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Master Driver

Joined: Mar 27, 2010
Posts: 209

PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2011 7:26 pm Reply with quote Back to top

This article will touch little mistakes and bad habits that I have encountered amongst drivers, mostly new drivers, and my solutions. Hope they can serve as aid for someone out there.

First comes the elementary philosophy behind the driving analysis (DA). Any advanced driving tutions starts with a short ride during which you are a silent observer. Based on a general impression, the driver can be rated from one to six. One being that the driver is responsible, observant, concentrated and only requires little "tweaks" to their driving. Two refers to drivers that make certain driving mistakes of fall into bad habits.

Three stands for when a driver makes bigger mistakes that require the instructors verbal commentary, four is when the verbal commentary is frequently required, five is for when physical intervention is required, and six is when such intervention was necessary frequently or in order to avoid a high-risk situation.

Lack of planning ahead
Drivers that fail to plan ahead fail so because they don't look as far ahead as they should. Mainly, this is developed over time, but some steps can help develop it:

- Increase awareness: Merely explaining this to the driver makes the biggest shift.

- Encourage smooth, early braking/acceleration: By looking further ahead, the driver can brake/accelerate/steer earlier and thus more gently. Therefore, if we force the driver to be gentle on the controls, this would induce further planning ahead.

- Check the driver: Asking them to identify objects in the distance (do you see the pedestrain) or to identify the color of a car or stoplight in the distance or to explain what they see in real-time. Essentially, you try to get the driver to plan his or hers actions "backwards" from the furtherst hazard to the nearest one.

- Another method of checking is to call out "eyes up" after any hazard is detected. The idea is that the driver is supposed to detect any hazard in the distance, plan their actions and look back up in search for the next hazard, while still dealing with the original one. So, you give the driver two-three seconds to plan their approach to the hazard and than order them to look further ahead.

- Cruising down an open highway at speed with the eyes peeled for the horizon, or cruising down a winding road with the eyes focused on the "limit
vanishing point."

- Closed-compound drills: Driving down a long slalom, with a person or alternative color phylon at the very end of the course, or with the lower third of the glass covered with something, can help. Driving around a "traction cirlce" with the eyes looking 90 degrees aside through the window, also helps.

- A brief tuition on a go-kart or track car helps keeping the eyes up.

- Pointing up and ahead towards the desired point of focus.

Sawing the wheel
An irritating tendency of rocking the steering back and forth, causing wear to the steering mechanism and a substantial loss of energy. A simple solution is to increase awarness, work on forward planning, but also to hold a pen just below the driver's wrist when driving down a highway, so any unwanted movement will meet the pen.

Steering Pull
Many drivers pull at the wheel while driving, either when they put the hand down to the gear lever (with a manual transmission) or look at the mirror. The solution is relatively simple. If the issue is with the gear knob, have the driver move his/her hand to the lever and back to the steering and so on, for several times. The same with glancing sideways to the mirrors.

When the driver actually pulls at the wheel, reach out and hold his/her hand or wrist. Don't grab the wheel itself so they don't surrender their control to you. You can hold their arm steady and effectivelly steer the car straight while the driver checks the mirrors each four-five seconds.

Peripheral Observation
Failure to observe the mirrors effectivelly, either due to infrequent mirror checks or an issue with short-term memory or focusing attention, which makes the driver stare at the mirror.

Again, the solution begins with raising the awareness to how frequenly and how briefly mirrors should be checked. You can begin practicing this while stalled in the parking space. Count to five and quickly check the interior mirror, keep on counting to seven and check one of the side mirrors, return to forward vision and restart the counting.

You can combine this with an assistance running around behind your car and noticing his actions.The glances at the mirror should be quick enough, so that the driver can count to five, immediately glance at the mirror and be back to forward vision by the time he calls out six.

You can start practicing this on the road, first at slow speeds and in thin-traffic down a straight road, and increase the difficulty. Imaginating that you lead another driver (who does not know the area) and looking at the mirrors to ensure you see him, can help a lot!

You can test the driver by covering his view at the relevant mirror for a moment, and ask him/her if they can recall the color of the car seen in the mirror.

Signaling issues
Some drivers forget their signals on. The solution is to have the driver hold the wheel with two fingers put forward towards the anciliary controls (signals) and get a feel for their position. You can even audibly imitate the voice of the signal to make the driver more aware of when the signal is on or off.

Steering issues
You can get the driver accustomed of holding the wheel with both hands and at the 9-3 steering grip by having them simply sit about in the parking space with the hands fixated at 9 and 3. You can have the driver shut their eyes and focus on the hands at the steering and how it feels, or even have them take the hands off of the wheel and than reach out to it (again with the eyes closed) directly into the 9 to-3 position, or enter the car and immediately put the hands in those positions.

You can put some tape on some parts of the wheel, to ensure that the hands of the driver remain just where you want them. You effectivelly turn the subconcious movement of the palms into a concious movement by adding a dimension of feel. Also, a tuition on a go-kart, with the G-forces and exceptionally heavy steering mechanism will also encourage this method. Again, the solution of touching the driver's palms/arms and guiding them is also effective.

Keeping the driver's eyes in the right direction is really important. Have the driver fimiliarize themselves with any and all buttons and functions of the center console, shifter, radio, etc - while looking up and ahead (preferably with something to draw their attention to). You can test the driver (or yourself) by ordering him to reach out to a specific control/button, all while looking up. Any glancing down should be alerted by a quick call. You can now practice this on the move, first in slow speeds (in an empty lot) and than on the road.

One nice initiative I saw at the time was requesting a driver to complete a short course, with the sides of the course occupied by the other participants in the tuition, who were ordered to move around and make noise, and with the trainer inside the car also talking to the driver.
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