I watched the Mr Magoo cartoons when I was a little girl, laughing heartily at the predicaments and scrapes he would get into as he was driving. His near-sightedness and the fact that he could never see (or would admit) that he was causing chaos to happen behind him, was very funny!

Now, I’ve met a few people in my time, I regard as having the ‘Mr Magoo Syndrome’ but what I would like to ask today is, “are you one of those people on the road?”

Observation is one of the key elements of learning to drive and I know, even now, when I drive in the car with my husband next to me, a former driving instructor with A Pass 4 U, his observation skills are way superior to mine.

So I thought it was worth just running through, what observation skills you should be thinking about, when learning to drive. Basically this is your hazard perception and will be part of your theory test.

The point of observation, is to know what is happening around you, in front of, beside and behind you at all times. 

  • Scanning is important. Look as far as your eyes can see, always.
  • Check alternate mirrors every 3 to 5 seconds
  • Keep an eye on your dashboard to keep an eye on your speed
  • Look for people in parked cars (Potentially they could be on the move)
  • Listening – an important form of observation. (Sirens etc…)
  • Look out for motorbikes, scooters and cyclists.

This morning when I was leaving my house, I drove up to the junction which connects me with the main road. Immediately I was aware of how much, was actually going on around me. To my right, there were cars, buses and vans coming off the roundabout – picking up speed as they moved back onto the straight road. To my left coming towards me, were a mixture of vehicles again, commiting to the 30mph speed limit. In front of me – coming off a driveway of a house on the main road, a mini van driver was getting ready to pull out but wasn’t indicating, so I didn’t know which direction he was going to be driving in. I realised what a huge amount of information I was receiving, as I waited for the optimum opportunity to leave the junction and drive onto the main road.

When you learn to drive, there is a real skill and an art to becoming aware of everything that is happening around you, it can at times be overwhelming, when having to think of everything else, as well as what you are doing but that is partially why your driving instructor is there, to support you through this process, whilst teaching you how to drive and its not always about what people are doing wrong which can be seen as a problem by other drivers, but also the driving instructor will make you aware of what people are doing right.

There are times when you drive correctly – i.e. when you stay in your lane on a roundabout and others cut across it,  you can be made to feel as if you are the one driving incorrectly. When in fact it is them. So it’s really important to take notice of what you and they are doing and always listen to what your instructor says, because they have the experience to read situations that you are still learning to become aware of and so it is important to double check this learning with them, so you can become confident within yourself and a competent driver on the road.

Making observations on the road will never end as a driver. With thorough and competent tuition during your learning phase, then as you become more aware due to your on-road experiences, you will begin to read those situations earlier yourself.