Driving Lessons (A Professional Guide) Part Two

Driving Lessons (A Professional Guide) Part Two

Driving Lessons (A Professional Guide) Part Two

Welcome to this second article in the series of learning to drive with a professional driving instructor. Driving Lessons

OK, so we have covered the reasons why your driving instructor may drive you to a suitable location, rather than you driving from your pick up point and why the choice of the first lesson route is so important. We also introduced something called cockpit drill and although it sounds like we are about to take flight, it’s just a simple name for a series of checks and adjustments.

If you have missed part one, then you can access the article here Driving Lessons (A Professional Guide)

The Palming Method

The Palming Method

Moving off Safely.

It’s crucial to understand each separate element of the moving off procedure to ensure both success and confidence is developed and maintained right from the start. It’s often at this stage that the parent – student relationship can deteriorate very quickly as many parents offer very sparse instructions to actually get the vehicle on the move and it’s often made far worse when the student is driving from home or an inappropriate location.

We will assume that the seats, steering wheel, head restraints and mirrors have all been set correctly to afford a comfortable driving position, maximize safety and give all round vision.

It’s generally very good practice to have a dry run with gears one and two. Having a little practice changing from 1st to 2nd gear using the ‘palming’ method while looking straight ahead and the car stationary will help with confidence.

Learning The ‘palming’ method will pay dividends when on the move and being distracted with other tasks. The palming method refers to pushing the gear lever with your left palm to the left and then pulling straight back. This will ensure the gear lever will not end up in fourth, which is quite common and can result in stalling the vehicle when moving at slow speed.

After a few attempts at ‘palming’ it’s also beneficial to practice while looking at something in the distance as many learner drivers feel they need to be looking at the gear lever to see what they are doing. This can be quite dangerous of course as we need the student to look where they are going.

Once we have the engine running, we can prepare to move off.

Bite point

Bite point

Before we check that it’s safe to move off, the first task is to select 1st gear using the palming method and bring the clutch to the ‘bite’ point. The ‘bite’ point can be achieved by gently bringing the clutch up with the left foot until a slight tugging sensation can be felt and a change of engine note detected.

Bringing the clutch up too far past the ‘bite’ point will lead to excessive vibration and will often lead to the engine stalling. Bringing the clutch up too quickly will often have the same effect.

One of the main reasons that learners ‘stall’ the engine is failure to understand this procedure properly and will often lead to a loss of confidence, especially if it happens in busy traffic.

Once the bite point has been achieved, the left foot should remain still while the right foot is used to ‘set the gas’. By setting the gas, we are referring to applying the accelerator until the engine note changes to a light humming, this will ensure enough power to move off. Most modern diesel engine vehicles will move off without gas although it’s good practice to apply some to make moving off a little smoother and quicker.

You will have noticed that when taking professional driving lessons, certain terms are used for tasks to be completed.

  • Cockpit drill – The adjusting of car seats, head restraints, seat belts and mirrors, also checking the doors are firmly closed.
  • Palming – The method of using the gear lever to avoid selecting the wrong gear
  • Bite point – Bringing the clutch up until it engages with the engine

It would be an advantage to learn these terms so that when you take professional driving lessons with a driving school, you will be familiar with them and their meaning.

Why find the bite point BEFORE checking to see if it’s safe?

Thing of the scenario where you are preparing to move off in a relatively busy road or close to a junction or corner. You check around and establish that all is safe but it could take you around 30-60 seconds to select 1st gear and find the bite point. Just as you look to move off, a vehicle could now be approaching during that time.

Moving off uphill.

Many learner drivers have a fear of rolling backwards when moving off on a hill.

Following the method of finding the bite point first will ensure the vehicle will not roll backwards. Depending on the gradient, you may need to bring the clutch up slightly higher and apply slightly more gas. This will ensure the extra power required to move the vehicle’s weight up the hill.

Now we have the correct gear selected and the clutch at bite point, it’s time to perform the safety checks before moving off.

moving off safely

moving off safely

Moving off Safely.

Generally speaking, the first check should be the interior rear view mirror to see if there is any danger from behind. You will need to be able to move off and build a little speed without forcing any other road users to slow down or change direction.

There is no point checking all around if you see a vehicle approaching from the rear that is too close.

Once you have established that there is no danger directly behind, a quick glance to your left to check for any pedestrian or cycle activity that might cause a problem, followed by a good look ahead to see how moving off may affect any other road user including pedestrians.

If all is ok, then a glance to your right and perhaps the most important check of all is your ‘blind spot’ check over your right shoulder.

The ‘blind spot’ check is another term used by professional driving instructors and one you will become very familiar with in the early days of learning to drive.

The blind spot refers to the area just to the right and behind you and It’s is easy to miss activity in this area. It could be a cycle overtaking, pedestrians crossing the road that may not know you are moving off or a vehicle just outside the range of your rear view mirrors. It is also a good idea during this check to look at driveways where a vehicle or pedestrian may suddenly appear.

Assuming that all is safe, you can now consider giving a signal with your right indicator.

Indicators are not always necessary and in some cases can lead to confusion.

If moving off will not affect anyone then a signal is not required, however if you have a vehicle waiting to emerge or move off in front of you or there are pedestrians waiting to cross the road, then a signal of your intentions could be useful.

Why not just signal anyway?

Think about the scenario where you are driving down the road, maybe on your bike or moped and you suddenly see a stationary vehicle apply their right indicator. Now the driver may not intend moving off in front of you, but it could force you to swerve or slow down. If the vehicle does not intent moving out in front of you, it would be better if they waited until you had passed by.

It is a much better practice to think and analyze whether a signal is required than simply adopting a robotic approach each time.

Moving off is something that you will quickly become more proficient at and as a result you will need less distance from other vehicles and less time to complete the maneuver.

Here at kelvin White Driving School, we encourage parents to offer private tuition wherever possible to complement the driving lessons we deliver.

The best possible way forward to maximize your lessons and to reduce the learning period is to practice what has been performed on your driving lessons to become more proficient. A signed lesson sheet will be provided for every lesson and will have full details of the tasks covered with comments on achievements and any areas that require further attention.

My objective in these first two articles is to show the difference between private tuition with mum and dad compared to those offered by a professional driving instructor. There are very good reasons why parents and their sons or daughters end up having massive arguments when learning to drive and it’s generally down to the level of tuition offered.

The more each task to be learned can be broken down and explained along with providing a suitable area to learn in, the more success is likely and the fewer arguments will take place.

Kelvin White Driving School has been providing local driving lessons in Somerset since 2001 and currently operate in the following towns:

Bridgwater, Taunton, Wellington, Ilminster, Tiverton, Dulverton, Minehead,  Exeter , Somerton. Weston Super Mare.

Burnham On Sea.

How to apply for your first provisional licence.

Clicking on any of the towns above will take you to the relevant page on our website for your area where you will find more useful information and contact details.

In this next article, we will cover changing gear and stopping safely.


Kelvin White Driving School Owner

Kelvin White Driving School Owner