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One technique you need as you teach learners to drive manual cars

Driving is a massively complex task, especially a manual. Even to get into a car and pull away requires a lot of knowledge and skill; how to sit correctly in the car, insert a key (or press a button) to start the engine, select a gear, release the parkbrake, coordinate clutch and accelerator, even knowing which of the pedals is which.

Parents typically have 20 plus years of driving experience by the time they teach their children how to drive, and that’s good as they have the background to teach, but a problem because it’s been so long since they learned there is a lot they just do automatically and forget it’s not intuitive. An example is starting a car’s engine – you’ll find learners don’t realise the key has to be turned to start, and then turned back, unlike say a light switch where you just press it.

Coordination is also difficult to learn. Mastering the synchronisation of throttle and clutch to move off is difficult!

So the key approach is one I learned from working as a gliding instructor. When trainee pilots are taught to fly, we don’t start them off on the ground learning how to take off. Instead, we fly the aircraft to the training space, and then begin the lesson. First, we teach them how to pitch the aircraft; raise and lower its nose. Then, we teach roll, and then yaw. Finally, those three skills are brought together so the student pilot can turn the aircraft. We then very quickly add lookout as well. Only when the student can manouver the aircraft do we teach takeoff and landings.

Exactly the same principle can be applied to learning to drive a car, and in this video I show how it’s done for manual cars. Note that the video skips a lot of important points about seating positions and familiarity with controls; the point is for instructors to understand the principle of task breakdown, not as a syllabus for learning to drive.

Steering is a critical part of learning to drive, and there’s two good techniques which work for road driving, racing and offroad driving. Here they are:

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