Continuing our 'Diaries of a Learner Driver Series', this post details how learner drivers deal with dual carriageways and the national speed limit.
Driving at higher speeds can be scary at first, but with practice and confidence, it's something not to fear as our learner explains...
This lesson was supposed to be focused on dual carriageways. However, I only encountered a couple but drove along busy main roads for the whole lesson which is something I haven’t done before.
Driving at higher speeds
I’ve only really driven down one main road, the one that leads to the residential area I normally drive around. I was excited but nervous at the same time as I’ve never been one for speed and always go as slow as possible when given the choice (yes I am talking about go-karts and fairground rides!).
The first stretch of the main road I did in third gear, I could hear the car clanging a bit because it could have done with being in fourth gear, but I chose to stay in third as I’m not confident with fourth gear. Soon enough we approached a row of three massive roundabouts. I’ve still not had a lesson about roundabouts but I have been round so many now. I still find them difficult but I think I actually understand how they work now and when to move lanes, which I had no idea about last week.
National Speed Limit
I ended up on a road which I am familiar with which has the national speed limit. I normally struggle to go 40 in a 40mph zone so I didn’t think I had any hope of keeping up with traffic on this road.
I was going about 63mph which I don’t think is too bad for my first time of being in a 70mph zone. I did have a couple of cars overtake me which unnerved me a little as they overtook, especially when there were bends in the road and visibility was bad. At this point, I was in 4th gear for I think the second time ever. I found it so much easier to move from 3rd to 4th than 2nd to 3rd as you just bring the gearstick straight down.
While we are on the subject of gears, I only had one gear incident during this lesson! I have started keeping the clutch down for a little bit longer now when I change gears, which was lucky during this lesson as I accidentally put the car into 1st instead of 3rd which is what I’ve done in the past. As my clutch was still down I hadn’t engaged first and realised what I had done before I released the clutch and so managed to put the car into the intended gear.
I also encountered my first five-way junction during this lesson which was horrible. And to make matters worse we went over it four times, going in different directions and taking different exits. I have still not got a clue how it works and who has right of way etc. and the traffic lights controlling it don’t make it any less confusing.
Driving on a Dual Carriageway for the first time…
When I finally ended up on a dual carriageway, I found it a really nice road to drive down. No pedestrians, no traffic lights and no holding other people up as they could overtake me. I know that these roads are supposed to be challenging to drive on, however it was empty and I didn’t have to use a slip road to join. This meant that I didn’t have to make the important observations that I would have had to do on a slip road.
I hit 70mph at some points and I went into 5th gear for the first time which was strange as I’m not used to bringing the gearstick across that far. The basic rules on dual carriageways are not to undertake and to move over to let things onto the road that are coming from the slip roads.
Clutch and brake control
During this lesson, I had so many opportunities to practice using the foot-brake and clutch to stop the car and start it moving again. I only used my handbrake once during the lesson and that was when I was stopped on a hill. As the roads were quite busy, there was a queue up to most of the roundabouts and junctions that I came across. I found using the foot-brake and then using the clutch to edge along the road behind traffic made the drive much smoother, easier and quicker.
It’s definitely coming more naturally now than it was during my last few lessons. Now I understand what I’m doing and the purpose of it, I’ve practically forgotten that the car has a handbrake!