Keep Calm and Carry On!

Don’t panic!

Taking your driving test seems to be one of those occasions where you can actually get so stressed you can’t think straight and it may seriously affect your performance.

Telling you not to worry and to calm down is easier said than done, so let’s have a look at what happens when you get this stressed and what you can do to control your nerves.


Fight or flight

We know that thousands of years ago our ancestors lived in caves and had to cope with some pretty harsh conditions. Not least of these was the threat of big scary predators and, to meet the basic need of self-preservation, our ancestors developed the ‘fight or flight’ instinct.

Rather than standing around debating what the best course of action would be when faced with the likes of a sabre-toothed tiger, our ancestors began to make very quick and primitive decisions about which would be safer; to fight the threat or run away from it. Those whose brains worked in this way were more likely to survive and this is how the instinct evolved.


Hijack situation

The fight or flight instinct is still with us today. Thankfully in our society we’re rarely faced with tigers or mammoths, but we do still face ‘threatening’ situations which can bring on a bit of a panic – like sitting the driving test. And if we’re put in a situation where the ‘threat’ is serious enough, we go into ‘fight or flight’ mode – also known as blind panic!

This is sometimes called the ‘amygdala hijack’. The amygdala is the part of your brain that deals with emotion and, when a feeling becomes so overwhelming – like fear – all rational thought goes and your amygdala takes over. Your thoughts are ‘hijacked’.

The trick is either to train yourself not to panic in certain situations or to recognise your own panic symptoms and deal with them before they completely take over your brain. In the words of Eminem ‘palms are sweaty, knees are weak, arms are heavy’.  Hopefully there’s no sign of Mom’s spaghetti, but you get the idea.


Pressure vs stress

A certain amount of pressure is good. Without it, most of us probably wouldn’t even bother getting out of bed in the morning. Pressure can motivate us to meet challenges and to achieve the best.  However, pressure can mount and, when it becomes too much, turns into stress. This happens at a different level for everyone so it’s important to know how much you can take, what turns pressure into stress for you and what behaviours you display when that starts to happen.



Once you know what stresses you out, you can start to think about ways to cope with or reduce the stress. You’ll already know some ways to calm yourself down either in the short or long term:

  • Deep breathing techniques
  • Counting to ten
  • Taking a warm bath
  • Practising yoga
  • Meditation

There are also some techniques you may not have considered which could help you master those driving test nerves.


Stand up tall

Recent research has shown that standing or sitting in certain poses can significantly alter your body chemistry and relieve stress. These have been called ‘power poses’. One is to stand with your arms stretched above your head, as in victory, and to look up. This has been proved to reduce the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and increases the level of testosterone (the assertion or confidence hormone).

Of course, you can’t adopt the full-on Superman stance when you’re taking your driving test, but you’ll feel better if you just sit up tall, put your shoulders back and lift up your chin. Practise at home filling the available space with your body, rather than folding inwards, and you should begin to feel the benefit


Say ‘cheese’

Smiling is good for you. It makes you feel more positive and, weirdly, you don’t need to actually feel happy enough to smile naturally for the benefits to show. Your body doesn’t know the difference between a fake smile and a real one – the reaction in your brain will be the same and you will actually start to feel happier. The saying is ‘fake it ‘til you make it!’


‘Music charms a savage breast’

Different songs and pieces of music produce varied responses in different listeners. Go through your song list and find some that make you feel either calm or motivated – but not too pumped up! Put them in a playlist and listen to it all the way through several times, noting the calm and happy feelings you experience as you hear each song.

This may come as a surprise, but you’re allowed to listen to music during your driving test, so long as it’s quiet and in no way disruptive; you have to be able to hear what the examiner’s saying and to concentrate on your driving. So, you can play your ‘happy’ song list at low volume during the test. With luck, that will start to make you feel as you did when you listened to it under less stressful circumstances.

The best way to control your nerves will be to make sure you’re absolutely ready to take your test. Practise, practise, practise until you’ve reached a good standard and that’ll give you the confidence to perform well. Then, on the day, smile, take some deep breaths, stand tall and take yourself to a happy place!


Inspired by a presentation given by Danielle Brown, double Paralympic gold medallist in archery, three times World Champion and motivational speaker.

Safe Driving for Life – CulleyPaul ,May 11, 2015 – 11:51


How to drive a manual car

The Basics of starting off… Start the Car!

There are checks and adjustments you should make before starting the engine or moving off. Ensuring the handbrake is on, adjusting your seating and mirrors. Before pulling away you should also ensure it is safe to do so by all round observations. These will be covered in other articles.

Car Keys

1. Put the clutch pedal down (you may need to do this to start the car’s engine)

Clutch Down

2. Move the gear stick into first gear

Gear Stick


3. Use your right foot to press down on the accelerator gently to increase the engine’s revs very slightly

Gas (or accelerator)


4. Slowly lift the clutch pedal using your left foot until it starts to vibrate gently

This vibration is known as the car’s “bite point” – this is where the clutch plates start to come together. (The car may also dip slightly)


6. Remove the handbrake and the car should start to move slowly


Car Handbrake

7. Increase the revs while slowly raising your foot off the clutch until you are moving forward with only the use of the accelerator pedal

Remember – if you’re too quick lifting your foot off the clutch, or don’t give it enough revs, the car will stall: that’s where the engine cuts out and the red lights glow on the dashboard. ;-(

 If you stall apply the brakes/handbrake, keep the clutch down, (return the gear stick to neutral if needed), restart the engine and begin the process again.

Be Safe and give us a call if you want to know more. Once the first steps are mastered, things do become easier.

Devon Driver & Rider Training

Information to help Learner Drivers

Learn to Drive

Taking the First steps in to driving these links may help:

These links can give you some great information and what to expect when you are ready for your test.

Highway code facebook page

Copy of the Highway Code

Practice Theory:

Have a go at a practice theory test

Practical Test:

See other DVSA Information videos

Automatic in more ways than one

i30 automatic driving lessons

Learn to drive all over again

Moving from a manual car to an automatic car could on the outside seem easy. Not so, as we have discovered when getting a new automatic car for Devon Driver and Rider Training. We chose the Hyundai i30 from Torbay Hyundai.

The next generation of magical electronics has transformed newer cars in to playgrounds. They now have some very neat gadgets, but that means a manual big enough that you need a wheelbarrow to carry it.

  • Cruise control has been around for some time but cruise control that allows you to pick the distance between you and a vehicle in front (Intelligent cruise control!)
  • Lane Keep Assist. This not only tells you if you stray out of your lane with out indication; but there is a system that then (if switched on) guides you back in to the lane.
  • Autonomous Emergency Braking. This applies the brakes if it thinks it is going to hit something ahead.
  • Blind Spot Detection and Cross Traffic Alert has you covered if things are moving around you.
  • Auto Hold hand-brakes which release when the car is driven under power. You thought Hill Hold Assist is as good as it got!

With some of these gadgets you might ask: is there any room for the driver?

All of these things are just aids. You trust them to help you and guide you, or give you information but… It makes sense you know how to use them.

If you are moving from manual car or even just upgrading your auto, contact us and see how we can help you get to the bottom of the new driving experience.

We can offer help with familiarisation as well as just and introduction to automatic cars.

Give us a call!

Devon Driver and Rider Training

Blue Lights

Emergency Vehicle

What to do when an Emergency Vehicle is behind you.

As a experienced driver you can be unsure what to do when she hear sirens and see blue lights behind you. You know they need to get to their destination quickly. As a learner driver it can be especially worrying.
Blue Light Aware is a short video, produced on behalf of the emergency services. Their crews rely on the help of other road users when they’re on a ‘blue light’ journey.

By watching Blue Light Aware, you will better understand their needs, you will be reducing the risks you face, you will be contributing to a safer road environment and you might also be helping to save a life.

Please note, this video contains flash photography.

Emergency Vehicle what to do

Passing Road Obstructions

Driving Lesson

How learners can do it safely!

A parked vehicle, road side obstruction or even temporary traffic calming measures can all present physical barriers to you whilst driving.

Always follow the MSM/PSL routine when dealing with hazards on the road:

Mirror – Signal – Manoeuvre – (Positions, Speed/Gear and Look)

Is the obstruction your side?

Is there approaching traffic?

What are drivers doing behind you?

Is there room for you?

Approaching traffic will have priority on most occasions if the blockage is on your side of the road. So you will need to give way.

If the blockage is on the other side of the road, normally you would have priority… but don’t assume it. See what other vehicles are doing and you may need to give way if there isn’t room.

Driving Lesson

Don’t Leave it so late that you or the other vehicle has nowhere to go except backwards.

Looking ahead, as with most road situations, is the best way to give yourself time and space to do everything you need to do i.e. Checking how close cars are behind, signalling, moving over, slowing and getting in to a good gear to go, looking to see if it’s safe to go.

Give us a call or text if you want more information about our driver training

WEBSITE         or        Find us on Social Media: Facebook




Hazard Drill

What is the hazard drill?

The hazard drill in a crucial process that helps you deal with all real and potential road hazards in a precise and measured way:

  • Mirror(s)
  • Signal
  • Position
  • Speed / Gear
  • Look

Often known as Mirrors, Signal, Manoeuvre; it includes some essential elements on approach to a hazard.

When is it used?

When approaching an actual or potential hazard for which you may need to slow down, speed up or change direction.

Hazards can fall within three different categories:

  1. Static (Road layout ie roundabouts or junctions)
  2. Moving Hazards (Other Road Users)
  3. Environmental (Visibility, road surface, standing water etc)


The process helps you deal with most road hazards in a calm and systematic way.

  • By knowing what’s around you
  • Letting others know what you are going to do
  • Getting in to a good position so you don’t effect others or you make your movement easier
  • Being at the right speed and then gear for negotiating the hazard ( i.e. junction or roundabout)
  • Looking to make sure it is safe to go!

This leads to a calm safe drive as well as potentially helping with fuel economy.

Want to know more? Contact us

Right or Wrong – Good or Bad

Learn to anticipate hazards

I am all over the place!

Written by Andy Phillips

All drivers or riders who have studied advanced driving or riding know that road position can make a difference. It can affect the smoothness of your drive or ride and have an impact on your safety.

We position for several reasons:

  • Safety
  • Stability
  • Vision
  • View

Our position can keep us away from danger or a developing danger.

It can help us gain or maintain grip on the road (as well as not disappearing in to a pothole or sliding on a manhole cover!).

It can help us be seen by other road users, allowing them time to react to our presence.

It allows a better view of the road and any previously hidden dangers, maybe an earlier view of the danger.


Can a ‘good’ position cause a problem for us?

I might argue yes:

Our position, including our bikes lean angle or cars direction provides information to other road users.

We may rely on our position to give us the benefits listed above but; our positional information has to be processed by people who may or may not have been exposed to advanced driving or riding techniques. We may make things even more confusing by over positioning when it may only have a marginal benefit to us.

Maybe this example might help to illustrate my point:

Travelling along a wide road in a built up area where we have oncoming traffic (as well as all the normal road hazards). We might position to allow a vehicle exiting a junction to see us through our movement sideways as well as moving more in to their visual field. But what does that movement tell other road users? Has that movement placed us in to greater danger from following vehicles who might think we are turning? Are we now something that could or needs to be overtaken / undertaken?

Another example is extending our view round a left hand bend by moving either towards the centre road markings or even more towards the offside of the road. This allows us, arguably (in the more extreme position), a better view. How could this be interpreted by oncoming vehicles?


This is only my humble view as the writer of this article, but sometimes we might be too clever for our own good. We might overstate our position. We should be acutely aware of how our position might be interpreted and weigh up the benefits to us.

The last thing we want is a great position to be a bad position!

Please comment and let us know what you think.

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Road Junction

Acceleration Sense

Advanced Driving

Acceleration Sense (AS)

You can use the acceleration of the car or bike to help you negotiate road, traffic conditions and hazards. This doesn’t mean always accelerating or picking up speed.

Ask yourself:

When approaching vehicles moving slower than me, do I always need to brake?

With accurate use of the throttle you can reduce the amount of braking needed, if any, and reduce fuel costs as well as tyre wear.

Acceleration Sense requires several things:

  • Anticipation
  • Observation
  • Judgement of speed and distance
  • Understanding how your vehicle works

Your driving or riding will become smoother with good throttle control.

Try it!

Drive or ride a route you are familiar with and try to anticipate the potential hazards or traffic that would normally make you brake. Try and look so far ahead that you don’t accelerate in to those situations but ease off the throttle; either maintain a good speed or reduce it through normal tyre friction on the road or engine braking.

There is another result to this that makes you safer whilst driving or riding: You are more aware of potential hazards and probably keep a better following distance from vehicles.

Want to know more?

Contact us on Tel. 07878 543 413 or

Learn to anticipate hazards