This is a decision I made after the last snows melted this past winter. I have always taken pleasure for offering pupils the opportunity to learn how to drive on the snow and ice when those conditions became available.
The plan was always simple: scrap the current lesson plan and educate about how to keep themselves and others safe in the current weather conditions. Those were great lessons! My pupils all said that they benefitted from the experience and were really glad that they had taken the opportunity. For my part I not only enjoyed the variation in work, I know full well that at some point in the future those past pupils will have woken up; drawn back the curtains and boom: snow! Not a problem for them, in fact some of them probably smiled.
I have seasonally watched as other instructors fled from the roads to the safety of home where I am now being forced to join them. My current crop of pupils are not the problem. They too would benefit from the experience. I have not changed my mind on the matter. I absolutely believe that the variation in experience is as good for the pupils as it is for me.
I am sorry to have to say that the reason for my decision was, and remains, the sorry deterioration in the general standard of driving that I witness on the roads in and around Nuneaton on a daily basis. Last year after conducting driving lessons on snow and ice I returned home happy to have made it back safely because of near misses. Near misses that should never have occurred in the first place and that myself and my pupil played no part in the creation of and could not have avoided had they hit us.
I have witnessed the gradual decline of driving standards as have others but for me now the point has been reached where I feel the need to underline this most enjoyable and beneficial part of my job and say, with deep regret, no more. I know for a fact then if or when it snows this winter I shall remain at home instead of jumping gleefully into the car and heading off with a smile on my face.
I really did enjoy those lessons!
Or at least those of us who have any sense are…
Being self employed, which all driving instructors are, has it’s advantages. A regular dependable income is not one of them.
Christmas is the time of celebration, presents, dressing nicely and merriment. All of which costs money! From early December driving instructors will hear a steady stream of, “I won’t be able to book any more lessons now until January i’m afraid. You do understand don’t you?” We understand perfectly. Pupils don’t always understand quite so much when I respond with, “Totally understandable! However should anyone ring for lessons I will have to sell them this timeslot. You do understand don’t you?”
In business as with driving forward planning is the key to a successful journey. The wise instructors are squirrelling away a few pounds now to see them through. It would be nice if pupils did too but, ah well; that is life.
Bit melodramatic for you this morning perhaps?
Think about the different circumstances that life throws at us though and it is easy to see the possibilities and many of them are normal life stuff.
A change of shift at work can take a while for the body and mind to adjust to. A bout of illness can have exactly the same effect. Something as expected as a night out can leave you driving tired just a few hours later than you normally would be.
It is so easy to roll off the old, ‘avoid driving tired’ routine when in real life all of the above are unavoidable.
So some practical advice:
- Allow larger gaps between your vehicle and everything else because tiredness impairs judgement.
- If you have to drive for more than half an hour take breaks.
- Swap drivers at the half hour point if possible.
- Open the drivers window – others may complain but having a driver refreshed by cooler air is better than experiencing a car crash.
- When you take a break at least get out and walk about.
- If possible when you take a break run cold water across your wrists and keep them there for a while.
If you find that your driving is impaired within your half hour driving time then you only have one further option:
Park safely and SLEEP!
I do not normally make a big thing of it but I love watching the cycle races on the television.
When we at maison de Findley learnt that the Ovo Energy Tour of Britain 2018 had a stage starting from Nuneaton there was no doubt that a half day off would be booked.
I must say it was great to see quite a number of the current greats of world cycling on stage in the town centre for the signing in ceremony.
Certainly for this family of cycling fans the televised races will seem that little bit more real now that we have been directly alongside over one hundred top riders.
“Do you know all of the other driving instructors?” I am often asked. In reality no. Certainly over the years I have met a large number of driving instructors from Nuneaton and the surrounding area in the Nuneaton driving test centre but to say I know them all would be an exaggeration.
There is another designation of road users who frequently wave to other members of the same group even though they are strangers and that is motorcyclists. Motorcyclists share a common bond because to be a motorcyclist is to experience a common set of problems that would not be immediately apparent to other road users; among which the two primary ones are a commonly held stereotype and the fact that both sets operate in isolation. Believe me, I am not on a social excursion when I am on the road with pupils. I operate in professional isolation.
It is nice to get together with other instructors, which I do once a month at the NADDIA group. As road users go driving instructors are an amicable and fairly friendly bunch from literally all walks of society. As with any section of society there will always be the odd one who prefers to maintain a professional distance (as we say when we are being polite) from the others.
I simply cannot help but wonder how many people are driving cars in the UK, either on a regular or occasional basis, without conforming to the legalities.
This thought occurred to me earlier on today when we popped off to Shackfest which is only about a twenty minute drive from us along the A444. Within that short and simple drive along a comparatively straight road interspersed with only a few villages the standard of driving on display was appalling!
Certainly the awareness of any sort of risk assessment strategy was absent in the minds of drivers simply launching themselves into the other lane approaching blind bends and accelerating like crazy up to the point that harsh braking was required.
I can tell you that someone important to me would have to have a dire need way beyond a mug of tea before I would accept such risks.
Please drive safely friends.
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 would encourage all independent driving instructors to take a look at their online presence occasionally and breath a little fresh content into it.
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?
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.
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.