Odd situations in driving instruction
By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, July 21st 2017
In the past few decades, many drivers, having lost the use of their legs, have requested a driving lesson to familiarize themselves with hand controls.
In every case, these drivers, although experienced, make the same mistake upon initial introduction to hand control of the gas and brake.
Standard hand controls require a forward movement of the control arm on the left side of the steering wheel to activate both the accelerator and brakes.
Pushed forward, hand controls activate the brakes, while pulled toward the driver, they provide acceleration.
This is the exact opposite of the natural tendency to push forward to advance and pull back to slow or stop.
In all the years I have been teaching people this type of transition, every single candidate has confused the push-pull action at least once or twice.
For this reason, it’s best to begin such instruction in an open area as opposed to a confined space.
One question frequently posed by rookies is: What makes the vehicle go? The more important question is probably: What makes it stop?
It has always puzzled me that a teen who has been sitting beside a seasoned driver for about 16 years has never actually seen what makes the car go and what makes it stop.
When teaching a rank beginner to use the gas and brake, it is very important to be prepared for the seemingly inevitable gas-brake mix-up.
Learners all begin by releasing the brake pedal to make the vehicle go forward and depressing it to make the vehicle slow or stop.
During this drill, many students who have never been behind the wheel of a vehicle will get the feeling that the release of the brake will make them go and the other pedal, namely the gas pedal, will make them stop.
This happens when the new student gets stressed and makes an uncharacteristic quick stomping action on the gas pedal in order to stop the vehicle quickly.
Most of these types of errors can be avoided by staying well ahead of the student with exact instructions.
Many beginners believe the vehicle, once stopped, will stay stopped, and release the brake only to feel and see the car move forward once again.
This is when the thought process might very well result in the learner hitting the gas pedal.
Some new drivers believe the steering wheel controls both the front and back wheels of the vehicle.
I remember trying to show a student that the back wheels did not turn in such a manner.
The student watched me do a slow turn from the vantage of a curbed boulevard and promptly exclaimed: “The back wheels do turn less than the front.”
It’s amazing how many inexperienced students think the steering wheel, once turned, comes back on its own.
This is probably because they see parents turning effortlessly and letting the steering wheel return on its own with the slight guidance of a light touch on the steering wheel.
Many novice drivers want to do the right turn first, when learning to drive.
This is not the best sequence.
The left turn is wider and involves a greater margin for error.
The right turn is sharper and is much more difficult.