How many times have you seen a parent putting their child first? Not in a good way, but waiting to cross the road with a buggy or pushchair and inserting it wheels first into the traffic? Why do they do it? Surely the safety of their child is paramount?

Two contributing factors are their view and previous ‘non-parental’ experience. They try to get closer to the decision point (the very edge), where they can optimise their view. Their previous experience of this encourages a certain position, forgetting that they are now a metre wider than before. Imagine buying a new car with an extra metre on the bonnet, your usual references will be useless and you will need to develop new ones.

Why continue to do it? Because it gets results, The cars slow or even stop. In which case why wouldn’t you continue to do so?! The behaviour is then learnt and reinforced frequently.

But where can you see this same behaviour in learner drivers? This is what I call the ‘Learner paradox’.

A learner is driving along a road, about to pass a junction. They spot a vehicle approaching the junction from the side road.

The thought process: “That car is going to pull out in front of me!”

The resulting action: Slow down

Effect: Driver sees the slowing and emerges

The result: Learner gets their belief reinforced.

Next time they are faced with this situation… “Ooo….last time this happened….”

This learner paradox is a big issue faced by new drivers as their actions cause reactions in a butterfly effect style, misinforming their developments of early judgements. This action/reaction approach to driving is both experiential and vital to the development of a driver’s skills on the road. Through necessity we teach many skills in a difficult end first approach.


  1. Yes – it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. I do try to get learners to understand how their actions appear to others – to be aware of their ‘body language’ – and to observe the body language of others eg when hoping for blockers on a roundabout.


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