Being self employed is about so much more than just the work

The life of a driving instructor I am told is carefree and easy as pie. Simply tell folk where to go and make sure they check the mirrors frequently enough. Well you don’t need my opinion on that perspective, just suffice it to say that it is far from the mark.

I have spent a considerable amount of time recently tidying up the Findley’s Driving School website. The Privacy policy is a common one for driving schools to miss and how many driving school websites in your area do you think have a Terms and Conditions page/section available? Not that many I should guess, especially the independents.

I would encourage all independent driving instructors to take a look at their online presence occasionally and breath a little fresh content into it.

Another courteous driver is a blessing to us all

During my day to day life as a driving instructor I see a few arrogant drivers who clearly love themselves more than anyone else possibly could and I also see the odd idiot. We all do!

I am constantly thankful to the majority of the Great British public for their ability to keep calm, allow others a little time and space, and offer a gentle wave of thanks when the same kindness is offered to them.

I am delighted that the kindness outweighs the arrogance, ignorance and idiocy by quite a factor. Let’s face it: the road system would be a hell of a lot more dangerous were this balance to reverse.

I leave you with a question to ponder:

Are you doing your bit?

It is important to maintain your driving practice between driving test attempts

In my years as an instructor I have never heard anyone say that they would like to take more than one driving test. Who would? For some people though this is the reality.

Whereas I sympathise with anyone who fails a driving test it has to be recognised that this is what happened. On the day you did not perform well enough so the examiner had no choice but to fail you and provide a full explanation as to why.

The most successful strategy for maintaining and improving your driving standards between driving tests has to be to maintain the frequency of your driving lessons. No driving instructor is going to disagree with this statement but many pupils do.

All too frequently lessons are cancelled by a formerly reliable pupil for a myriad of reasons. Would you believe that they are not available at any other time on any other day either? Neither do I!

Your instructors are not just trying to make a living (which they have to by the way, being self-employed right now is no fairy tale existence) they genuinely have your best interests at heart. I know from experience that pupils who do maintain the frequency of their driving lessons between attempts at their practical driving test are more likely to pass at the second attempt.

Wear your seatbelt every trip because seatbelts do save lives

In the UK I think we take this blatant piece of common sense a little too much for granted, or at least the majority of us do.

Sadly I am seeing an increase of drivers not wearing a seatbelt. If the driver is an adult with responsibility for children in the car the example is not good.

Over the years the attitude to seatbelts in the UK has improved immeasurably. I do remember when the law was first brought in and there was quite a lot of resistance by drivers to being told what to do. Sounds daft now but I remember it well. Let’s not slip back into this. Think about those around you that drive and if you know anyone who does not or intermittently wears a seatbelt then please remind them nicely that when you visit them next you would prefer a home visit to a hospital visit.

Dramatic but possibly effective.

Other parts of the world are still struggling with the idea of wearing seatbelts. I have read pieces lately about the attitudes of, “The state will not tell me what to do”, and even, “I am a man and I will make my own decisions”. Ridiculous as this sounds to us now these countries are going through the kind of mind changing and realisation period that the UK went through in the 1970’s.

Do you work weekends?

The issue of working weekends can be contentious amongst driving instructors. Well some of us anyway. Most are laid back enough to live and let live. Franchised or not we are all individual self-employed bods who do our own thing.

The issue for me is that I have never wanted to work weekends but because of necessity I was in a position of needing to for years. I used to work seven days a week. Not full days at the weekend but I regularly had folk booked in seven days. Then I dropped to six and for over twelve months now I have been rejoicing in merely working a five day week. To be honest, I worked seven days for so long I am still not accustomed to having weekends off.

As you can see from the Availability page on my website I hardly work standard office hours. I feel like I definitely do my bit, but not at the weekends.

Having said that you may see me out at the weekend with the roof sign on. It can happen. Whereas I will not answer the telephone to a new pupil and book them in for weekend lessons; there is the odd case of an existing pupil who can no longer make their regular time due for example to a change in working circumstances. Sometimes I let them go. “Sorry, don’t work weekends”. This has happened. I am not without sympathy though for the pupil who has attended quite a few lessons regularly and suffers a change in circumstance. It has happened, and probably will again, where I will offer the option of a weekend lesson to help them out.

The secret is that I have to offer the option. Asking is pointless!

Why I will not teach driving instructors any more.

During my time as a driving instructor I have taught a further six people to qualify as ADI’s themselves.

Teach is not really a descriptor that I am comfortable with. I do maintain that to qualify as a driving instructor you need to find a caring human being with the necessary personal qualities. Such people do not need to be ‘taught’. You simply guide them through their development.

I never marketed myself as an instructor trainer, it was purely word of mouth recommendation and they all passed so I must have been doing something right.

I do enjoy my job and I am grateful for that. What has changed immensely is the working conditions, the pay, the way we are viewed by officialdom and our day to day treatment by the public and our pupils.

In short this is no longer a profession (my view of professional status will be the point of a subsequent post) that I could, with an open heart, recommend to a friend.

From an ethical point of view therefore I am not prepared to take money off others.

Who takes refresher lessons?

People who hold a full UK driving licence and have had a substantial break from their driving, whatever the reason, and people who passed their driving test and have not driven since form the majority who enquire about refresher lessons.

Confidence is a huge factor in your ability to drive safely and drivers who have lost their confidence need professional support and guidance so that they can rebuild theirs.

Nuneaton And District Driving Instructors Association (NADDIA)

As a professional driving instructor I am always open to the thoughts and ideas that other professionals are prepared to share. What could be better for this purpose than a regular monthly meeting of Approved Driving Instructors (ADI’s) and Provisional Driving Instructors (PDI’s) at a central venue? Beats me, that is why the Nuneaton And District Driving Instructors Association (NADDIA) exists. Nobody knows everything and it is beneficial to share.

We are a friendly bunch who discuss issues from the national, regional and local perspectives which is why this meeting is officially recognised as beneficial to your Continuous Professional Development (CPD):

Nationally we are affected by legislative changes which obviously have a bearing upon our day, institutional changes such as within the DVSA which can have a significant impact upon both our own administration and that of the practical driving test. News and information brought back from conferences that our members may have attended is of interest and can bring a new perspective to previously held discussions. Surveys come our way which allow us to share our thoughts and opinions (of which we have many I assure you) to a broader reach than we normally would.

Regionally is more at the kind of level where we start to interact with the DVSA more on a face to face basis than via channels of communication. Regional managers over the years have always taken a ‘my door is open’ approach which facilitates not only clarification of issues which may arise from either side of the conversation but occasionally a port in a storm; which from time to time we have been very grateful for.

Locally is where we come into our own. Who knows the roads and road traffic system in the Nuneaton area better than anyone else? Since between us we probably spend more time driving around professionally observing what is happening around us that any other group of people then I submit that we do! Problems that instructors are experiencing are discussed and useful suggestions are forthcoming. Road Safety is a regular topic and from time to time discussion about Instructional technique can get a bit lively. The practical driving test itself is of course discussed, how it is conducted by local examiners; who are sometimes invited along (Hello folks), unfortunate occurrences and how this all ties together from the perspectives of our pupils, the examiners and ourselves are all relevant topics of discussion. Sometimes, quite unexpectedly, the best discussion of the evening comes out of nowhere from the last item on the agenda, ‘Any other business’.

You have to be there to share!

If you are an interested ADI or PDI who might be local enough to find a monthly trip to Nuneaton appealing then please join us:

When?

The first Tuesday of every month,
Start time 8:30pm

Where?

Chilvers Coton Conservative Club,
Bridge Street,
Nuneaton

CV11 5UD

See you there!

Bin men are an essential service, not a nuisance, so show some respect for their safety

I am off at the moment taking a couple of days to relax before starting back to work after our lovely summer holiday in France.

What do I see through our bedroom window this morning but the recycling wagon and its crew doing their rounds. This is no great shock to me as I am sure it is not to you. Our road is pretty busy these days for a side road and the twenty mile per hour speed limit is only generally obeyed by driving instructors and the few law abiding drivers out there.

You know that I am a driving instructor by trade (the clue is the top of the blog *winks*) and as you would expect I teach health and safety above everything else. For a couple of minutes I watched the recycling crew going about their daily work and I was appalled at the level of danger they face literally on a minute by minute basis.

It only takes a few seconds out of your day to keep the crews safe,
and a split second to injure them.

Drive as you were taught: approach slower taking effective observations. Be prepared to stop if you are not convinced that you can pass safely. Allow extra space (preservation of human life has to be a good reason) for the crews because everyone may lose concentration momentarily. Only pass when you are totally certain that everyone is safe while you are passing.

Please take a few seconds to save a life!

Hours and hours of motorway driving back to the UK

Our return journey home was uneventful apart from the timings. In common with many UK drivers before me I forgot that the French motorway network has a paeage system which is a toll system of motorway financing. This fact in itself is not what I forgot. I forgot about the absolutely enormous queues which go with it especially at popular choke points in the network such as the Pont Do Normandie. A bloody great bridge upon which several motorways converge. The weekly ‘run to the channel’ for UK tourists has to be the busiest time of the week.

We did make it in time for our train but rather than the leisurely drive up the coast with two or three convenient stops for breaks and pictures in pretty places we ended up just driving and queuing. Aah well, life happens.

Once back on UK British shores I was faced with an entirely different driving environment. The UK motorway network. Apart from the fact that there are signs and road markings there are not many similarities between the two motorway systems. Ours is wider, used by a far greater number of vehicles, more complex in its nature and once you add smart motorways and traffic officers (oh yes, they exist) to a much more diverse traffic flow then we have, in my opinion, a much better motorway system.

With over two thousand miles of motorway network to go at there is much for the beginner to find daunting. I do motorway driving lessons for those in the Nuneaton area at a reasonable price and I can certainly see why they are popular with those who have recently passed.

With an extra two and a half million cars on the road in recent years and no end in sight to the rise in traffic numbers the situation is not going to become any easier for the new driver to adjust to. Whereas I can certainly see why our motorways are safer than the French ones, I can also see a point in the not too distant future where motorway tuition will be insisted upon after passing the driving test.

Whether the planned expansions to the UK motorway network will make this possible for every area of the country I am not sure. That would be the requirement for adding motorway driving to the standard driving test. I think the time may be approaching whereby new drivers have to jump some sort of official hurdle before they can officially drive on the motorways.

As to what that may be; if you have any ideas or suggestions then I would value your opinion in the comments section.