Automatic Driving Lessons
You have a better chance of passing GCSE MATHS than passing your Driving Test!
In 2014 62% of students got GCSE Maths grades A* to C, whereas, nowhere near that number passed their driving test.
In fact more than half the people taking their driving test fail it!
The majority of people learning to drive often believe that if they do the driving test in an automatic they will pass sooner, needing fewer lessons. The mistaken belief is that if they don’t have to operate the clutch and gears then driving is easy and the driving test is easier to pass.
The problem with this idea is the statistics don’t support it. The above chart shows driving test pass rates for manual and automatics taken at Bletchley Driving Test Centre from 2007 to 2014. Bletchley carries out on average 7,000 driving tests per year, of which around 10% are done in an automatic.
Besides there being a general trend downward on driving test passes in Bletchley, both manual & Automatic, it is clear that the pass rate in a manual is significantly greater than it is in an automatic. In fact, since 2012, automatic pass rates have plummeted and in the year 2013/14, around 6-7 out of every 10 candidates taking their driving test in an automatic failed it! Why, if automatics are supposedly easier?
Why are so many failing their test anyway, whether manual or automatic? In my experience, people approach their driving test like they would a Maths GCSE. They rely on fixed "formulas" when dealing with situations they meet on the driving test. However, the actions you take must be flexible and fit the situation you find yourself in; you can make different actions on the same piece of road at different times simply because the situation changes. Do the same action every time, regardless of the changing situation and in some cases it might fail your test. For example, you find yourself on a 30mph road with a school. At 10am, 30mph might be appropriate since all the children are probably in class. At 8:30am, 30mph might be too fast if there are children around, as they may step into the road. It is your job to make a judgement as to the appropriate speed for the conditions that you see.
It is very easy for candidates on test to think "I will fail for driving too slowly" and stick to 30mph regardless of the conditions. Don’t use inflexible "rules" to make your decisions, use your judgement to fit the conditions.
It’s "judgement" that’s the real issue. In your driving lessons you need lots of practice at using your judgement in varying driving conditions, to be confident you can take the right actions in any situation. Using your judgement to make the right decisions is the key to passing the driving test and being confident that after the test you will cope safely, driving on your own!
When first learning to drive, all students focus on use of the controls; the clutch and gears; coordinating gas, brakes, steering, indicators and gear changes is a huge workload to begin with.
After around 10hrs of practice, these coordination actions become "natural" and automatic. They are done without conscious thought, like walking, writing, catching a ball etc. This now allows the student to concentrate more on observing the world around them and make judgements about the hazards coming up.
This is when training moves from easy practice areas to more complex areas and the instructor gradually gives more responsibility to the student to make decisions. As the student becomes more proficient at assessing a variety of situations, they become more independent and ready for the driving test.
For some learners, the transition from consciously thinking about the controls inside the car, to focusing their attention on the world outside is a big step. Consequently, as they move to more complex training areas they are presented with an information overload. When they make errors and the instructor intervenes it is often interpreted by the student that they are not using the controls correctly, when in actual fact they are not interpreting the the external situation correctly and taking appropriate action for what’s coming up.
Without exception, learners feel it’s the gears that is the problem and if you remove the gears you remove the problem. Unfortunately, this isn’t what I observe. The learner still struggles to cope with the dynamic world around them even without the gears; they fail to see road signs, lane markings, direction signs, vehicles on either side, pedestrians etc. etc. By not assessing all the information, they often make the wrong decision or they resist making any decision at all. No decision is always wrong!
On the driving test the examiner hands total responsibility for the driving decisions to the candidate. If you aren’t comfortable with making your own decisions about your speed and position then you will force the examiner to intervene in the interest of road safety and you will continue to fail your test. In my experience, the reason automatic pass rate is lower, is because the type of driver that chooses an automatic, struggles with making driving decisions. It is rarely gears that’s the real issue.
When the real issue is addressed there is more success with the driving test.