The “correct” starting position for the reverse left is something that often prompts discussion amongst Part 3 students.
Like many other aspects of driving there are no rules about exactly where to begin the manoeuvre because it will vary depending on the exact situation, the advice given in Driving The Essential Skills says “Stop your vehicle reasonably close to the kerb and parallel to it. The sharper the corner, the further out you need to be”.
Many PDIs believe the “correct” position to be is the same as the normal park position, whether this is because that’s how they’ve always done it or because they’ve been taught to believe that’s how it should be I don’t know. What I do know is that getting this close to the kerb makes the exercise very difficult to teach and instruct! Any error in relation to accuracy will mean you’ve got very little time and space to “play with”; it’s likely that if your pupil gets even slightly closer to the kerb than they were at the start position there will be no option other than to move forward to make any adjustment.
Positioning about 2 ft from the kerb for “normal” corners avoids this problem, your pupil will find judging their position is easier and you will be able to maintain better control.
Many ADI trainers make a “big deal” of the difference between sharp and sweeping corners but it doesn’t really make much difference to you on the Part 3 test providing you remember the principle that the tighter the corner the further away you need to position yourself before beginning the manoeuvre.
On the Part 3 test you’re likely to find the S.E. will choose an “average” corner, it will not be too tight or particularly long and sweeping. This isn’t because the S.E. is being nice or wants to make the exercise any easier or more difficult than it might be; they don’t really care (I’ll explain why in a moment). The S.E. doesn’t really have a great deal of choice in the location because they need to use the nearest convenient place to the Test Centre. Typically this is the nearest off main road housing estate – and the junctions in this sort of environment are likely to be “average”.
Why doesn’t the S.E. care about the severity of the corner? – for the same reason that you don’t need to be concerned about it. The techniques you’ll be teaching your pupil in relation to control, accuracy and observations are the same regardless of the corner and how far we position from it! You could actually position on the opposite side of the road and providing you employ the same techniques and use the same “reference points” you’ll find the exercise is exactly the same.
The only difference between this scenario and the previous ones is that by positioning over to the “wrong” side of the road we’ve effectively made the corner into a sharp one – the effect of positioning too wide is to make the corner into a virtual right angle.
Which leads us to the only real difference between tight and sweeping corners – the tighter the corner and the further we’re positioned from it the more steering will have to be applied at the POT and in extreme cases the POT will be a little earlier than it would normally be.
If the corner is tight you’ll probably need to apply full lock a the POT, and on a sweeping corner it could be less than half a turn of the steering wheel will be all that is needed. The only way to find out is to practice on a variety of corners. You’ll find that an “average” corner will require about lock, but this does vary from car to car and corner to corner.
See the planning section in relation to the Reverse Left exercise to see how if you plan effectively the severity of the corner will not affect our instruction and we can use the same technique in every case – we know our Part 3 pupil will get it wrong anyway so the plan makes sure that we know what will go wrong first!
If you’re a trainee licence holder you’ll need to practice with your pupils – and once they’ve been shown the basics you should practice them on a variety of corners – but before you do, you’ll need to practice yourself; find out exactly how much steering will be required in a variety of scenarios so you can give the proper assistance to your pupils when they need it.