I’ve sat in on several Part 3 tests where the candidate has allowed themselves to lose focus on the subject and as a consequence the driving environment has played a part and made the instructors’ task more difficult than it might be; and Approaching junctions is certainly one subject area that it is prone to happening. The situation that I’m going to use to illustrate some key points is where the car is being driven down an “off main road” street with parked cars on both sides and the views ahead are further restricted by overhanging trees (or anything other obstruction). The thing to note is that when the S.E. says “take the next junction on the right please” it’s quite likely that neither you nor your “pupil” will actually be able to see it (although the S.E. will know exactly where it is).[private-registered]
The fact that the S.E. knows where the junction is gives us a very good clue to one of the points I’ll be making shortly – but for now just make a note of it; the S.E. knows where the junction is but the instructor (you) and the pupil (played by the S.E.) DON’T.
The first thing I’d like to talk about is all the other vehicles that have to be dealt with on the approach and near to the junction. If you’ve been reading and taking note of what’s said in the rest of this section and the other areas of the site you’ll realise that they’ll play no part in this exercise and most trainee instructors don’t have too much trouble letting the S.E. deal with these hazards while they focus on the subject itself. You don’t have to worry about dealing with clearance, meeting or anticipation of other road users because they’re not on the marking sheet and the S.E. can only ask us questions about the component parts of the subject as shown on the sheet. I only mention them because in this example they’re contributing to restricting the views of the junction ahead.
Those hazards that I’ve mentioned already aren’t the only things the S.E. will deal with though, they have to deal with everything that’s not on the marking sheet. Let’s remind ourselves of one of the differences between “real life” and the Part 3 test to illustrate what I mean. If you were introducing a “real life” pupil to approaching junctions it’s likely that they will not be completely confident or competent in clearance and meeting – they’ll need some help from the instructor when they’re dealing with complicated situations like the one we’re dealing with in this example. When the pupil can’t deal with something the instructor has to do it for them! That means in this situation the instructor would be showing the pupil how to deal with those elements of the lesson as well as anything else that they couldn’t do. The instructor would do it by driving the car – talking the pupil through the exact actions they needed to do in order to negotiate the complicated situation being dealt with. It’s not possible to drive the car and instruct at the same time – if we are looking ahead to determine what has to be done in relation to other road users for example we can’t be looking at the pupil to make sure they’re braking at the right time or completing their gear changes correctly for example. In a “real driving lesson” we have to assess when we can instruct and when we have to use our control skills to assist the pupil – it’s much simpler on the Part 3 test when the S.E. does much of the instructor’s job and allows the test candidate to focus on the subject. It only gets difficult when the test candidate tries to do both jobs – it’s an impossible task!
We’ll come back to this point about who does what and when shortly – for now I’d like to remind you of another important point – the test has to be the same for all Part 3 candidates. This means the environment cannot play a part in the test – and you’re not required to know the geography of the area that the test will be conducted in – the S.E. tells you in their briefing that they will tell you where to go and you simply repeat back directions to the “pupil”. Let’s imagine a very different scene to compare to the one we’re discussing in this article; the approach to the junction is on a very quiet road, there are no parked vehicles or other obstructions on the approach and the junction itself can be clearly seen from a hundred metres or so away from it.
If the instructor had to cater for the environment the “busy” junction might prove to be much more difficult to deal with than the quiet one; although the fact that your pupil will tell you (if asked) and show you (by dealing with things correctly) that they can deal with clearance and meeting situations etc should still allow you to focus on what’s being taught. The “pupils’ ability to deal with any hazards not related to the subject in effect makes both junctions the same – they’re only different in the mind of the instructor! Whichever junction is being negotiated the S.E. will avoid making any errors not related to the subject on the approach – more importantly (in relation to what we’re talking about in this article) they will give you the warning to “take the next junction on the right please” at the same distance away from the junction whether they and you can see it or not; they’re creating the same instructional environment for both the busy and the quiet junction. The only thing they can’t control is whether you will have to tell and show your pupil how to deal with crossing the path of oncoming vehicles or give way to pedestrians at the mouth of the junction – but those things are “fair game” because they ARE related to the subject and ARE shown on the test marking sheet.
I said that the S.E. will have given their instruction to you at the same place whether the junction was in view or not and regardless of the remainder of the driving environment – that’s true but it doesn’t mean they’ll give you your warning at the same time/place each time. Every junction is different and sometimes (in real life and on the Part 3 test) you’ll get more warning of the need to manoeuvre than others – again this is “fair game” because that will require the pupil to adjust their speed and timing accordingly (particularly in the Phase 2 exercises). How much notice the S.E. gives you depends on what questions they want to ask you – if they want you to instruct about the speed of approach in a particular situation for example they may well delay their warning to you so that the pupil has less time to deal with the junction and has an opportunity (which they are unlikely to be able to resist) to go too fast for the situation. But that is controlled by the S.E. and in the scenario that we’re talking about (and I’ll get to the main point soon) it’s the instructor who loses their control because they unconsciously do what the S.E. might do in another situation.
So exactly what does the instructor normally do?
The instructor doesn’t normally know what you know already – they’re distracted by the environment even before the S.E. gives them the instruction to take the next junction on the right – they’re looking ahead and anticipating problems with the clearance and meeting situation that they’re in; it’s not real surprise then, when the S.E. gives their warning about the junction that they begin to look for it! And they keep on looking for it – they don’t even think about getting the pupil into their MSPSL routine until they’ve seen it; and by that time the 100m (for example) warning that the S.E. gave to let the instructor know there was a junction ahead has now been reduced to 50m! The pupil has only got half the time they had to do everything that they need to – more importantly so has the instructor. There’s almost no chance of the instructor’s focus being on the pupil under this sort of pressure – they’ll continue to look at the junction and worry about what’s going to go wrong. Because something will definitely go wrong, but the instructor won’t know what until it’s too late to identify and analyse it correctly because they’ll have been looking in the wrong place.
The skilled test candidate won’t be worried about what’s gone wrong – they’ll be expecting errors, know they’re inevitable and be focused on seeing them made so they can take control at the right time before telling and showing the pupil how to do it correctly. If they’re really smart and know their subject and have thought and studied about this sort of scenario they may even incorporate something about the limited views into their instruction although it wouldn’t be a requirement for them to do so – more about this shortly. I’d like to talk about the instructors’ “need” to see the junction first.
We’ve already seen the problems it’s caused – it’s reduced the time available to the instructor by half and that means the pressure on them is doubled! Think about another hypothetical question for a moment – if you were driving towards a blind bend and you knew (because you drove by it yesterday) that there were temporary traffic lights in the area out of your view would you slow down before the bend or wait until you’d seen the lights and had very little time to deal with them? Hopefully your answer would be to slow down before the bend. Now let’s imagine the same bend but you don’t know if there are any temporary lights in place – wouldn’t you slow down anyway in anticipation of some hazard being there? Again I’m hopeful your answer would be yes.
Use of our anticipation skills in driving means we don’t have to see a hazard to deal with it safely – we assume there’ll be a hazard in every area that we can’t see into and adjust our speed so that when it does materialise we will have plenty of time to deal with it.
Why should our junction be any different – we don’t have to see it to begin to deal with; we simply need to know it’s there – and we know it’s there because the S.E. has told us that it is!
So what the instructor should have done (once they knew the junction was there) was to get the pupil straight into their MSPSL routine, and by doing so not only will they have enough time to deal with it, they’ll have more time than they normally would if the views hadn’t been restricted! It could be done something like this:
- Look in the interior mirror and the right hand mirror
- No need to signal yet
- Position just right of centre (or as near to as you can get depending on those obstructions).
- Speed 10 miles per hour and change into 2nd gear (actual speed will vary depending on the situation but remember the S.E. will already be controlling the speed to deal with clearance and meeting etc.)
- Now look for the junction and when you see it make your signal
- And brake to a halt etc
But surely, (some of you may say) we have to identify the junction? NO – you would have to in “real life” because your pupil may not be able to do so but it’s not on the marking sheet for this lesson! The only things on the marking sheet are the component parts of the MSPSL routine – there’s nothing there that says “identify the junction”. Yes, we talk about how to identify junctions in the briefing but we don’t have to do it during the lesson itself and that’s partly because the S.E. has to tell us when they want us to change direction.
You won’t actually see “identify” in relation to any hazard or subject on the Part 3 syllabus. There’s a good reason why – it’s because identification is part of the MSM routine (much more about this when we discuss the MSM subjects) and MSM isn’t shown on the test marking sheet for Approaching junctions. It is on the sheet for Emerging (although it doesn’t normally play a part) and Crossroads junctions (when it definitely plays a part) so in those subjects we do need to identify them and make sure the pupil is doing so too, BUT IT’S NOT ON THE MENU FOR APPROACHING JUNCTIONS.
So your job in this lesson is to teach the pupil about the MSPSL routine not the MSM routine – you don’t have to identify the junction because the S.E. will tell you when it needs to be dealt with.
Once they do get the pupil straight into their routine and slow them down so when they do see the junction they (and more importantly you) will have plenty of time to deal with it.
Some of you (again) will be saying “but the pupil will make a mistake” – yes they will; and when they do you’ll deal with it in the same way as you deal with any other error and if you’re smart you could do a bit more than the basics. We’ve already seen that we can use our anticipation skills as advanced drivers to “buy time” for our pupil and ourselves in this situation. We’re not required to instruct anticipation in this PST – it’s not on the menu but as you’ve seen that doesn’t mean we can’t instruct with anticipation and if we choose to use the need for anticipation as a tool to get our instructional message across we’ll be doing the basics and a bit more. So whatever the pupil does wrong:
- Starting the routine too late because they wait until they see the junction.
- Starting the routine too late because they were driving too quickly.
- Not doing the routine at all.
- Doing the routine in the wrong order.
- Cutting the corner because they were going too fast.
- Not stopping in the right position.
Can all be dealt with by explaining and showing the pupil how to do things early when their views are restricted so that when they do see the hazard or a hazard develops they have plenty of time to do everything they need to keep themselves and everyone else safe.