Monday, 11 May 2015

How to not fail when you thought you had!

Date: May 2015
Place: Wallasey
Reason for fail: N/A

Jack left the test centre, got onto the main road, and a few seconds later, encountered a pedestrian crossing. The lights were flashing amber, and there was slow moving traffic.

He slowed right down, and as things started moving again, he brought his clutch up too quickly, and stalled.

Jack's reaction was to hit the brakes. In his mirror, he could see the vehicle behind him have to stop quickly.

"That's it", he thought. "Game over."

Convinced he'd failed, Jack continued around the test route. Since he'd already failed, he just got on with it and didn't try too hard.

Half an hour later, he pulled into the test centre, and the examiner said "That's the end of the test. I'm pleased to tell you that you've passed."

Jack's jaw dropped. He'd stalled, and the person behind him had to brake. Why hadn't he been given a serious fault?

To answer that question, we need to go back to a previous post.

On that occasion, the stall occurred at a roundabout. Once again the panic response to the stall was to brake, and once again people behind had to brake. But look at what was marked on the test sheet...

Reason for fail: Serious fault, Use of Mirrors - Change speed

Jack thought he'd failed because he could see in his mirror that the person behind had to slow down. And that meant he hadn't failed. He checked his mirror as he was stopping. So instead of getting a serious fault for not looking in his mirror before suddenly stopping, he got a minor fault for moving away under control.

Friday, 14 November 2014


Today, Jill failed her test, because she drove through a puddle and splashed a pedestrian.

The mark she got was a serious fault, awareness and planning.

Puddle. Nearby pedestrian. See and understand. Slow down and/or move out towards the centre of the road.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

roundabouts or thereabouts

I must admit, I'm struggling to understand this one.

My pupil, Joe, was asked to follow signs for Shopping Centre and Freeport as he approached the roundabout below.

This is how it looks from above.

And this is how it looks on streetview.

When you see it from above, it's slightly off to the right. The signpost as you approach the roundabout clearly shows it as a right turn.

Unfortunately, Joe read it as a straight ahead. He kept left and didn't signal. He joined the roundabout safely, and affected no other road user adversely. As he passed his previous exit, he checked his mirrors and signalled left, keeping a good road position as he left the roundabout.

The examiner marked this as a serious fault (junctions, turning right)

Fair enough?

Well how about this roundabout?

Once again, it shows two views. In the first view, you'd be approaching from the right, and would take the second exit, towards the top left corner of the picture. This roundabout features in the independent driving sections of several of the test routes from Upton Test Centre. I've sat in the back and seen people deal with it as a straight ahead (keep left, don't signal on approach, apply left signal as Meols exit is passed) and I've seen them deal with it as a right turn (approach towards centre of road, apply right signal on approach, check to left, change to left signal, change road position to left as Meols exit is passed) and neither method has drawn even a minor fault.

Finally, here's a third roundabout...

On this one, if you were asked to follow the signs directing you towards the M53, how would you go about it?

It's signposted as the second exit, and it's off towards the right, yet almost anyone that uses it will treat it as a straight ahead.
To do so otherwise means putting in two wholly uneccessary lane changes on a busy roundabout.

Until yesterday, I'd taught people that as long as what they did was coherent (ie, they didn't position left and signal right for example), and didn't cause a problem to other road users, then it was acceptable.

Now I really am not sure how to proceed.

Monday, 14 October 2013

How to fail it twice.

Tomorrow, one of my clients will take their driving test.

This person was unlucky enough to fail about 2 months ago, at the end of August  A couple of weeks later, he texted me to let me know that he'd booked another date, and I wrote it in my diary. The middle of October.

A few days ago, he finally got in touch to book a lesson this evening, for an hour.

Then this morning, he sent another text, cancelling this lesson. After not driving for 2 months, he will attempt to pass his driving test, pretty much from cold. I wonder what will happen?

It's possible of course that he will pass. Since I've not been in touch with him, he could have spent many hours practicing privately, or having professional tuition from someone else. I suspect though that he expects to just carry on from where he left off, and to somehow meet the standard of driving required.

Well good luck with that mate.

Monday, 12 November 2012

My God!!!! There's a car coming from the right!!!

Date: October 2012
Test Centre: Upton
Reason for fail: Control - Steering.

Cassie failed because she steered into the kerb as she approached a roundabout near a place called Thurstaston. Really though, the issue isn't what she was doing with her hands, it was what she was doing with her eyes.

When you arrive at a junction (a roundabout is a junction!), ideally, you'll have done everything you need to do before you get there. If you arrive at the right speed, in the right road position, in the correct gear, then when you look right and decide whether it's safe to go or not, it will be easy for you. To sort all that stuff out, you need to look where you're going.

The reason Cassie looked right instead of where she was going? Well because she was nervous. That's just what nervous drivers tend to do. And then, if there's a car coming from the right, they tend to just keep looking at the oncoming car, and panicking. And that's just what Cassie did. So she bumped into the kerb because she'd drifted out to the right as she approached.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012


Date: August 2008
Test Centre: Wallasey
Reason for fail: N/A

My previous post reminded me of something that happened a couple of years back.

I turned up at my pupil's house on test day to find him tearing his hair out. James had all his stuff together a few days earlier, then come the day itself, his license was just nowhere to be found. I spent about 45 minutes with James, trying to help him look.

James had a toddler son, and thought the license might have been picked up by tiny fingers. We looked in all the obvious places, and all sorts of obscure ones too. We looked in the fridge. In the washing machine. In the bins. Down the back of the sofa.

But eventually we had to admit defeat. I went home and James failed to turn up for his test. I didn't have the heart to charge him for my time. He did lose his test fee though.

At the test centre, an examiner would have walked out into the waiting room, called James' name out, got no response, waited for the mandatory five minutes, then gone back into the office and put the kettle on.

The license never was found. James had to apply for a replacement, and had to pay to rebook his test. Fortunately, he passed on that next attempt.

A chain of circumstances

Date: October 2012.
Test Centre: Wallasey
Reason for fail: Reverse Park (road) - Control

Sharon failed her test yesterday. I was sititng in on the test, and watched as the examiner allowed her a generous amount of time to get the car close to and parallel with the kerb, but eventually, after repeatedly failing to get within about 4 or 5 feet of the kerb, he asked her to drive on.

Sharon also got another serious fault right at the end of the test for lack of observation at a junction, but I'd like to focus on the reversing exercise for this post.

The story here goes back to before the test even began. I'd just washed my car prior to picking her up for her pre-test lesson when I got a message from Sharon asking what documentation she needed to bring along with her. Since I was only a couple of minutes away, I didn't answer. I just went to pick her up. She and her boyfriend were in a state of turmoil. They'd turned their house upside down, but could not find the paper counterpart to her license. They thought it was at her Mum's house, and her Mum was busy looking for it and would call if she found it.

When you present yourself for a driving test (or your theory test for that matter), you MUST bring both parts of your driving license. The photocard and the paper counterpart. If you're one of those rare birds that has an old style license without a photocard, you MUST provide photographic evidence of your identity, such as a passport. Without this your test will not go ahead.

Driving tests can be nerve racking things. It pays to make sure you have all your documentation available well before your instructor knocks on your door. The last thing you need is to be frantically scrabbling around for your documents at the last minute.

Anyway, Sharon was pretty sure it was at her Mum's and we went out on the pre test lesson. Sharon was actually driving quite well, all things considered.

Twenty minutes in, her phone rang. We parked up and she answered it. It was her Mum. The license had been found, but we'd have to go and get it. She couldn't come to us. And so off we went from New Brighton to Moreton. And then back to Wallasey test centre. To get from Wallasey to Moreton takes only about 15 minutes. To get there and back takes around half an hour.

So that was the pre test lesson. Normally, I'd have given the reversing exercises a quick once over and if there was a problem, we'd do a bit of work on it to try to sort things out, but this time, there just wasn't time.

What caused her to fail was as much as anything, a lack of organisation.