Top tips for driving in Snow

Tips for Driving in Snow
Although the snow always looks very pretty from the window, it can often produce treacherous conditions. So to try and help you out with a little bit of advice, here are Drive Ahead’s top tips for driving in snow:

– only drive if your journey is absolutely necessary. There’s no pointing risking driving in the bad conditions unless you have to.

– Make sure your WHOLE car is cleared of snow. Maybe people clear the windows then go. Leaving snow behind on the roof or bonnet is very dangerous. As your car warms up, the snow will begin to melt and could slide over your windscreen or onto the road causing dangerous conditions for any vehicle that may be following.

– Make sure you and your car are prepared. Ensure your tyres are well maintained, and your lights are all working. Put some warm clothes, a flask with a hot drink, a shovel, and some grit in your boot in case you get stuck.

– Stopping distances can be up to TEN times longer in snowy/icy conditions. Be prepared that the car will not slow down as easily as it normally would. Keep your overall speed lower, and start your braking considerably earlier than you normally would.

– If your car begins to skid from the rear, turn your wheels into the skid. Eg, if your back end is going right, steer right to counter the skid.

– Always try and drive in the highest gear you can without the car struggling. Keeping the engine revs down will reduce the chance of the wheels spinning.

– If you’re trying to get up a hill, don’t rev the engine, it’ll only encourage a skid and won’t help at all to get up the hill. Keep the acceleration to the minimum you can.

The Big Learner Relay is coming to Stoke on Trent!

Big Learner Relay
On the 14th November 2014, the Children in Need Big Learner Relay comes to Stoke on Trent. It’s journey began in Northern Ireland on 30th October and is travelling the length and breadth of the country with driving instructors passing a roof top box from one car to the next after taking a learner on a driving lesson. On the 14th November the roof top box will arrive on a driving lesson from Macclesfield, and will meet the Stoke on Trent team at Asda in Tunstall at around 9.45am. After lots of photos and celebrations, Drive Ahead School of Motoring will be leading a convoy of driving lessons from Stoke on Trent to Asda in Stafford where the roof box will be passed on again to continue it’s journey. The Big Learner Relay will come to an end in Birmingham on the evening of 14th November.

How did the learner relay come about?

During the 2013 coverage of Children in Need, Louise Walsh, a driving instructor from the New Forest, was watching with her driving instructor husband. While she was watching she wondered that, surely as an industry, we could all do something to raise funds for Children in Need. This is when the Big Learner Relay was born. Following months and months of planning by Louise and the Learner Relay committee, the Big Learner Relay came to fruition, and the first car left Northern Ireland on the 30th October 2014. Over the duration of the relay, 147 driving instructors will lead a leg of the relay covering over 2,500 miles, and raising thousands of pounds for Children in Need. At the time of writing the relay has already made over £20,000 with 8 days still to go!

How can you get involved?

The Stoke on Trent leg will leave Asda in Tunstall at 10am on Friday 14th November. Cars will be arriving from around 9.30 and we’ll be parked up in a prime position outside the front of the store. Please come along and cheers us on, take photos, and make donations. In the meantime you can donate by texting PASS52 £5 to 70070 (for a different amount just change the £5 to your desired amount) or you can go to our Just Giving page at www.justgiving.com/BigLearnerRelayStoke/

Show Me Tell Me Questions

At the start of your driving test you will be asked 2 questions known as Show Me Tell Me Questions. These questions test your knowledge of basic car maintenance, safety checks, and the operation of certain controls inside the car. If you can’t answer a question or get a question wrong you will receive 1 driving fault per incorrect question.

Q1 – Open the bonnet, identify where you would check the engine oil level and tell me how you would check that the engine has enough oil.
A – Identify the dipstick, pull it out and check the oil level against the min/max markings.

Q2 -Show me/explain how you would check that the power assisted steering is working before starting a journey.
A – If the steering becomes heavy the steering may be faulty. Before starting a journey two simple checks can be made. 1) Gentle pressure on the steering wheel, maintained whilst the engine is started, should result in slight but noticeable movement as the system begins to operate. 2) Turning the steering wheel after just moving off will give an immediate indication that the power assisted steering is functioning correctly.

Q3 – Open the bonnet, identify where you would check the engine coolant level and tell me how you would check the engine has the correct level.
A – Identify the engine coolant tank and check the min/max markings. If the coolant is below the min mark then more coolant will need to be added. To do this, unscrew the cap and pour in coolant until the max mark is reached.

Q4 – Show me how you would check the parking brake for excessive wear; make sure you keep safe control of the vehicle.
A – Apply the parking brake firmly. Demonstrate by applying parking brake so that when it is fully applied it secures itself, and is not at the end of the working travel.

Q4 – Show me how you would check that the horn is working (off road only).
A – Press the horn and listen (turn on ignition if necessary).

Q5 – Open the bonnet, identify where the Windscreen Washer reservoir is and tell me how you check the level?
A – Identify reservoir, lift off cap and make a visual check of level as there are no external markings on reservoir.

Q6 – Show me how you would check the parking brake for excessive wear; make sure you keep safe control of the vehicle.
A – Apply the parking brake firmly. Demonstrate by applying parking brake so that when it is fully applied it secures itself, and is not at the end of the working travel.

Q7 – Open the bonnet, identify where the brake fluid reservoir is and tell me how you would check that you have a safe level of hydraulic brake fluid.
show me tell me, identify brake fluid.
A – Identify the brake fluid reservoir and check the fluid level against the min/max levels.

Q8 – Show me how you would check that the direction indicators are working correctly.
A – Activate the indicators or hazard warning lights and walk around the car to see if all the indicators are working correctly.

Q9 – Show me how you would check that the brake lights are working on this car. (I can assist you, if you need to switch the ignition on, please don’t start the engine).
A – Operate brake pedal, make use of reflections in windows, garage doors, etc, or ask someone to help. (may need to switch ignition on, prompt not to start engine)

Q10 – Tell me how you would check that the brakes are working before starting a journey.
A – As you move off check the brakes. They should not feel spongy and the car should not pull to one side.

Q11 – Tell me how you would check that the headlights and tail lights are working.
A – Turn on lights (turn ignition if necessary), walk around car and check that the lights are on.

Q12 – Tell me where you would find the information for the recommended tyre pressures for this car and how tyre pressures should be checked.
A – Information will be found using the car manufacturer’s manual. Check the tyre pressures by using a reliable pressure gauge when the tyres are cold. Don’t forget the spare and remember to refit the valve caps.

Q13 – Tell me how you would check the tyres to show that they have sufficient tread depth and that their general condition is safe to use on the road.
A – A safe tyre will have no cuts or bulges. The tread depth should be at least 1.6mm across the central 3/4s of the breadth of the tyre and around the entire outer circumference.

Q14 – Show me how you would clean the windscreen using the windscreen washer and wipers.
A – Operate control to wash and wipe windscreen (turn ignition on if necessary.

Q15 – Show me how you would set the demister controls to clear all the windows effectively, this should include both front and rear screens.
A – Set all relevant controls including; fan, temperature, air direction / source and heated screen to clear windscreen and windows. Engine does not have to be started for this demonstration.

Q16 – Show me how you would switch on the rear fog light(s) and explain when you would use it/them. (No need to exit vehicle).
A – Operate switch (turn on dipped headlights and ignition if necessary). Check warning light is on. Explain use.

Q17 – Show me how you switch your headlight from dipped to main beam and explain how you would know the main beam is on whilst inside the car.
A – Operate switch (with ignition or engine on if necessary), check with main beam warning light

Q18 – Tell me how you make sure your head restraint is correctly adjusted so it provides the best protection in the event of a crash.
A – The head restraint should be adjusted so the rigid part of the head restraint is at least as high as the eye or top of the ears, and as close to the back of the head as is comfortable. N.B. Some restraints might not be adjustable.

Q19 – Tell me how you would know if there was a problem with your anti lock braking system.
A – Warning light should illuminate if there is a fault with the anti lock braking system.

Don’t get caught out when booking driving tests online!

When you’re learning to drive there will come a time when you need to book your theory test and driving test.  In this modern world, most people will choose to do this online.  The official government websites for booking the test are as follows:

To book a theory test – https://www.gov.uk/book-theory-test

To book a driving test – https://www.gov.uk/book-driving-test

These websites work really well, and the booking system is really easy to follow.  Unfortunately many people don’t use the correct website.  This tends to be down to Google.  Instead of finding the correct website, many people simply search ‘book theory test’ or ‘book driving test’ and the first results that come up are the sponsored adverts.  Within these sponsored adverts appear a number of websites that are not associated with the DVSA (the official government department for driving tests).  These websites offer promises of free retests if you fail your test, even though you will pay a premium for the privilege.

The problem with these websites is not many people read the small print.  The lure of a retest, for what seems quite a reasonable price, draws many people into just booking without giving much though into what they’re actually going to get.  I’ve looked at the small print on several sites, and the terms and conditions on all sites related to theory state that if you don’t pass because you failed the hazard perception section of your test then they will not rebook and you will lose out.  You also have to have failed the multiple choice questions by only 2 marks, if you’ve failed by more than that, then yet again they won’t rebook you test for you and you will lose out.

So, if we look at the possible outcomes of using these sites:

You pass first time – You will lose out as you’ve paid more than correct rate in the first place

You pass the multiple choice section, but fail the hazard perception – You will lose out

You fail the multiple choice section by scoring less than 41 out of 50 – You will lose out

You fail the multiple choice section by scoring either 41 or 42 out of 50 and you pass your hazard perception – You will get your free retest and will have benefited from the offer

So, taking all of these outcomes into consideration, although the initial offer looks good, it’s more than likely you’re going to lose out.  If the offer was as good as it seems then the companies making these websites wouldn’t make any money.

Failure to prepare is preparing to fail

My advice would also be to use the official sites I posted at the top of this blog, and make sure you’re prepared for your test so there’s a limited chance that you’ll fail in the first place.  There’s loads of great resources for you to use, and all of our learners get free access to Theory Test Pro.  For more information just give us a call on 01782 906010

Driving Test Passes – February 2014

Another brilliant month for driving test passes here at Drive Ahead. A massive well done for everyone who has passed their driving test this month after taking driving lesson with us. If you’d like to join our ever-growing list of successful test passes then give us a call today on 01782 906010 or why not book online?

Pete – 3rd February 2014 – A great start to the month when Pete passed his driving test in Newcastle under Lyme with our driving instructor Mark Lawton.
Pete passed in Newcastle

6th February 2014 – Charlotte Walker – Charlotte came to Drive Ahead after her friend had passed with us a couple of years ago. Charlotte took her driving lessons with our instructor Dave and passed in Stoke on Trent.
Charlotte passed in Stoke on Trent

7th February 2014 – Zara Azam-Rajabian – Zara took lessons with Drive Ahead after her brother passed his driving test with us. Zara started to learn whilst at university in Leicester but came to Drive Ahead when she moved back home to Stoke on Trent.
Zara passed with our driving instructor Dave

18th February 2014 – Jessica – Jessica took her driving lessons in Stoke on Trent with our driving instructor Sarah, before passing her test at the Cobridge test centre
Jessica passed her driving test

20th February 2014 – Katrina – Katrina passed her driving test in Newcastle under Lyme with our driving instructor Sarah Alcock
Another pass in Newcastle under Lyme

21st February 2014 – Rhiannon Bedford – Rhiannon passed her driving test 1st time with our driving instructor John. Rhiannon took her driving lessons in Stoke on Trent before passing at the Cobridge driving test centre
Rhiannon Bedford passed in Stoke on Trent

25th February 2014 – CharlotteCharlotte passed her driving test 1st time with just 1 minor fault! Charlotte completed a great month of passes for our driving instructor Sarah. Well done Charlotte
Charlotte passed in Newcastle

26th February 2014 – Kayleigh Duffield – Kayleigh was our final pass of the month in February. She took her lessons with our driving instructor John Johnson before passing her driving test at the Newcastle driving test centre
Kayleigh's driving lessons in Newcastle

Driving Test Passes – January 2014

Congratulations to everyone who passed their driving test with Drive Ahead throughout January 2014! If you’d like to take driving lessons with one of our driving instructors then give us a call today on 01782 906010 or why not book online. We cover Stoke on Trent, Newcastle under Lyme, and we’ll soon be covering Stafford as well.

2nd January 2014 – Jordan Broadhead – The new year kicked off to a great start when Jordan passed his driving test at Newcastle driving test centre with our instructor Mark Lawton.
Jordan Broadhead

3rd January 2014 – Sam – Well done to Sam who passed after taking driving lessons with our instructor Sarah Alcock at the Newcastle test centre
Newcastle driving lessons

6th January 2014 – Lee Colclough – Lee passed after taking driving lessons with our instructor Mark Lawton, and passed at the Cobridge (Stoke on Trent) test centre.
Stoke on Trent driving lessons

7th January 2014 – Tom Kendrick – Tom took his test in Newcastle, and ended off a great week for our driving instructor Mark Lawton who recorded 3 passes in the first week of 2014! Great results all round – Well done!
3 passes in 1 week

8th January 2014 – Grace Roberts – Grace passed her driving test first time at the Newcastle under Lyme test centre with our instructor John Johnson.

10th January 2014 – Anthony Leese – Anthony passed after taking lessons with our driving instructor John Johnson. He passed at the Newcastle under Lyme test centre.
Driving Lessons in ST1

13th January 2014 – Mohsina Tariq – Mohsina passed first time at the Cobridge (Stoke on Trent) test centre. Mohsina was the 4th member of her family to have passed with Drive Ahead, following in the footsteps of her parents and her older brother.

14th January 2014 – Rev Louis GD III – Rev Louis passed his driving test after taking driving lessons in Stoke on Trent with our driving instructor Martin Molyneux. He passed at the Cobridge test centre.
Louis passed in Stoke on Trent

15th January 2014 – Johnathan Travers – Johnathan passed at Cobridge test centre following his driving lessons with our instructor John Johnson.

16th January 2014 – Sabrina Arif – Sabrina follows in the footsteps (or should I say tyre tracks) of her sister Sobia who also passed with Drive Ahead last year. Sabrina passed at Newcastle after taking lessons with our driving instructor Dave Shannon
Another pass in Newcastle

16th January 2014 – Nazeela Omar – 2nd pass in the same day with our instructor Dave Shannon. Nazeela joined Drive Ahead after her brother in law passed first time with us in 2013.
Learning to drive in Stoke

22nd January 2014 – Hayman Khudur – Hayman passed in Stoke after taking driving lessons with our instructor Martin Molyneux
Stoke on Trent driving lessons

24th January 2014 – Matt – Yet another pass with Mark Lawton, his pupils just can’t stop passing this month. Well done to Matt who passed at Newcastle
Matt passed in Newcastle

31st January 2014 – Samantha Wright – A great end to the month with our 14th pass in January. Samanatha passed with our driving instructor John in Newcastle under Lyme.

Yet again, another fantastic month with over 20 new learners starting their driving lessons throughout the Stoke on Trent and Newcastle area with Drive Ahead, and a terrific 14 people have now gained their independence by passing their driving tests!

Driving Lesson in Stoke on Trent – What to expect on your first driving lesson?

When you start learning to drive it’s hard to know what to expect.  This blog post will tell you everything that will happen during your first driving lesson in Stoke with Drive Ahead School of Motoring so you know what to expect and there’ll be no surprises.

Your driving instructor will pick you up from a prearranged location (usually work, home or college).  You’ll need to make sure you bring your driving license along with you, you should bring both parts, the plastic photo card and paper counterpart.  Your driving instructor will then ask you to read a number plate (currently this is from 20 metres, but is shortly to changed to 17.5 metres) in good daylight.  If you normally wear glassed or contacts then you should wear them for your driving lessons, as failure to read the number plate would be mean the lesson cannot go ahead.

Your driving instructor will then normally drive you to a quite location where there are few distractions and not too much traffic, making the learning process easier.  You will then swap round to the drivers seat, but don’t worry, you won’t be expected to start driving immediately.

The first thing to learn on your driving lessons is the cockpit drill.  This is a process of 5 checks that ensure that the car is secure, you are sitting in the right position and can reach all of the controls properly, and see everything you need to see.  Its not the catchiest thing to remember, but the acronym we use DSSSM:

D – Doors

S – Seat

S – Steering

S – Seatbelt

M – Mirrors

I’ll go into the details of each of these checks in a later blog.

Following this your driving instructor will talk you through each of the controls of the car, how to operate them, and what they all do.  These will include feet controls, handbrake, gears, handbrake, steering and indicators.

Once you’ve done this, it’s nearly time to drive!

You will learn all about Mirrors – Signal – Manoeuvre (MSM) which is the building blocks for everything we do.  Your driving instructor will talk you through preparing the car to move, performing the relevant safety checks, before getting the car moving along the road then coming to stop a short time later.  The first few times you try this, your driving instructor will talk you through absolutely everything to help you get going.  As he feels you gaining in confidence, he will start to ask you questions to check you understand what you have learnt throughout your driving lesson, and will then gradually reduce the amount of instruction he gives depending on your ability.

You may do slightly more or less than this, depending on the length of your driving lessons, or your own ability.  At the end of your first driving lesson your driving instructor will recap everything you’ve done and will then book your next driving lesson with you.

Good luck with you learning, and have fun – from all at Drive Ahead School of Motoring