Friday, 21 January 2011

Why I don't teach Hill Starts...

There are many aspects of driving which pupils, instructors and other drivers build up to be huge issues for those learning to drive and one such aspect is that of hill starts.  Whilst I do understand the importance of being able to correctly pull away up a hill without rolling back or straining the clutch, I don't believe that it warrants being separated out as a particularly demonic aspect of driving.  So why is it often portrayed as such?  I believe the reason is two-fold; the possible consequences are more serious and any error, no matter how small, is exaggerated.

However, the actual process is very similar to any clutch/gas balancing act i.e., the clutch needs to be at biting point and there needs to be sufficient gas to prevent the car from stalling.  The difference with a hill start is that both need to be more accurate than pulling away on the flat. 

So for the good driver (and this includes learners), this shouldn't be any problem at all as long as the pupil's ability includes proper clutch control.  Good control of the car depends on good clutch control and it is an incredibly powerful tool.  Once mastered, such that the driver rarely has to think about it, this technique allows concentration on other aspects of driving, essential for the good driver.

So I encourage all my pupils to excel at clutch control both through driving, particularly in traffic, but also in the early days through a clutch exercise.  There is therefore no reason to single out hill starts for any special treatment as their clutch control is good enough to handle every situation and hills make no difference.

So does this mean that the handbrake becomes redundant?  Not at all, but what is the difference between pulling away from the side of a flat road and pulling away on a hill?  Nothing really, in spite of what some people think...

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