Driving Tips

National Driving Academy blog covers items related to safe driving relevant to learner drivers and their families.

I P’d off. So what’s all the fuss!

Caitlin Kerr - Friday, July 01, 2016
Last Sunday I P’d off!  What on earth does that mean you ask?  If you are an ACT provisional liscence holder (including motorcyclists) under 26 who has held their licence for at least 6 months, you are eligible to participate in a 3 hour voluntary course known as the “P Off! Course”, run by Road Ready, a community based road safety program that aims to reduce the number and severity of road crashes in the ACT (not to be confused with the driving school of the same name).  Those who successfully complete the course no longer have to display their P Plates and are given four extra demerit points.  The course picks up where the learner journey ends,  acting as a form of post licence support to support new drivers during this significant stage in their driving. 

It has been found that the first 6 months after progressing from your l’s to p’s is the most dangerous time for provisional licence holders, as they go from having 2 sets of eyes on the road to just one.  Furthermore, new drivers are often distracted and are more likely to take risks in order to impress their peers.  Additional factors also include increased night driving to attend social functions.  The P Off! course aims to reduce the potential injury or fatalities that may arise from these factors by making P platers aware of their own driving behaviours and encouraging self-reflection, a task rarely done once an individual is licenced.  

The immediate benefits to this course for p plates are obvious, we don’t want to display our P plates!  And of course, the additional demerit points do create peace of mind.  However, when we went around the room and shared the main reason why we wanted to do the course – the common answer was of course these two benefits but another reason was because a lot of people felt targeted by other drivers who would make dangerous driving manoeuvres to get around them, even when they were doing the speed limit.

As part of a pre-course mandatory activity, we discussed the dangerous driving we had seen in the 3 days leading up to the course, common things such as mobile phone usage, lane hopping / speed, lack of indicating, roundabouts, cutting off at form one lane’s, etc. 

Following this we were then given a driver self-assessment sheet, a completely private booklet that allows the individual to rate how often or if at all they participate in any of the dangerous driving behaviours listed.  I thought this was a very valuable experience, as after you have received your licence not many people reflect on their driving, and in reading this list I was able to think, ‘Oh yes I actually do a couple of these behaviours and I hadn’t realized, I need to make a note to improve on those’.

What I found the most interesting was the Maze activity.  During this task, we were given a sheet of paper with an image of a maze and asked to find our way through to its exit as quickly as possible, and this was undertaken mostly in silence and everyone finished quickly.  However, we were then asked to do this again but the second time, loud music was played in the background and our facilitator would frequent the different tables in the room, shaking them and trying to ask us questions.  While initially appearing odd, this simulates the very real effects of distracted driving as the result of factors such as loud music and passengers, I couldn’t even finish the maze because there was too much going on.  
Practical techniques to help keep safe on the road were also demonstrated to us, effectively putting the responsibility of our safety back into our own hands rather than relying on everyone else on the road to obey the rules, one of these techniques included increasing our ‘buffer zone’ (time gap between cars in front) to at least 5 seconds as to ensure time for reaction.

If anything the course was definitely a good space to chat about our experiences so far.  Driving by yourself for the first time is both an exciting and daunting task, and it was refreshing to see that other people had experienced similar things to me.  Additionally, the course is completely judgemental free, we were able to discuss any mistakes or offences we may have made in a safe, constructive environment.  

At the end of the day the major drawcards to the course are obvious, but I largely see driving on the road now especially as a privilege not a right, and in removing my P plates and increasing my demerit point allowance I will remember that this is a reward for being a good driver and not something to be abused, I need to show I deserve to have them off.  We all have a responsibility to ourselves and others on the road.  I would argue that I am more aware of my driving behaviours as a result of the course and am actively trying to be a more cautious driver because I want to prove I deserve to have P’d Off.  

I certainly found the solid training I previously undertook with National Driving Academy during my learner period put me in good stead with sound driving behaviours which were reinforced in the P Off! course.

The P Off! Course is delivered at 2 locations in Canberra, Phillip & Watson, for more information please visit the Road Ready website here.