Learning the Manouevres
The reversing manouevres are seen as a major hurdle by many learners. Many schools rely heavily on reference points in their teaching, by which I mean using stickers and lining them up with objects visible through the windows. Our view is that reference points have their use but that there are other ways to develop skills in this area.
One of my learners, Claire, had been having lessons elsewhere before starting training with me. As part of the initial assessment I asked her to do a left reverse. She hesitated before saying she couldn’t see any stickers and, without these as reference points, would not be able to reverse around the corner. Claire had previously been taught to use two stickers: one was on the rear windscreen and kept her in a straight line on the approach to the corner, as well as telling her when to take the steering off after the turn; the other reference point told her when she was at the point of turn.
Now, I didn’t want to burst her bubble as Claire had clearly been successful with her left reverse using reference points with her previous instructor. But I do not tend to teach in this way as I don’t really think this approach is either easy or readily put to use in real-life driving scenarios. For me, the left reverse is far more than a test exercise, whereby countless lessons, in the build-up to the test are spent using stickers on windows to ensure the car is reversed around the corner as accurately as possible. Rather, it is the means to turn the car around when and where needed. To my mind, it is far more useful for learners to develop more general ways of judging space and distance eg by making use of the line of the kerb, hedge or wall or the width of the footpath and grass verge; and how to manage other road users by building in good all-round observation.
So, I said to Claire, looking over your left shoulder can you see where the kerb cuts into the bottom of the rear windscreen? Keep it there whilst reversing in a straight line and aim for it to be back in the same position once you are around the corner. I asked her, looking at the line of the kerb, where do you think is the point of turn? She said, where the kerb starts to curve. Which point of the car needs to be in line with that first curved kerbstone? The rear wheel. Okay, I said, let’s reverse in a straight line until you think you are there and then stop a moment. We judged the point of turn together. Claire told me this was a sweeping corner and suggested she might only need about a quarter of a turn initially. Throughout the reverse I encouraged her to judge for herself how much or how little she needed to turn the wheel. We confirmed the observations to ensure her safety and then had another go on a different corner, which Claire carried out near perfectly with very little prompting from me. By this point she was positively beaming and it was obvious to me that she felt she had learned far more in this brief period than she had on previous lessons relying on reference points. She had taken responsibility and it had given her a real sense of achievement. She has her own car to practise in between lessons and said she couldn’t wait to go and practice the left reverse – up until then she hadn’t wanted to because she didn’t know where to put the stickers.
Reference points do have some value, but problems caused by variations in viewing angles etc can make them less than robust, and to teach them to every pupil without first giving them the opportunity to have a go at judging things for themselves, is to deny them a more straightforward and intuitive way forward, and, more seriously, may put them at risk when they are out driving on their own.
If you’re having problems with the manoeuvres, the approaches we favour may be just what you’re looking for. Please do get in touch for a chat if you’d like to find out more.