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.
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.
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:
The first Tuesday of every month, Start time 8:30pm
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.
Sunny days are my favourite days and I am certain that I am not alone in expressing that sentiment.
I cannot help but wonder though how many drivers in Warwickshire are aware that direct sunlight and the heat that comes from it are two rarely mentioned, or even thought about, driving hazards.
Before a journey:
Some simple preparation can make your summer driving experience safer.
Your tyre pressures can be affected by seasonal changes in temperature. You should check both what they should be and what they actually are and adjust as necessary. This has a major effect upon safety as well as the economic benefit of longer lasting tyres.
Haven’t got any? Treat yourself. I always keep a pair of sunglasses in the car and will not undertake a long summer journey without them.
The road surface:
The surface of the road itself is not immune to the heat of the day. The road surface softens at higher temperatures which reduces grip. Never a great thing but one to be aware of
The effect of sun followed by rain
The effect upon the road surface of rain on a hot day can be a seriously slippery road surface.
Have you emerged out of a sideroad on a sunny day and been unexpectedly blinded by sunlight? For a few seconds there you were a long way from safe. This also applies to any drivers or pedestrians in the area around you.
Plan ahead while driving
If you can see that you are about to leave a shaded area and turn into sunlight then be aware of the transition before it happens. Having made this assessment in advance you can turn slower, and be taking visual information from either side of where the sun is.
While driving in the countryside or on open roads (if you can find one these days) your average speed may be higher. Great, unless you are blinded again. Look even further ahead to be aware of changes in direction. Even if there is nothing on the road ahead of you, if you are approaching even a slight bend that turns towards the sun you will be safer approaching slower. Just in case!
The heat of the day:
I love the heat of the summer days, probably because I am one of natures summer babies and deal well with it, lucky me.
Drivers are affected by heat
Sounds obvious but what steps do you take to look after yourself?
Dehydration can easily lead to headaches, lethargy and after a while blurred vision. There are many branded drinks out there that are wet and refreshing but whoever you are and from whichever postcode you hail you are a human being my friend and water is by far the best thing to have.
Air conditioning or open windows?
You have to control the heat in the car else you will quickly be sitting in an oven. If you have leather seats you may well have left the door open for a while before you could sit on them if the car had been sitting in direct sunlight.
Air conditioning is a boom but be aware of ventilation issues. I use air conditioning in my tuition vehicle all the time on hot days but I make sure that one of the windows is open a little to allow fresh unconditioned air to mix in.
If you do not have air conditioning then the windows will be open of course but please be aware of passenger safety and advise children as necessary.
I once had a bird fly straight into the drivers side window of the car that I was driving. It is a very rare occurrence but it took me unawares and as I am sure you will understand, I was very pleased that the window was closed.
Pets need to be cared for
Love your pets? Make sure they are well cared for on the journey then.
Water is a must and please be temperature aware on their behalf. If you are uncomfortably hot is will be even more uncomfortable for your family dog.
Do not be the arse that leaves either dogs or children in a car on a sunny day. There are plenty of police officers out there who will happily provide a window breaking service upon request, and it can be arranged with only a phone call. Think on!
Take some exercise
On a long journey breaks are essential to maintain a healthy, well hydrated and clear thinking driver. The same is also true of passengers and pets.
Take the opportunity to get out of the car and experience the day outside of the car for a while. Not only will the health of yourself and your passengers and pets be better cared for but you may well find that you all enjoy the day better.
I will say, as I have been saying for years, that the motorways would be far safer than they already are if learner drivers could access motorway training from qualified driving instructors.
As you can see in this piece from the government website: Gov.uk the announcement has been made and we can begin the process of making what are already regarded as being statistically the safest roads; even safer.
Anyone who has driven regularly on the UK’s motorway network will be only too well aware that the standard of driving exhibited around you can change from minute to minute. We are all painfully made aware that the vast majority of drivers have had no extra training what-so-ever in preparation for motorway journeys and this manifests itself in some of the displays of driving that make us cringe.
This change is welcome and in my opinion will improve the safety standards on our motorway network on a drip feed basis. Practically speaking this is the only way. It is hardly practical to close the motorways to those without suitable training, nor desirable for that matter.
I extend my sympathies to anyone who is learning to drive far enough away from the motorway network that it is not reasonably practical for them to take advantage of this legislative change. For the majority of the population though this is an opportunity that I believe the majority of pupils will welcome to gain their first experience on a motorway with their professional driving instructor.