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Roadrunner Baby – Probationary Driving

Quite rightly, the driving schools of Britain do a great job of instructing learner drivers. The Driving School of Mum & Dad still has a part to play but there’s no substitute for professional training from those who know; but trainers can only do so much because there is simply no substitute for experience. New drivers might be trained to go on the road but are they really ready for the road?

Anyone who has ever passed their driving test will remember the ensuing euphoria; the smiling faces, the celebratory drink – it’s a great day because, and this is especially true of young people, it signals an end, if you like, to parental restriction as the open road and freedom beckons.

That night you get very little sleep. You know that outside your car awaits. The morning dawns bright and clear and, eschewing breakfast, you grab the keys, rush outside, jump into your trusty steed, put the key in the ignition (if you think your dad is going to stump up for key-less entry and go then think again) and start your engine! Suddenly, you notice something: all the cars rushing down the street are going at bizarrely abnormal speeds and they are all being driven by Wile E Coyote and he wants to kill and eat you. You look around for the comforting face of your instructor; hopelessly you scan the passenger foot-well for dual controls… Baby Driver, you’re on your own.

Older drivers will have long since forgotten that trepidation the first time you pull out into traffic. The memory of that first stall at an inappropriate moment and the sneering leer of the driver you have just impeded for ten seconds as if it was all life and death. Rightly, you are on full alert. Someone nearby is quietly chanting ‘mirror, signal, manoeuvre’ in the manner of a medieval monk and only later do you realise it’s you. It’s a nerve-wracking time.

There’s a strong case for a mandatory probationary driving licence for, say, three months after the test. New drivers might not care to have a giant green P emblazoned on their motor (P is for Pathetic!) but, increasingly, it seems essential that certain restrictions be placed on any new driver – of any age – so that they can concentrate on the job of learning about real world driving without distraction.

It is already against the law to use a mobile phone when driving but this doesn’t seem to stop a lot of experienced drivers from doing it anyway. What sort of example do you think that sets you demented, brainless halfwits? Also, perhaps it would be a good idea to allow only one passenger on board and that person should be a full licence holder too. A car load of people can be distracting, especially if you’re having a laugh – we’ve seen the results of this, usually in the form of small fading shrines at the side of the road.

The answer is to face your fears and conquer them. Drive as much as possible and get some miles under your belt. To remove that trepidation and improve your driving skills a new driver could maybe fit a black box monitor or even participate in schemes like Pass Plus. This gives more 6 hours of practice alongside an instructor. This will help build confidence and improve skills. Yes, it is even more expense but look at the long term prospects for your insurance premiums.

Up and down the land new drivers are honing their skills; sweaty hands gripped tight on the wheel, eyes swivelling like pinballs. The crucial thing to remember is that you are not alone. See those flashing lights in the mirror…?
Geoff Maxted