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Thursday, September 29, 2005

The N.C.T. and your Driving Test.

Over the last several years we have been called up at short notice to provide a School Car for the Driving Test due to various last minute problems for the Candidate concerned. These requests have varied in validity from the Genuine to the Hilarious!

Firstly let’s say that the introduction of the NCT five years or so ago was a step in the right direction to removing some of the death traps that prowled Irish roads disguised as cars and trucks. Unfortunately we still have remnants of the motoring mentality that anything goes if we can get away with it.
The mechanical standard needed by vehicles to be accepted for a Driving Test is high. Starting with a displayed current NCT certificate, road tax and Insurance, you also have to ensure that the Tyres are in good shape and well above the legal limit of 1.6mm.The car should be completed cleared of all loose items, including danglies and be clean inside and out. Windscreens should get attention, particularly on the inside as it is rather distracting trying to peer through sticky and smudged windows.

If your car is due an NCT close to your Driving Test it is essential to have this done at the earliest opportunity to enable you to retest the car if faults are found.
Booking an NCT appointment should not be left to the last minute as it often requires a lead time of two to three weeks and this will leave you in a quandary if something untoward shows up.

A couple of years ago we received a call from a frantic young driver who had just bought an almost new car but had not been provide with the correct documents by the Garage .Despite many entreaties and several weeks passing there were still no documents and of course the car would not have been able to be Taxed. As it so happened this young man was a close friend of an ex pupil and we were delighted to provide the car after several hours of tuition. It is foolish to contemplate sitting a Driving Test in a strange car unless you have been used to driving several different cars during your early driving exploits. A Driving School will not provide a car for someone to sit the Driving Test who is not capable of driving to a pretty high standard. The risk involved is too great and there is also the Reputation of the Instructor to think of as well.

Four years ago we received a call at 10.00am in the morning enquiring whether or not we hired out cars for a driving test .The answer to the next question was, sadly predictable…”.when is your test?” “ Oh it’s at 4.00 pm and I would need the car by “2.00 clock!

No one in their right mind should be contemplating doing a Driving Test in a car that they have not had at least six hours practise in and in addition they need to be up to a very high standard of competence as well prior to sitting in the new machine.

Astral Driving School Limerick.

Astral Driving School Blog …. “Arrive Alive”…

Astral Wordpress Blog……… ”Motorvating”

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Drivers with no Insurance

The Uninsured Driver
has always been a menace to society and to other road users and at last the law is beginning to catch up with them. Recent seizures by the authorities, of very expensive vehicles in Dublin that were being driven without proper registration papers is a start.

In the U.K. there is a very successful pilot programme under way which could well be implemented nation wide in due course. With the advance of modern technology and an extensive Data Base it is possible for the Police to check out a suspect vehicle very quickly and apprehend the driver. Checks on Road Tax and Licenses can be almost instantaneous. In the event of several non compliance parameters being reached the Police have the Authority to not only take the keys and impound the vehicle but send it to the great Crusher in the Sky.

In County Durham, 100 vehicles per month are being impounded with 60 % of these being sent to the Crusher. The costs of the scrapping of the Vehicles is being born by a major Insurance Company and the whole project is getting rave reviews from all concerned apart of course for the “poor unfortunates” who have to walk home.
This system should be implemented here in Ireland immediately and it would have a very beneficial effect on all law abiding Drivers and would undoubtedly remove some of our worst drivers from the roads.

One phenomenon that is gaining momentum currently is the number of Eastern European vehicles being seen on the roads here. While I am very happy that we offer a fresh start to many people from our new E.U partner States, the standard of driving of these, mostly very young drivers, leaves a lot to be desired. In the space of just half an hour the other day we encountered two Polish Drivers whose ability to drive sensibly and courteously was completely lacking .In fact one of these came close to hitting us as we rounded a blind corner. The car in question was not far from being on two wheels as it rounded the bend.We need in force some adequate provisions to monitor these imported vehicles,and their Drivers to ensure that we are not just adding to the already substantial problems we have on Irish roads.

Astral Driving School Limerick.

Astral Driving School Blog …. “Arrive Alive”…

Astral Wordpress Blog……… ”Motorvating”

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Motor Sport News.

Richard Britton R.I.P (1970-2005)

One of Irelands most well respected Motor Cycle Racers tragically lost his life last weekend at the Ballybunion Road Races weekend in Co. Kerry.
Richard Britton aged 35 died after losing control of his 250 cc machine. As a mark of respect the Race Meeting was then cancelled.
Richard had been at the top of his profession for nearly a decade and was a major competitor in the famous Isle of Man T.T. races earlier in the summer. He will be a great loss to the Sport and our sympathy and prayers go out to his young Family.
All forms of Motor Sport are inherently dangerous whether on two wheels or four and in fact watching as a spectator is no less dangerous. Many Rally spectators do not heed properly the rules and regulations and it is always a struggle for Marshalls to do their job well. There have been numerous Spectator fatalities here in Ireland over the years as well as those Driving.

Formula One Season reaches Climax.

In just a few hours in Brazil, we could have a new Formula One Champion. Fernando Alonso who achieved pole position for tomorrows Race will become the youngest ever Driver to win the Championship, if he achieves third place or better. The Renault driver has provided a well needed boost to the ratings this year with some excellent drives.
The flying Finn oft described as the “Kimster” has put in a very creditable challenge for the crown but will probably have to wait until next year for another chance at his first Championship. The unreliability of the Mercedes engine in Raikonnen’s car has led to many disappointing results but time will tell.

New AI Series get off the Mark

At the Brands Hatch circuit in Kent tomorrow the newly established AI Grand Prix Championship gets going and it will be very interesting to see what effect it will have on Formula One. Brands Hatch has always been a popular circuit for motor racing fans due I suppose to it’s proximity to the capital. My first memories of Motor Racing trace back to “Brands” with the thrill of seeing Racing Minis round the corners on three and sometimes two wheels. Saloon car racing has always captured the imagination of the average motorist and over the years there have been titanic battles between numerous marques, each of which seemed to dominate the scene for a period before being eclipsed.
The Mini Cooper S.; the Ford Escort mark one, the Lotus Cortina; the Ford Falcon; and the inimitable 3.4 Jaguar all had their day. Oh yes I almost forgot, that mythical of creatures the Hillman Imp or specifically the Sunbeam Imp. David Hall of Brannockstown, Co. Kildare raced a very special Sunbeam Imp many times at the Phoenix Park Meetings and was unbeatable in his class. This was back in the mid seventies when homegrown racers were rather thin on the ground here in Ireland. But that was all about to change when Derek Daly, Eddie Jordan and David Kennedy made their mark, and John Watson came close to being the first Irishman to become World Formula One Champion. Those were the days…but plenty on the horizon now as we speak.

Astral Driving School Limerick.

Astral Driving School Blog …. “Arrive Alive”…

Astral Wordpress Blog………”Motorvating”

Driving in Gale or Storm Force conditions in Ireland.

Hurricane Rita is just reaching landfall as I write this post at 7.30 am. We have all been shocked by the devastation wreaked three weeks ago on New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina .This one, despite being a weaker storm could create more damage since it appears to be much wider and already in the last hour or so the patched up levees in New Orleans have been breached.
Thankfully the residents seem to have responded well and in good time to the Federal warnings and most have long since departed.
In this part of Europe we are very fortunate to be pretty much immune from Hurricanes, Cyclones and the like but on occasion we do experience severe storms which make driving particularly hazardous. When the media News Broadcasts highlight the pending bad weather every Driver should take note. You might only experience two or three Storms in a life time but if you fail to heed the warnings then your first storm may be your last!

I nearly proved the above point to my self thirty years ago when attempting to drive a small commercial vehicle through a ferocious storm in the south east. One gust took me right across the road and it was all I could do to keep the van out of the ditch. It had been a struggle to maintain any kind of normal position on the road for an hour or two but this was the wake up call for me. In another Storm a few years later the road to Galway about 40 miles from Dublin was completely blocked for several hours by a fallen Tree which probably measured six feet in diameter. Luckily it had fallen outside a large Farm and a team of chain saws tackled the problem. Traffic was backed up for half a mile and this was 7.00am in the morning or earlier, so you can imagine what the chaos would be like today with a zillion more vehicles on the road at all hours of the day or night.

At night and in driving rain you don’t stand a chance if a tree comes down on your vehicle and you won’t see it happen or have time to avoid it. It is not a pleasant sight to see a car flattened by a tree and if you ever do you will never drive in a storm again, believe me. So when the warning comes out over the airwaves ”Don’t drive unless you absolutely have to” take heed and hang up your keys and sit it out. The misery of a crash or serious injury is just not worth it .If you are under company pressure for deliveries, meetings, deadlines or whatever …Forget them ..It will be you who have to pick up the pieces not the Company .Don’t believe me? I worked for a large Company for fifteen years and drove every day in the course of my duties….when I left to pursue my new business I received not so much as a “wish you well and good luck” note.

So be warned all you drivers of company vehicles or company cars YOU are the Driver, it is your life at stake and YOU make the decisions. If the company vehicle is not in a safe and legal state for whatever reason, you should not be driving it; you will be responsible and pay the ultimate price not the Company.

Astral Driving School Limerick.

Astral Driving School Blog …. “Arrive Alive”…

Astral Wordpress Blog……… ”Motorvating”

Friday, September 23, 2005

Energy Saving Tips for Eco Warriors

Listening to a contributor to yesterday morning’s broadcast on Limerick 95fm on saving and conserving energy prompts me to give my slant on the same subject as it relates to Driving.
There are many ways to conserve energy and save money when Driving. We are primarily concerned with getting a better fuel consumption from each tankful.

(1) Let’s start with my favourite subject…Tyres. Under inflated Tyres enjoy a greater friction with the road leading to greater gas usage for each kilometre travelled. As well as this they wear out much more rapidly, give a rougher ride, particularly on Irish rural roads. Over inflated tyres also wear out rapidly and unevenly leading to more frequent replacement. Good for the tyre shop but not for you! Oh yes a soft tyre will pick up foreign bodies much more easily, leading to further replacement and expense.
(2) An untrained Right Foot is a leading cause of excessive expenditure during all driving activity. Accelerating too hard, braking too hard, and driving too fast in general all contribute to excessive fuel usage and the corresponding increase in noxious emissions.
(3) The speed for optimum fuel consumption has been recognised over the years to be 55mph or approximately 90kph. As you increase your speed above this level your fuel consumption increases dramatically.
(4) A poorly tuned engine will also use an excessive amount of fuel so the money spent on proper professional servicing will repay you in the end although at the time it may seem expensive.
(5) Open windows and sun roofs contribute to drag and an increase in fuel consumption but clearly you can’t drive safely if you are about to expire from heat exhaustion. Thankfully not something we experience too often here in Ireland.
(6) Carrying piles of rubbish in either the cab or the boot of your car will increase your fuel consumption steadily over time so give your boot a make over every so often and clear it out of all but the essentials.
(7) One more point about tyres. If you are carrying extra passengers and luggage, even for a short journey you should increase the tyre pressures. This will give a smoother, safer ride for all concerned and avoid excessive tyre wear. This latter point is particularly relevant if you are planning on rural driving since you will have to deal with an especially Irish phenomenon, that of potholes. Sometimes these are as big as a garden pond and will damage your underside easily, not to mention the ecological impact of disturbing the resident fish, frogs and other amphibians.
(8) Since we seem to be constantly exposed throughout the country to major road works, which is an admirable activity from a safety perspective, you should always switch off your engine if there is going to be more than a minor delay. Sitting for several minutes with the engine running wastes a lot of fuel and puts more greenhouse gas into the atmosphere than need be.

We will continue tomorrow with our mini series on Driving Test Preparation.

P.S. Thank you to the two bloggers who contributed comments yesterday.

(1)We have been experimenting with Wordpress for a couple of weeks now and will eventually transfer all our content to the ”MotorVating” Blog. For those who should have gone to Specsavers!

(2) Driving in the United States is very different to Ireland or U.K. Non use of handbrake in the situations described yesterday leads to excessive clutch wear, excessive brake wear and on a Driving Test will be penalised in certain circumstances. The fact that one can get away with certain techniques when driving doesn’t make them safe, economic or ecologically friendly.

Astral Driving School Limerick.

Astral Driving School Blog …. “Arrive Alive”…

Astral Wordpress Blog……… ”Motorvating”

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Specific Driving Test Techniques

We are going to continue our mini series on Driving Test Preparation with some important skills.

Handbrake……..The Handbrake is an important piece of your equipment and is poorly demonstrated by many Drivers. Ever see a row of cars at a set of Traffic lights all with their Brake Lights on? Well I am sure you have. These Drivers show by their lack of handbrake usage that they are mediocre by any standards.
There are a number of very good reasons for Handbrake usage.

(1) Firstly with the handbrake on you have secured the Car and it is not in any danger of rolling; either forwards or backwards. Rolling the car on a Driving Test will lose you a mark because it shows that you are (a) unskilled and (b) it also demonstrates that you probably have never been taught by a Professional.

(2) With the car secured and in no danger of rolling you can then release your right foot and either relax for the time you are stopped or get ready for your next manoeuvre which will be to move off again. Relaxation at every opportunity is vital in maintaining your stamina, particularly if you are doing a lot of driving in heavy traffic.

(3) Now we are starting to think about the reasons for handbrake usage it’s timely to introduce the little Duffers Guide to Handbrake Usage. We call it the Ten Second Rule. It goes like this…….If you are going to be stopped anywhere, anytime, for any purpose whatsoever for ten seconds or more you should employ the Handbrake. There are numerous every day instances of having to stop for ten seconds or more. See how many you can think of .The person who thinks of the most circumstances will win this week’s star prize. Just let me know!

(4) Using the handbrake at every suitable opportunity not only keeps you fresh and gives the hardworking feet a brief rest but it now enables you to get your Clutch set correctly to biting point and the your Gas set to the correct level for a more difficult manoeuvre. Moving off into faster flowing traffic or turning right up a hill requires perfect positioning of the feet on your clutch and Gas pedals and the brake pedal is redundant at this juncture. That’s why we have the handbrake. If you are holding the car on the footbrake while on a hill you can’t possibly set the gas pedal correctly with the same foot.

(5) Why is it so important to make a smooth and prompt getaway when turning left or right at a junction? Well in many instances there will be approaching traffic which will in often be exceeding the speed limit which makes the turn all the more hazardous. A painfully slow exit from the minor road will quite often entice a poor driver to overtake you immediately while you are still completing your turn. I think you need to work out for yourselves whether overtaking in the vicinity of a Junction is advisable or just plain stupid!

We will continue with specific Driving Techniques for the Test tomorrow.

Astral Driving School Limerick.

Astral Driving School Blog …. “Arrive Alive”…

Astral Wordpress Blog……… ”Motorvating” Driving in Ireland Forum

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Insider techniques lead to Outsider Performance

Today we are going to continue our mini series on Driving Test Preparation by looking at our insider techniques. Really good skills inside the car will lead to outstanding performance outside on the road where it really counts.
Firstly let’s look at our resources. We have two feet, two eyes, two hands, two ears and one very large Brain which has the capability, when programmed, of more than 1000 Pentium Fours all firing at once. So from this we can deduce that it is the thinking processes that are the most important, other wise we would have been endowed with ten legs, twenty arms and probably just as many eyes.

If we can programme that Brain of ours to take in information from many different sources, all at once, then with a little practise and a lot of homework, it will do the work for you on automatic pilot, giving you plenty of drop-down menus to choose from and most importantly plenty of time to make that all important decision. How do we programme the Brain to do all this stuff all at once when it seems like an impossible task?

Firstly we have to be taught, then we have to repeat time and again, the same procedures, and lo and behold after a good few hiccups, the Brain will finally realise that this isn’t a passing phase and that you are deadly serious about driving. This is the point at which decisions become instinctive as Mr Brain (with his 1000 Pentiums cranking up a storm) serves up the choices and gives you some solid clues to making your decision. All of this is happening in milli-seconds. Repetition and yet still more repetition is needed, until each manoeuvre is as good as you can make it. But if you haven’t got the correct building blocks in place to begin with, no amount of Brain Power will do any good.

The building blocks are your Driving Lessons and the specific Techniques that you learn during these. The repetitions are your commands to your Brain to get working, and it will then start to push out really positive affirmations which will lead to a steady rise in Confidence which naturally leads to a dramatic improvement in Competence.

Let’s examine the role of our various appendages.

(1) The Feet….Left foot has one function only and that is to utilise the Clutch when changing gear and to disengage the engine from the gearbox when stopping thus keeping said Motor Running.
(2) Right foot ….has two pedals to deal with but we are in luck since the exact same technique is used for both….which is …..Yes. You‘ve Guessed it Softly, Softly. The only time that heavy pressure is used with the right foot is during an emergency stop situation with the brake pedal and with the gas pedal when you need to accelerate away smartly when turning into the major road at a junction. Faster moving traffic bearing down on you is not going to take kindly to you doing a Tortoise imitation and they will either have to brake heavily or worse will attempt to overtake you.
(3) The Hands…. Left hand only leaves the Steering Wheel to change a gear or other secondary controls and then returns promptly to where it’s happiest. Right hand remains on the wheel at all times, since it is the dominant grip of this hand that does most of the work of steering. Right hand comes in mighty useful on those occasions when you need to give a little extra warning to other road users in addition to your Indicators. One function that is not on the agenda for the Right hand is waving to neighbours or friends or dangling it out the window on a warm day or for Mobile phone activity.
(4) Ears are a very useful addition to your Driving equipment .In fact every new car should come with an extra pair .Why so? Keen hearing will not only alert you to the approach of an oncoming vehicle, that is still invisible, particularly at a junction; but will enable you to detect the slightest change in the performance of any of the cars equipment. There are many important pieces of kit that will give plenty of audible warning if everything is not quite right. In fact just about everything that can go wrong in a car, and it will at some stage or other believe me, has its own inimitable sound bite. From thumping shock absorbers (known to the cognoscenti as Struts) to worn out brake pads(which sound like a nest of mice being devoured by the Neighbourhood Tom); to the screech of a slipping Drive belt; and to the imminent destruction of track-rod ends which are akin to a T-Rex starting his evening meal. This latter sound is conjecture but it’s horrendous!
(5) The Nose comes hard on the tail of the Ears (what a sentence!) in importance, since a lot of the previously described events come with their own particular aroma. Clutch burn out and fuel leaks are readily noticeable to the trained nose so keep a keen ear (sorry Nose) to the ground.
(6) Obviously without our Eyes all of the above would be irrelevant. It’s important that we keep our eyes in tip top shape and give ourselves plenty of breaks on long journeys. A Driving Test, while not as long in duration as an expedition is probably just as tiring on the eyes, so plenty of sleep before hand is essential .If you wear glasses then its quite likely that you will be more susceptible to glare from the sun during the day and blinding by oncoming headlights at night .You can reduce the effects of these situations substantially by keeping your inside windscreen immaculately clean .Its a fiddly job but very well worth it .Once you have been blinded by headlights at night a few times then you will realise how important it is to develop an advanced skill in handling these controls yourself. It is too late once you have blinded someone to then dip your headlights. Eyes take about seven or eight seconds to return to normal after being dazzled and that’s a lot of road covered at any speed.

Next instalment will delve into specific manoeuvres and the various skills needed to carry them out successfully, to not only stay safe but to produce a satisfactory result on the Driving Test.

Astral Driving School Limerick.

Astral Driving School Blog …. “Arrive Alive”…

Astral Wordpress Blog……… ”Motorvating”

Startpage .ie Driving in Ireland Forum

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Limerick Driving Schools

Here in Limerick as elsewhere I am sure, there is a mix of every type, age and category of Driving Instructor. There are those who have been in business for many a year, some in recent years, myself included, and some in the last few months. Who knows maybe some just last week?

There are those who are full time professionals (or attempting to be) and others who are part- time Instructors trying to supplement an income. There are also retirees, who may never have been involved in The Tuition Industry before and who see it as a useful addition to income.

There has been much talk, waffle, huffing and puffing, by successive Ministers and yet we still have no end in sight to the situation regarding Regulation and Monitoring of Driving Schools and Instructors.

Maybe the new Agency, the D.T.S.A, will come into being soon? Who knows ? Until it does anyone can set up as a so-called Qualified Instructor and take fees for Tuition, although this is too kind a word to describe what masquerades as Lessons in many instances.

The D.I.R has been doing a sterling job over the years in running the Examination and Monitoring Process of Instructors, but it is a voluntary organisation and as such, has no control over persons who like to think of themselves as Instructors but who have no training. It was not so long ago that one of my local colleagues highlighted the case of the young man who passed his Driving Test on a Monday and set up as an Instructor one week later. Do we need to go any further with this thread? I think not!

The standards of Driving School Legislation vary quite a lot throughout Europe, from excellent to non - existent and here in Ireland I guess you would have to say that we must be at the bottom of the League Table since we don’t appear to have any at all!

Our record at the top of The European Accident Statistics Premier League is testament to what I have just written and we will only improve our Road fatality and accident horrors when the Industry responsible for training young and new Drivers is itself properly Trained and Regulated.

Astral Driving School Limerick.

Astral Driving School Blog …. “Arrive Alive”…

Astral Wordpress Blog……… ”Motorvating”

Essential Credentials!

We are going to digress from the mini series on Driving Test Preparation this morning because I have just been inspired by a Newsletter that I subscribe to. Rosalind Gardner produces the Net Profit Tips Ezine which is a wealth of really good Internet Development Stuff. Rosalind was a hard working Air Traffic controller just a couple of years ago and decided that life could offer more with much less stress. So she set about developing her Internet and web mastery skills and has become probably one of the most successful affiliate marketers. Her link is below at the end of this post.

Normally in Business one would recommend people, products and services that you yourself are familiar with and that would be of benefit to your clients, customers or pupils in my case. Rosalind is no exception and this morning’s newsletter extols the virtue of one Michael Green, a top notch marketer, who has produced some remarkable Internet development products for those wishing to create a better life for themselves.

Michael is a well known Seminar speaker who also happens to be English and wait for it a Member of Parliament. So his credentials are without doubt indisputable.
Here is a snippet from his sales letter relating to his latest offering:-

[Yep I know, it's all a bit showy and I'm blushing... but seriously, ask your self this simple question:
"Who would you prefer to learn how to drive your internet marketing business from... someone who has done it all and can absolutely prove their online success... or someone who has yet to learn to drive for themselves?"
Now you can see why How to Become Stinking Rich Online was snapped up, before the site was closed down (by me), all within a matter of days from launch! ]

O.K. here’s my point which I have not been slow to elucidate (Concise Oxford Day Again) in recent articles and posts and that is:-
Learn to Drive correctly with a Professional Driving School and leave Mum and Dad and Friends out of the picture, at the very least until you have mastered the Basics. Practise with the family will play a part after you can drive correctly and not before. Many Adults driving today should be forced to use public transport until they have passed a Driving Test which many of them have never done.

We see it every day on the roads, the most appalling standards of driving by middle aged drivers; mostly Male I might add, but a sprinkling of impatient Females as well.
Appalling driving standards are not the prerogative of the younger Generation so Adults take note.

We will continue with the mini series tomorrow.
Here’s Rosalind’s Link
Here’s Michael’s Link

Astral Driving School Limerick.

Astral Driving School Blog …. “Arrive Alive”…

Astral Wordpress Blog……… ”Motorvating”

Monday, September 19, 2005

Your Attitude to Driving and the Driving Test

Attitude is best summed up by a review of what you have done so far, to reach a certain standard in your driving. Have you taken advice from friends, relatives or acquaintances or have you taken the whole thing much more seriously and picked up the phone and booked lessons with a Professional Driving School?

A Professional School will equip you with the skills needed to survive, stay safe and enjoy trouble-free Motoring. Passing the Driving Test will be achievable providing you learn to Drive first. Preparing for a Driving Test should only commence when you have reached a certain level of Driving Skill and will be so much easier than doing it the other way round. A Driving Test Pass is only the beginning of your Driving career not the end!
There are several every day driving skills that are essential for safe motoring but which are not tested on a Driving Test. Would you ignore these because they will not be encountered on your Test? I hope not.

What are they?
(1) Driving on Country Roads.
(2) Driving on the Carriageway at full speed.
(3) Driving at Night.
(4) Driving in adverse Weather conditions.
(5) Emergency Stop.
(6) Reverse around a right hand corner.
(7) Reverse Parking into a tight space.
(8) Driving in log-jammed Rush hour Traffic.

A number of these manoeuvres are currently included on the U.K. Driving Test and will one day form part of the Irish Driving Test when we finally come up to European Standards.

Attitude to the Driving Test.

There are many myths and legends surrounding the Driving Test; lets examine some of them The right attitude for a new beginner Driver should be a non confrontational one and a realisation that you the Driver are responsible for the result, be it positive or negative.
Examiners do not have a quota of passes or fails to be achieved. Yes they are human and subject to outside influences such as first impressions, as we all are. It is just as easy for a candidate to create a poor first impression as it is to achieve a good one so why not do your homework and give yourself a head start over those candidates who don’t take the Test seriously enough.

An Examiner is not looking for perfection but a reasonably high degree of competence allied to good action and reaction times in all situations. If you have not taken the trouble to familiarise yourself with all the various hotspots which may be temporary or permanent, scattered throughout the general Test Route area then it is very likely that here is where you will come a cropper. ”Oh but I only made that one error because I didn’t know the new road layout was about to be implemented, and it wasn’t there yesterday “.This type of mistake in an unusual situation leads to numerous grade three faults on Driving Tests and as we know one grade three is a disqualification. Grade three type difficult situations are commonplace in every day driving and if strict marking was not in force then there would be many more first time Test Passes but many more Write-Offs with the attendant misery.

Obviously nerves can play a big part on the day and some candidates are better at controlling these emotions than others. If you can reduce this stress by telling yourself that it will not be the end of the World if you don’t pass this time then you will probably be more relaxed and will drive much better. Remember it is you who has to do your homework and be confident that you can do all manoeuvres, not the Examiner. With this confidence will come competence and you will do a much better job on the day.

Not enough homework, not enough practise and not enough lessons all conspire to produce an unsatisfactory result. Taking lessons two weeks before your Test just won’t prepare you sufficiently to be successful and to build up that level of confidence that is needed.

Take care and Take lessons. Driving Schools are not there to fleece you; they are there to help you achieve a satisfactory level of Driving Skill and to enable you to arrive alive.

Astral Driving School Limerick.

Astral Driving School Blog …. “Arrive Alive”…

Astral Wordpress Blog……… ”Motorvating” Driving in Ireland Forum

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Who Takes The Blame? Are Examiners the Prime cause of failing the Driving Test?

Have been doing quite a bit of Web research today looking at Forum Posts and other Driving School Web Sites.

Stumbling across an interesting post on Driving Tests which spawned 70 odd pages of comments was rather interesting. While this was an English thread, it is very similar to Irish Forum comments on this subject.

There were a huge number of comments that completely denigrated the Driving Examiners with disgusting language and a complete disregard for the fact that Passing or Failing a Driving Test rests solely with the Candidates themselves. Why not own up to the fact that to Pass a Driving Test, whether in Ireland or The United Kingdom, requires hard work, dedication, lots of practise, and Learning to Drive correctly in the first place!
Tootling down the road with a boyfriend or girlfriend or Mum or Dad just won’t cut it in today’s Driving Environment.
Buying a Car first and then taking an odd lesson months later, is not only asking for trouble in the form of accidents but is taking the Learner further and further away from reaching a satisfactory standard and by definition will usually lead to failure on the Driving Test. The sooner the mandatory minimum Driving Lessons are introduced before being allowed to sit the Driving Test the better it will be for all Drivers, Learners and Mature Motorists.

We have spent quite a lot of hours over the last three months with articles published on the Web and our blogs, in an attempt to help, assist and point in the right direction all those Learner Drivers getting ready for their Driving Tests. We still have some way to go with a wealth of, as yet, unpublished material and will continue to provide this resource for those who would like to do better in their Driving and their Driving Tests.

Incidentally do we really have to go on putting up with the drivel that is displayed in many Irish blog posts which contain more crap than content and spelling that makes you want to weep. I would venture to suggest that bloggers should utilise a spell check and curb the use of Anglo Saxon verbiage. For my part, I wouldn’t bother looking at someone’s blog that contained “ * * CK this and * * *KING ” that in the Title or elsewhere, since they are obviously a Baguette short of a Picnic!

The Driving Test is only for * & % * ERS………..till next time.

Astral Driving School

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Lady Luck is Lurking around each Corner!

Is Luck part and parcel of passing the Irish Driving Test? I don’t think so. Of course there are many circumstances that come together on the day of your Test which can be both positive and negative. However, as in Life, so it is on the Driving Test, we can create our own Luck and give ourselves a better than average chance of passing.

How do we create our own Luck? Well I guess it’s all about positioning your self; and I am not talking about the Nearside lane, or the Apex, or the Pedestrian Walkway, or the Chevrons, or the Fourth exit. What I am talking about is making sufficient preparations in all the important areas so that there is nothing left to chance and that all the aspects that you CAN have control over are dealt with .That leaves your brain more focused on dealing with the outside world that is racing all around you and which requires your complete attention.

We are going to discuss over several days the pre test preparations of your Car, your Attitude, your Driving Skills, and Specific Manoeuvres.

Let’s start with the Car:-

(1) It should be spotless inside and out…get rid of all danglies, furry dice and every scrap of rubbish so that there is nothing to fly around and distract you. I worked with a girl once 29 years ago who was much too fast a Driver. She bent over to pick up something that fell of the dashboard, had a head –on collision and died in Hospital the next day. She was 26 years old.

(2) Tyres should be checked for legal tread depth and if in doubt replace them. A couple of years ago I had a pupil drive all the way from Dublin to do a Test in Shannon in a car that was only 18 months old. Examiner refused to conduct the Test due to a worn Tyre.There were other faults as well.

(3) Ensure all Brake lights are functioning. Carry spare Bulbs with you and learn how to replace them when they fail. I have had two bulbs go immediately before a Driving Test. A test will not be conducted with failed brake lights.

(4) Electric windows need to be fully functioning. Electrics are a very complex sub system in a car and do give trouble .They are sometimes difficult to isolate and repair. Eight years ago with just 70 miles on the Clock in a brand new car all the electrics went and three Auto Electric Engineers were unable to pinpoint the fault. The General Manager, finally found the problem, so experience as much as University Degrees play a big part in keeping your Motor running.

(5) Pre-set the heater controls if bad weather is expected and even if it isn’t. If like us you live in Limerick you will know that it is possible to experience sometimes Three Seasons in one Day. We have had Frost in June before now. In order to prevent your windscreen and windows from misting up set the heat switch to 75% and the Direction switch to full- frontal. Heavy rain after a fine spell will often mist up windscreens and windows in double quick time and on a Driving Test you should not be fiddling with switches and taking your eyes off the road.

(6) It goes without saying that all paperwork relating to your car should be in place, current and visible. That’s Road Tax .. Insurance ..and N.C.T Cert.. Garages are notoriously bad at ensuring all paperwork and logbooks are intact after you purchase a second-hand car, so don’t be shy and get tough with them if there are excuses. I have had to make available the Driving School car at very short notice for a Driving Test because a recent purchase by the pupil came with no accompanying documents. The car could not be taxed and therefore was unacceptable to be used for a Driving Test. As it so happened this Driver was very well prepared and well capable of handling a strange car with just four hours of practise. A driver who has not had enough lessons or practise would not be allowed to use our School Car for A Driving Test for obvious reasons.

(7) Final point for today and that is make sure your windscreens inside are cleaned well since glare from sunshine makes it quite difficult to see clearly.

Follow this series during the week for some good tips on Driving Test Preparation and bring Lady Luck onto your side.

Astral Driving School

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Friday, September 16, 2005

Immigrant Song…. A look at Led Zeppelin?

This is not a music review although it’s timely to reflect on the 25th Anniversary of the Death of Led Zeppelin’s Drummer…John Bonham. This was undoubtedly the Best Rock Band in History (with apologies to Master Jagger and Co).
Back to the business of just what we are coming to with the vast volume of immigrants settling and making new lives in Ireland. I am of course only referring to The Irish Driving Scene and how the lack of enforced Driving Legislation will continue to affect us all; Learners, Tourists and the Mature Driving Population.

The following post was made earlier today on IndyMedia:-

“Thought I would post my opinions in response to the article on Driving Offenses by an immigrant. Of course we have quite enough homegrown uninsured Drivers without importing more problems from around the World.
If immigrants are going to come and settle in Ireland then they should be required to learn, absorb and obey all the Laws. Ignorance of the Law is not an excuse and shouldn’t be tolerated under any circumstances.
I was approached in a busy hotel car park last week by an Asian Man who was teaching his four year old the complexities of navigating a busy car park on a tricycle. It’s a miracle the child is still alive! His English was so bad as to be comical as he attempted to ask the price of Driving Lessons, which he then queried argumentatively.
There is absolutely no justification for allowing such persons on the road in charge of a lethal weapon. Mandatory standard of English should be required to begin with and of course there is no hope whatsoever of this person passing a Driving Test. He just wouldn't understand the Examiners instructions.
I think it's a good thing that we invite other Nationalities to participate in our new-found prosperity but as for driving that's another day's work. We are endeavoring to help all learner drivers with articles published on the web and with two blogs, currently Arrive Alive... and MotorVating

We have a large amount of Legislation backed up, covering all things Automotive and unless at least some of this gets to be implemented soon we will start the downhill slide to more Motoring Mayhem and the type of situation that pertained before Penalty Points.
At the rate we are going( or not if you get my drift) most of us will be 120 years old before the full Penalty Points system is in full swing. Four offences implemented in three years are not going to improve our accident statistics. There are two Computers costing €13 million sitting out there somewhere waiting to be switched on as I understand it.

Just in case anyone out there doubts the problems we are facing with our cousins from overseas here is a little snippet from a month ago relating to a friend of mine who I have been trying to coach towards Driving Test Standard.(unsuccessfully I might add)
Phone rings…agitated voice says” my sister has received her Test Appointment but I have not and we sent off a year ago together” The Girl had moved twice recently and we had to contact Ballina by e-mail to give current address. Incidentally don’t ever expect a reply to emails from the Driving Test Dept. I am still waiting. This girl had had three hours of coaching a year ago on just the Technical Checks and Test Protocols. Here we are now one month from the Test and the Bonnet of her car has never been opened by her. She has had the car a year now. Bonnet release mechanism was not functioning and came off in my hand, driver’s window (electric) not functioning, brake light missing and rear indicator not flashing amber. This was not an old car but would not have been accepted by an Examiner for a Driving Test on any of the above faults. The driving skills or rather the lack of them in this case I am sure are echoed around the country with many immigrants. So whatever Legislation is eventually brought in, this is not going to reduce the waiting times for a Driving Test when such standards as I have just described are commonplace.
Read my article on the web entitled Non Nationals Driving in Ireland for the first Time

Astral Driving School

Astral Driving School Wordpress Blog……MotorVating

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

White Knights to the Rescue

A follow up to yesterday’s post about tyre care. We will have a look at some simple equipment that will enable you to take really good care of your rubber.
One investment I have found to be absolutely invaluable over the years is a small compressor, which will run off the cigarette lighter. This piece of kit will enable you to check your tyres when they are cold, before your drive, and will give you an accurate reading. Checking tyres that are hot is inaccurate.

Utilising this little angel will establish if you have a nail in your tyre otherwise known as a slow puncture. A tyre with a nail through the Tread will lose approximately 6psi overnight which roughly equates to 20% of the required pressure. So if you notice a drop of this degree overnight, having previously checked the tyre then you should get straight to your Tyre Shop

If you decide to change your tyre and you live some distance from Tyre Heaven (your local expert) then there is the chance that you could be stranded if you happen to pick up a second puncture on the way .Its happened to me many times over the years picking up two punctures in a day or even within two hours.

In the winter months particularly, with soft grass verges, it’s often difficult to raise the car on the jack after a puncture, due to the weight of the car. A small plank of wood about a foot long (30cms) will provide the necessary support to raise the car without it continually sinking.

Finally a useful additional tool is a cast iron cross-over wheel brace which will remove the most stubborn of wheel nuts, particularly if they haven’t been removed for a while or have been over tightened in the tyre shop with a gun. I have had my own brace now for twenty five years and they last forever. With one of these babies you can help another Motorist out of trouble quite easily due to the four different socket sizes which will fit all cars. White Knights here we come!

Astral Driving School Limerick in Ireland Forum

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Tyred Out? A brief look at Tyre Topography for the Uninitiated.

Next to the Engine and under-bonnet kit, Tyres are probably the most neglected item of most cars. A tyre is a living breathing organism which can expire rather like a human if abused and ignored. However, with just a little effort on the driver’s part, safety and economy can be preserved.

Basically there are three parts to a tyre. The Tread; The Sidewall; and the Tyre Pressure.

Starting with the pressure; it is essential that you know what the correct setting for your particular tyre is and that you check them regularly. Every week or every 500 miles (800 kms).The correct pressures can be found in your Owners manual or if this is missing then have a look inside your fuel filler cap. Since many Garages seem to have great difficulty in maintaining all their forecourt equipment, the best option is to invest in your own little compressor which will work from your cigarette lighter connection. You can then check your tyres when they are cold, which gives you a true reading and spot irregularities easily. I gave up driving miles to my regular Petrol Station years ago because the air line and the car wash were constantly out of action. Garages take note!

The Tread depth is an important consideration for all drivers. First you have the legal limit which is??? . Worth pointing out here that tyres on the legal limit are 85% worn out so do your math and have a guess at what sort of adhesion you have while driving. In the dry you may be ok but in the wet you will be in a perilous condition. So remember my phrase ……….. ”Legal but Lethal“. Tyres wear at a different rate depending on which axle they are on. What does this mean? Well, since the front wheels do all the work and support the heaviest part of the car, the power plant, aka Engine, the front tyres wear out twice as quickly as those at the rear. A useful tip here is to switch the tyres round periodically to even out the wear. Your tyre shop will do this for you when you are in getting a puncture repaired, your wheels balanced or tyres replaced. Remember your best tyres should always be at the front.

The Sidewall of the tyre is the most vulnerable since it is often in contact with the Kerb, potholes and other nasties. The depth of the sidewall is quite thin hence it’s very easy to destroy a tyre by thumping a kerb so keep your distance. A regular check on the sidewall for cuts splits and bulges is important and if you find any of these then you should replace the tyre immediately.

All of these checks form part of the new Technical Check questions you will be asked on the Irish Driving Test. So get used to becoming an Informed and Aware, Learner Driver, instead of an Air Head!

Safe Driving and Pump up de Volume ( sorry Pressure)

Astral Driving School Limerick

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Iyes Have It… Today’s Forest Fest in Formula One.

In a thrilling Grand Prix in Belgium, as expected, rain played a bit part and gave us an entertaining race. As expected the Flying Finn cruised home to victory giving him his sixth win of the Season to match that of Alonso and leaving the World Championship to go down to the wire.

So in brief we had Kimi followed by Ferdi followed by Buttoni in third place and the other”I”s……Fizzi….Shumi…..and Trulli all took an early bath ! That’s why the track is appropriately called SPA.

Wet and Wonderful Motor Racing at its best.

Three Races to go and still all to play for.
See you in a Fortnight.

Astral Driving School

Speed Camera Roll Out? Yeah Yeah Yeah!

Unfortunately for the population of this country who rely on Driving Legislation and Laws, or rather the lack of them, to guide them in their Driving Habits, one constant feature that continues to surprise me is that every time some new initiative is announced, it is years before it is implemented!

An article in the Limerick Leader a couple of weeks ago looked at the proposed introduction of national Speed Cameras and gave many comments from the local populace. One would be forgiven for thinking that this new development would be in force in a matter of weeks. Not So. They have been talking about this for years and successive Ministers have just not grasped the nettle. I guess there aren’t too many votes in accident statistics. We have amongst the worst set of accident statistics in Europe, per capita but speed cameras are not going to solve this issue.

What is the answer?

(1)A Standard of Driving that is led by Professional Instruction monitored and regulated by Law would be a start.

(2)The end to the farcical situation of Learner Drivers continuing to drive after failing Driving Tests without a structured and enforced plan for achieving full license status.

(3)A Minimum number of Driving Lessons certified by a Registered Driving School before being allowed to sit the Driving Test.

(4)Mandatory Tuition following the failing of a Driving Test and before the next attempt.

(5) Proper regulation and monitoring of out of State Drivers with Non Irish Registrations.

(6) Mandatory Tuition for New Drivers picking up Penalty Points in their first year following the Driving Test.

Draconian? Measures you might say, but we should learn from the experiences of other Countries and at least show some ability to improve the deteriorating situation on our Irish roads. Bolting the stable door after the horse has cantered over the horizon when we have so much financial resource available now, is a poor reflection of our system.

Drive Safely

Astral Driving School is committed to helping Learner Drivers achive a standard that will keep them safe and accident free.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Driving Instructor Fined While on Reversing Manoeuvres!

Recently in England an Instructor was snapped on camera while practising a reversing manoeuvre with a Pupil. Apparently they overstayed their welcome and got hammered!

Well it is a common sight to see Driving Schools practising on Test Routes and I believe it is not only useful and helpful in reducing stress for Candidates on the lead up to their Irish Driving Test but surely anyone has a right to drive where they please on the road network?

Notices posted in Test Centres ask Driving Schools not to clog up Driving Test routes during the working day and this is fair enough but not all pupils are free at night to take Tuition and so daytime practise is the norm. Yes I agree that there should be a spirit of co-operation between the Department of Transport and Driving Schools. However the overriding concern for Driving Schools is to create safer drivers on the road and help them to pass their Driving Test.

To do this we need access to all avenues (pun intended) and its worth pointing out that the pavement and road outside every House does Not belong to the Householder and is freely accessible to all road users. Just because you have been used to parking your second car outside your house since the year dot does not convey exclusive rights. In fact it should be made mandatory that cars are not parked on the pavement or road within a certain distance of a corner. Enforcing this would be impossible but it would make driving through congested Housing Estates more comfortable.

As a postscript to these meagre comments, it should be the norm , but generally isn’t, to practise reversing and other manoeuvres far away from Test Routes to give a more “real life perspective”. Reversing around the same corner dozens of times may well give the pupil a chance to complete this manoeuvre without losing marks on the Test but it will not equip them to deal with “real life“ situations that will be rather different to the benign Driving Test scenario.

For all Test Candidates who might happen across this post…get away from Test Routes and practise in every conceivable place you can, including Country Roads and Carriageways

Drive Safely and enjoy the rather wet Weekend!

Astral Driving School

Friday, September 09, 2005

Ferdi.. Fizzi …Shumi and the Mother of all Grand Prix

This weekend marks the final Titanic Battle (probably) for the ownership of Formula One’s glittering Prize--The World Championship.

With a good result at Spa Francorchamps in the Ardennes on Sunday, Alonso can clinch the Title and become the Youngest ever World Champion. If I am not mistaken Shumi has held that title up to now. The Red Baron was only 21 years old when given his first drive with Jordan back in 1991.

Eddy Jordan’s sale of the most interesting Grand Prix Team has left a void in the circus that will be difficult to replace, since privateers are a dying breed.
The vast amount of boodle needed to compete at this level has seen to that.

This year has seen an increasing number of Drivers with unpronounceable names from countries not normally associated with Formula One. I guess their meagre salaries as unknowns, is an attempt to stay in business for the lesser Teams.

At last the Red Baron’s side kick for six years, Rubinyo finally saw sense and looked for another drive leaving Michael to look around for someone else, suitable for kicking around!

Last Weekend at Monza, Jackie Stewart celebrated the fortieth anniversary of his first Grand Prix win. It’s a real pity he wasn’t able to keep the Stewart Team intact for longer than he did. It seems as though there is a jinx on past World Champions being successful at Team Owners. As a Driver it’s really just you and the car (or it used to be) nowadays it’s a big conglomerate thing keeping a Team going. I don’t imagine Schumacher, despite all his millions would have much success as a Team Owner …….but you never know?

Drive Safely and keep the Racing on the Track where it belongs!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Back to School Motoring Mayhem

Since its back to School Time and a lot of extra Traffic on the roads several times a day it’s pertinent to have a look at some of the hazards that a Driver will encounter in the vicinity of Schools and Shops.

(1) Unfortunately when Mums and Dads are on the School Run quite often commonsense and courtesy go out the Window. Drivers that may be average in skill turn into morons during this period in the quest for quick turnaround and completion of routine on time.

(2) What I am talking about here is double and triple parking outside schools and shops.

(3) Parking nose in, instead of reversing in to the space. This means of course a reverse out into the road and into the path of oncoming traffic, which is not the slightest bit interested in your kids or your hectic routine. After all we’ve been there, done that, and hell we have routines of our own.

(4) There is a School near me that I pass several times a day and its mayhem at Schools in and Schools out time. All the Parents think about is their pride and Joy and to hell the rest of you Motorists. What is particularly bad about this school is that it is flavour of the month for the well to do,
who come from miles away to deposit their kids and who do not live in the immediate area. The result is that they have no comprehension of the Residents of the area and the volume of traffic that passes the school all day long.

(5) Shops near schools present a major hazard in the afternoon as kids are not born with an inbuilt sense of Road propriety. They will act the fool and often push each other into the road. In fact it’s quite common for a bunch of older Kids to push one of their number into the path of a Learner Driver, under instruction, just to see what will happen!

(6) World War Three in the back seat, creates major distraction for Drivers who either are inexperienced or just plain unable to discipline their passengers (kids).
Not so long ago I was privileged to be behind one of these Drivers for a mile or so in traffic and for the duration the driver spent 50% to 60 % of the total time with her head turned to the left, trying to issue instructions and not concentrating on the road.There were four or five kids of varying age in the car. I kept my distance fearing the worst.

This Monstrous Ballet is repeated at every School parking lot in the State several times a day and clearly it shows the complete lack of regard that most Adults have for other Drivers. I think what is probably worse, if that's possible, is the poor example being shown to the young passengers,who will undoubtely behave the same way when they themselves become Drivers.

The School Principals have a responsibility also to point out and enforce proper parking manners and etiquette. We have several Schools slap bang in the middle of Driving Test Routes here in Limerick and the knowledge of the Moronic Driving behaviour in the vicinity of these havens of learning is always passed on to Pupils on the lead up to their Driving Tests!

That’s it for today … Safe Driving.

Astral Driving School

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Some Tips on Longevity with your Motor.

(1) Check your Oil every week or every 500 miles. You can top up to the Max when the level reaches half way to Min. This will usually take one litre.

(2) Keep an eye on your Calibrated Coolant Temperature Gauge a slight rise in the Red Needle indicates a coolant leak which is probably a drip /drip type of leak. This can get steadily worse and lead to a catastrophic cooling system failure (and a big repair bill)

(3) Use fifth gear when you reach 60KPH it will save a lot of fuel and that is getting very expensive now due to the Oil crisis.

(4) Keep your tyres a peak pressure .Incorrectly inflated Tyres are unsafe and create drag leading to excessive tyre wear and extra fuel usage.

(5) A flickering Alternator Warning Light indicates a loose or slipping drive belt. Get it tightened immediately or your battery will suffer.

(6) Ease off your Gas pedal in good time when you know you are going to have to slow down or stop .Using the brakes at the last minute wastes fuel and there is always the chance of being rear-ended by Drivers that are following you too closely or on the phone and thinking about things other then Driving .

Just a quickie Today… Safe Driving

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Oil Prices…….is this the beginning of the End?

With the price of oil now at $70.00 per Barrel which is twice that of two years ago perhaps we should all be thinking of developing our two wheeled skills (unmotorised ) instead of craving to get onto the road with four?

I remember back in the dark ages; come to think of it they weren’t that dark; when the Cycling Proficiency Test carried out in schools in the U.K. was all the rage. Even then the propensity for shortening a lengthy word in every day conversation was ultra cool. Of course cool didn’t exist then. We shortened the aforementioned word to “prishency” and it was the most common topic of conversation.

Horror of horrors we had to learn to ride a bike with some degree of skill and awareness, not a trait that is exhibited by Cyclists on the road today. If I get one signal per month from a cyclist in Traffic while teaching my Pupils that’s the extent of it. Two signals is a red –letter month!

Since its Concise Oxford Day today (or rather yesterday) I will branch out and say that the inculcation of Road Awareness to the young two wheeled populace certainly had a most efficacious effect on the general standards of behaviour on the roads in the U.K. in future years, as the Accident statistics testify compared with other European neighbours. The Cycling Proficiency Test set the scene and I am sure played a part in educating the Young- Drivers –to- Be, in Good Manners and Awareness on the Road.

Astral Driving School Forums

Monday, September 05, 2005

Test your Ability on the Basics!

Can you answer the Following Questions?

Below is a list of Twenty Questions that every Learner Driver should be able to answer with 100% accuracy……..

If Not ….you shouldn’t be sitting the Driving Test……Period!

1. Can you open the Bonnet of your car without fuss?

2. Can you identify all the important equipment that lives under the Bonnet?

3. Can you describe how to perform the checks on this Equipment?

4. Can you recognise when a Tyre is low on pressure?

5. Can you describe the three Checks on a tyre to ensure safety?

6. Can you stop correctly at a Stop sign?

7. Is it Mandatory to use the Handbrake at a Stop Sign?

8. Can you describe when not to use the Handbrake?

9. Do you know the meaning of “The Ten Second Rule”

10. What is the most acceptable distance from the Vehicle ahead when stopping?

11. What three steps would you take to improve safety in heavy rain?

12. What gear should you use when stopping?

13. When would you check your blind spot?

14. How often should you perform your basic mechanical checks?

15. Do you understand the Term “Opposite Lock”?

16. What is the first action you take in the event of a Stall?

17. Do you carry spare Bulbs and why is this important?

18. What is meant by Non-Standard Roundabout Configuration?

19. What should you do if a Dashboard Warning light illuminates?

20. How would you check your Brake Lights were functioning if on your own?

(c) Astral Driving School 2000-2005

If you have any questions or queries on the above or other Driving problems we would be happy to reply to your e-mail.

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First Steps for the Irish Learner Driver

This is a full article just published on the Web so grab a coffee and enjoy? The follow-up to yesterdays post will come over the next day or two.

Quote of the Day " No Rock Star would buy this Rolls Royce because its too big to fit into a Swimming Pool" Jeremy Clarkson...TOP GEAR

My Quote of the Day " Keith Moon always could do the Impossible!" (Drummer with THE WHO)

The Main priority for today’s Learner Driver should not be passing the Driving Test but embracing the philosophy of skills for life initially.

Surely passing the Driving Test is the main objective? Not So!

Your main objective should be to acquire the necessary skills that will keep you, your passengers and all other road users safe. This makes sense, but is not taken on board by a very large proportion of Irish learner Drivers, with the result that we have an appalling accident record here which impacts on the whole community.

The first and arguably most important step for the new driver is to enrol with a professional Driving School who will set the foundation for both basic and advanced skills and ensure that safety is a priority. The lack of basic skills throughout the motoring population is very widespread and stems from several inherent flaws which are only now beginning to be addressed by the Government.

Thankfully our membership of the European Club is forcing the various agencies that are involved in the whole motoring scene to take action and implement the various Directives on a structured time scale.

The Irish Driving Test only began in 1966 more than thirty years after the UK introduced that most feared of life events!
Most of the recent EU changes have usually taken effect here three or four years after the UK. These would comprise the Driver Theory Test, revised Test Marking Sheet, Provisional License revisions, and Mechanical Checks on the Practical Driving Test.

Aspects still to be rolled out will be Mandatory Tuition for Motorcycles and Cars and the long awaited Examination and Registration of Driving Instructors. One of the reasons for our poor standards on the roads, particularly within the young driver community is that Driving Instructor standards are not subject to scrutiny. It is quite commonplace to see Instructors giving tuition in a pupils car with no L plates displayed. This shows a complete disregard for the basic rule of Law and by extension the calibre of instruction has to be mediocre at best.

What can you expect on your first lesson with a Professional Instructor? Will you be taken into a city centre? Will you be taken on a high speed carriageway? Will you be driving off down the road in just five minutes? Absolutely not!
What will happen is a concentrated session covering many diverse subjects relating to both the workings of the car and all its equipment and a look at the current Driving Scene into which the new Driver is entering for the first time. An investigation of all the basic mechanics that are the responsibility of the Driver, and which now form part of the Driving Test, will take place, and a brief discussion on the current requirements of the Driving Test.

Once this is accomplished, the basic Cockpit Drill will be looked at along with all instrumentation and secondary controls. Following on from this section, a brief discussion on the use of the Gearbox will take place and then on to the most mystical of Car equipment …the Clutch. (That is of course assuming that we are driving a car with a manual Gearbox, with its accompanying Stick Shift.)
It surprises most beginners that it is the Clutch that moves the car and not the Gas pedal. In fact, since you are going to be on a level stretch of road for the first tentative steps, it is interesting to demonstrate that the Car does indeed move with the foot no where near the Gas Pedal.

This is the point at which we are learning the first real Driving Skill; that of understanding the Term “Biting Point” and how to recognise it.
In the very early stages, a complete mastery of being able to bring the Clutch to” Biting Point” and hold it steady is the key to Driving away smoothly in every different situation. No amount of gas pedal usage will move the car unless the clutch is at Biting Point first. Once the car begins to move, and is building up a little momentum, then the clutch can be fully released gently and the Gas pedal then comes into play.Next follows a brief demonstration of the clutch control technique by the Instructor followed by the Pupil.

The sequence of moving off safely comes next, followed by the Real Thing, but of course it’s no use getting going if you then don’t know how to stop safely which will also be demonstrated. You are now on the move practising starting and stopping and the adrenalin is finally pumping after all the Theory!
Guess What? You will be doing the whole procedure in Reverse within a few minutes. Yes that’s right…Reversing! Reversing is such an integral part of every day driving that it’s something that can’t be left till later. If it is put off, then chances are that fear of failure will begin to creep in and that is not the object of Driving Lessons.

So there you have, in graphic (almost) detail, the first steps on your Driving Career. If you are going to progress steadily then you should be prepared to do plenty of homework in between your Lessons, with a pad and pen as well as reading the Notes which your Instructor will have given you!
There is plenty more where this came from, so take time to look at all the resources available and you should be well on the way to the basic apprentice stage after three or four weeks. The Driving Test is not a consideration at this stage and will only be addressed when you have a suitable level of skill built up over several months.

About the Author.
Robin Piggott is a professional Driving Instructor who runs a Driving School in Limerick, Ireland. The many benefits in taking Driving lessons are both obvious and not so obvious. To help the undecided learner driver make an informed decision and to get a head start, they should check out his web site and blog for the latest developments in the Driving Scene in Ireland.

Irish Driving Scene

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Instrumentation Terminology…..Auto Speak For Dashboard.

We are going to have a very quick look at your Instrument Panel (Dashboard) and the correct Description of each Warning Light. Even if you have no interest in the mechanical workings of your car it is essential to know the location of all the important “Bits”, their correct description and the appropriate action you must take when lights start to flash, bleep or generally misbehave!

You should not consider venturing out on your own unless you know the following. You will be putting your own life at risk and that of other road users, to say nothing of your passengers.

1. Handbrake Warning light (Red Circle with exclamation mark )

2. Alternator Warning Light (Battery Icon )

3. Oil Pressure warning Light (Oil Can Icon)

4. Coolant Temperature Gauge (Calibrated Gauge)

5. Coolant Temperature Warning Light (Thermometer Icon)

6. Fuel Gauge (Calibrated Gauge)

7. Rev Counter (Main Circular Dial )

8. Speedometer (Main Circular Dial )

9. Seatbelt Warning Light (Passenger Icon )

These are the main Instrument Warning lights which all come and stay on momentarily after you turn the Ignition on. All should then go out, leaving the Alternator Warning Light and the Handbrake Warning Light on as you start the Engine. Once the engine is running, the only light that should be visible is the Handbrake Warning Light. This should go out the moment you
move off.

What to do when any of these lights come on? With the exception of the Handbrake Warning Light all other lights showing while you are Driving require you to stop the Car immediately (after checking your mirrors) and investigate the cause.

We will go through the diagnostic procedures and the action to be taken in our next Post.
In the mean time Safe Driving ………….

Astral Driving School

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Preparing for your Driving Test. The Thinking Persons Guide!

Any of you who have read previous posts or articles will by now know that we don’t pull punches. Its flavour of the week to blame your ills on anyone but yourself, and this is no less true when you fail the Driving Test.
There are some basic, commonsense, actions that you can take to give yourself a better than average chance of passing first time. Makes Sense? Read On!

(1) Make sure your Car is up to the task by reading (you can do this?) the two pages of notes that come with your Driving Test Appointment. We have written articles and posts on this in great detail, yet Drivers seem to think that this is just Baloney. Try arriving for your Driving Test with worn tyres or a missing brake light or a malfunctioning Electric Window and see what transpires!

(2) Don’t wait till a week or two before your Driving Test before you ring for Lessons. It’s much too late at this stage. If you haven’t done the Test before you will need not only an update on recent developments but a good deal of practise on the routes that the Drive will encompass. Once you have been round the area with a Professional Instructor a few times, you can then go away in your own time and get a feel for the area yourself.

(3) Driving Lessons with a Professional Driving School will be worth the investment (note the absence of the word Expense!).You will not only get the latest Driving Test requirements which continue to evolve( i.e. changes and increases) but you will have all the “Hotspots” pointed out to you so that once again you can practise in your own time. What’s a Hotspot? My take on a hotspot is any place that requires an extra degree of understanding, awareness, and skill. This could be anything from a spot notorious for bad or double parking; a double-blind junction; or a right turn that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy!

(4) Reversing Manoeuvres require a great deal of practise in all sorts of different places, not just favourite Test Route spots, in order to perfect them. If you allocate sufficient time to perfecting these two manoeuvres, you will be giving yourself two extra marks to play around with .You need every available mark in order to cope with the many difficult situations on the Driving Test. Going into the Test with the confident knowledge that whatever else happens, you wont lose marks in your Reversing will give you a head start. Reversing is the one area that you, the Candidate, has complete control of the outcome and usually takes place in a quiet area with not too much traffic to deal with. It’s quite common to complete either of the two reversing manoeuvres moderately well technically and yet lose marks for poor technique or poor observation. Little or no observation will lead to a disqualification. So be warned!

That’s it for today …Get cracking and practise.

Astral Driving School

Friday, September 02, 2005

Sign of the Times

Here's a copy of the reply I sent this morning, to Emma Knights of the Eastern Daily Press of Norfolk. That's Norfolk, United Kingdom not Norfolk, Virginia.

Her brief snippet detailed the devastating loss of a Driving School Roof Sign.It really is difficult finding your car in one of those huge car-parks unless your roof sign is visible!

Hi Emma,

Nice little piece about the Hunter Driving School Sign.

Actually one of my local Colleagues here near Limerick had her roof sign stolen about five years ago and she never bothered to replace it. It doesn't seem to have affected her business in any way!

For myself, last year I suffered the loss of a body=magnetic sign which displayed the wonderful words,"Keep Back Learner Driver" in bright red letters.

Yes it's a curse when you have property stolen isn't it ?

Here in Ireland the sport of Non=Display of L Plates by Learner Drivers is gaining momentum rapidly, especially among Candidates that are just a few days from their Driving Test.

To overcome this malady, when I am meeting a pupil for the first time, in their own car I always carry a spare set of plates. It's the first thing I point out after shaking hands with them. Actually, come to think of it, I had a pupil drive off with a set of magnetic L plates a couple of years ago and have been unable to replace them. They are not readily available here.

If you want to borrow some Irish Learner Driver Stories at any time have a look at our Blog which resides at or better still check in to the forums community at an excellent new Irish portal where I have been invited to participate as Motoring Correspondent. Perhaps one day I will get a real job?

Must dash outside now to see if my sign and car are still there! Yes you've guessed it.....we have had a car stolen in broad daylight at 9.05am, at the peak of the "grab a car and burn it out before lunch" season a couple of years ago.The car was unrecognisable when we found it and had a boulder the size of a Sumo wrestler inside it.I still can't fathom how they did this.Actually the only means of identification, was the tattered remains of my Medical kit strewn around the perimeter of the wreckage!

Regards Robin

The Re-Signed School of Motoring.

Robin Piggott
Astral School of Motoring

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Buying your First Car… a few hints and Tips for Beginners

(1) Choose your Make and Model, and while colour is a factor in anyone’s choice it should not be the overriding one. When you have got used to Driving and have a bigger budget; then you can afford to be choosy.
(2) Check out the Buy &Sell Mag.or,an excellent Irish portal with many Motoring links, for prices of your chosen model and year and also your local Classified ads .It will give you a guide as to what you could be paying.
(3) If you buy privately, you may get a very good deal but it’s Caveat Emptor time and you should take along a friend who is experienced in these matters. We often go along with Pupils to vet and check out a car they like the look of. It does take time to evaluate a car and could be as much as an hour or so. It’s an expensive mistake if you don’t check everything out, and too late once the money has changed hands.
(4) If you are buying from a Garage that is not a main dealer of the Model you have set your heart on , the in depth checks are just as important, maybe even more so. Dealers are very quick to take the money but much less inclined to look after you if you don’t show them who’s Boss!
(5) While the legislation covering Purchasers rights are fairly well known it’s better to walk away from a car if everything is not absolutely A1.
(6) What to look for :-
(a) General Condition.
(b) Mileage
(c) Tyres including Spare. Tyres should be at least just half worn. While Tyres are not that expensive you should not have to go to the bother of replacing them just after buying the Car. This could be a bargaining stance for you.
(d) All Electrics working .Particularly Electric Windows if fitted. It’s an expensive job to get electric windows repaired. A Drivers side Electric window not functioning will result in the Car being turned down if you are on your Driving Test Appointment.
(e) Heavy soiling of seats together with worn pedal rubbers could indicate a higher mileage than is showing on the clock.
(f) Check the number of previous owners and if possible get the phone number of the previous owner to have a brief chat on the recent history of the car. If the vehicle has been giving no trouble, an owner is usually well disposed to giving you the low down.
(g) Car manual and service record should be in the glove box. This will give you very valuable information on the car’s history and the problems previous owners encountered.
(h) As part of the above, the date the Timing Belt was last changed is very important. If the timing belt goes awol you will be looking for a new engine!
A good look around the engine compartment will also tell quite a tale. This would be a good chance for the complete beginner to get used to all the bits of equipment that now form part of the New Technical Checks on the Irish Driving Test.

Now is the time for a TEST DRIVE, firstly with your advisor in the Driving Seat and then your goodself.
This is not the complete Definitive Guide to Peace of Mind but covers a good many points that a beginner will inevitably overlook.

(c) Astral Driving School.Limerick 2000-2005

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