Chronicles of Alex [Hours 7.5 – 9.25]

Hours 7.5 – 9.25, Oct 22 (5:45 pm – 7:30 pm)

Location: North Vancouver

Today we continued on with the basic intersections with 2 and 4 way stops, some traffic circles, and some driving in traffic. 

Alex says:

I had so much fun today! We went driving before dusk when it was still light and into the evening when it got darker. It’s starting to get dark earlier, and that makes visibility worse, but I hope I’ll get used to it.

We put an additional L sign on the front hood along with the one at the back of the car. A second L sign definitely helps pedestrians and cars facing you at intersections know you’re still learning. Despite this I still got honked at twice.

I’ve been honked at as well over the years. Sometimes it was when I was a new driver and there was a good reason, like I was staring into space at the red light rather than watching for the light to change to green. Other times, it was when I had my full license and then even times when I had my instructor’s license and wasn’t doing anything wrong at all other than driving safely or properly. When people honk in some cases, it just means they are feeling very impatient and unkind, and would like to attract attention to themselves in order to let everyone else around them know about it. There are times when the horn could be used for some positive outcome; to prevent a collision or to warn others of a danger. But honking at someone who is learning how to drive is not one of them. Good thing, you can decide whether or not you want to acknowledge the honking. And no matter how badly the person doing the honking would like to control you, it is only you that can control your vehicle and decide to control your vehicle in a safe manner (or whatever manner you choose). 

The most DRAMATIC 72hrs of our live...
The most DRAMATIC 72hrs of our lives! - NC500 Road Trip Vanlife UK

Stuff I learned:

  • Start the car by:

    • Twisting the key away from you (Make sure you stop turning and let it go after the engine has started so you are not hard on the starter) 

    • Shifting the gear to Drive

    • Pulling down the parking brake

  • Turn off the car by doing the reverse:

    • Pulling up the parking brake

    • Shifting the gear to Park

    • Twisting the key towards you

Following Distance

  • How to count how far away the car in front of you is from you: (When the cars are moving – This is known as your following distance, and if trying to measure the seconds, it works well once you have established some space between you and the vehicle in front of you, and are travelling at approximately the same speed) 

    • Start counting seconds once the car in front of you passes a specific point (for example, a sign). Don’t pick a moving point, such as a horse-drawn carriage. 

    • Once you reach that point, stop counting.

    • The total number of seconds you counted is the distance in seconds you are from the car in front of you.

  • It’s best to stay at least 3 seconds behind the car in front of you, although most books say 2. Allow even more seconds in poor conditions. This is a general guideline for good conditions and speeds of 50 km/hr or less. When conditions are poor, or speeds are higher, we need more seconds still. This space is very important to ensure we do not run into the vehicle in front or be rear-ended by the vehicle behind in the case the one in front has to stop suddenly or in the event of an emergency. In addition your visibility is improved with additional space compared to following too closely. 

  • Just because the light is green, doesn’t mean it’s safe to go. Green means go, IF it is safe, AFTER you have checked it is safe. 

    • When stopped at a red light, if the light turns green, you should scan the intersection before going. (From left to right; or more specifically left, centre, right, and left again, as any car on your left is the first or closest danger to you). 

  • If there is a car in front of you at a red light and the light turns green, let the car in front go (for a bit) and get 3 seconds ahead of you before you go. Sometimes the car in front stops again.

  • Car in Front Turning Left / Stopping again (with an added distraction)


      • Before stopping/slowing down, you should check the rearview mirror to make sure you won’t get rear-ended by the car behind you. Just try to judge the speed of the vehicle and make sure the driver is at least planning to slow down as well. 

        • If you can see the entire car behind you in your rearview mirror, the car isn’t too close to you.

        • If you can’t see the car’s headlights, the car is very close to you.

      • It’s ok to stop with a jerk if it’s an emergency. Just check that you won’t get rear-ended.

      • Slow down on super steep hills because of visibility. You should be able to completely stop the vehicle in the distance that you can see, in case of the unexpected. 

      • I also changed lanes for the first time (out of necessity)! How to change to the right lane (out of necessity) when traveling on a road with traffic:

        • Turn on your right signal. If there’s a lot of traffic and you don’t turn on your signal, then how will the other drivers know that you want to move over? If they don’t know, then they can’t help. 

        • Check your right mirror to see if the car behind you in the right lane is letting you change lanes.

        • Shoulder-check.

        • Turn into the right lane.

        • We will do a proper lane changing lesson in the near future* This one worked well, but there are more details to be discussed.  
      • If you see that the light (or many lights coming up) at the intersection ahead of you is red, you can slow down. (Or at least, don’t speed up anymore). This way, you have a smoother stop or to avoid stopping entirely if the light turns green by the time you get to the intersection. This can save on a lot of car parts including gas, tires, and other components, as well as minimizing the risk of being rear ended, as it is a little more difficult to be rear-ended if you never stop moving. 

Some sign review:

  • If there is a white (white and black) sign saying the speed limit is 40, you will usually see another one following it that will tell you when the limit changes. If you don’t see anymore signs, then it’s still 40. 

  • However, if it’s a yellow playground speed limit sign, you should keep in mind to check for the back of the next yellow playground sign that will tell you when the speed limit is back at 50. It is facing the traffic coming in the opposite direction. You can also look for this second one in your rearview mirror.

Stuff we practiced:

  • Parking beside the curb.

  • Checking every crosswalk for pedestrians (Scan well ahead before you get there) 

  • Another way to inch closer to the curb after you have pulled over and are too far away is:

    • Shift gears to Reverse. (Look all around the vehicle doing a 360 degree check before going backwards) 

    • You want your back wheels to go right so that they are closer to the curb, so turn the wheel right. until you see in the right mirror that the car looks closer to the curb, Then turn the wheel to the left the same amount that you turned it right and let the car move until the car is straight). If you only go backwards and turn right, your car will not be straight, and the rear tires will eventually hit the curb if you keep going. 

    • Shift gears to Drive.

    • Turn the wheel right to line up the car alongside the curb.

  • It is hard for me to tell how close the wheels are to the curb, but I hope I will get better at that with practice.

We reviewed the point of no return.

Point of no return: The point when you decide to continue driving through an intersection when the traffic light goes yellow, because stopping or attempting to stop the vehicle before the white stopping line would not be safe (depending on the vehicle behind you) or possible (depending on your speed or the road conditions).  

Legally, when approaching the intersection, we must stop the vehicle behind the white stopping line when the light changes to yellow, unless we can not stop safely in time. 

There is no specific measure of point of no return because it depends on:

  • your speed

  • the slipperiness of the road (for example, rain increases the road’s slipperiness)

  • if it is safe to stop or if you will get rear-ended because the car (or large truck, or any other vehicle) behind you is too close to you

Blind spots

The instructor also walked around the car several times while I stayed in the driver’s seat to show me where the blind spots are because I was confused as to where I should be looking when I shoulder check.

  • The right shoulder check is pretty straightforward – just outside the back right window.

  • For the left, I have to look out the front left window and back left window just because of the way the car’s made.

  • It depends on the car, so it’s good to check where the blind spots are to know where you have to look.

I need to work on:

  • my turns

    • not turning too narrow

    • finishing the steering completely

  • shoulder-checking

    • I have trouble shoulder-checking quickly


The type of shoe you’re wearing really makes a difference! I changed from thick boots into flats and it became easier to feel the brake and thus stop smoothly. Your stopping is very smooth and professional. A+ 

Fresh or Stale Traffic Lights

Fresh green traffic light: A green traffic light that you are 100% certain will stay green as you are approaching the intersection. 

Stale green traffic light: A green traffic light that’s been in the fridge for a while and should probably go to the compost. A green traffic light that you are expecting might change to yellow as you are approaching the intersection.  

We also practicing determining if a green light is stale or not:

  • If the green light is blinking, it means that the light is green 24/7 unless a pedestrian wants to cross the intersection. (pedestrian-controlled) 

    • For some intersections, the blinking green light will go to a solid green light before turning yellow if a pedestrian wants to cross

    • Scan all intersections with the flashing green light anyway. Pedestrians are required to wait for the flashing light to change so that they can proceed, however, it is good to check anyway because sometimes pedestrians run across unexpectedly, sometimes when trying to catch a city bus for example.  
  • If you didn’t see the light change to green (and even if you did see it change to green in some cases), assume stale until proven guilty (I mean not stale )

    • It is better to be prepared rather than surprised and caught off-guard 
    • Stale until proven fresh~  
    • Stale until proven innocent~  
    • If you don’t see the “walk” sign for the pedestrian, assume it is stale, as there are sensors at intersections; so even though a light just went green, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to stay green  
  • look to see if there are pedestrians wanting to cross (who may have pressed the button to cross) 

  • look to see if there is a lineup of cars on the road perpendicular to yours at the intersection (On the traffic sensor) 

Traffic Sensors

To remember:

  • Walk around the car before starting the car as a pre-trip check. Do this every time before you drive away. You want to at least check that your 4 tires are OK and there are no obstacles in the blind zone directly in front or behind the vehicle (whichever way the vehicle will be travelling). 

  • Turn on the car’s lights before moving.

  • Turn off the car’s light after parking.

  • Turn on the night headlights once dusk begins [Is it when it’s dusk or darker?]

  • Technically you must turn on your vehicle’s lights between 1/2 hour after sunset and 1/2 hour before sunrise.
  • Things that surprised me:

  • Some cars have side mirrors that you can flip in after parking. This helps your mirrors not get broken by cars that may pass too closely to your parked car.

Driving is getting less terrifying for me. As long as you stay aware of hazards and drive on the defensive but still with confidence, you will be fine.

You are doing fantastic  So reflective too! 


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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