driving Toxic Custard newsletter

Learning to drive

Masters Hardware couldn’t launch a viable business against Bunnings, and only a couple of years after launching, have closed up all their outlets.

As this photo shows, they also couldn’t construct a functioning pedestrian crossing:

But here’s one thing they did manage: they’ve provided empty car parks right across Australia for learner drivers to practice in.

Yes, we may be more public transport-oriented than most households, but we do have a car, and the time has come to teach my offspring how to drive.

They haven’t waited as long as I did (I was 27 when I got my licence), but neither have my kids jumped into it at the first opportunity. We ended up getting them Proof Of Age cards when they turned 18 because they hadn’t got Learners permits yet.

But it’s starting to happen now, and apart from paid lessons, we have headed down to Masters a couple of times. And both times, other L-platers have been doing laps as well.

As it turns out, it’s not perfect at South Oakleigh, because there’s an active supermarket at the other end of the car park, and an alarming number of motorists like cutting through the car park at diagonals to get to it. Sure, you may save five seconds, but you risk smashing into a learner driver.

Figuring out the clutch and manual gears seems to be about as hard and frustrating as I remember it being when I first learned.

(I’ve been thinking about upgrading my old car, which might include going to an automatic — more on this soon. Something for family discussion.)

Anyway, we’ll keep practicing, so thanks again, Masters.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

13 replies on “Learning to drive”

I know how to double de-clutch, that is pressing the clutch down twice with a blip on the accelerator in between to change gear, but why would anyone bother now? Even concrete mixer trucks now have automatic gears. Good to know that the redundant Masters is providing a public benefit.

I got my license when I was 16 and so did most of my class. I was living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago at the time (1983-4) and having a car was and still is essential there. In downtown Chicago a car is handy but not strictly necessary. In the US one can get a learner’s permit at 15 and a full license at 16. There are no such things as L or P plates or the logbooks I have heard about. Some places might have some restrictions on young drivers such as driving at night or how many passengers they can carry but most don’t that I am aware of. There is also no such thing as a license that restricts what sort of transmission one can drive ones far as I’m aware. If one wants to learn to drive a manual they can just do it. There are 50 states and DC all of which have a different license so some license rules may of course be different or have changed since I lived in the US. I went to a driving school but at the time this was not strictly necessary as many people learned to drive only from their parents or an adult friend. My high school also offered driving classes but I did not take any. I can still remember being outside for gym class and seeing my classmates driving in circles in the driver’s ed lot. Besides driving school I did have many lessons from my parents too.

We use to take our kids to the industrial area near Bunnings Moorrabin on the weekends. All factories were closed so their car parks were empty apart from lots of other learner drivers.
Judging by the adverts I hear on the radio and watch on social media, there is still pressure on young people (men especially) to get their licence and get a car. I recall one advert where a girl is horrified that her boy friend is going to take her out USING PUBLIC TRANSPORT (imagine that!).
Having access to a car (and being able to drive it) does give a lot of people more opportunities or flexibility – even in good PT areas.

Autos are no longer the slow inefficient slush-buckets they used to be.

Manuals now make up about 10% of sales, and within years they’ll be fewer again – so there’s no loss to your children in not learning stick skills. Electric and hybrid vehicles are auto only, and as these dominate the market they’ll erase stick-shift entirely.

Over on the western side of Melbourne, the former Masters stores at Braybrook and Caroline Springs have both had their car parks fenced off, preventing both car and pedestrian access.

I am 45 this week, and still do not have my drivers license.

While I am here, why did Masters fail?

I would have used one, if we had one nearby, but never got the chance.

Same as Marcus’ observation. Masters Preston is all fenced off. The Bunnings is close by and I suspect a lot of people used the (near) empty Masters carpark as an overflow :) Not anymore.

@Andrew + @George D, thanks, that pretty much confirms my view that there’s little down side to switching to auto. Manual can come later if needed.

@Marcus, I noticed that at Braybrook recently. Perhaps where no other business shares the car park, they’ve fenced them off?

@Jim, Masters tried to take on Bunnings, but to my mind didn’t provide anything to differentiate themselves from it, so no compelling reason for people to switch. In some cases they opened up within spitting distance of Bunnings stores. I suspect they were also too aggressive in opening lots of stores in a short period of time, without proving that the concept worked.

Some reading on this:

I’m teaching my second child to drive – Woodlands Drive industrial estate, Braeside, is my preferred learner destination. Big wide roads, a variety of broad and tight corners, roundabouts, tee-intersections, stop and give way signs, loads of car parks for parking practice, and the only other drivers you’ll encounter there on weekends are other learners.

I’ve taught my 6 children to drive 5 girls and 1 boy both automatic and manual vehicles
Get them in to traffic asap it seems better that they get the understanding of how most people out there are dreadful at driving

Guess the child that had a crash..

Yes the boy, the youngest

I was 22 before I got my licence, managed to write off a driving school car but now no accidents since, however I do sometimes park by the braille method, but do an awesome reverse park

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