Driving is a right of passage, for most it’s the first taste of independence we get (if you go for the whole ‘I just turned 17 give me a provisional and lessons’ thing)
And, if done right, driving is great…except if you live in Belfast and no one follows driving etiquette or … you know legal etiquette.
Luckily, my lessons were away from town and in more of a quiet (ish) area and I had a brilliant instructor. I took a long time to really grasp driving and took several breaks in between for personal reasons; work, moving, injury etc. But surprisingly and luckily, I passed first time.
I was one minor away from a fail, and one minor was almost a major fail, but I will get into that later. My test was easy (enough), I got easy questions, an easy maneuver so all that pressure wasn’t too bad once I realised what I was gonna be doing. BUT I was in traffic for the most part, I spent more time on the dual carriageway that I should of due to trying to avoid traffic and then it started to rain. So it was all new pressure, but luckily for me I didn’t have enough time to over think it, it was either sink or swim.
Before getting into too much too soon, here are my tips to pass, and keep at bay some of those minors that are easy to avoid:
1. Mirrors; They are one of the top ways of building up your minors and a possible fail. Your instructor can only go by what they see clearly and can definitely say that you did. SO, if you (like most drivers) do a quick glance to your mirrors without moving your head (because who moves their entire head to look at mirrors that are set in a position for you to easily see) then you will get minors, if not majors.
You’re mirror checks need to be clear, precise and obvious. So on that test make sure to turn and look and be seen looking.
2. Car distance: I got a lot ALOT of my minors by getting to close to cars. Not moving, wasn’t right up their boots or anything, I was stuck in traffic, and my parking behind them got a little too close. Realistically, it happens. When you are in slow moving traffic, people tend to get a little closer than the one car rule, especially in Belfast. If you leave a one rule (like you should) people tend to jump into that gap quickly, with no indication, and it can be very intimidating and scary for a new driver.
But on your test, you need to follow these rules, and if someone cuts in front handle it calmly and just make the right amount of space again. This won’t be helpful for most because in small town, or on mainland it is a very different story. Driving is far more easier and people will follow the rules more so it will ensure and allow you to follow them too.
But a tip to keep yourself straight and right, and to lessen your chance of a minor without leaving too big a gap for someone to take advantage of is; My test supervisor said it has to at least be “wheels and tarmac”. So as long as you can see the car in front’s wheel and some of the road, you should avoid that minor.
3. Panic and Pressure: THE BIGGEST THING is people letting pressure get to them, and most of the pressure is fear of the unknown.
What will it be like?
Who will be my instructor?
What route will they take me?
What maneuver will I get?
What questions will I get?
The list of question is endless, and the pressure builds up and gets bigger and makes it worse. But, relax, it isn’t that bad. Really, isn’t. You are safe! The instructor will be there for anything dangerous, it will literally like a lesson with less instructions. As long as you think everything through, take a breath before doing anything and as long as you do everything safely you will be fine.
4. Mistakes: People seem to think that you CAN’T MAKE ANY MISTAKES, this is not true. If you are doing your maneuver and you’ve over turned, or you didn’t time it perfectly, you can pull back out and try it again AS LONG as it is done safely, all checks are done and nothing is a hazard. Now, you don’t get unlimited lives at this. You could probably do this once or twice but after that it will be a fail.
But they aren’t looking for perfection that an experienced driver of 40 years can only do. They know you are a new driver, they know the pressure, they know a lot of these minor mistakes will be buffed out with experience. They just want to make sure you can do what a driver needs to do adequately, safely and aren’t a danger. That’s all. They aren’t looking to catch you out, or to trick you or make you do anything you should already be able to do. So take a breath.
5. Hesitation: My biggest thing was hesitation. Quite a few minors came from it, but the way I and my instructor saw it was; it’s better to get a minor for hesitation when I wasn’t sure if I could do something safely, than doing it half knowing and failing because it wasn’t safe. It’s better to be completely sure that you can do something safely and accept the minor. So my point is, if you feel it is not safe for you to go at a junction or roundabout then don’t. Don’t risk the fail when you can take the minor.
These are my most top 5 things to beware of. But I thought I would add in some ‘what you can do’ and ‘what you can’t do’s’ just for a little extra help:
Ask questions, clarify information, if you are unsure it’s not illegal to ask what they mean, clarify what they want you to do.
Adjust stuff in the car –now this is a little tricky. Most people won’t because they’re scared, or don’t want to lose concentration, but if you are too hot or too cold, need your window down and want to adjust your seat etc etc YOU ARE ALLOWED. If these things will hinder your driving, do not put up with it. Ask to pull over and readjust. They want to know this is what is affecting your driving unless you say, if they know you weren’t as focused because you were sweating your balls off but you safely sorted that out, no minors and you will look more like a competent driver. Say nothing and you look like someone that is distracted by nothing and can’t take instructions.
Saying what’s on your mind. I am a big ‘speaking to myself’ person. If I make a mistake, I normally say out loud and rectify it. Not everyone will do this, but it worked in my favour. Who I was with saw I knew I fucked up and next time round I did it right. If I was in the wrong lane I’d be like “You’re in the wrong lane Kirsty you FUCKING STUPID IDIOT WHAT THE-” Not really, but I would say oops wrong lane and change. He saw I knew I did a mistake that I wasn’t oblivious and reckless, so no minors. Sometimes if they see you know what you did wrong a realise it then they can understand and maybe you can skip a minor.
MIRRORS MIRRORS MIRRORS. I said before, but you always check your mirrors and blind spot. I almost failed on this because he couldn’t clearly see I checked my mirrors (even though I did) but I then noticed him not noticing me checking my mirrors and checked again clearly. Luckily, he said because it was low traffic there was no danger and I did eventually check so it was a minor, not a fail. But I knew there was no danger because I checked, but he needs to see you check. I really can’t stress this enough. Make them checks CLEAR.
What not to do:
Never take your hands off the wheel. Even when you are parked and waiting. One hand must ALWAYS remain on the wheel.
Never rely solely on your foot brakes. Always apply your handbrake when stationary for more than 5 seconds. Once again tricky one, know when to use your handbrake. If you are stopped and will be stopped for more than a few seconds use it!
Never approach a roundabout quickly, no matter how clear or empty it looks. Always slow down and be prepared to stop! The amount of people I know that failed because they saw a clear roundabout, sped up to make it, and didn’t. ALWAYS BE PREPARED TO STOP. This goes for traffic lights, zebra crossings etc. Hazard perception is a massive thing here.
Never go over the speed limit. NEVER. I think in the law it says 5 miles under or over the speed limit is acceptable before it is serious. You will likely be stopped doing 35 in a 30 zone if its consistent, but chances are slim. Speed fluctuates all the time, so never going over 30 in a 30 zone with a long straight road isn’t realistic, you will notice you’ve went over and slow down all the time. That’s why it’s 5 over and under. BUT in your test, if you are over the speed limit at any point even by a smidge you will fail, and if you stay at 20 in a 30 zone you will fail. Speed limits are a big no no to break.
Never stop for someone when you have right of way. Realistically, yet again, if you see someone waiting at a junction for ages sometimes you go slower to allow them past, or stop to let them go. It’s nice, it’s curiosity, and it’s being a decent person especially when traffic is bad and they’ve been waiting awhile. I do it a lot if I know I need to stop anyway at a red light, I’ll let one car go if they’ve been waiting. It’s nice, makes me feel good and most of the time they will pay it forward. BUT in your test it will make them think you don’t know who HAS right of way and who DOESN’T. You could fail for stopping and letting people across when they’re struggling, or letting a car go. Being a good human will make you fail. So be selfish and go for it.
Overall, just don’t stress. Be calm, think things through, take breaths, do everything safely and follow the rules. As long as you can prove you aren’t are danger, can see hazards and prevent them and follow the rules, you will pass no problem.
Obviously on the day anything can happen, weather, traffic, one bad driver, one bad supervisor. Anything. Most of it comes down to luck and knowledge. Just don’t take chances, and if you fail don’t see it as a bad thing.
You’re better to fail and need more work than to pass and realise you’re out of your depth and can cause a danger. If you aren’t ready your not ready, driving isn’t something to be taken lightly.
I hope this has helped, gave you some ideas and hasn’t been too dwelling to read. Drive safe.