Instructors cars require plenty of maintenance

At the moment I am sitting in a waiting room while my tuition vehicle is having the brake discs, break pads, and new tyres fitted to both sides on the front.

Driving instructors will recognise this as just part of the grind whereby as well as potentially losing income from pupils who are not able to take other available times a large bill will have to be settled.

If you have ever queried the lesson price charged by an instructor then these are just some of the hidden costs that you may not have considered to be included with that price.

Happy motoring!

What is a driving test?

An obvious question you may think but my answer will hopefully offer food for thought.

Pupils instinctively worry to some extent about their driving test once the date is booked. To mitigate this pressure, which they do not need to deal with, I offer the following thought:

One day you and I shall be walking side by side towards the driving test centre. We will have made certain that you know within yourself that you are above the standard required for the complete syllabus, and further to that you will have a complete understanding of the test that you are about to take!

To gain a full driving licence in the UK it is a legal formality that you have to pass a practical driving test. Fair enough; but you have already been tested on every aspect of driving and gained the experience and confidence required to drive consistently above the required standard. It is fair to say then that for a properly trained candidate the test can be viewed as more of a legal formality. I would be lying if I said that this approach takes away the nerves for every pupil.

It certainly helps to offer them a different way of looking at that date on their calendar.

Happy New Year!

A few days later than most quite possibly but I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a healthy and prosperous 2019. If you can manage healthy and prosperous then happiness will be a lot easier to achieve.

Have a great 2019!

Driving instructors are planning for the Christmas season

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.

The reward for driving while tired can be death!

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!

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.

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!

If I stall on my driving test will I fail?

I cannot even estimate the number of times that pupils, especially those with a driving test already booked, have asked me the; “If I stall on test” question.

A driving test examiner will not fail you just because you have stalled the engine. I do not care what you have heard or which of your acquaintances has given you this information. You will not be failed just for stalling.

Please allow me to offer you a thought: we are approaching a traffic light controlled junction very slowly and the lights change to green shortly before we would have stopped. You bring the clutch up and whoops, stall the engine. Now I may be wrong here (I am not) but the car is still rolling slowly in its intended direction of travel, you still have a green light, and nobody has died! You feel a bit daft but apart from that there is no injury.

It is worth mentioning at this point that the examiners are trained to judge each fault on its own merit. Not to take a more holistic overview at the end.

If your car is still moving

My advice to pupils in this situation is to restart the engine while the car is still moving forwards and carry on as if nothing had happened. If you can manage this then as far as the examiner is concerned nothing significant actually has. In this situation it is unlikely that the examiner will record a fault and even if they do it will be a driving fault.

If your car is stationary

If you have to stop, apply the handbrake, make sure you are in first (not third because mis-gearing is a common reason for stalling in this situation) gear, restart the engine and move off with a minimum of fuss. In this situation because you have stopped the examiner has to take into account how significant, if at all, disruption to other road users has been because of your stall but as long as you restart the car and move off in a timely manner with a minimum of fuss you would only receive a serious fault if in the opinion of the examiner there had been disruption to other traffic.

Do not do this!

The last thing that the examiner wishes to see if you stall is the application of some bloody great big re-start procedure. Imagine the first situation where you are still rolling. Some people have been taught to do the following:

Stop the car, apply the handbrake, select neutral, cancel any indication, restart the engine, prepare the car to move, perform an all around observation, indicate as necessary then move off.

Seriously! I have met newly qualified instructors who were trained to teach this. Either myself or another experienced instructor in the test centre soon advises that they change their tuition.

Examiners are not out to get you

If you stall more than once on a side road with no other traffic around but do regain control and continue without them having to advise then it will not be viewed too seriously.

Obviously the number of stalls is taken into consideration and each can be marked as a driving fault.

There is a certain amount of nervousness that is expected on test day and I assure you, if driving test examiners failed everyone who ever stalled then the number of passes given out at any test centre in any given week would be significantly reduced.

What are driving test examiners like?

Understandably pupils are always keen to hear an answer to this question once they are further along in their development stage.  The answer often surprises.

Contrary to hearsay they are not animatronic creations of some nether world that are secretly plugged into emotionally screened charging points at the back of the driving test centre at night, to be dusted off and faced forward in the morning.  Such stereotypes are most unhelpful to pupils who are genuinely asking after the experience of others who have already taken their driving test.  Indeed the correlation between having failed a test for which the vocal friend will not accept responsibility and the rolling out of a negative stereotype is clear for all to see, once someone points it out to them.

In the real world: driving test examiners are simply government employees undertaking (pun intended) a days work like any other.  They are well trained friendly human beings who are not out to get you, or your friend.

At the beginning of the test: their assumption is that you can drive perfectly well.  Why else would you have paid to undertake the formality of demonstrating your standard of driving to them so that they can issue you a full UK driving licence?

For the ones who pass: well they get a funny looking pass certificate which brings them immense pleasure and a smile that will not fade for at least the remainder of that day and a full UK driving licence through the post within the next fortnight.  The driving test examiner gets to enjoy the best part of their job which is telling you lot that you have passed!  For them this is a dollop of their job satisfaction comes from.  Who wouldn’t enjoy telling someone that they had passed their practical driving test?

Unfortunately: not everyone does drive well enough during their allotted time.  Often the reason is nerves, pure and simple.  Every driving instructor that there has ever been is familiar with the experience of driving a pupil home who recognises that they did make the major mistake marked on the sheet but just cannot believe that they actually did it.  We fully understand this, as do examiners.

From long experience: I can say that after the test it is quite common to hear pupils say that the examiner was actually rather nice.  Pupils who have failed their test do appreciate the sensitive explanation in the examiners debrief that is the reality; rather than the brusk dismissal of their performance that some are expecting.

It is understandable that you will be interested to hear about the experiences of others in relation to a test that you are about to take.  It will help you if you see the responses in context though, and definitely the person that you should pay the most attention to is your driving instructor who has seen and discussed far more test debriefs than anyone else you may know.  I have seen literally hundreds.  The local motormouth has only seen their own; to which they were clearly not listening!