Chronicles of Alex [Driving hours 9.25 – 10.75]

woman driving a car

Hours 9.25 – 10.75,

October 27, 2015

Teaching/Practicing Focus: 

  • Driving in traffic, increased speed to 50 km/hr 
  • Doing a few lane changes (not necessarily within traffic)
  • Anticipating the traffic light — will it change to yellow as we arrive to the intersection or not? How to tell. 
  • Following distances between us and the car in front
  • Space between us and car in front when stopped 
  • Scanning intersections beforehand 
  • Eye habits: keeping eyes moving, looking far ahead, checking mirrors quickly and regularly 

Teaching Do’s and Don’t’s: 


  • Build on skills the driver has already learned / practiced 
  • Add a bit more new information 
  • Keep practicing the same things we’ve already done (basic intersections, stop signs, starting, stopping, turning) 
  • Be encouraging
  • Have fun 
  • Take a break after a while 
  • Park/Stop the car to discuss or answer questions. Do not try to answer complicated questions while driving, as you will not be able to discuss the current moment simultaneously.  


  • Expect the driver to be perfect 
  • Have the driver on a busy street if they do not know how to turn a corner to get off the road confidently, unless you are planning to pull over instead of turn. 
  • Expect the driver to do something you haven’t taught them how to do. For example to get onto the ‘busy street’ note that we did not have to turn. We did turn right once to get onto 41st Avenue. Avoid turning left at traffic lights until you have taught this. Right turns are generally less dangerous and more forgiving of errors.  
  • Have the driver drive faster than they feel comfortable with. 

For no particular reason, we drove in beautiful Vancouver today. 

Alex Says:

I had a much harder time today because we went on multi-lane roads for a long time. Also, it’s hard to see intersections and scan far ahead of time when it’s super dark.

*Things that you might think would be easy for a new driver might not actually be. Driving in a straight line would seem to be easy, but driving on a busier street with traffic that is going at faster speeds can be more nerve racking for both driver and co-pilot. Young people have fast reaction times, but they may not know how to make the correct reaction. Things that also made this difficult were: 1) The dark road was 100% unfamiliar to the driver. 2) The situation was also new to the driver (driving in busier traffic and doing lane changes within traffic or on this type of road). 

I need to work on:

  • lane changing

  • giving the cars in the lanes beside me enough space and not moving into their lanes accidentally.

    • you can prevent moving side to side by looking far ahead.

    • also, you have to keep your eyes moving. New drivers can tend to look in a mirror – or some other place other than the place they are going – for too long (too long in my personal opinion means more than 1 or 2 seconds), resulting in the vehicle deviating from the intended path. 
  • remembering to turn on/off the car lights

  • mirror-checking faster (about 1 second)

I am having trouble remembering to look for road signs, but I hear this is normal for beginners.

You can’t be perfect right away. That is why you are driving with a supervisor/co-pilot. Their job is to help you and warn you about things you may not know to look for, because you’ve never done this before. This is a normal part of learning. After a while, before your road test and before driving alone, you should be at the point where you don’t need anyone sitting beside you; you can confidently handle any situation on your own safely and properly. But for now, just do your best and try to have a little fun. 

Learn English Via Listening | Begin...
Learn English Via Listening | Beginner Level | Lesson 18 | Learning How to Drive

How to lane change:

  • Check in your rear-view and side mirror to see if there’s enough space to lane change. The minimum distance is,  you are able to see the front tires touching the pavement in your rear-view mirror of the car in the lane into which you want to move into. So generally speaking, the space of about 5 cars could fit in between the two of you.

  • You need this space so you don’t cut-off the other driver, robbing him of his space following distance between his car and yours; also in case you change lanes and then suddenly stop for some reason, he still has enough time to also stop. 
  • If there’s not enough space, you can signal so that a car could make room for you to lane change, (and wait and see if they respond) or you can wait until there is more space if you have time.

  • If there is enough space, shoulder check.

  • Gradually steer into the lane beside you. You hardly need any steering for a lane change. Less is more. 

  • Check rear-view mirror again after moving. See what’s going on back there. 

Note about lane changing:

Only lane change if there is a dashed white line separating your lane and the lane into which you want to move. Before intersections/crosswalks, there is often a solid white line between lanes, telling you not to change lanes.

  • It’s illegal to change over a solid white line.
  • Solid white lines are found near crosswalks and intersections to limit lane changing near them, thus limiting unpredictable maneuvers and avoiding potential vision-blocking that could lead to incidents’.  

I learned more about the steps to take to park the car:

  • Once stopped, pull up the parking brake.

    • The job of the parking brake is to hold the car in place when parked, especially on hills; can also be used as an emergency brake should the regular brakes fail. 
  • Shift gears into neutral.

  • Ease your foot off the break pedal to test if the parking brake works. (Make sure to check around the vehicle in case it does start moving).

    • If the car starts moving, it means that the parking brake is either broken/malfunctioning or not up far enough.

    • This check is a good habit to develop to every time you park and is especially important on hills.

    • If you don’t check and make sure the parking brake is actually holding the car in place when parked (especially on hills) then what is the point in using  it? 
  • If the parking brake is holding the vehicle in place, shift gears into Park.

    • Yes, “Park” will normally hold in the car in place on its own; but could malfunction and the vehicle could potentially roll away if parked on a hill without the parking brake on. Therefore, when parking on hills – and we will get to that eventually – firstly turn your wheels the correct way to avoid dry steering, then check the parking brake function while in neutral, and then park the car into “park.” That way, your car will be kept in place firstly by the actual brake cable meant for this type of job, rather than a mere (secondly) position on the transmission, and thirdly by the position of the wheels should it actually attempt to”roll away.”
  • Turn off the car and the lights if you had to turn lights on.

I also learned:

At a red light, if there are train tracks before you and the car stopped in front of you, wait before the train tracks.

  • Look far ahead to anticipate the car in front of you stopping; you can predict this if you see any reason why it might stop: a pedestrian, a red light, or backed up traffic for example. 
  • Before you go, scan the train tracks to make sure it is safe to go anyway, no matter how it seems to be controlled. 

The different types of lights of the car:

  1. car lights that go on automatically when the car is running  (daytime running lights – DRL) (These do not normally turn on your tail lights, so they’re Okay for a day that is still fairly bright, but during dark or rainy days you might want to turn on your full regular headlights or rear lights so vehicles behind you can clearly see you). 

  2. small side lights on the front and parking/rear tail lights

  3. nighttime running lights (normal head lights)

  4. high-beams (Do not use high beams if there are cars in front of you, going either direction; technically speaking if any vehicle in front of you is within 150 meters of you. Not sure how you’re supposed to measure that while driving, so just don’t blind people, okay?) 

I practiced:

  • counting seconds to gauge the distance between me and the car in front of me

  • checking my speed to make sure I wasn’t speeding accidentally

It was a difficult road, but I’m always up for a challenge! And I didn’t even realize we had driven so far.

Nicely done. 


Carmen became a driving instructor at the age of 22 in North Vancouver, Canada and is an experienced writer, blogger, photographer, artist, philosopher, certified day dreamer and generally complicated human.

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