I have been a learner driver since February, but hopefully not for much longer. We all know learner drivers are unfairly treated on the road, and many if not all reading this have probably ‘bullied’ a learner at some stage. I thought I would offer my own experience and two cents on the matter.
My First Day
Everyone must remember the first day they ever drove on the road. For me it was Friday the 19th February 2016. I had my provisional driving licence since the previous October but this was the day my Dad bought a manual car and put me on the insurance policy so I could start driving. The car in question is a 2005 BMW 320i. I know, not the typical starter car but my Dad was selling an automatic BMW and had long before fallen for the brand, I wasn’t complaining.
My Dad brought me to a local car park. A massive, empty car park used communally as a ‘learner track’. It was perfect really to learn how to drive. There are marked roads around the car park itself and there’s even the odd hill. On day one, we must have spent about 90 minutes in the car park solely practicing clutch control and take-offs. We eventually ventured out onto the quite wide road that led to the car park. Once I got moving I was fine. My first 3rd to 4th ended up in 2nd but other than that it was quite successful.
As of now, being on the road for the best part of nine months and completing the twelve ‘Essential Driver Training’ lessons we have to do in Ireland, I am a very confident driver and always feel in control. However, purely because of the ‘L’ plates on the front and rear windscreens, there have been many incidents where other drivers think they have to teach me how to drive by following me at a six inch distance, even though I am not driving slowly. Granted, it doesn’t phase me and I simply laugh at their actions.
This can be a huge problem though for a learner who is only beginning to drive or is yet to find confidence behind the wheel. It doesn’t help them in any way either. The ‘bullies’ seem to think they are doing a public service but they really aren’t. When a nervous learner sees an aggressive driver right up their back bumper they simply become more nervous, they are afraid to brake for fear they’ll be run into, and their attention is taken off whats happening in front of them, making it more likely for something bad to happen.
Why they do it I don’t know. My driving instructor told me that he has had numerous lessons when the learner simply jammed on the brakes for no reason at all. Given the fact that most of the ‘bullies’ are driving expensive German saloons, why do they put themselves and their beloved car at such risk from being so close to an unpredictable driver.
How Should You Behave?
Simple, treat learners with respect. The fact is that most learners and novice drivers are they best drivers on the road as they are keeping their bad habits for after the test and are still in the mindset that they have to drive in a safe manner.
The simple action of being the correct following distance from them makes all the difference. If you are following a learner and they stop at a junction or a roundabout to yield to a car that maybe they didn’t have to, why get frustrated, it won’t make the learner move out of your way any quicker will it? Another thing you shouldn’t do is use incorrect lanes at roundabouts for example to overtake a learner. Not only is this off putting for the learner but is also unsafe to you as well as any other road users.
One of the most infuriating things I found when I was beginning to learn was that everybody insisted on stopping around 4 cm from the back of my car when we were on a hill. I don’t know why, but surely a hill and an ‘L’ plate in the rear window should signal to leave some space. Also given that you are always supposed to see the car in front’s rear tyres on the tarmac when you stop behind anyone. All it results in is a stressed out learner, a probable stall and a dent in the bumper of the car behind!
Hopefully people can become more considerate when driving with learner drivers.