GDE Taking Responsibility
Scott was joining the dual carriageway for the first time under full instruction having just been briefed on the main points. His shoulders looked tense and his hands were gripping the steering wheel far too tightly. He was really nervous and this surprised me as he hadn’t come across as a nervous driver up to this point. I talked him through the joining manoeuvre, looking all around as he built up his speed, assessing the situation to judge a safe gap to merge into, making the decision and acting, moving smoothly into position. Within a few minutes of driving on the dual carriageway Scott started to relax and agreed that it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as he had been expecting. The practice session went well and we left and rejoined the dual carriageway three or four times before finally leaving and pulling up on a quiet road to review his progress.
You’ll remember from previous articles that I am constantly looking for ways to address the higher levels of the Goals for Driver Education (GDE) in my driving lessons. There are four levels in the GDE:
- Level One – Vehicle manoeuvring and handling
- Level Two – Integrating with other road users
- Level Three – Goals and context of the journey
- Level Four – Goals for life and skills for living
Back to Scott. We discussed Scott’s initial feelings of apprehension about driving on the dual carriageway and identified it as a ‘Fear of the Unknown’. I wanted Scott to be able to relate this to his personality because lots of people are nervous before doing something new for the first time, so, as driving instructors, we obviously see this on many occasions. However, the key to road safety is for each driver to take ownership of their driving and to acknowledge that they take their attitudes, beliefs and emotions into the car every time they drive; rather than a blanket approach of ‘Yep, everyone feels scared the first time they go on the dual carriageway.’ I asked Scott if he recognised this ‘Fear of the Unknown’ as something he had experienced before in his life and he nodded eagerly, saying, this was what he was like all the time.
I needed Scott to understand that there are two sides to personality traits so I asked him how this ‘Fear of the Unknown’ was a strength of his. He said he didn’t rush into things and examined something from every angle before making a decision and that this meant he rarely went blind into a new situation. We then discussed the other side and he realised that he had often ‘missed the boat’ in the past because he had spent too long identifying and assessing the potential risks.
Bringing the discussion back to driving we considered how this personality trait might influence his driving style. As a strength it was clear that Scott would be keen to read the road well ahead, scanning for risks and making decisions based on what he could see; as a weakness it could lead to hesitation at junctions and, in fact, this had already been the case. On a number of occasions Scott had missed gaps when emerging because he was so focused on looking for a gap that he forgot to get the car prepared to move as soon as one arrived. So we discussed how this hesitation could lead to him being exposed to even greater risk because of the expectations of drivers behind, who might assume he was going and drive straight into the back of him.
All this is about self evaluation and taking responsibility. Scott gained an insight into his strengths and weaknesses so that he could take these into account when driving. He now understands that he has a need to make extra sure that things are safe before dealing with them and that this is a positive thing on the whole, however, it can lead to hesitation. He also knows that he feels a lot happier about things if he is properly prepared and that this is why routines and sequences are really important. As soon as he sees a gap when emerging he already has first gear selected, the gas set and the clutch at the biting point so that all he needs to do is release the handbrake and bring the clutch a fraction further up.
Combining coaching with instruction and addressing the higher levels of the GDE empowers pupils to learn on a deeper level by raising their self awareness and enabling them to take responsibility for their own driving.