Saturday 8 January 2011

It's all about attitude...

Belonging as I do to a number of forums where people talk about learning to drive, I am constantly amazed by the differing attitudes to aspects of driving.  Instructors tend to discuss points of law, driving etiquette and how to deal with unusual situations (or unusual pupils).  Pupils tend to discuss the incompetence of instructors or the personality disorders suffered by examiners - they are evidently not human!  Rarely do their own failings come up for discussion.  One thing that I find astonishing is the attitude with which some people approach learning to drive. 

People tend to think of learning to drive as an academic exercise which can be mastered by listening to an instructor or reading books or just watching other people.  I suppose this is not unexpected as the vast majority of learning done by people is done in this way.  However, driving is fundamentally different.  It requires constant, repetitive practice just to master the mechanics, co-ordinated control of the pedals, clutch, gas and brake, steering, observations etc.  For many people it is the first time that they have to specifically learn to use many parts of the body at the same time in a co-ordinated fashion.  Babies don't learn to walk by reading a book - they do it by constant, repetitive practice which involves failure as well as success.  It takes time!

Isn't it therefore amazing that people think they can learn to drive without practice?  So many times I am contacted by people who have their test booked and 'need a few lessons' just to get through the test.  They may be right; more often than not, they are wrong!  They may have the mechanics perfected but their road craft might be bordering on dangerous.  Their general driving may be fine but their manoeuvres would be better if they got out and pushed.  "I'm a safe driver - but I failed my test because I pulled out in front of someone on a roundabout" is a fairly typical statement made to instructors across the country.  It doesn't sound that safe to me...!

Trying to circumvent the learning process may work when studying for an exam but it doesn't when learning to drive.  It requires commitment and dedication, common sense and lots of practice.  Yes you may be able to do it without some of these but ultimately it will probably cost you more, take longer and you won't be a particularly good driver as a result.  Is it worth it?

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