Dealing with learner drivers on the roadLearner drivers. How do you feel about them?

Do you grimace when you see one pulling out in front of you? Do you give any car bearing an L sign a wide berth?

Or do you practice some patience, adjust your speed and give them space? Empathise with them about their plight and reminisce about your own experience of learning to drive?

Last week I found myself behind an L driver slowly negotiating their way around the ring road around town. I caught myself before I could start getting impatient and look for an opportunity to pass them out.

I settled to a slower pace and well I tried to think back and remember how I felt when I was learning to drive. It’s been ten years this year since I first got out on the road, but to be honest I find it really hard now to imagine what it was like when everything was new. Maybe the brain tries to block out any emotional trauma inherited from bad experiences on the road when we were learning to drive. Possible.

I’m sure I’m not alone and this failure to empathise with the learner driver because of a short memory is probably the reason why most of us utter a silent “oh no” when we see the red L on the white background on the car in front. The fact that most driving schools use superminis probably doesn’t help the situation. Something about a supermini driving slow and steady and bearing a driving school logo seems to irritate the hell out of most us. What are they doing out on the road at this time? Why do they come out at the busiest time of the day?

While I can forgive an L driver for holding me up on the ring road around town, what really bothers me are unaccompanied L drivers driving precariously. I usually wouldn’t check to see if an L driver has someone beside them but when I see one driving badly, I tend to check and most of the time I find that they are driving solo.

They are more likely to fall into the super confident category of L driver rather than the timid category but when things go wrong, they don’t always know how to react. On the motorway I’ve seen some dreadful stuff (yes motorway) like tailgating, swerving in and out of lanes, lack of awareness and anticipation of obstacles up ahead. I guess it’s the job of the accompanying driver to help the learner to anticipate and react to hazards, and adjust their driving accordingly.

Of course these bad habits are not just confined to learner drivers but it’s hard to watch these habits developing in drivers just starting out in their driving career.

You can learn the dos and don’ts of safe driving and rules of the road theoretically.

But it’s when you get out on the road that you really start learning.

I’m still working on my empathy for learner drivers, but I’d rather be held up by a nervous L driver than have an over confident one slam into the back of my car on a motorway.

Caroline Kidd