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Are you up to speed with modern driving?

Many of us have been driving for 35, 40 or even 50 years and more.

Remember when you took your test? The roads were emptier; there were fewer signs; the test comprised a straightforward driving test during which the examiner would also ask you questions. As long as you stayed your side of the road, managed to find the brakes for the emergency stop, and looked in the mirror every so often, generally most people managed to pass the test.


The old Highway code, quite a thin little booklet!

Wow, have things changed. Now the official theory test (which was introduced in 1996) comprises 50 multiple choice questions – and you have to answer at least 43 of them correctly to pass. It also has to be completed in less than an hour – although done on a computer does help to speed things up.

Then, when you have got through that, there is the hazard perception test. Here you watch fourteen one-minute clips filmed from the perspective of a car driver or motorcyclist and have to indicate when they observe an approaching or developing hazard.

Phew, get through that and surely you must be ready for the driving test now? But no, you still have to answer a couple of questions about car maintenance and safety on the vehicle. And these aren’t simply where to you find the petrol cap questions; they can be on the lines of…Show me how you would check that the power assisted steering is working before starting a journey; or perhaps…Open the bonnet, identify where you would check the engine oil level and tell me how you would check that the engine has sufficient oil.

Only when you have managed to get through all these hurdles can you venture out on the road with the examiner to take the actual test.

Why have things become so much tougher? Because, as any of us who have been driving for many decades can verify….road conditions today are just a lot more challenging.

More traffic of course; more powerful cars; more road signs and complicated junctions; goodness, get in the wrong lane at a busy roundabout and how easy it is to be whisked off with the traffic flow down completely the wrong road!

So thanks to vigorous driving training and testing, youngsters today are well prepared for all this. But what about us? Not only do we have to get up to date with all the new rules and regulations but what about all the new signs that seem to pop up from nowhere.

Do you really have a full understanding of what this means?

Are you allowed to drive through this road marking if the road is clear?

Do you know what a red route means? The amount of new signage that has come in during recent years is staggering and we are expected to take it all in while coping with the increasingly busy roads and new traffic management ideas.

Of course, we have all been driving for years; it is second nature to leap behind the wheel and off we go. But are we really on top of all aspects of modern driving? When did we last look at the Highway Code?

Luckily there is now understanding that older drivers may sometimes feel they could benefit from a refresher driving course. These of course are available for any age driver, but can be especially valuable as we age and we realise that perhaps our vision isn’t quite as sharp as it was; our reactions are perhaps just a tad slower or it takes fractionally longer to work out the direction signs at busy junctions.

Local driving schools will always be willing to give refresher lessons. IAM is also a good place to start if you might be interested in this aspect. IAM is the UK’S leading independent road safety charity and offers a number of courses mainly run by local volunteers, who will go out with you in your own car. They also run a Confident Course for older drivers plus sessions to prepare for the Advanced Driving Test – something always welcomed by insurers as we age. http://www.iam.org.uk

The AA used to offer free drive confident courses but have had to suspend it because of volume of enquiries. However, they will offer refresher driving lessons at a reasonable cost (call them on 0330 100 7474 or visit https://www.theaa.com/driving-school/index.html

As the world becomes faster and as the years past, it might be a very good investment to take a few steps to ensure you are really up to speed with modern driving.

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