The Cardington Special Test

By | ADI's, Advanced | No Comments

Cardington, oh, Cardington,
I still hear your learners crashin,
while I watch the indicators flashin’.

(That’s a Glenn Campbell reference in case anyone was wondering)

I recently decided it was time to bite the bullet and take the only driving test I hadn’t taken – The Cardington Special Test.  Created in collaboration with the ADINJC back in the 70’s it was designed to test ADI’s against the same criteria as Driving Examiners.

This test can only be taken by ADI’s and can only be taken at the DVSA Training Establishment in Cardington. It’s examined by the staff examiners, the same people who test and retest new entrant, and driving examiners.

The test lasts 90 minutes and covers a variety of roads including motorways.

It’s £144 , and somewhat quaintly can only be paid via cheque or postal order. On the dates I was offered appeared to only be conducted at 10 am on a Monday but I guess that could vary.

Originally it was a zero fault test, however, as only the very first couple of applicants achieved this, it was standardised as a two fault test, before becoming a three fault test around 20 years ago.

(The Diamond Special (now Elite test) was based on the Cardington and remains a two fault test, although unlike the Cardington no two faults are allowed in the same box)

The main issue I found with the test is that there is very little information around about what it entails.

I spent a couple of hours on a quiet estate in Pershore, practicing arm signals with someone that used to teach them when they were required for the driving test (i.e. my Dad), as some googling suggested that they were still required on the test. (And a conversation with a Cardington examiner some time previously suggested they were now only done on the Cardington training area – best to be prepared I thought!)

So. for anyone interested –  on a turn or emerge,  it’s Mirror – Arm out the window – count 1 – 2 – 3, arm back in, mirror –  brakes, change down, arm out the window 1-2-3 and then back in and steer into the road. A common fault then was steering with your arm still out the window, or changing gear with your arm still out the window – i.e. no hands on the steering wheel! – You quickly realise that 40 odd years on from when this was standard, should someone appear in the time gap when your arm isn’t out the window, tough luck they have to guess where you’re going – and you can forget about taking first as you come up to an emerge – apparently it was all a lot harder in cars that didn’t have electric windows, and also had sliding windows!)

A common fault then was steering with your arm still out the window, or changing gear with your arm still out the window – i.e. no hands on the steering wheel! You quickly realise that 40 odd years on from when this was standard, should someone appear in the time gap when your arm isn’t out the window, tough luck they have to guess where you’re going – and you can forget about taking first as you come up to an emerge – apparently it was all a lot harder in cars that didn’t have electric windows, and also had sliding windows.

You quickly realise that 40 odd years on from when this was standard, should someone appear in the time gap when your arm isn’t out the window, tough luck they have to guess where you’re going – and you can forget about taking first as you come up to an emerge – apparently it was all a lot harder in cars that didn’t have electric windows, and also had sliding windows.

Anyway having confused the local residents for an hour or so (hey I had a top box on, they probably assumed I was just learning!) I was all set.

I’d booked a terrific hotel called The Barns for the Sunday night,  and while this isn’t a hotel review I’d fully recommend it – 4 star, around the same price as a Premier Inn and 5 minutes from the site (again some googling suggested that you can stay onsite at the DVSA , however, they didn’t offer it to me when I booked and I didn’t ask – Also when carrying out a reccy of the site on Sunday PM the gates were all locked up and there was no indication that the site was open so perhaps they no longer offer this?)  – The only downside was the food was a bit expensive.

I travelled down midday Sunday and took the opportunity to scope out the area, I’ve been to Cardington a few times before, but I wanted to have a closer look at the nearby roads, you don’t want to get off to a bad start after all, and I know there’s a confusing road that finishes in a dead end/bus lane at Shortstown nearby. I had a couple of 15-year-old test routes someone kindly sent me that I had a quick gander at on google maps, but other than that I’ve no idea where the test route will take me.

Anyway come the Monday morning it was off to HQ, and now it’s my turn to sit like a learner in the waiting room for the examiner to appear (at least at Cardington there’s free coffee)

The DE (and I use that in a general term, the Examiner is well above DE level)  appears and asks for my license check code details – (Seems unlikely that an ADI would turn up who was disqualified mind you) – off he goes presumably back to his office – He seems to take an eternity before he re-appears – Is this an attempt to psych me out with the waiting I wonder ? But I quickly put such thoughts aside as that’s not the DVSA’s M.O. and as much coffee as you want is included in the price.

The DE is back, for a quick pre-test chat – Basically, a much higher standard than Part 2 is expected, and this includes not signalling when there is no-one to benefit. He mentions this a couple of times so I guess this must be a common issue for ADI’s, however, it’s not an issue for anyone Roadcraft trained. I remember another Cardington Examiner mentioning this as well.

There are grades to the test:

Grade Number of faults allowed
Grade A Between 0 and 3 faults
Grade B Between 4 and 6 faults
Grade C Between 7 and 15 faults
Grade D More than 15 faults or a serious fault

I confirm that the positioning required is “Driving the Essential Skills” and not “Roadcraft” – (I’d have expected nothing less from the DVSA) – And then it’s the “Lead your way to your veh-i-cle”
There’s an eyesight test in the car park, the DE does the usual walk around the car hops in the passenger seat, notes down my ADI badge number and gives the standard start of test briefing.

Along with the usual spiel about “don’t worry if you see me marking things down I have to tick off things as we go along” to which I say “well If it’s more than 15 I’ll be worried” – For anyone interested it has its own marking sheet specifically for the test, they don’t use the DL25.

Then off we go, out the car park, down Paul Waller Avenue (I’d always wondered who he was so I asked the DE – He was a Senior Examiner in the old days apparently) which goes to a 60mph so I get a move on down to the junction. Start straight away with a commentary and after a minute or so the DE says there’s no commentary requirement (which I knew) however I prefer under test to give one to aid concentration and allow an insight into my thought process and do so throughout the test, which is good I immediately start to give a devation signal with no-one around and then correct myself.

To cut a long story short the test takes in all the manoeuvres  (inc right reverse) and an independent drive section. Not the new manoeuvres or the satnav, however, it will probably be adjusted to include these when they become part of the normal test (which is a shame IMHO) as well as the emergency stop.

There are no “Show me/tell me questions”

I also (safely) took the wrong exit at a roundabout (someone was about to cut me up and discretion was the better part of valour in the circumstances).

Somewhat disappointingly I wasn’t asked to demonstrate arm signals, so I was denied my opportunity to terrorize the local residents of Bedford in the same way I had Pershore.

Anway I passed Grade A   – Fault for cutting a right-hand turn, which I knew as I was doing it and had a view,  however, Bedford seems to have stopped bothering renewing road markings and picked up a fault. You might think what have the markings got to do with it but the junction was on a curve and I couldn’t judge the exact centre until I arrived in a slightly off position.

Other comments – couple of occasions I indicated when the DE wouldn’t have (with regard to persons to benefit) – hung on to 3rd a little too long on occasion – An Eco Fault but not marked, and should have done an overtake sooner on a tractor after I took the wrong turn I mentioned above – I hesitated under test conditions, when I could have just done a “fly past” overtake  and ended up stuck behind it on double whites.  Normally I’d just have gone for it.

As for faults not worthy of mention – I don’t know as he didn’t mention them! –  from my perspective early on I thought the left reverse was slightly shakey, I could have been in a bit tighter (I wasn;t massively wide or anything but it didn’t go as smooth as usual. That passed without comment.

The next junction after moving off from the left reverse I was about to emerge when the bite felt slightly off and I realised I was still in 2nd and hadn’t knocked it into first when I stopped. I corrected this and moved off without incident which wasn’t commented on.

In comparison for the New Entrant DE test (which does include a commentary apparently), I’d have scored Gold as long as I don’t hang onto 3rd to much.

In around 7 days I’ll get a certificate in the post (you don’t get anything to take away with you at the end).

Anyway in the world of Advanced Driving tests that’s it for me – All the Police, Ambulance and Civilian ones done. I’ll keep up the RoSPA Diploma and the IAM one and that’s it.

Buckingham Palace

By | ADI's, Advanced | No Comments

On the 25th of July, I was invited by RoSPA to join their 100th Anniversary Celebrations at Buckingham Palace, representing the Advanced Driving side of the Organisation.

Here are just a few pictures from that day.

A”Porsche Experience”

By | ADI's, Advanced

So let me start by saying, I don’t like track driving, it doesn’t really interest me driving round and round the same track with people of similar skill levels with nothing coming the opposite direction.

If you like it, good for you, but don’t kid me it’s on road applicable.

That said, I am a big believer in what John Miles wrote nearly 40 years ago:

I will drive by the methods I now use until somebody shows me a better way, and I accept the possibility there may be a better way. Driving has been my hobby as well as my work for many years, and I have discussed every aspect of it with hundreds, probably thousands of people, including students other police drivers, driving instructors and racing and rally drivers, and for my own satisfaction I have tested things which they have suggested. So far however no one has been able to improve on the basic techniques I was taught at police school and which I have since taught to others. Nevertheless, I have always tried to impress this on students, the other fellows point of view may be equally valid.

Anyway, Porsche was advertising in the MSA newsletter for people to try out to become “driving consultants” as long as they were ADI’s with Police Experience or Track Experience at their Silverstone base.

Naturally, I’m an expert at Silverstone, I drove it many times in the 1992 Microprose PC game Formula One Grand Prix, so thought I’d be well qualified.

–  but it turns out they have a car park off the main track that they actually use for their ‘experience’.

I said to my PDI when I told her about it, “there’s no chance I’ll get this as I’m not a track driver, it’s a different style of driving”

The days click by and early one morning I get up and rush through the pouring rain on the M40, t0  turn up at the requested time of 9 o’clock. Walking in, the receptionist asks for my driving license.

Now the email I had from Gordon Robertson the “Chief Driving Consultant” made no mention of this.

Why I’d need a driving license to a drive a glorified VW around an off road car park I’ve no idea, but fortunately they have some ‘hotline’ to the DVLA where I just give my name and postcode and they give some secret code to Porsche.

Anyway, we’re off!  So you might think, but it appears Gordon Robertson’s presumably too busy to bother to meet me and the others at  9 o’clock the time he’s asked us to come,  so we sit around in the cafe upstairs for 30 minutes. – 30 minutes I might add I could have had extra in bed before he deigns to grace us with his presence.

That immediately gets my back up even more than being asked for a driving license, because I value punctuality. The others, by the way, are; one ex-police instructor, one ex-police officer who’s now an ADI, me and two other ADI’s.

At that point, we go downstairs into a meeting room to watch the most boring PowerPoint presentation I have ever seen in my life, (and I’ve worked in IT so I’ve seen a few) including a corporate video of the separate events at the site.

Funnily enough, I’d seen that already, seeing as how I’d looked at the website before attending.


Do you know how many cars the Porsche experience valet a year?

Do you know how many cars the experience has on the fleet?

Do you know how many tyres they replace?

Do you know how many times some customers have been?

Personally, I’m not the slightest bit interested, but Gordon does and he can’t wait to tell you.

It’s at some point during this presentation that he describes himself and his team as an ‘Elite group’ so I immediately think ‘hmmm’ or other words consisting of asterisks when posted on a website.

Now I’ve nothing against elite groups, but it’s usually a title bestowed upon you by others not one you give yourself.

Then the crack team of ‘elite’ consultants come out – And we go out to the car for the ‘elite’ consultants to show us around the track and talk about the assessment baseline.

Now it’s some kind of 911 super duper turbo thing but it’s an auto, and personally I’ve as much interest in driving an auto as I have a horse and cart.

So this chap runs down this list and asks’s if there’s anything I want clarification on and I say ‘hmm what’s this split mew braking (sic)” that’s on his sheet.

Anyway, without boring you with the details, I lead him on with a few questions but he obviously doesn’t get the point so I figure I’m wasting my time:-

The (sic) is there for a reason.

It’s cats that mew – the real name is Split mu or μ.

Google it if you like but it is a fancy name to confuse you that basically means if you brake and one side of the car is on a surface with a higher level of friction the car will spin. Or at least it will if you’re about 80, drive a Morris Marina and are in the habit of heavy braking with one side of the car of tarmac and the other on gravel or ice.

No doubt sounds good to the punters though, and as we used to say back when I worked in retail “Bull**t baffles brains” Throughout all of this, I actually wanted to ask “is that seriously a cassette player under the CD slot?”

I mean it looks like a cassette slot to me, and I know vinyl is becoming popular again –  or maybe Porsche has a load of old radios in stock to use up.

Anyway, he goes through the various stages on the site, showing me nothing at all although how you’re supposed to give a demo of what they expect without being shown first off your guess is as good as mine.

The main points that stand out – on the brake swerve ABS demo set up in a motorway scenario, they bizarrely expect you to stop after the swerve.

Why would I stop? A question I asked the ‘elite trainer’ and the answer was “lane 2 might be blocked so you’d have to” – “in which case I’d swerve to the left and use the hard shoulder instead” – Well it’s good you’re looking for an escape route but that might be blocked as well”

Well, I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed? –  but even Porches have this big piece of glass in front of a driver called a windscreen – Why the hell would you be accelerating towards 4 lanes of stationary traffic to such an extent as you’d have to do a brake swerve? – And if that was the case why would you? Is there a going to be much difference between the cars you hit at that point?

The Split ‘mew’ – “did you mention how you didn’t have to correct the steering much’ or words to that effect.

Well no I didn’t as the car like modern cars did exactly what it was supposed to do – It’s like braking under ABS and saying ‘did you mention the car didn’t skid’

After all this, the ‘Elite’ trainer then decided to try and bore me to death with a description of how the ESP worked and the fact it was a Bosch system and had 6 different types of sensor.

I a couple of minutes when I was convinced he was going to get the wiring diagram out, I started giving him every body language hint in the world ,but he’d obviously not been on an NVQ level 1 NLP course and he was going to keep delivering his script regardless of if I asked him for a rope or not……

Then we move on to the skid correction, whereby the ‘elite trainer’ didn’t like my pull push. Police drivers are apparently ‘wedded to pull push’ and it looks messy doing skid correction at speed.

Well I’ve been to hundreds of accidents/collisions in my time and I never attended one where a witness said, “well he crashed into the tree and killed himself but his steering looked really fantastic”

This was related to asking me to demonstrate fixed input steering on the track and criticising my comment ‘I wouldn’t use it on the road’

There’s a reason the police are ‘wedded’ to pull push and have been for 80 odd years – It works all the time. It doesn’t matter the situation.  Yes there might be slightly better steering techniques in any given situation but that requires the presence of mind to use them and change how you’re steering in potentially a split second. Pull – Push always works and is the safest method.

By this point, we’d returned to base and the ‘Elite’ consultant had popped back in to use the loo. I’d already got my coat on by this time, as  I’d seen enough and it was quite clear they wanted track instructors,  but he came back out and insisted I coached him for 10 minutes round the track.

This then finished with some NVQ Level 1 coaching questions about how I felt, but fortunately having reached NVQ Level 2 myself, I ignored the claptrap and forced him into giving a wrap-up.

After that, and despite offering an ‘optional’ lunch, it appeared you did, in fact, have to stay, as once again Gordon was too busy to bother seeing me.

(I didn’t bother with the food, as nothing on the limited menu caught my eye and it turned out the courses were the size of a postage stamp, but again this is a driving blog not the galloping gourmet)

Anyway, we then went downstairs back to the meeting room.

Again Gordon was still too busy so we had to wait around in the room by ourselves for another 30 minutes until he could be bothered to come and see us.

So an hour after I could have left, he wrapped up with a short Q & A session.

The main point is it turns out that after being accepted as an ‘Elite’ Consultant, on a zero hour contract you’d be expected to turn up to the base regularly for 6 months  (or 2 months if you didn’t happen to be doing anything else and could do 3 days a week) all for free, for training at the end of which if you didn’t pass you wouldn’t get a job anyway and if you did it was intermittent work at £200 a day for a maximum ten hour day with travelling each side of it.

At the point where I was kept waiting in a room for 30 minutes after having to stay for an optional lunch I’d decided there was not a hope in hell I’d work for these clowns, but the final email was pretty much what I’d expected in that I was ‘very road focused’ and would benefit from ‘higher performance’ (i.e track coaching) experience which makes me wonder why they advertised in the MSA to start with? Surely “hairdressers monthly” (that’s a low blow) would be a better bet?

Basically, it was a waste of time but I did to get drive a 911 around for a bit and have a go with the launch control or whatever it’s called and the full day would cost a member of the public around £300 if as a none Porsche buyer you bought an experience day.

If you do though, I’d make sure you bring your own sandwiches.

Still, as we used to say in the Police, it’s easy to appear to be an (elite) advanced driver, if you drive up and down the same roads (track) all day….

Clutchless Gear Changing and more notes on gears

By | ADI's, Advanced, Uncategorized

Clutchless gear changes.

No really – You don’t need the clutch to change gear, it was invented because some people couldn’t manage to change gear, they still couldn’t couldn’t manage it so they invented the syncromesh, and they still couldn’t manage it, so they invented the automatic, they still couldn’t manage so they invented the CVT, they still couldn’t manage it so they invented the electric car.

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Pass Plus – worth it? Learn to Drive in Evesham

By | ADI's, Advanced, Learner Drivers

Pass_Plus_LogoAnother question that often comes up – What is Pass Plus and / or is it worth it?

“Wait a minute, don’t you offer a Pass Plus course on this very site? surely it must be worth it then?”

Well like any other product  – it’s not suitable for everyone, it depends on what you need,  but first what is it?

The Pass Plus Scheme was introduced in 1995, as a fudge between compulsory training with a Driving Instructor, compulsory motorway training, and to answer the criticism  that young drivers were only being taught to pass a test, and weren’t learning key skills.

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