Mumbai driving schools steering learners the right way

Driving schools in the city are now teaching learners to adapt to current, tough road conditions and to a congested traffic scenario

Mumbai was once known as the most disciplined city traffic wise. Today, that reputation no longer exists. With more and more people seeking driving licences in the city, the demand to learn at driving schools has also increased.

A man learns to drive on the car simulator. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
A man learns to drive on the car simulator. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

Patience is key
Since a licence is a photo identity document, many people apply for one though they may not want to drive. This has compounded problems. The low cost of new and second hand cars in the country in recent years, has also added to the number of cars on the roads.

Theory driving class at a school
Theory driving class at a school

Hanif Chohan, who owns Chohan Driving School says, “At our school, there are special lectures on Sunday for all drivers. We have lessons with audio-visuals. In addition to this, we also show them car details so every driver knows the machine that he or she is driving.

Besides congestion, bad driving adds to woes, say drivers
Besides congestion, bad driving adds to woes, say drivers

Though a lot has changed over the years, I always tell driving students that patience is the most important skill you need when you drive on the streets of Mumbai. When the traffic is chaotic, keeping a cool head always helps. “Power steering, automated clutch and gears have made driving much easier that it was 20 years ago.

Simulator lessons are an important part of driving lessons
Simulator lessons are an important part of driving lessons

But the roads have become more dangerous as the number of people driving has gone up. Bad roads and potholes negate the comfort of the car. For drivers, I suggest that they keep their eyes on the road at all times to avoid bumps and potholes as much as they can,” says Chohan.

The city’s reputation of safe driving is in doubt. Pic/Shadab Khan
The city’s reputation of safe driving is in doubt. Pic/Shadab Khan

The driving school has a simulator where students can learn how to drive a car and get familiar with the steering wheel, gears, clutch, brakes, etc. “In Formula One, drivers use simulators to get familiarised with the tracks. Many people at our school learn a lot about the details of driving thanks to the simulator,” adds Chohan.

A teacher explains the internal workings of a car
A teacher explains the internal workings of a car

Follow the rules
At Maruti Driving School too, simulation learning is a very important part of driving lessons. Julius Daffu, the manager says, “About 80 per cent of our teaching especially when it comes to steering wheel familiarity and driving judgments is done on the simulator.

The machine tells the driver what he or she has to do; there is an accident which can also happen on the simulator if one isn't careful. The reality of the roads is recreated well by the simulator.” Bhagyashree Chavan, incharge of the driving school says, “We have two courses an advanced for people who need confidence while driving and learners — where we teach basics.

There is a demonstration where car details are explained, then the theory where we explain road statistics and precautions. We also have simulator practice and then car practice on the road.” She adds, “Judgment, parking, uphill and downhill driving and steering are generally the things most drivers have problems with.

If people do not drive well we insist that they practice and work harder. We also teach our students during practicals to maintain a healthy gap between their car and the one ahead as well as the one behind. This helps prevent accidents.”

Practical teacher at the school, Rupesh Padwal adds, “Practice is very important. No one is a born driver, people need to practice and drive responsibly. The experience every time you drive is different and so people need to get more confidence as drivers.

Using the rear view mirrors, pressing the clutch and brake is difficult for many people, so we suggest that they practice daily with an experienced driver to get better. Earlier, the hand brakes and steering was tough to get a hang of, so we had to work harder when we taught. Now teaching people to drive is much easier.”

Drive cautiously
Good Luck Driving School Manager Sayed Haider Kaidri swears by a three point formula that he uses to train new drivers. He says, “When I take my students in the car for a test drive, I tell them, ‘adjust the mirror, do not speed and drive in a straight line’. If drivers follow these three basic rules as a discipline, there will be fewer accidents.”

“I always tell students to never drink and drive as well as to avoid zig-zag driving as these cause accidents and could lead to road rage. If people are disciplined, they will drive responsibly. There have been times, especially with youngsters when I have found them speeding and told them to not get a licence,” says Kaidri.

As teachers, Kaidri says his team and he encourages people to have self confidence and at the same time drive with caution. He adds, “There are often people who are very good at theory but struggle at practical and vice-versa. As a driving school, we are very much like a school and have to teach all kinds of students. Our aim is to have safer drivers on the road.”

Safer roads
According to Chohan, driving schools have increased just like cars on the street but very few of them teach quality driving lessons. He explains, “Money is now the aim of most people, and sadly not all schools teach learners driving.

Driving class should be an all-round teaching of theory, practical, demonstration and simulation which when well learnt, will culminate in a good driver.”

Agreeing with him, Chavan says, “As a drving school we have evolved over the years. From having limited scope to really efficiently teach students, we now have an array of teaching aids and can really contribute to making the roads safer.”

“Driving schools have a responsibility to produce good drivers; we need to improve teaching methods to cater. If a student is not fit to drive, we need to tell him that loud and clear so that there are no accidents.

If our student drives rashly and causes an accident then as a driving school, we have failed to teach road rules and correct etiquette,” ends Kaidri.

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