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Second driving lesson - 'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Thomas

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Second driving lesson [Tuesday 18th March 2014 at 8:05 pm]
Thomas

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So today was my second driving lesson (that's why I didn't answer the phone, pleaseremove). And this time, I drove back most of the way from Lee-on-Solent to my flat afterwards!

As I type this an hour afterwards I'm still a little overwhelmed by it all - it was simultaneously amazing and terrifying driving along the seafront and up towards Fareham in real live traffic doing 40mph, negotiating roundabouts, junctions, traffic lights, while trying to watch out for BOB (boy on bike) and TOM (twit on moped) and not drift into the kerb or oncoming traffic. Oh, and not to mention keeping control of the speed, making sure I'm in the right gear (and not finding 5th instead of 3rd (oops) - though I did catch one moment when I went for 3rd and somehow ended up in 4th), signalling correctly, putting on the lights part-way through, stopping correctly at junctions and pulling away at a reasonable pace, finding the clutch bite point quickly, ... *wibble*. And this is only in the 4th hour of lessons!

Anyway, the lesson. Once arriving in Lee-on-Solent it was time to go through the cockpit drill (which I managed without having to refer to my notes, only getting a couple of the seat adjustments in the wrong order) before going over junctions. There's an awful lot to take in and I think some of it did go straight in one ear and out the other, but let's see what I can remember...

The first two - left and right turn into a side road - both followed the same sequence:
Mirrors (check mirror in the direction you're turning and rear view mirror)
Signal
Position (stay in middle for a left turn, move to the right of the lane for a right turn)
Speed (slow down, prepare to stop if necessary)
Look (look to see if there's any parked cars, if there's anyone waiting to turn, if there's pedestrians about to cross, if there's ninja stealth motorcyclists buzzing around, ...)
Decide? I honestly can't remember what the last one was.

And then as you turn into the road look down it to see if it's clear. I'm sure there was more but typing this now my mind is completely frazzled. Oh, there's also lining up for the turn - for a left turn you follow the curve round, for a right turn it gets more interesting. If it's clear then you move forward until your wing mirror is lined up with the white line down the middle of the side road and then turn. If there's oncoming traffic then you stop at that point and wait. But... if someone wants to exit then you stop earlier (with the wing mirror lined up with where the kerb starts to turn?). But... if there's an obstruction on the left-hand side of the side road and the right-hand side is clear then it can be easier/safer to cut the corner.

I don't think I had to tackle a right turn into a minor road, though I did all the rest at some point.

Next was turning out of a side road. Again there's mirror/signal/position/speed/look/whatever, though this time as you don't have priority then as you approach the junction it's foot off the gas and over (but not on) the brake. Use the brake to slow the car (but not too much!), then as the give way triangle disappears from view press down on the clutch and brake to a stop. The way to line up for it is not to stop once the give way line disappears (as there's still plenty of space in front), but instead to stop when the line is lined up in your peripheral vision with the wing mirror. Then either put the handbrake on, or if the junction is level enough you can just lift off the brake and the car will stay put (yes, I know you could hold it uphill on the clutch but that'll come later!). There was another tidbit she mentioned, for when driving in fog - if the road has no central line until the junction starts, then the line is as long as the braking distance at the speed limit. Useful, that.

Anyway, where you position the car for the turn depends on the direction. For a left turn out of a minor road you follow the kerb round as you approach the line (being angled gives the driver a slightly better view), while for a right turn you position yourself in the right-hand side but stay pointing straight. Look left and right and left and right until it's clear (watching out especially for ninja stealth motorcyclists that will embed themselves in your car), then pull away.

Oh, and while this is all going on you need to be making sure you're in the right gear. That said, the current teaching for slowing down is *not* to change down through the gears but to first slow, and then move directly to the gear you want. So it's merely rather complicated instead of very complicated. There's also another thing to watch for, which is when finding the bite point to make sure there isn't someone right behind you that you might roll back into.

What else... oh, next was a bit about stopping the car. To pull up at the side of the road, check mirrors and signal, then steer towards the middle of the space you want to be in. When that point reaches the lower third of the windscreen, straighten out and stop. Simples! (not at first). There was also a bit about smoother braking - the rather counter-intuitive trick is to reduce the brake pressure rather than increasing it as the car slows. It makes sense once you think through the physics of it and consider that as you come to a halt your foot will be hard down on the clutch (so there's no engine power to the wheels), but takes a bit of getting used to.

I think that was about it. I then did a few laps of somewhere round the side of Daedalus airfield (err, Milvil Road, Norwich Place, Kings Road, Nottingham Place... or somewhere like that)... and then the really scary part, which was with me in the driving seat as I drove to Fareham! That's all a bit of a blur now, but looking at the map the route would have been south-east along Marine Parade, *somewhere* through Lee-on-Solent or Gosport (did I take Cherque Way/Broom Way or did I go up Grange Road and then along Rowner Road? I honestly have no idea), then up Newgate Lane, not over the flyover but instead down Palmerston Road, and finally on the A32 into Fareham before pulling off into a side road before the Quay Street crazyabout.

Then relax and let some of the adrenaline fade away. I know there's still much to work on - properly negotiating roundabouts for starters (we pretended they were normal junctions), getting a better sense of speed and position, situational awareness, and remembering to put the handbrake on *before* taking my foot off the brake. But I drove 6 miles in real traffic today. Go me!

I must admit I honestly didn't think I'd be driving in proper traffic on my second lesson (even if they are 2-hour lessons). Next week, rather than the instructor driving down to Lee-on-Solent apparently it'll be me driving from work!
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