Common Driving Faults Part 2
In my first blog concerning common driving faults whilst learning to drive I discussed how to steer and how to avoid stalling. In this part of the blog I will discuss changing gear and stopping alongside the kerb. Fundamentally I need to express the importance of driving in a relaxed manner and not to worry about making mistakes whilst learning to drive. Remember, your driving instructor is trained to keep you safe and to facilitate your learning.
Your instructor should choose suitable training areas in which to practice your new skills and give you ample opportunity to keep repeating the lesson in order to ultimately succeed in becoming a competent and safe driver for life.
So lets discuss changing gear
I advise all my students to exhale when changing gear. The natural thing to do when you take your left hand off the wheel to change gear is to hold your breath. Unfortunately this will lead to body tension and you are more likely to grab the gear stick tightly and try to force it into gear. Exhaling will calm and slow you down so that you can take your time. I advise using a method called palming to change gear whereby the palm of your hand guides the gear stick.
For 1st gear you need to cup the gear stick with your thumb facing downwards. Once you have this hand position then push the stick all the way to the left (the stick should hit an imaginary brick wall). Once there, slide the gear stick up feeling this ‘brick wall’ all the way.
2nd gear is exactly the same hand position again sliding down the brick wall whilst pulling down.
3rd gear using the palm of your hand guide the gear stick up to the middle position. Once in the middle with a light touch on the gear stick you should feel it spring into the centre position. Once in the centre position use a second motion pushing the gear stick upwards again using the palm of your hand.
4th gear is straight down.
To get into 5th gear is the opposite of 1st gear. You need to turn your hard whereby your thumb is facing upwards and you need to push the stick all the way to the ‘brick wall’ on the right before sliding it upwards.
In summary, using the palm of your hand and not grabbing the gear stick will mean you will feel its position and will always get it into the gear you want. Never look at the gear stick to check if it is correct. Firstly this is because you don’t want to take your eyes off the road and secondly this is because your eyes could deceive you as 3rd for example could look like 1st!
Pulling up alongside the kerb is often daunting as nobody wants to hit the kerb. An idea position to stop is around three to six inches from the kerb as this avoids all the debris in the gutter which could damage your tyres. This would be plumb in the middle of the painted line if there is one. To get there you shouldn’t look directly at the kerb as staring at the kerb will lead you to either slam straight into it (you go where you look), or you will stop a metre away from it as by trying to look at it and not being able to see it properly you will think you are closer than you are. Your driving instructor can help you with a reference point here by looking ahead whilst parking.
As with everything you do whilst learning you must not put pressure on yourself to get everything right first time. Practice makes perfect.