8 months in, a few things learned

Since transferring to automatic training, quite a few points of view have changed, both mine and the student’s

Where has the year gone already? Seems like last week that I was getting the car ready for its first student, and now, 8 months down the line, the xmas lights in the garage are starting to somehow creep into view every time the mower needs to come out.

So what lessons have been learned since converting to auto? Firstly, there has been a much bigger demand locally than I anticipated. Seems like there were quite a few people in the Welshpool area that always wanted to drive, but were put off by gears. When these new drivers get into an auto for the first time there’s an almost tangible feeling of relief for them; finally free from the shackles of the clutch, they almost instantly realise that all the effort that was previously needed just to coordinate the gear shifts can now be put into looking at what’s going on outside the car.

Previously driven a manual and ended up in very real fear of junctions, roundabouts or even worse, hill starts? Sadly, this very scenario has meant many people have delayed learning to drive for too long, preventing themselves and sometimes their families from gaining that freedom that is so dependent on a car in rural areas. Well, after just one drive in an auto, all of that fear evaporates, leaving the student in a much better frame of mind to continue their training with confidence.

There has also been a significant shift in the demographic of students, with the vast majority now being between the ages of 20 and 60. It’s not that 17 – 20 year olds don’t want to learn in an auto, but more that there is still an apparent reluctance (mainly from parents…!) to allow their children to learn auto… despite, sometimes, the preference of the student!

Why the reluctance? Some of the most frequent reasons have been:

It’s lazy driving, not changing gear Physically less demanding, for sure, but isn’t that a good thing?!

It’s not proper driving Maybe not for an F1 or rally driver, but they’re not having to deal with traffic coming towards them!

You can drive manual or auto if you learn manual True, but pretty much everyone who has ever tried auto never wants to drive manual again.

To say that attitudes towards autos have changed in the UK in the past couple of years would be an understatement. Sales figures and technology advances tell that story clearly. To also say that there is still somewhat of a ‘sniffy’ attitude among more traditional drivers would also be true, at least as far as my experience is concerned. But thankfully more and more people are coming round to the inevitable, and this is opening doors to independence for many, especially in rural areas, where public transport is unfortunately not what it needs to be.

By far the biggest difference has been the impact an auto can have on defensive driving techniques. I mentioned earlier that, without having to work the clutch and gearstick, auto drivers find they have much more time and cognitive resource to focus on what’s going outside the car rather than in. So, contrary to being a ‘lazier’ form of driving, automatics actually make the driver more active in almost every important aspect of safe, efficient road use.

In other words, if you don’t need to worry about which gear you should be in, then you can put far more thought into the environment around you.

Because driving on the road is not just about controlling a car – it’s about interacting with your fellow road users.

And that, in a nutshell, has been the biggest eye opener by far, and why I now have very little time for all of the cliched, outmoded and outdated comments above!

%d bloggers like this: