DSA sees sense on steering… but have Instructors?
After much recent pressure from within the professional driver coaching industry, the DSA have made an important amendment to their driving test marking guidelines.
It seems to be a little known fact that a driver taking their driving test will not be faulted for simply failing to adopt the ‘pull-push’ steering technique. In truth, this has been the case for over 20 years, but the ‘pull-push’ method has become so ingrained within the industry that many driving instructors still vehemently insist on its use.
A new paragraph has appeared in the latest amendments to the DT1 (DSA Examiners Guidance Notes) with regard to ‘control’. You can access the full document here.
“To ensure uniformity, when conducting car or vocational tests and ADI qualifying examinations, only assess the candidate’s ability to control the vehicle and do not consider it as a fault if, for example, they do not hold the steering wheel at ten to two or quarter to three or if they cross their hands when turning the steering wheel. The assessment should be based on whether the steering is smooth, safe and under control.” (Crown Copyright)
Driver coaches are delighted that this important steering issue has been clarified, not because the pull-push technique is incorrect or dangerous, but because it opens the door for the introduction of coaching as a primary training method in driver training.
It seems that up to now many examiners and perhaps the majority of driving instructors have not got the message. But at long last, this small amendment to the DT1 should help clarify the issue.
This has personally been welcomed by myself, who has had first-hand experience of ADI Part 3 examiners marking PDI’s down for not advocating use of the pull-push method during their instructional examination.
The main reason instructors give for insisting on the use of the pull-push technique is because of the increased risk of arm or facial injury due to the deployment of the airbag during a crash. Indeed, I myself have perpetuated this belief over the years. However, it has emerged that there are no factual studies to back up this claim – simply hearsay and quotes from unverifiable sources. In any case, it is likely that the driver will cross their hands anyway, just before the point of impact, in an attempt to avoid the collision.
And what is one of the first things most new drivers do after passing their driving test? They leave the pull-push method behind and begin to steer ‘naturally’. Drivers do not crash because of how they steer – they have crashes because of the way they plan (or fail to plan) their driving.
The ethos of driver coaching is that the learner is allowed to develop their own safe driving style, to become more aware and responsible drivers. Insisting on an un-natural steering technique undermines this principle.
“So where do we go from here” I hear you ask? Simple – allow your pupil to steer in the way that is most comfortable for them. I’m not suggesting that you dismiss the pull-push technique – it is simply one of the methods for turning the wheel. As long as the driver maintains safe control over the steering of the vehicle at all times, they can adopt whichever steering technique with which they feel most comfortable.
Remember here that the only part of steering methodology to which I am referring is in the way the wheel is physically turned. It is still safer to hold the wheel in the conventional “ten-to-two” or “quarter-to-three” position, just as it is still safer to drive with both hands on the wheel.
But if we are to eliminate the damaging public belief that “you drive one way to pass your test, and another way when you’re on your own”, driving instructors need to ‘get real’ and begin to instil a true level of awareness and responsibility from the very first lesson.