For added fun, the instructor had just got a new car (the AA rotate the cars rather frequently). So of course what little muscle memory I had from the first two lessons was now completely off. The most jarring part of the change is that the carefully-learnt clutch bite point was now in a completely different location - the car I had for the first two lessons had the bite point somewhere in the middle of the clutch travel. On the new car, it's very close to the bottom of the travel, on a heavier pedal to boot, putting me back to square one for actually finding the bit point. The accelerator on the other hand now has a surprisingly large amount of dead travel before it starts to have any affect, and then it's a lot less sensitive than the old one. Not so much "scrunching your toes in a sheepskin rug" anymore!
The new car also has a 1 litre engine (down from the 1.6 of the old one) with what Ford call "EcoBoost" - which, looking at wiki means it's running on a 3-cylinder turbocharged direct-injection engine and is quite possibly more powerful than the 1.6 it replaced. That is the modern trend for cars - put in a tiny little engine so it's fuel-efficient, then stick a turbo on the front of it so it actually has some get up and go to it. The only real downside is in a few years when the expensive turbo needs replacing - and as pleaseremove knows well from having driven a diesel where this occurred, should the turbo go "twang!" then all of your horses run away. The new engine also has start/stop which is most disconcerting the first time you stop at a set of lights, put the handbrake on, take your foot of the clutch and everything goes quiet until you touch the clutch again.
Oh, and everything else is slightly different, has moved a little, or doesn't react in quite the same way. On the plus side, remembering the right gear is now easier - it's merely the speed divided by 10 (i.e. when doing 30mph I should be in 3rd).
Anyway, the lesson. The lesson proper started somewhere in south-west Fareham - probably Longmynd Drive - and began with a recap of last week's overview of handling junctions. We went through the list again as she discovered that not only had we not written it down (the AA give out a nice booklet for tracking progress), she had failed to give me any homework from the last lesson. I now actually have the list, and it is:
Speed - this splits into Stop (brake, clutch down, 1st gear) and Go (brake, find 1st/2nd gear)
Comparing with last week I see I mostly remembered correctly - Decide isn't actually a separate point, but goes with Speed. See, I'm remembering some of this!
We also went over stripes/chevrons on the road and what they mean. Now, the Highway Code has the following to say on this in rule 130:
Areas of white diagonal stripes or chevrons painted on the road. These are to separate traffic lanes or to protect traffic turning right.By the way, that "MUST NOT" is actually a legal requirement - while most of the Code (to quote Cap'n Barbossa) "is more what you'd call guidelines than actual rules", some of it does refer to actual laws and breaking those parts will result in points on your license (and these are not the sort that mean prizes). Anyway, we then went into this in a bit more detail and when it's appropriate to go through the stripes and when it's not. An example of when you should use them is in this junction at the bottom of Lee-on-Solent - the right turn is on to a one-way street. Now, the paint suggests that you should pull up to the second arrow but if you do so you'll struggle to make the turn, probably catch the kerb, and fail your test (did I mention this particular junction is on the way to the test centre and so all but guaranteed to be on the test?). But turning as soon as the middle lane is clear of hatchings is also a mistake, as then you'll be stuck at an angle across the first arrow and block traffic behind you (also scoring a driving fault if not a fail). The correct answer is to drive through the hatchings (which is legal as they only have a dashed border) and stop on the first arrow, with the car straight. That said, they're currently redoing this patch of road so hopefully they'll put something more sensible down by the time it comes to my test.
- If the area is bordered by a broken white line, you should not enter the area unless it is necessary and you can see that it is safe to do so.
- If the area is marked with chevrons and bordered by solid white lines you MUST NOT enter it except in an emergency.
The counter-example is when there's already a decent-sized turning lane, and the hatchings is merely to allow the lane to begin or even to provide turning space for other vehicles. She showed me an example (I can't remember where of) where the hatchings is there to provide turning space for buses. In those cases there's no need to use them as there's already plenty of space, and the end is in a much more sensible location. She then came up with a third example, when there's a staggered crossroads with the left turn coming before the right turn. In those cases there'll usually be a divider line in the middle of the turning lane, and you wait until you've passed that and it's now "your" lane (rather than the oncoming traffic's lane) before using it.
Basically, apply common sense and you'll be fine.
After that it was time to head off! I think I spent about an hour continually driving with the instructor navigating, reminding me about the mirror/signal/off gas/position/speed/look on the junctions, brake/clutch down/first gear/handbrake(keep your hand on the handbrake!)(except when the road is level enough to not need it)/find bite point/go when pulling away, nudging me to change gear/speed up/slow down, look around, don't drift into the kerb, don't drift into the cycle lane (I've yet to get a feel for where the sides of the car are beyond "somewhere over there" for the left and "somewhere thereish" for the right)... though it was a lot more manageable than last week.
I'm reminded a bit of both times I had a go on the English Electric Lightning simulator down at Tangmere Military Aviation Museum (approximately, Microsoft Flight Simulator wired up to an actual Lightning cockpit - but no less fun for that) - the first time I was all over the place on it, concentrating very hard and failing at a smooth level "flight", and completely missed the runway at the end. The second time, everything went a lot smoother, I found I wasn't working as hard at it, and generally had a much better time.
Anyway, back to driving. The journey had a good mix of roads, junctions and roundabouts (still treating them as junctions). Let's see... we headed into Stubbington along Peak Lane (reaching 60mph for a bit!) before taking Stubbington Lane towards Lee-on-Solent and continuing along the seafront until it turned inland and morphed into Privett Road. Then right into Browndown Road, right at the roundabout into the twisty turny Stokes Bay Road, before heading into a veritable maze of side roads in the Stokes Bay area of Gosport. Eventually we escaped along I think Rowner Road, took a left at the roundabout into Broom Way heading back to Lee-on-Solent, a few more twists and turns and we were back on the seafront heading north-west this time. We retraced our route into Stubbington before heading right out along the Gosport Road (and finally sorting a bit of terminology out - when my instructor was saying "push into the corner", what she was talking about was pushing down on the gas as I go round and out of the corner - simples!), picking up Newgate Lane and trundling north into Fareham and the A27 crazyabout.
Which I successfully made my way around and out the correct exit on (this must be about the only roundabout where to go right-but-not-that-right, you start by going extreme left on what feels like a filter lane). Go me!
Next week: roundabouts for reals! And this time I have some homework (which I think she meant to set me last week): reading up on rule 186 of the Highway Code, which is all about manuervering around roundabouts.