|Practise, practise, practise!
||[Sunday 22nd June 2014 at 10:55 pm]
I'm a bit behind on the driving lesson writeups, but better late than never?
The lesson err... nearly three weeks ago introduced me to the last main topic: emergency stops. This is not quite as simple as TV would have you believe - if you stamp on the brake pedal you'll lock the wheels and skid even with all the ABS wizardry in modern cars, as you've just applied too much braking pressure too quickly for it to cope with. Instead the trick is to press down firmly on the pedal, and then you can just keep your foot there until the car has stopped. Then remember to select neutral and put the handbrake on (according to my instructor everyone forgets this when they first learn emergency stops - myself included!). Oh, and also brace yourself against the steering wheel so you don't headbutt it.
Back in times gone by the examiner would whap the dashboard with his clipboard when he wanted you to do an emergency stop, but that's generally considered inadvisable these days unless you want a faceful of airbag. So now they get you to pull over (as they do before you demonstrate any manoeuvre), explain that they want you to demonstrate an emergency stop, and that they'll just say "Stop!". Then after you've demonstrated the emergency stop, the examiner will go "thank you boggyb, I will not ask you to demonstrate this again". This is to avoid people screeching to a halt should the examiner then say something like "stop at the junction" (yes, this really happens).
The week before last we did a test route around Gosport, wherein if this had been an actual test I'd have failed early on as soon as I pulled over and stopped. This was because my instructor asked me to pull over, I signalled left while looking for a space after a row of parked cars on my left... and discovered that at the end of the parked cars was a junction! Now, the correct way to handle that would be to either take that left turn or to cancel the signal and continue on (scoring a minor fault in either case, but you're allowed quite a few of those). Of course, I did neither and continued without cancelling the signal. Bzzzert, fail!
What I should have done is not signalled left at all until after I'd passed all the cars, *then* signalled only after I'd spotted somewhere to stop. I need to work on the whole pulling up at the side of the road thing - I made exactly the same mistake last month! One day I'll get it.
The rest of the test route was mostly straightforward, apart from another parking-at-the-side-of-the-road where while I got my signals right, I ended up in an awkward place opposite a junction. In retrospect I could have fitted in after the first parked car on the left but probably hadn't slowed down enough, so I should have just continued forwards. As my instructor comments I in theory have the knowledge needed to get myself out of trouble, I just need to remember and apply it.
I also had another go at turning in the road, this time in the narrowest road that I might be tested in. Well, I say narrow... it's still got a lane each way, but that's about it and they're not particularly wide lanes. I'm not sure I'd have liked to try it in an Alfa, but that said it wasn't too bad in the Ford Fiesta I'm learning in - just fast-paced as you run out of space rather quickly! A bit of background for non-Brits: here in the UK the older housing estates especially are full of narrow twisty turny roads, which these days have cars parked along one or both sides just to make things fun. My parents' road in particular has turned into a slalom course with cars on alternating sides, to the point where ambulances can no longer fit through!
Last week: yet more practice! And I finally got to check off "Mirrors - vision and use", "Roundabouts", and "Parking" (well, the reversing half) in my AA booklet. Slowly but surely I'm getting there...
Let's see... I did turning in the road (this time in a nice wide road with about half-a-lane-width worth of chevrons in the middle, left reverse round a corner, bay parking (where I finally got myself lined up perfectly), and I think parallel parking as well (unless that was the week before?). The left reverse was actually a sort-of penalty for fluffing *another* parking at the side of the road, though less spectacularly than last time - I'd signalled left while passing parked cars as I'd spotted a gap after them, only to discover that the gap contained a junction. So what do you do? Well, you take the turning, and then park somewhere in that side road, which I went ahead and did.
With the bay parking, after I'd parked we then got out and I had my first look under the bonnet of the Fiesta. This is because the test these days includes a "Show me, tell me" where the instructor will ask you a pair of questions on car safety checks - one where you have to show him something, one where you just tell him something. These include checking the various fluid levels - engine oil (check when cold), brake fluid, coolant (which is often pressurised, so refill when cold), and screenwash (which in the Fiesta has no min/max markings or warning light, so you just keep a bottle of water handy and top it up regularly).
I was also going to try forwards bay parking, but while we were peering at the engine a parking warden turned up and started wandering around checking tickets. So we skedaddled instead - they don't take too kindly to learners practising at parking without having tickets!