South Meath Driving School

Making Irish Roads Safer

We use a 1.4 litre Toyota Yaris.

    Dual control means the tutor has a clutch and brake pedal on the passenger side for demonstration or emergency purposes.
    This car is very easy to drive and allows good vision in all directions.
    Diesel engine and manual gears.
    Seats are adjustable to suit small or tall people. Wing mirrors electronically adjustable
    Perfect for learning to drive.

Archive for the ‘Learning to Drive’ Category

Posted by Louis on March 23, 2012

Not All Agree With the ‘Essential Driver Training’ Programme

Not too many will remember a little shimmozle at the Custom House on the 26th of October this year when there were a few verbals showered  in the direction of no less gentlemen than Leo Varadkar, Transport Minister, the Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan and the RSA CEO, Noel Brett. Well then, the short-lived drama was over as quickly as it started. It made an appearance on that evening’s RTE News at Six and it must have alerted some of the aforementioned people.

The protagonists were ADIs (Approved Driving Instructors) and members of the GMB Union. The numbers totalled about 70, led by Eamonn Coy. The GMB appears an unusual Union for some ofour driving instructors to join. This Union is known as the National Union of General and Municipal Workers and was founded in 1924 in England and has a membership there of .6 million. In Ireland, it is based in Hollywood, Co. Down and represents its driving instructor members throughout the whole country. Coy is actively recruiting new members. I understand that membership is c.35eur annually.

Noel Brett refuses to meet Coy’s Union – it sounds or maybe rhymes a little like a Col. Eamon of  1930s fame! Apparently, Brett doesn’t see this Union to be an appropriate representative of its ADI members. The RTE snap shot mentioned above was certainly not a good advertisement for the Union as far as I observed. It was a very crude attempt in an effort to draw the attention of the RSA hierarchy and the public to their grievances.

In widely sent emails afterwards, Coy states that his Union and ADIs are a professional body aimed at bringing about necessary and responsible change to the current EDT, or driver training programme as set out by the RSA. He also thanks those who engaged in the protest saying they conducted themselves in a very professional manner!

Those little undercurrents flow unknown to the learner driver which is probably for the better. Their job is to learn to be a competent driver with a good attitude to safety and all other drivers out there. So what is Eamonn Coy concerned with?

There was no standard set down by the State for driving tests until 2007, yet the Irish Driving Instructors Association (IDIA) existed for decades preparing students for the Test. This Association was not recognised by the State as a legal setup, though its standard was the only one in existence and it was allowed to operate without official communication, advice or recognition. It was an unusual situation to have been allowed. Really it was a cry to the Government who were surely careless when, having set up the Driving Test system, they did not allow for a training standard either in written or practical form.

Then in 2006/7 the Road Safety Authority came into being with the new formula for the driving test being made official in writ and instruction method. Stringent exams had to be passed by the new instructors. Those who were in the trade, many for a lifetime, had not their experience or professionalism taken into consideration. Neither were they consulted on the new system that was manifesting. They expressed their opposition, to no avail.

Then in April this year those who did not have a Licence or Learner Permit had to undergo the EDT programme which entailed 12 compulsory lessons conducted by an approved driving instructor. It was the syllabus as drawn up by the RSA that has irked Eamonn Coy and indeed many many driving instructors not linked to Eamonn.  There are a few gripes. The main one is the role of the Sponsor whose input is in supervising the learner between lessons with the instructor. This ‘sponsor’ is usually a parent or other family member or friend who will do ongoing practice sessions with the learner in consultation with the instructor. Questions being asked by the ‘Coy brigade’ range as follows:

*A sponsor is not a trained instructor, therefore should not be allowed play such official role.

*A sponsor may easily give incorrect instruction, or that contradicting the instructor, thus frustrating and confusing the learner.

*Who is legally responsible should there be a collision when the sponsor is practising with the                  learner, as advised by the instructor.

*Where family members are involved in such instruction/practice, it is too often dominated by disagreement/argument.

*The ADI has a dual controlled vehicle whereas the sponsor has no control over a car should an emergency arise.

*Lesson No. 2 moves too quickly and, among others, includes the following actions – cornering, negotiating junctions, changing lanes, entering and exiting roundabouts, correct position in traffic lanes.

One might easily conclude that it takes a good driver to manage such manoeuvres. Coy surely has a point, yet I find that it is the availability of the dual control system to the ADI that enables him to undertake such tasks.

Noel Brett has intimated that the EDT programme may be up for review within eighteen months to two years of implementation. Meanwhile, I doubt if the Coy corner will throw a white towel.

Posted by Louis on July 26, 2011

Bikers Endangered & Pointers on the Learner Permit.

The Road Safety Authority is urging motorcyclists, scooter and moped users to take greater care on the roads this summer. They are urged to wear the correct protective equipment at all times, even going to the local shop for the newspaper.

A stark statistic shows that motorcyclists represent 1 in 10 road deaths so far this year, despite making up less than 1 in 50 of the vehicle fleet on our roads. Up to July 14th, 11 have died plus one pillion passenger. This toll bears worse news over the past week-end when two more motorcyclists died, at Cellbridge and Kilalla. These were two seasoned bikers in their late thirties and early forties. The figures show that bikers are three times more likely to be killed on Irish roads than their counterparts  in Europe.

In the event of a crash, a motorcyclist has little chance of survival. Warm weather may entice riders to leave off the heavy protective gear. T-Shirts and trousers are of little use when the big bang suddenly arrives. Doing a tumble off your motorbike at 50 k/ph, without protective gear, is similar to falling off a second story building into a cheese greater, the experts tell us.

I’m glad that there’s a much more stringent driving test for bikers now. At least it should make younger learners aware of the dangers, unlike too many of those who feel they have ‘graduated.’  The antics that some bikers get up to wouldn’t compare to those of the brilliant entertainer, Martin Griffin, who performed heroics at the Kells Festival recently. Martin is a highly trained performer/entertainer/ stuntman who has performed all over the world, makes a living out of it and survives. One difficult task that he undertakes is balancing the bike on the front wheel as he makes his rounds. Despite his prowess, backup and training, even he took a tumble at the Kells venue. But, he had the proper protective gear and it went almost unnoticed, so quickly was he back up on his machine without a scratch. The truth is that too many bikers get up to antics that are more suited to the Griffin man, like speeding and riding on the rear wheel while doing high speed. It’s a great thrill but it’s only a fleeting one, whereas the pain of a fatality is borne for life by those left behind.

Research shows that half of all crashes involving motorbikes are caused by other drivers. As a bike rider is much less visible than cars or lorries on the road, other drivers should be on the alert for them, check mirrors before making turns, especially to the right and at roundabouts.

Bikers should ensure to follow those basic rules – wear protective gear, helmet, gloves, body armour on the elbows, knees, shoulders and hips. On the outside, wear a high visibility vest and footwear that protects the ankles. Service the bike regularly. Bikers should keep in mind that each week twenty riders or pillion passengers are killed or injured on Irish roads. With the weight of such statement, let you not be one of those twenty next week. Change an attitude and save a life.

Many applicants for the Learner Permit are finding themselves very disappointed at being in the new regime of Essential Driver Training (EDT). Where a Theory Test was passed before that deadline of April 4th, many were of the opinion, or incorrectly informed, that they then did not have to undergo EDT. That is incorrect and the watermark is the procurement of the Learner Permit before the 4th of April this year. Therefore, the passing of the Theory prior to that date is immaterial.

Another misconception I’m hearing about is where an applicant applies for the Learner Permit and assumes that s/he can then practise driving on the public road. Let it be known that such person may be driving while uninsured, as a Permit or Licence must be held before insurance is valid. Many problems may arise with an application for a Permit, such as the file being incomplete, like photos, fee, identity, medical report etc. falling short. The process may take many weeks in such case, so, until the Learner Permit is in your hand, don’t drive. The day of submission of the file to the motortax office will not be the date of issue of the Permit and even where the Council forward a receipt for the fee and application, that does not equate to the Permit which is the legal document required to drive.

Posted by Louis on June 30, 2011

How to Parallel Park

Posted by Louis on May 3, 2011

Turning Right at Traffic Lights

It may seem a simple manoeuvre, turning right at traffic lights, but, only a small minority of drivers do it correctly. The first driver in line, call him ‘A,’ is stopped at a red light which then changes to amber and green, (this is a round green as distinct from a filter, or green arrow.) The line of traffic coming against ‘A’ has right of way as they have the same round green light. ‘A’ should move to the centre of the junction and wait until there is a break in traffic, approximately opposite the centre of the road into which he intends to enter. Sometimes there will be no break in the line of oncoming traffic, so the traffic light changes to amber and red. What then is the correct move for ‘A’ to make?

Simply go; turn right and away. This is one instance when it is legal to drive through a red light because ‘A’ is deemed to be in charge of the junction at that stage. The problem that arises here are twofold. Observing drivers in those situations, ‘A’ more often than not will incorrectly wait back at the Stop Line when the light turns green, thus losing an opportunity to progress if the light changes to red before he gets away. The second error is made by one or more drivers who are stopped behind ‘A.’ When the latter moves to the centre of the junction and yields to oncoming traffic, those behind also move forward so that if the light turns red, they are all deemed to be breaking a red light and most likely obstructing the traffic on their right and left which has commenced to take off having got the green light.

Good driving is not about passing a driving test alone, but this is one area that can so easily go wrong in a test. A little bit of panic sets in, there may be a yellow box or there may not; the manoeuvre is the same, regardless of the yellow box. One of the better drivers I came across in some years was preparing for his test. He was driving so well that I told him quit taking lessons and we’d renew our acquaintance at test time. It’s a little risky declaring such good news to such individual, though I felt obliged. In the pre-test run, he had a clear round, in my estimation. Off he went with the tester in his 5-Series BMW. On his return he delivered the news to me that he had just one ‘X.’ I wasn’t surprised, yet I thought he’d have none. Then he revealed the impossible. It was a grade 3 or, red one  – he had just failed.

He made the cardinal error of following the first driver into the yellow box to turn right. He said that he knew instantly, when he stopped behind the first driver, that he had faltered. Quite a hard lesson learned. In fairness to him, he had a clean sheet at the second attempt.

It’s the little things in life that matter and even though my learner driver could acquit himself with the best, his concentration lapsed. But, no one died, neither was there an injury. Then again, isn’t that all that is required in any little crash or big crash – just a memory lapse.

Only nine people died on our roads during the month of April. That is a record low and the aim of all is to get the annual figure under 200: that’s a long way from the figure closer to 700 in 1978. Then look at the week-end tragedies where two 17 year olds were killed together in their car in the small hours of the morning. Without casting aspersions in the least, haven’t parents such a vital role to play in safeguarding their children, especially when it comes to driving. There’s a lot to be said for the curfew on young fellows especially, whereby they cannot drive between certain hours, like 10pm to 6am, as is the legislation in Canada and Australia. It was mooted here when the RSA were preparing new rules; there were many objectors and reasons not to include. Then, there are so many whereby it should be in force.

Drivers, spare a thought for our hedgehogs, slow down if one is observed crossing the road. I saw three killed on the Newtown Road over this long weekend. This is a 50kph road and it should be simple enough to avoid this beautiful little animal. I had one hibernating in a compost heap in my garden over the last few winters and pray it is not that met such a terrible fate. The humble hedgehog gets rid of garden pests in an ecological manner. Mind him, he’s your friend, whether you’re turning right or left.

Posted by Louis on April 19, 2011

How Do You Rate Your Driving?

Sara phoned me for driving lessons about two years ago. She was aged about 18 and a beginner. She completed five one-hour lessons and she told me that she would be in touch when she got in some practice and that she was in College.

Then, recently, Sara contacted me to tell me her Driving Test was due in a few weeks, so, she required some fine tuning. It was immediately obvious that the practice she had done, meanwhile, had brought her up to a high standard. She was now driving her own car.

The final chapter of preparation commenced –

Rules and checks; position vehicle correctly and in good time; comply with traffic controls; turnabout competently.

The Driving Test Report Form displays the list from A to Z. There’s some 99 competencies outlined in which a candidate must perform to a satisfactory degree. While I emphasise to all who come my way that the learning process is not just for the purpose of passing any particular examination, rather that it’s about achieving a high standard of driving and safety. Parallel to all that is the desire to just PASS! I could assess before her test that Sara should pass with room to spare. So she did, albeit with a few Grade 2 marks.

She was very happy with the outcome and so was I. She set off to drive to Trim and I accompanied her. I talked to her about complacency that can set in when one passes the test and how research shows that about 10% of those who have passed are involved in a crash within one year. We also talked about driving on a motorway, the rules and dangers involved. Sara was driving safely and confidently within the 80kph and all was well.

She passed Bective junction and on towards the new GAA grounds at Dunganny. For about two hundred metres distance at the entrance to this facility, there’s a clearly marked hatched area (in the centre of the road) with a centre lane to turn in to the right. There were two vehicles in front of us. Then a car that was following behind us indicated right and powered through the complete hatched area. Luckily, there was no traffic approaching, because that overtaking driver was quickly running out of space and would have difficulty getting back into the left lane. Sara raised an eyebrow and said nothing. Almost immediately, another car overtook us in a similar manner straight through that prohibited area. But, this driver hadn’t the same luck as the first. A car approached from Trim quickly curtailing this lunatic driver’s space but the latter continued on and squeezed in, in front of a car that was being overtaken, almost making contact with the right wing and forcing this other driver to pull back and make space. The car driver approaching from Trim also slowed, thus avoiding a head-on smash.

Just last week I was driving between Mullingar and Longford and observed a replica of the above scene in a hatched area.

A hatched area has continuous white lines of demarcation into which a driver should not enter. Some reckless drivers see it as a fleeting opportunity to overtake other vehicles that they deem to be going too slow, though they are driving up to the maximum speed limit.

Colum Kenny wrote an article in a Sunday newspaper recently criticising the Driving Test as ‘erratic’ and driving learner drivers ‘crazy.’ Well, the RSA has to represent a specific standard and when a candidate passes the given test, it’s not up to the people who conduct such tests to supervise or enforce what transpires afterwards. That’s the job of our law enforcers. Of course, I agree with Colum that the vast majority of adult drivers who have long passed their test wouldn’t pass such test if they were to undergo it tomorrow. I think that argument doesn’t hold much water: how many people who passed their Leaving Cert ten years ago would succeed next week if they were asked to repeat. The vast majority of adult drivers are very safe drivers despite the fact that they might not get all the technicalities correct as required in a test, like stopping position or peeking in the rear view mirror regularly. The point that I am making about the likes of those two drivers above who recklessly overtook as stated is that they have an attitude that must be changed. It’s an attitude about many things related to road safety, like keeping the speed limit, abiding by traffic signs such as those road markings or not ‘jumping’ amber lights, let alone red lights. Those two potential killers saw Sara’s ‘L’ plate and adopted the attitude that such drivers are a hazard and only slow them down. They didn’t take cognisance of Sara’s high standard of driving, that she was keeping all the regulations, even though she was a fully qualified driver about to burn her L-Plates.

The time has come when we all must self analyse our habits and our attitudes. So far this year, the number of people killed on our roads is ten more than the same time last year. All the white vans in Ireland with speed detectors won’t save us from calamity if we go out with a frame of mind like the two crackpots at Dunganny, who were most likely the holders of full licences.

As far as Sara was concerned, I must say that after all the coaching,  guidance and adherence to the rules and regulations, I felt a bit despondent, badly let down by the actions of two hoodlums.