The above title is from some instructor colleagues in here Blackpool at the Blackpool Driving School on their website and I feel it is a very apt headline and its reverberations annoy me intensely as the majority of us good instructors are tarred with the same brush and we all know that some of us are very good at what we do.
To illustrate this simple point, I have recently acquired a pupil from a well known driving organisation and he had already taken two practical driving tests. The well known driving establishment per se is an irrelevance but I stress that it wasn’t the AA driving school. My argument is about the quality of the driving instructor of that organisation charged with providing good driving tuition to make this young man a safe driver for the rest of his life. I quickly established an opinion of his driving prowess within the first few minutes of a conversation on our first meeting. It revealed that he had never done any parking in a parking bay and he had never done a reverse from a major road to a side road to the right. The argument to support these omissions were that the test centre where he took his tests didn’t have a bay park facility and he had never been taught the right reverse because they didn’t do it on the test so in both cases, there was no need to learn how to do them!
On our first drive, he hadn’t a clue about what a box junction was called or more importantly what the implications potentially were, should its rule be breached. He hadn’t a clue about the different types of pedestrian crossings, he hadn’t a clue about the implications of crossing a solid white line, as written under Rule 129 of the Highway Code . He had never done any block changes up the gearbox and a 2nd to 5th frightened him to death, as it were, especially when I asked him to keep it in second until about the 5000 rpm mark before going to fifth gear.
In essence, he should never have been put into that situation where he could have even taken one test because he simply wasn’t good enough. How many times do we instructors hear conversations from other instructors at the test centre along the lines that this pupil will never pass this test. I say to myself then “why the hell have you put them in for it if they are not ready?” Do we as instructors have a duty of care to the pupil to ensure their safety and not to lessen that duty to the examiners who are going to be sat next to them?
The problem is that very few pupils have any idea about the quality of the instruction that they are going to receive when they meet their instructor simply because they do not ask the right questions about that instructor to form a proper judgement.
My pupils do not take a driving test until I know and more importantly that they know that they have the skills to pass the practical driving test. That is achieved by many mock tests where I sit as the “worst” examiner (in the nicest possible way) they are likely to come across and we will nit-pick together until they are at a standard beyond what is expected by the DSA examiners at their independent assessment. To pass the practical driving test is not difficult, to fail it on the other hand is dead easy so they have to be prepared for all eventualities and if they are not successful on the first test, many other factors may come into play, not least their nervous system. That is only accomplished by a close working relationship working to a strictly documented and structured way of driving. Sadly, too many of our colleagues provide nothing more then a basic minimum and I get plenty from other instructors to know that this is exactly the case and many many pupils are put in for their test long before they stand a fighting chance at passing that test.
I am biased of course as a Grade 6 instructor, a Senior Observer with the IAM and as a former cop and advanced driver providing the same level tuition to pupils that they would receive were they being taught to drive a police car to a certain standard and that is in conjunction with the same methodology prescribed for drivers taking their advanced driving test.
What really worries me for the future, if as planned that pupils will be able to take lessons on a motorway later this year 2012 – 2013 is which driving instructors will be the ones that can take those pupils on motorways for their tuition. Surely, the DSA must insist that a minimum standard has to be achieved before an instructor is allowed to provide that tuition. I would venture to suggest that many of our colleagues with lower Grades haven’t the skills to be able to take a pupil on a motorway and I don’t care if I upset them in saying that. If it was my young son or daughter being taken for a 70 mph whizz down the motorway, I would want to know of the instructor as to what qualifications he or she has got to substantiate their knowledge of motorway driving so that they can impart sufficient safety information for my child. I will leave you to ask that question to come up with and the sort of answers that you would be happy with in response.