In my view, the main purpose of a driving lessons should be:
Developing a positive attitude towards the driving lessons task, other road users and the associated risks.
Learning something about driving lessons from a structured experience.
Learning to drive is an easy process but I think that it has been made too complicated by a system that is too rigid to meet the individual needs of different people.
Whilst I do agree to have a framework within which different subjects are learnt, I believe that a much higher flexibility is needed in how and when those subjects are chosen, explored, practiced and mastered.
My aim was to develop a method that could allow every learner to express their ideas without fear of being judged, think and discuss about solutions and try them out in a safe, controlled environment.
To keep things as simple as possible I have found useful to identify four stages of learning, with the third and fourth stages often overlapping.
Car Control Skills
At this stage the focus is on developing “vehicle sympathy”, that means operating all the controls in the smoothest possible way by using a coordinated sequence of movements.
You will have observed other drivers; it seems that they can drive effortlessly, without thinking of what they do with their hands and feet. This is because all these movements have become second nature after a considerable amount of practice and they have reached what it is usually called the “unconscious competence” level of learning.
You will learn how to move away, how and when to change gears, where and when and how to stop, steering in a smooth and controlled way, controlling the clutch and the use of the handbrake. Every skill will be practiced on different gradients.
You will also learn that every pedal has a variety of pressures that can be applied and they should not be considered on-off switches. You will develop progressive braking, accelerator sense and how to extend the gear changing.
Initially the safety checks will be carried out by the driving lessons instructor, providing you a safe environment where you can “play” with the controls and get the feeling of a moving vehicle.
All in all this is what the mechanical part of driving lessons is all about; moving off, progressing through the gears, steering, slowing down and stopping.
The safety procedures and observations will be introduced when your hands and feet are programmed to do certain actions without effort.
When your car control skills will be well developed, you will start to train your eyes. At this stage the emphasis is on the eye-hand and eye-leg coordination skills.
The driving lessons will take place mostly on straight roads, increasing the difficulty as your ability improves and will include forward and rear observation.
By training your eyes in searching continuously for possible hazards you reduce the likelihood to “run out “of time and space to deal effectively with an event that can be easily predicted.
The in-car camera will be used to record and review the drive to highlight possible areas for improvements.
The use of the mirrors is also of the utmost importance because it literally dictates your course of actions.
The road scanning exercise is very useful if you are preparing for the hazard perception element of the theory test, you just need to substitute the click on the mouse with a mirror check.
You will learn the meaning of observation links and cross view and how this is related to a safe management of your actions.
The developing of a “hazard routine” will then flow naturally rather than applying the rigid mirror-signal-manoeuvre routine.
I do not disregard the validity of such a routine but I believe that it loses its efficacy when it is robotically executed.
This third stage will cover all the subjects related to road procedures and reversing manoeuvres. The choice of the subjects is very flexible and will be determined by your interest towards one topic or another, provided that it is realistic and achievable.
In this phase you will cover the various types of signal and their use, all types of junctions, pedestrian crossings, dual carriageways, country roads and lanes, independent driving lessons, night driving lessons, multi-storey car parks, one-way systems and the use of the sat-nav.
It might seem that there is still a lot to learn but remember that a strong foundation has been already built with the development of your car control and observation skills.
At this point you should start to realize that you have ownership of your learning and really able to design your own training and driving lessons!
The driving instructor is in charge to provide a safe and controlled environment where you can practice whichever subject you choose. You will be encouraged to try out your ideas, to self-evaluate your performance and to find your own solutions to possible problems.
Important- the use of the training aids is crucial if you want to reduce considerably the number of lessons required to cover all the topics, thus making your training cheaper but it requires a bit of home study.