My unlikely advice for newly qualified drivers

Navigating remote areas without satnav is a skill all new drivers should master

GET LOST! That’d be my main piece of advice for any newly certified car nuts who – as of this week – will have ripped their L-plates up after passing the revamped driving test.

You might have already read that as of Monday anyone nervously edging out of the test centre in a borrowed Vauxhall Corsa will have to do a new, modernised test aimed at better reflecting what it’s like to drive in 2017. Out go the three-point-turn (sorry, ‘turn in the road’), and the reversing around a corner (the bit I always failed on), and in come parking up on the opposite side of the road and more independent driving.

But the real eye-grabber is that in four out of five tests you’ll be expected to take your instructions from a squawking TomTom sat smugly on the dashboard. I’m all for people being taught to drive with satnavs properly – hopefully it’ll mean fewer Ford Fiestas being driven off slipways into the sea – but I worry that driving without them is going to become a lost art.

I very rarely drive with any satnav on; I’ve never owned one and only ever resort to my phone’s inbuilt system when I’m well and truly stuffed. Having been directed to an nodescript Dutch postcode on the wrong side of Rotterdam and nearly missed my ferry home as a result, I’ve had my fingers burnt by satnav mischievousness before. Then there are all the times when you end up in an obscure bit of countryside when the system stops working, or simply when a mate gives you duff directions. It’s only then that your ability to read tiny 1930s road signs or pulling over to ask people with strange accents for directions comes into its own.

My worry is that new drivers are going so used to using satnav on every journey that they’ll end up completely unstuck should the system stop working.

Which is why I’d suggest the first thing anyone passing the new test should do is persuade a mate to blindfold them, stick ‘em in the passenger seat and drive them to a tiny village somewhere in the Trough of Bowland. Admittedly this will look like a scene from a poorly-funded gangster film – particularly if your first car is a Vauxhall Adam – but once the blindfold comes off and you swap seats you have to navigate your way home, using only signs, intuition and a coffee-stained AA road atlas.

Only then, having mastered the art of making it home the authentically old-school way, can you be truly qualified in getting about behind the wheel. If you can’t, get lost.

Practice makes perfect, after all…

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