How to get lost - and what to do next

I'm going away by car this weekend and I've just been planning my routes, which reminded me of something about learning to drive. When I first passed my test and found myself out on the road on my own, the thing I was least prepared for was not having someone constantly directing me! No one had taught me how to get lost, or what to do next.

Unlike a lot of my friends, I didn't learn to drive when I turned seventeen, and by the time I took my test, I was already in a job where they needed me to do a lot of driving. I had a great driving instructor - he was an ex-professional footballer who still did a lot of football coaching, and I'm sure that experience was part of what made him good at teaching driving skills. But like most people, my lessons consisted largely of practising for the driving test, in which you're given instructions on exactly what to do at all times.

As soon as I qualified, I found myself being sent out in a radio car all over South Yorkshire with an address and an A to Z, with the news editor wanting me to call in before the next bulletin. I'd never really practised studying a map, before you set off, so that you remember how to get somewhere - and I hadn't learned how to drive safely while keeping an eye out for a street name, or just knowing when to pull up and look at the map again.

Luckily I got through without doing any harm to myself or anyone else, but I wonder if anyone actually does teach new drivers these skills? I notice a lot of the driving instructors on School of Everything offer Pass Plus training:

I'd be interested to know if those courses cover the kind of road skills and navigation skills I found I was lacking as a new driver? (Come to think of it, maybe having a SatNav is like always having a driving instructor telling you what to do next? It's not something I've tried, yet.)

The best way to find new places is to "Get lost" & yes as a driving instructor myself I always include this in my lessons - with even more emphasis on the subject as part of the Pass plus course. Although it isn't part of the guidelines we are given to "teach" i think it is a vital skill. Once my pupils have learnt the basic skills of control & observation every lesson includes an element of independent driving, including route planning and route re-planning if we take a wrong turn. (that's one of the reasons why we learn how to do a turn in the road and reversing round a corner for the L test). It certainly makes the lessons enjoyable for both of us and makes them a better, safer & more confident driver even before they take their L test. Pass Plus just builds on these skills enabling them to be even more independent, enjoy their driving and maybe find a few new places along the way!

Hi Dougald and Alison

I actually teach map reading - but for walkers.

It is a really great 10 week X 2 hours per week cours. Lots of the techniques are transferrable to navigating by car - for example we practise identifying 'tick off features' so you know how far you have comes adn 'attack points' so you have an easy to locate known point (eg a round about) before setting off into a complex a piece of navigation (eg back streets) .

Hi Alastair -

That sounds great! I'm curious what you find about the variation in people's ability to read maps? Obviously there are lots of stereotypes about men and women, and so on - but it does seem like one of these skills which some people find very natural and others find completely baffling. How far do you think there are big gaps in natural ability, and how much is it a learned skill and/or a matter of confidence?


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