Providing a commentary is not something, which, comes naturally to many people, but it is nevertheless a very important part of advanced driving.
Well, it is simply thinking out loud and it allows the examiner to understand how you have perceived a situation and what consideration you have given before taking action.
There is no myth attached to providing a good commentary it is just a question of practice and observing a few basic rules.
When you first start to work on a commentary, begin by simply picking out the road signs and perhaps mentioning every time you use your mirrors. Then start to build up by adding in a bit more detail such as “The road ahead bends to the left, so I am moving position more to the crown of the road for greater visibility”: or “We have a series of bends, so I am selecting 3rd gear for greater flexibility”
Once this has been mastered we can add the polish and sparkle that can make an ordinary commentary first class.
Beginning a commentary can sometimes be difficult so start off by saying something like “ We are driving along a country road, enclosed by hedges and trees on both sides. The road surface is in good condition and is dry”.
One of the most important things to mention is the use of mirrors. It is extremely difficult for the examiner to know when you use your mirrors and so you must remember to mention them.
When should you use your mirrors? Well, whenever you have just entered a new road after say a left turn at a road junction, whenever there is a sharp deviation in the road.
When you perceive a hazard ahead, which may require you to slow down or deviate and of course when overtaking. The list is not by many means exhaustive and you can probably think of many other times it may be appropriate.
In any case the mirrors should form a very important part when driving to “the system” as a way of adding a further dimension to the information phase.
Mention all road signs and remember this includes all road markings, such as a hazard line; single and double white lines etc.
Make “observation points” i.e. “We are travelling on a bus route” or “the dust bins are at the roadside therefore we may encounter the bin men later in the run” and of course mention any cross views you may see to show the examiner how much attention you are paying and the field of view you are scanning.
Don’t worry if you make a mistake or two, it is amazing how many people confuse their left hand with their right or say things like “ there is a dog with a pedestrian on the lead”.
Commentary undoubtedly becomes easier with practice, stick with it and it almost becomes a competition as to how much detail you can fit in.
The examiners tell us that a reasonable commentary raises the standard of most drivers but commentary is not compulsory.
On the test you will NOT be expected to provide a commentary for the whole duration of the drive unless you prefer to do it.
Your examiner will normally ask you to start a commentary at a particular point.
Keep it to about 15 to 30 minutes or until told you may finish. Then perhaps consider just adding the odd points of clarification. This may arise at say a roundabout that you are familiar with, where the Highway Code says that you should be in the left hand lane to go straight on, where as local knowledge tells you that it is more customary to take the offside lane, and if you were to drive as recommended in the Highway Code it would cause confusion. If you do not mention points like this the examiner may think that you don’t know which lane to use.
Finally, if you purchase the video “Roadcraft. An Advanced Driving Course” (Published by the Stationary Office, ISNB 011341130B) it is a good source of examples of good commentary by police drivers and can be of help.
You can also find an excellent DVD by Chris Gilbert on his web site Driving4tomorow, which can be found here.