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What They Didn’t Teach At Driving School

More years ago than I really like to think about, I got a few lessons from a professional driving instructor before I went and sat the practical driving test for my licence.  To this day, I’m really, really good at three-point turns, which was the main skill that my lessons covered – as far as I can remember; it was quite a few years ago.

driver ed 4Driving schools and “proper” driving courses are usually great at covering the basic skills of driving – road rules, use of gears, use of brakes, watching out for hazards, changing lanes and so forth.  This is the sort of driver education most of us think about when the topic of training young drivers comes up. A few of us also think about the track-based courses, where you get to practice handling a car in a “risky” situation in a comparatively safe place.  They’ve certainly got their merits, if you’re lucky enough to have access and/or the funds to attend one of these courses.

However, there are a number of things that they don’t teach you in these courses.  They just can’t, for simple logistic reasons.  There are some things that you have to learn the hard way (hopefully not too hard!).  Things like the following:

  • Backing a trailer down a windy driveway.  I still can’t do this very well, although I don’t usually have to, as my other half is an expert at it. (Niche market, anybody?)
  • Coupling up a trailer, caravan or other thing to be towed.
  • Driving with a caravan or horse trailer on the back.  A lot of driving instructor vehicles tend to be little hatchbacks along the lines of Suzuki Swifts, which may explain this one.
  • How to tow another vehicle that’s broken down – and how to “drive” the car that’s being towed.
  • Driving at night.  Driving instructors have a life…  (More niche market potential here.)
  • Driving long-distance and learning how to cope with fatigue.
  • Driving in extreme weather conditions – heavy rain, frost, snow, fog, strong winds…  You can’t arrange what the weather is going to do during your scheduled slot, no matter how much you want to practice driving in wet weather.  I suppose a very good track-based course might be able to give some practical training in these under controlled conditions with the use of fog machines and fire hoses, but the cost of these would be through the roof.  I guess simulators might be able to do it but again, these are pricey.
  • Driving in extreme weather conditions while towing.
  • Driving through a mob of sheep or cows being moved down the road.

I was going to add driving a 4×4, as this was something I had to learn the hard way when my folks got a Mitsubishi Chariot, but there are proper courses for off-road driving in a 4×4 these days.

Where you learn to drive can also affect what’s covered by a “proper” driving course, as opposed to the teaching you get from your parents.  Teenagers learning to drive in rural areas get good at open-road driving, dirt roads and going through stock, but aren’t so hot at multi-lane roundabouts and parking in tight spaces. With urban teenagers, it’s the reverse.  So if you’ve got a teenager, make sure that you get them to drive in a lot of contexts.  As a parent of a teenager learning to drive, I’m certainly going to make sure that my son gets a go at all of these as much as possible.