Thursday, November 6, 2008

Key facts for new drivers

Learning a new skill

Think about this: learning to drive is like learning to play a sport – for example, tennis.

First, you develop an interest and find out the requirements to play the game (how old must you be to drive, who can teach you, what the basic rules are, etc.).
  • You find a good coach (the driving instructor) and someone to practise with (your parent or older friend).
  • You learn the basic skills (steering, braking, turning etc.) and practise at the local level.
  • As you improve, you begin to realise there is more to it than you first thought. You need to learn how to position yourself to have time and space to react to opposition players; how to anticipate what other players may do; and how to cope with different playing surfaces and conditions. (You practise driving on different roads and at different times and in different conditions).
  • After lots of lessons and practice you are ready for greater challenges (freeways, night time driving, wet weather).
  • Eventually, after even more practice, you no longer need either your coach or your practice partner. (You gain your P licence).
  • If your skills begin to slip, for example, your backhand or overhead lob (reversing, changing lanes), you take another couple of lessons.
Ask yourself this:

Can you become good at tennis without practising?

If you described the game of tennis would you say it's only about the way you use the racquet?

Would you take up tennis and then compete in a big tournament after only a couple of lessons?

How much practice is enough when learning to drive?

Driving is more difficult than it first looks.

There is more to it than just handling the vehicle's controls and manoeuvring the car in and around the roads. (These are called the physical skills of driving).

There are a lot of decisions to be made while driving like ‘Who has right of way here? Can I turn left from this lane?’ and using the road rules. (These are called the cognitive or thinking skills of driving).

At the same time, you must look out for and manage unexpected hazards – such as other road users and changing weather conditions. (These are called perceptual or detection skills)

It takes a long time to put all these skills together and be a good driver.

In fact, most road safety experts warn that you will need at least 120 hours of driving practice.

That sounds like a lot, but it is not that difficult to build up to this number of hours.

Most young people have their learner licence for at least a year, and practising 2–3 hours a week is achievable.

Every time you are in the car you should be behind the steering wheel! Even short trips to school, work or sport can quickly add up to become lots of experience.

It is important that over the learner period every possible type of driving experience is practised. The support – and extra set of eyes – that your supervisor can give during practice drives is invaluable.

Make sure that the first time you come up against a difficult driving situation isn't when you are in the car on your own after gaining your 'P' licence.

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