Monthly Archives: October 2016

How changing of the clocks affects road safety

On the eve of the twice yearly changing of the clocks, Tom Ingram from BIG TOM Driving School discusses how external factors affect road safety.

With the clocks about to go back 1 hour this weekend it is a reminder of how external events affect road safety.  Why should that be the case?  Adapting to differing driving conditions is something that drivers do with varying levels of success.  Changing light levels is one such example, another is differing weather.  I mention in one of my current monthly magazine articles that road safety statistics should ideally be viewed with long-term trends in mind, so as to avoid these external factors from skewing our perceptions.  I recently heard that the rainfall this October was at that time, only 20% of the expected norms for the UK – but sunshine, rainfall, fog, ice, leaves falling off trees, mud falling on the road from agricultural vehicles, the presence of roadworks, the duration of daylight hours….. these are all factors that can affect our ability to drive safely.

As you travel around, do you notice when drivers are not adapting to the conditions?  It may not necessarily be obvious.  Low winter sun can make it difficult to see signals when turning, or brake lights; let’s face it, low winter sun can make it difficult to see out the front windscreen at times.  Darkness can affect the mood of drivers, it can affect alertness levels as well as the ability of the eyes to judge the speed or distance of other vehicles/cyclists/pedestrians.  A fairly easy one to spot is drivers driving too closely to the vehicle in front – it seems for some drivers not to matter what the driving conditions are like; heavy rain, mist, beautiful sunshine, some drivers will stick to the vehicle in front like glue.

But my point really is that it is not necessarily obvious to all drivers that these external factors do come with increased risk.  If you find yourself driving on undulating country roads on a beautiful sunny morning, would you necessarily be thinking of the increased likelihood of coming across motorbikes?   On a crisp wintery morning with beautiful sunshine streaming down on you, would you be thinking of the potential for ice patches within the areas of road that are cast in the shadows of large trees?  You see for some, these thoughts might not come into their minds, for some, the thought would be there but not necessarily the consequence i.e. how the factor potentially affects road safety, and for others, they will be aware of the risk and the consequence and will adapt their driving to suit.

Contrast this with an Autumnal routine drive home shortly after the clocks have gone back one hour.  Almost certainly a driver will have noticed the lack of light compared to the previous days; I doubt that fact would have escaped their notice.  But what they may not necessarily be thinking is how this darkness might now create additional hazards to them.  Will schoolchildren who have finished their ‘after school club’ have improved their clothing visibility so that they can be seen crossing roads in the dark for example?  Will cyclists have remembered their lights?  Will you need more time to make better observations at the junction that you know very well, just because the darkness will affect your ability to see?

The ‘known’ of driving around on very familiar roads can be very reassuring, but it is the external factors that can change and affect safety.  As drivers on the road, it is in all of our interests to identify these changing conditions and adapt our driving behaviour accordingly so as to mitigate the increased risk.  Typical alterations to driving behaviour can include: increased separation gaps to the vehicle in front, more observations at junctions, slower speeds to improve observation and enable effective changing of position, slowing speed and changing gear to increase traction and stability, wearing shades to improve vision, cleaning windscreens and windows to improve vision, putting external car lights on sooner, braking or signalling sooner, taking extra observations on the approach to pedestrian crossings.

 

BIG TOM Driving School provides 5 Day Intensive Driving Courses in Peterborough, Grantham, Lincoln, Boston, Stamford, Spalding and Bourne – we will help you discover how you get your driving licence faster 0800 689 4174  or Email HERE

 

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Video Games and Learning to Drive

As “Battlefield 1” launches, Owner of BIG TOM Driving School, Tom Ingram discusses how learning a new video compares to learning to drive.

The very latest Battlefield has just been launched and it packs a mighty punch!

It may come to the surprise of some that actually, just the experience of negotiating your way around this latest battle ground extravaganza does actually offer Learners some valuable experience.  It helps to recognise how it affects you physically and mentally as you play it because much of these symptoms are repeated when you learn to drive. This blog will suggest however, there is one pretty significant drawback.  But let me start with describing the effects of learning a new video game.

You will be engrossed in it, time will fly by, and if you get in tune with your body, you will notice a few other important signs that you need to be aware of to manage the experience.  Your pulse will be heightened and it will remain in this state except for a few brief lapses while the next level loads – this will simply be due to the increased sense of anxiety and stimulus of the “fight or flight” impulse in you that is triggered by what you are seeing.  You will be breathing shorter breaths, more frequently and this will inevitably mean that every once in a while, you will take a very deep breath, almost like a sigh, and it is simply a response from your body to say it needs more oxygen.  Your eyes will stare at the screen – such are your concentration levels, if you wear contact lenses, this may cause them to dry.  Your sense of hearing will diminish, people around you may be talking to you, but you cannot divert the attention required in your brain, not even for a second, to actually listen to what they are saying.  Some people experience this is as a dull background noise that they can hear but not register, other people will quite simply not hear anything in the background and solely be hearing the noise relating to the game.  Muscles might begin to ache from the inactivity of sitting dead still – this may affect the arms, neck, shoulders, lower back.  Some people will sweat as they play the game; so caught up in the action, the body is responding to all these physiological stimuli.  Players will generally keep speech to a minimum, this is due to the same reason as the loss of hearing – the brain will struggle to compose sentences and concentrate on the game in hand.  Speech tends to be rare, very short, with just a word or two, and tends to be loud which is just a reflection of the state of anxiety the player is in at the time.  If you ignore how this is affecting you, and continue to play for long periods of time, inevitably not only will you suffer physically, but also it affects your mental state of mind.  Let’s take a look at what is happening with the brain as you play.

Mentally, also much is happening.  Compare what is happening for the brain to deal with when playing the game with learning to drive.  The alertness levels are spiked to the max, the player is attempting to identify lots of sources of information coming from a range of senses: visual, aural and touch.  The brain is attempting to work out the planning required to achieve the goal/objective for the level, whilst also dealing with the “here and now” immediate issues that have to be managed.  The skill of perceiving danger ahead is being learnt, through trial and error; the brain is learning how dangers can develop at differing rates of speed and also from ALL around, not just what is seen in front.  There is multi-tasking going on in the extreme, from the point of view of the necessary hand to eye co-ordination and also with regards to the number of tasks attempting to be achieved at the same time.  The skill of learning specific sequences to achieve desired outcomes is being developed – the brain is controlling the timing and the mental dexterity of such sequences.  The skill of anticipation is being developed; anticipating impending danger as well as what simply might occur as a result of the numerous actions of other ‘live’ members playing at the same time.  There is a great deal of learning about the strengths and weaknesses of the variety of equipment that can be selected for use, and how these affect outcomes.  Without any visual identification, players begin to instinctively recognise when there is an opposing player nearby of superior strength which represents a very real danger.  They begin to unconsciously associate with specific behaviours that lead to positive outcomes; they are able to identify which of these behaviours they feel confident in and which they do not like.

All of these actions are being developed at an alarming rate, and with differing degrees of success.  As with learning to drive the amount of progress is dependent on time, effort, natural ability and energy levels.  The motivation for investing those resources will alter for different people, but just like learning to drive, there can sometimes be pretty extreme peer pressure to achieve certain levels in given timescales.

How much this is a problem in real terms is still being discovered, but one of the concerns with learning in the comfort of a video game is that repeatedly learning by trial and error with no real consequences can possibly create an attitude to assessing risk which is not conducive when learning to drive.  Higher levels of the Goals for Driver Education encourage a driver to develop the ability to recognise risk-increasing factors such as sensation seeking, peer pressure, adapting to social pressure, alcohol/drug use, attitudes to society, acceptance of risk and when video games are being played, typically very few of these factors are being considered at all.  Players will not necessarily recognise any kind of ‘risk’ that is increased with fatigue brought on by the time in the day/night the game is played, the duration of playing, the presence of alcohol/drugs, the affect peers have on performance.  As a consequence, one of the concerns is that there is no appreciation of a connection between significant influencers and resultant poor performance.  Raising a learner drivers ability to self-evaluate performance and identify what causes differing ability to drive is fundamentally key to road safety, as only by developing that connection in a newly qualified drivers mind can there be any chance of continued learning of how their own personal behaviours are being affected.  It is in this subject of higher order cognitive skills, that video games just fail to develop the critical thinking that is so necessary to become a safe driver.

BIG TOM Driving School provides 5 Day Intensive Driving Courses in Peterborough, Grantham, Lincoln, Boston, Stamford, Spalding and Bourne – we will help you discover how you get your driving licence faster 0800 689 4174  or Email HERE

 

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Too Much Pressure

Owner of BIG TOM Driving School, Tom Ingram discusses how pressure on tests can affect ability.

Poor old Selasi has been given the heave ho from the Bake Off.  If any readers of my blog watch the show, they will know that a more calm and “gentle giant” you will never meet.  It was almost painful to watch the poor chap baking outside of his normal placid self.  And if you want to know why people fail driving tests then this series will offer you some clues.

Why is Andrew sitting there waiting for cakes to bake within an oven that is off, why is Candice piping cream on to a hot sponge, why are all of them continually dropping things?  In the name of ‘entertainment’ they are being asked to bake within timescales that they simply would not do at home.  On a driving test, despite the Examiner telling you it will last for 38 minutes, you would do well to completely ignore the remark, do not let the subject of time enter your mind on your driving test.  I can recall 2 driving tests in Grantham that went on for an hour, one due to roadworks, the other due to the newly qualified Examiner not knowing where to go.  Time is completely irrelevant, if anything it should be only the concern of the Examiner, certainly not yours.  The driving test will take as long as it takes; eliminate any notion in your mind that you are in any way against the clock – it is absolutely off putting and quite unnecessary.

But more than that, did you see how Selasi responded when Mazza asked whether he had sifted the flour for his sponge?  He threw away his already made sponge, and changed his ‘tried and tested’ technique that he has been successfully using for years at home, and why?  He correctly suspected that Mazza would be looking for small clumps of flour in the sponge because she knew he did not sift the flour.  That then put him further against time, and the result on his demeanour was clear for all to see.  You will be amazed how some candidates on a driving test will behave due to what an Examiner says or does on the test.

Quite why the assessment only consists of a one-off test whereby the environment in the car bears absolutely no relationship to how it will feel on normal journeys is something that defies belief.  For some reason, it is felt desirable to “test” the ability of a person to drive, by putting them within conditions that they have no previous experience of, and more than that, are very unlikely to experience again.   In addition, unlike the standard for real-life driving, the test has a marking system that flies in the face of the norm performed by qualified drivers.  How utterly bizarre.

I have observed near on 100% of all driving tests that my customers have taken since 2009, and for the life of me I cannot see why we test Learners in the way that we do.   The number of times that I have seen a Learner of mine on test, drive in a manner which is completely out of character is quite remarkable.  Much like how I felt seeing Selasi attempt to bake in extreme, unrealistic conditions, it has been at times pitiful to see how a driving test has been such a painful experience for many of my customers.  And it is all completely and entirely unnecessary – just needing the application of a bit of common sense to adapt the assessment process to make it more a reflection of how the person is likely to drive in real life.

One other tip.  Try not to short circuit the “training” process. As tempting as it is to compete with friends regarding how they learnt to drive with only 5 or 10 driving lessons, the idea is to develop techniques within your driving that become second nature.  I am particularly referring to observations here.  What the eyes don’t see, the brain can’t assess – and when driving it is so important to effectively see what is going on around you.  There are a number of techniques to develop to assist with that, but if you are intent on limiting the number of hours you invest in creating those skills so that they become instinctive, then inevitably, observations will tend to be compromised.  Inconsistency in any given field often comes down to flaws with technique, and driving is no different.  I have been following the musical career of Pete Tong for 30 odd years.  He is a well-respected DJ in Electronica music.  As good as the “Kisstory” mixing is between tracks at 11am every weekday on the radio channel Kiss, it is not a touch on the mixing by Pete Tong.  Not only has he crafted his technique with the passing of time, but the slow pace at which he mixes between one track and another is seamless, in fact at times, indistinguishable.  Driving actions should be planned in advance, they should be started in such a time as to allow the sequence of actions to appear smooth, seamless, and indistinguishable.  I have witnessed customers of mine develop this over time, some have perfected it better than I would be able to myself.  But they don’t get to that level by attempting to take less training hours than their mates.

The process of effective learning is naturally evolving, and non-linear in nature; we are not all robots where we simply get programmed for a pre-determined behaviour.  Any farmer or gardener will tell you that working against nature to force outcomes to happen will invariably result in negative consequences.  And it is much the same with how each of us learn, it cannot be forced in an unnatural way. [Accepting of course that there are extreme examples to be found globally where very young children are performing complex tasks to a very high level of ability]. A healthy environment for learning to drive will pay attention to the relationship between pupil and instructor, it will not be forced to attain certain levels of achievement within pre-determined timescales.  The pace and subject of learning will be aligned to the needs of the pupil.   A pupil will sense a level of individual care and attention that simply cannot be obtained when a driving school is handling dozens and dozens of pupils.

Just take “time” out of the equation – it is completely unhelpful in a learning environment.  And as has been discovered with our Bake Off contestants, it is not exactly helpful in an assessment environment either, but the programme makers are cranking up the pressure and with pressure inevitably comes faults.

BIG TOM Driving School provides 5 Day Intensive Driving Courses in Peterborough, Grantham, Lincoln, Boston, Stamford, Spalding and Bourne – we will help you discover how you get your driving licence faster 0800 689 4174  or Email HERE

 

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My parents are teaching me to drive

Owner of BIG TOM Driving School, Tom Ingram considers the pro’s & con’s of having parents teaching their son/daughter how to drive.

If I asked “What is 9×8?  What would you say?”

The reason I ask that question is because the answer begins to identify what kind of learner you are.  Some may have learned their times table by rote when they were in primary school and will instantly give the correct answer.  Others did not learn it by rote but given 15 seconds will work out what 10×8 is and then subtract 8.  Others might respond “I don’t know, I don’t care, I really don’t see the point of that question”.

When it comes to learning to drive, in their quest to assist you, Parents might revert to just telling you what to do, in the hope that, by doing so, you will do what they say, and therefore there will be no accidents (remember, they have NO dual control pedals).  This is logical, understandable, some might argue sensible but not entirely effective from a learning point of view.  Let’s try a different question:

“What distance would it take to stop a car travelling at 50mph?”

Again, you will either have studied that for your theory test and know it by rote, you may have known it for the test in your short-term memory but now it has faded from memory, you might take a stab at the answer (especially grateful if there is multiple choice), or you might respond “I don’t know, I don’t care, I really don’t see the point of that question”.

Having the means to correctly answer the 9×8 question will not, in the grand scheme of things, be a life-changer necessarily.  Knowing the answer to the second question might be a life-saver though for the following reason.  You drive at 50mph on a rural country road, approach a left bend where you cannot see around that bend, only to discover a flock of sheep on the road as you go round the bend but you instinctively recognise you cannot stop in time to avoid hitting the sheep, so you swerve to avoid them, and come off the road, hit a tree head on and die.  Far fetched?  Overly dramatic?  An unlikely, nonsense kind of example?  Maybe so, but it is the concept that is the important point, if you replace the “sheep” with a motorbike on your side of the road, or a tractor coming out of a field to your left on to your side of the road, or 2 walkers who are correctly walking towards you on your side of the road, or a horse rider riding their horse on the left side of the road, or a load of muck fallen off an agricultural vehicle slap bang in your path…… then you start to see that, actually, there is a fair bit of potential for any one of those events occurring… on a rural, country road.

At BIG TOM Driving School we make attempts to understand how you like to learn.  We listen intently to identify methods by which key safety techniques can be remembered in the long-term memory.  For the above example we can show you how you can use “limit points” to identify the severity of a bend so that you can adjust speed and gears ON THE APPROACH to the bend.  That…. could genuinely save your life.  I am not talking times tables here.  Would your parent be able to introduce “limit points” to you, or would they simply TELL you to slow down before the bend?  You see, if you are just told what to do and when to do it, how well is that going to prepare you for driving independently after you pass the test?

Our driving instructors are trained to listen intently so that any anxieties or concerns can be addressed in a positive, meaningful way; James Youds from Haconby recently attended the BIG TOM 5 Day Intensive Driving Course in Peterborough and he said this after passing his driving test:

“Chris was a brilliant instructor who adapted to my needs and listened to me when I had concerns”.

This makes for an effective, enjoyable learning environment, and as James has indicated to us, he has experienced a service that he would definitely recommend to his friends.

BIG TOM Driving School provides 5 Day Intensive Driving Courses in Peterborough, Grantham, Lincoln, Boston, Stamford, Spalding and Bourne – we will help you discover how you get your driving licence faster 0800 689 4174  or Email HERE

 

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Fear of the Driverless Car

Owner of BIG TOM Driving School, Tom Ingram considers the fear of the driverless car.

If you find yourself a little anxious at the prospect of driverless cars gracefully floating around our roads then the Sky Atlantic series “Westworld” will be an eye-opener.

In this futuristic, fantasy world with a Western theme, humans pay to enter and engage with robots in a breath-taking variety of experiences.  How much the robots are actually controllable is the issue as there seems to be a little gremlin that has entered into their circuitry that appears to be causing behaviour that is not entirely desirable.  If you can put aside the obvious limitations on a practical point, like many of the Sky boxsets, it is pretty compulsive viewing.

But the issue it highlights is the often heard concern raised by objectors of driverless cars regarding how reliable the cars will be; how trustworthy will the performance be should there be little gremlins that enter into the internal mechanisms?  Could you find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere due to a software malfunction and how consistently reliable will they actually be in identifying, assessing and responding to objects around them?

There are plenty of recent examples in product failure that gives credence to this concern.  The most recent that springs to mind not just for the explosive potential of affecting safety but the sheer numbers involved is the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 which have been literally self-igniting.  The cost of the recalls, coupled with the understanding that the replacements still had the same issue will run into billions of dollars such is the magnitude of volume.  And there have been recent examples of car manufacturers who have also had to recall vehicles in vast quantities, only to find the “fix” did not actually prevent the error from returning.  If the tolerance of some people relating to other human behaviours is rather low at times, it bears no comparison for our tolerance levels of product failure.  Customers have no patience with even the smallest glitches that cause minor user experience irritation let alone issues relating to product reliability or safety.  We are a society that has great expectations with regards product performance.

The other commonly heard objection for driverless cars is the apparent loss of control or choice that it will inevitably bring to humans.  Sitting in a car that travels at a speed not controlled by any of the occupants is not everyone’s idea of a great user experience either.  The concept of adapting the timing of our travel or indeed the route taken, in line with the logistical needs determined by a driverless car leave some people feeling quite uneasy.  However, we need only compare the amount of smokers or drink drivers these days compared to 30 years ago to appreciate how it is perfectly possible to adapt human behaviours with the passing of time.

Unlike the free-thinking robots of “Westworld” who are seemingly able to adapt their behaviours in uncontrollable ways that are initially hard to detect, currently, it is proving to be a challenge to obtain the required performance levels of driverless cars that will be deemed acceptable with even the detectable flaws.  When considering road safety, errors in performance of driverless cars will need to be incredibly low and minor in nature; anything more than that is just for those with their heads in the clouds or should that be “Sky”?

BIG TOM Driving School provides 5 Day Intensive Driving Courses in Peterborough, Grantham, Lincoln, Boston, Stamford, Spalding and Bourne – we will help you discover how you get your driving licence faster 0800 689 4174  or Email HERE

 

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High Praise for BIG TOM Driving School Driving Instructor

Congratulations go to James Youds from Haconbury for passing his driving test

James was delighted for the service he received on his 5 Day Intensive Driving Course in Peterborough.  Although his nearest test centre is in Grantham, he and his Father were keen for him to have his course in Peterborough due to the fact that is where James will be doing most of his driving.  He was still able to make full use of the BIG TOM Home Collection service.  James has high praise for his BIG TOM Driving Instructor Chris Jubb:

BIG TOM was the only driving school in the area to provide an intensive course.  Chris was a brilliant instructor who adapted to my needs and listened to me when I had concerns.  I couldn’t thank him enough for how quickly he helped me learn to drive and how nice and considerate he was to me throughout my experience”.

This is one of the key differences with BIG TOM Driving School; it is generally recognised without debate how important the relationship is between driving instructor and pupil, and when there is a relationship built on respect and honesty as is shown here by James’ comments about Chris, it is not surprising that there will be positive outcomes.

BIG TOM Driving School provides 5 Day Intensive Driving Courses in Peterborough – we will help you discover how you get your driving licence faster 01733 306 016  or Email HERE

 

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Home Collection Service

BIG TOM 5 Day Intensive Driving Course customers get picked up and dropped off from home/work – doing more to help you

The BIG TOM Customer Survey said that flexibility and immediate response is important to BIG TOM customers.   Customers are not forced to travel to us to attend the intensive driving courses, with the added expense of bus and taxi journeys, as well as the extra time it takes.  Choose the home or work collection service.  BIG TOM Driving School Owner Tom Ingram says what benefit this provides:

“The home collection service that we provide is very popular.  It’s just another example of how it is possible for a customer to get a better service for their money.  Because we do not have to add on to the course price what some providers call “Free driving lessons if you fail”, we are able to give better value to the tune of around £200 for the same amount of driving hours”

One of the services that BIG TOM customers benefit from is the response times that larger organisations struggle to compete with.  There are examples given on the BIG TOM blog and the video clips of customers receiving their driving licence within days of originally contacting BIG TOM.  This ability to immediately respond to the needs of the customer is what makes the course such an attractive deal for many.  Driving test waiting times has never been a problem at BIG TOM, a dedicated and extremely effective service that is offered to all customers is the booking up of a driving test that is aligned perfectly to the customer in terms of exactly the correct time.  Plenty of time and effort is spent with the initial contact of customers to ensure that the needs and requirements are perfectly understood and a strategy is created that will increase the prospect of good outcomes.  Owner Tom Ingram continues:

The reason that my driving school has received all the incredible customer feedback that it has to date, is because we listen carefully to what our customer wants, and we have the ability to adapt our service accordingly.  This is fundamentally what sets us apart from others – we can turn things round with eye watering speed and I cannot tell you how important that fact is to some of our customers.  We are not banking on our customers failing driving tests, and troubling them with how we then give them “free” driving lessons, that is a very negative outlook…. of course nothing in life is “free”.  The blog shows our customers getting their driving licence within days of initially contacting us, and that simply does not happen by setting them up to fail driving tests.”

BIG TOM Driving School provides 5 Day Intensive Driving Courses in Lincoln, Peterborough, Boston, Grantham, Stamford, Spalding – Tara will help you discover how you get your driving licence faster 0800 689 4174  or Email HERE

 

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