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What about teaching drivers proper reversing?

PUBLISHED: 06:16 11 June 2018 | UPDATED: 19:28 11 June 2018

Drivers! Are you aware what the 'R' stands for on this gearstick?

Drivers! Are you aware what the 'R' stands for on this gearstick?

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Learner drivers need more than motorway experience, says Sharon Griffiths

Learner drivers can now – professionally supervised – drive on motorways. Excellent. But it should only be the start.

Many years ago, the day after I passed my driving test in Yorkshire, I drove alone in my battered Hillman Imp down to Southampton. It was a long journey, made even longer by my mother’s insistence that I ring her from nearly every service station on the way proving I was still alive.

She didn’t realise that the most dangerous part of driving on a motorway is getting on and off it… The actual driving bit is quite easy. After all, it’s only a straight line.

Motorways, despite many people’s fear of them, are the safest roads in the kingdom. Ten times as many people are killed on rural roads and eight times as many are injured.

Country roads are even more dangerous than towns and cities. Narrow roads, sharp bends, mud, cyclists, walkers, horses, sheep, cows, rabbits, badgers, deer. Driving home from the airport in the early hours of the morning, I once followed a large pink pig for about three miles as it ambled bizarrely along the centre of the road, suddenly turning through a farm gate as if it knew exactly where it was going.

As for single-lane roads – many people haven’t a clue. Give them a narrow lane and an oncoming tractor and they go into meltdown.

The Scottish Tourist Board gives visitors a special leaflet about the etiquette of passing places. Maybe Cornwall should too. In both areas, narrow roads are combined with steep hills. Not a combination for the faint-hearted.

Much of West Cornwall was reduced to gridlock one summer day when a woman (sorry, but it was a woman) ahead of us seemed incapable of reversing 30 yards downhill into a marginally wider bit of lane. Eventually the wagon driver facing her got out and did it for her.

Now THAT’S something the driving test should include – reversing 50 yards down a narrow lane on a one-in-four hill, on a sharp bend with a deep ditch on one side, a stone wall on the other and a queue of impatient drivers in both directions. In heavy rain, if possible. And a few curious sheep. And maybe some quarrelling children in the back seat. And a husband saying we shouldn’t even be on this road in the first place.

That should be worth a few quid off the insurance.

My weak point is strange cities – traffic coming at you from all directions, direction signs on gantries in the sky and you have to know which lane you need about two miles in advance. Ring roads and one-way systems make even a good sense of direction hopeless.

I still twitch slightly at the memory of Leicester. And Birmingham. London is always easier than I fear and Glasgow was a doddle, proving it can be done. Sat nav helps but isn’t always to be trusted.

Very few of us spend all our driving lives just on the bit we learned for our test. As roads get busier and more challenging, the test should be more varied and challenging too.

Just don’t ask me to drive through Birmingham again.

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