly think it's bad practise if the instructor is teaching your daughter to brake down in a single gear and then swap directly to first. The DSA driver manual I had constantly restated the mantra "Brake down, change down," qualified by the statement "1st is NOT a rolling gear!" And that stood me in good stead when I was learning.

    To be honest, it was easy for me, because I'd been riding motorcycles for an absolute dog's age so my road knowledge was fine and I was used to listening to the engine. The other thing is that bike gears simply won't shift if the bike isn't moving, because the gearbox is sequential, and the gears are constant mesh. Consequently, you get used to bleeding the clutch in gradually for engine braking, and making sure you're in the right gear early.

    (The downside was that because I spent my formative biking years riding a 400cc sportsbike with a 6-speed box and a power-band like the cliffs of dover, I changed gear rather a lot! But I was very rarely wrong....)

    What happens if she's braking and traffic starts to move? She's in completely the wrong gear then. Far better to go 5th-3rd or 4th-2nd on the way down and use a little manual clutch-slip. And I think the main reason a lot of instructors don't teach this, is because it's far easier to pass by driving poorly but safely than learning to drive properly.

    Anyway, I resisted all attempts by previous instructors to have me brake down in high gears and go straight to 1st, and eventually changed to an instructor who seemed quite happy to let me use engine braking. Under his tutelage I passed my test with only 1 minor fault - and that wasn't a gear fault. And I now drive a 2.5l V6 with a heavy (and rather brutal) 3-plate racing clutch and I can even cope with that!

    My guess is that the instructor is trying to teach your daughter to pass the test - rather than trying to teach her to drive. And if your daughter's instructor is telling her that she'll incur faults for using proper engine-braking, he's talking complete and utter bovine excrement.

    The thing is, (as you'll know yourself) once you crack what gear you should be in and how to drive smoothly, everything else on the road becomes much easier.
  14. Keith

    Keith Member

  15. scotchgirl

    scotchgirl Active Member

    I am just rubbish at it....I can do the turn in the road, reverse parking, and bay parking all without assistance....whereas doing it around the corner I can do say 6 times out of 10 properly without assistance...but I need a higher percentage than that lol!

    I know HOW to do it, I think its a combination of it being the longest (in time) manoeuvre and the fact that I lose patience with myself for being rubbish! It also is really uncomfortable to sit in that position as well (or is that just me)....
  16. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    Big problem with this is that very few car gearboxes - particularly on small, low capacity cars like the Aygo you describe - have any synchromesh on 1st, as the gearing on it is so low the manufacturers simply don't expect the gear to be used while the car is moving!

    Ok, if you by a bigger engined car which traditionally has a taller 1st gear, you may get synchromesh on 1st (and occasionally even on reverse!) but that doesn't get away from the fact that if you're going from top to 1st, you're not changing gear right!

    One of the problems a lad I used to play in a band with (who has been a driving instructor for over forty years) constantly bemoans is that every time a new specific requirement is added to the test, it means one more specific test to be added, which means less time for teaching general good driving, road manners and addressing the individual needs of the student. Stuff that used to be considered part and parcel of driving is now reserved for "Pass Plus" and "Advanced tuition."

    It's not just you. I found it awful turning round in the seat.

    And even when you do, the roof-pillars at the back on most modern cars are so thick you can hardly see a damn thing anyway.

    If the car you're practicing in has a little convex mirror in the left hand door mirror - they're worth their weight in gold as they help you see the back wheel in relation to the kerb.
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2010
  17. Keith

    Keith Member

    Ok- In answer to the first paragraph - why change gear twice when you can change once and have your clutch down less, and have both hands on the wheel? All it takes is a bit of forward planning and you anticipate whats going to happen.

    I personally take offense when people say instructors only teach people to pass the test and not to become good drivers. If that was the case we'd teach em a few mannovres. Then take the pupils to the test centre and make em learn all the routes that they might go on. Then take the money and run!!!! THATS COMPLETE RUBBISH!!!

    I personally like to teach my pupils how to be safe on the road with what in fact is a murder weapon at their finger tips. If thats a bad thing then I'm sorry, but I'm pretty sure that if parents are wanting their kids to learn then safety will always be the priority. Me personally, I say that if you can drive safely then your a good driver. Its a shame that some people don't see it like that.
  18. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    Why rely totally on only brakes when you can combine the braking force with that of your engine? Modern cars have power steering so I don't really understand the point about having one hand off the wheel for less time. Likewise if you're taking so long to down-shift that an examiner could reasonably describe you as "coasting" then you ain't changing gear right!

    I think that's where you and I will have to agree to differ. If you're forward planning properly, you'll be in the right gear at the right time - incur less wear on your brakes (and more important, be better experienced on using them to regulate the speed of the car, for inclines etc) and be smoother and safer as a result. That's what my instructor consistantly told me.

    No personal offence intended, of course, just stating my opinions. What you're advising is what my first instructor tried to have me do - and ended up shouting at me that it was more important I drive the way he told me to than drive safely... At which point I pulled safely over, advised him his services were no longer required, and walked home! I do appreciate this experience has quite probably entrenched my position somewhat, and I apologise if I sound unreasonable. (I believe he has since ceased trading as an instructor....)

    Genuine question. Can you explain why the advice instructors seem to give is so diametrically opposed to what's in the DSA driving manuals from a year or so ago? Has there been a marked shift in opinion?
  19. Rapier

    Rapier Supporting Member

    Play the baritone? :biggrin:

    Anyway, I agree with Keith, brakes are for slowing you to the correct speed for the hazard, then you select the correct gear and drive through that hazard. You should be assessing the road/traffic etc in front of the car as far ahead as you can see. Then you are not caught out, being in the wrong gear etc.

    Once people pass the Test they should think about the IAM, which will teach them how to drive. :wink:

    A lot of drivers can make a car go, not so many can actually drive properly. Observation is often only to the bumper of the car in front and not into the distance.
  20. scotchgirl

    scotchgirl Active Member

    I have to say that my DSA manual seems to have the same sort of information on it that my instructor tells me.

    The main part of driving is about (for me anyway) observation and perception of what is happening, and what could happen, as well as the techniques of actually driving around.

    I don't have any problems following my instructor's advice and instruction, and if I have a question then he'll patiently explain the answer several times if I don't understand it, until I DO understand lol! (sometimes it takes a while).

    It always seems consistent though...and mirrors/echoes what I revised for the theory and hazard perception bit of the test, as well as the DSA DVDs I have.

    One thing as well...Thirteenball (I think) said something about using the mirror on the passenger side to judge where the wheel is in relation to the kerb? My instructor tells me that's fine as long as you don't sit there staring at it, and its only really reliable once you're around the corner....

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