Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Curse of the Phantom Traffic Jam

Quality Driver Training Nottingham

Seven and a half hours from Newquay!

I got back from a fantastic holiday in Newquay yesterday. What a lovely place. Less lovely was the journey to and from. Not being a regular when it comes to long motorway journeys I had never experienced the horror of the phantom traffic jam before and can now add it to my portfolio of driving experience.
   The journey down to Newquay was not too bad. I followed friends' advice and set off at around 3.00am. This would allow us to avoid any nasty snarl ups on the country roads near Newquay. I have to say it was sound advice and the only time we had to stop was for breaks at service stations. I won't bang on about prices at these places. We were well tired and lost all sense of time for that day but not to worry. We were on holiday.
   The drive back was a different story. I knew there were road works on the M5 and these didn't seem to present a problem as the speed limit was reduced top 50mph but traffic was still flowing nicely. The M42, however, was a total nightmare. Time and again traffic came to a complete standstill for significant lengths of time. I thought there must have been an accident or that lanes had been closed for whatever reason. After sitting there for 20 minutes or more the road would clear as if by magic and we were off again. A lot of drivers sped straight up to 80mph or more to make up for lost time only to come to a complete stop again 5 or 10 minutes later. I couldn't figure it out. It was totally frustrating.
   I now discover that the phantom traffic jam can be caused by the actions of just one motorist. Heavy braking can cause a ripple effect with each following motorist braking harder than the last one until traffic completely stops. Poor lane changing can cause others to brake harshly kicking off the ripple effect. I saw plenty of this with a few motorists making me wince as they darted from one lane to another right in front of another vehicle. Late or non existent signals didn't help. Insufficient following distance was a big factor and I saw plenty of tailgaters slamming on when there wasn't really anything to brake for. More distance between cars and the problem would have been avoided.
   Large vehicles and cars towing caravans take absolutely ages to overtake and I sometimes wonder why they bother at all. The centre lane owner driver who sits in the middle instead of pulling back into the left lane does not help one bit. trouble is we all suffer for the sake of a few bad drivers. There is definitely a need for mandatory motorway training as part of gaining a licence or as a post test training course. It's sad to say a lower speed limit on the motorway might help. We are obviously not equipped to drive at high speed and keep traffic flowing. It's nice to be home and now it's time to was all the dead flies off my car ready for the return to work tomorrow.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

And the Oscar for Learner Driver Goes to ....

Teaching to drive

Developing role play when teaching potential driving instructors.

Here we are with the last post on the National Standards document. It's been a long journey through but I feel truly enriched for taking it. As an ORDIT registered instructor trainer this last section is of interest to me. Hopefully it will be of interest to you.
   Units 6.6.1 and 6.6.2 offer guidelines for using role play during training. It can often seem uncomfortable to trainees who are always aware that the trainer has knowledge of the subject even when acting like they don't. As we are not trained actors the role play will never be truly convincing but we can do enough to train people effectively. We need to identify when role play can be an effective learning tool. I don't like to use it too early on in the training course as this can be a bit weird for a brand new PDI. It usually comes into play when running through the pre-set tests where a candidate will need to accept role play from the examiner. It is easier a first to demonstrate common faults without trying to be someone else.
   Attention to routes is important for role play. One can't really pretend to be a new learner in the middle of a city centre. All you would need to role play would be total panic. The route must be in accordance with the role you are playing. Easy routes for new learners, getting harder as you play a more experienced pupil. Simulation must not put yourselves or others at risk. This is a bit of a problem as learners will actually put people at risk and a PDI must be ready for this. I won't hit any parked cars during training but a learner would if action is not taken. The trainee needs to be briefed on this so as not to be taken by surprise in a real life situation.
  The role play needs to be tailored to the needs of the trainee. So easy to overload and throw too many faults in there. Try not to play the worst learner in the world. I must admit I can sometimes be a bit sloppy when it comes to telling the trainee when I am in and out of role. It can be very confusing when a trainee doesn't know who you are supposed to be. This needs to be made clear. The role needs to be pertinent to the subject being taught. Keep faults on track and don't start throwing the kitchen sink in.
   I enjoy role playing certain attitudes which the trainee may come across. Being a bit arrogant and questioning everything a trainee says can really show weaknesses in the PDI's knowledge. You have to know what you're talking about and be able to convey it with some authority at times. This can calm down even the most boisterous of pupils and help build trust in the instructor.
   It's important that you show improvement during role play. If the trainee is working hard and not getting any positive results it can be demotivating. Once a fault has been dealt with in a satisfactory manner it can't occur again in role play as it may in real life. As the trainee sees improvement taking place it will build confidence and show which techniques work with learners.
  That's the end of the document. A lot of good stuff in there and some material which is perhaps not so helpful. I would recommend any driving instructor take a look and see how it can improve your performance and make this a more enjoyable job.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Develop Your Skills as a Driving Instructor

Top driving instructor Nottingham

Evaluating your performance in the search for improvement.

We're getting towards the end of the National Standards document and what a journey of learning it has been so far. I'm going to skip unit 6.4.3. as it relates to health and safety issues in the workplace and seems more geared towards larger organisations rather than the solo driving instructor. Besides keeping your car clean and well serviced there's not a lot to be done within our working environment.
   Unit 6.5.1. Is much more useful as it relates to the continued professional development of driving instructors. A subject close to all our hearts. the first item of the performance standards column tells us we must identify the skills, knowledge and understanding needed to be a driving instructor and evaluate our performance against this standard. I take my criteria straight from the official texts such as The Driving Instructor's Handbook and the official DVSA books. If you're teaching this then you can't go wrong. I hear some instructors argue against some of the points made in the books and choose to do things differently but that's not for me. Methods of teaching will differ between instructors but the overall syllabus must remain a constant I say. We've all got to conform to legal requirements too or there'll be trouble ahead.
   Keeping up to date with changes in the industry and adapting to any changes is extremely important. I tend to get my information from the driving instructor trade magazines which can often be found lurking around the test centre. There's a lot of repeat content in these magazines so a quick scan read usually picks up any points of interest. the main changes have been in the areas of marketing and client-centred learning in recent times. 
   We need to get feedback on such matters using training records of previous pupils. I don't keep mine. When they've passed I throw the records away. My scruffy writing makes for hard reading and I'd never look at them again. We can get advice from managers if we have a manager or from our instructor colleagues. I find instructors are loath to criticize or offer advice to each other. Most talk in test centres is anecdotal and tends to back up an instructor no matter if they are right or wrong. Nobody likes to be confrontational.
   We need to identify any gaps in our knowledge and set objectives for our ongoing development. I'm all for a bit of self improvement but as we all work in isolation it can be difficult to see where the gaps are. I tend to seek feedback from pupils by letting them set the agenda for the lesson. They come up with some good ideas sometimes which I take on board. There are plenty of training events conducted nationwide but they are usually on a working day and tend to be far away making them difficult to attend. I really must make the effort to attend one of these roadshow events at some point. 
   Keeping a reflective log is a technique used in many a professional environment. I tend to keep a small notebook handy. I write down a quick note of anything of interest that I've seen or heard which then gives me blog ideas. I try to learn by writing this, see. It means I have to do a bit of research and find things out. You could say that this is my reflective blog!

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Good Learners Gone Bad.

road safety experts in Nottingham

The threat of violence against driving instructors.

Looking at unit 6.4.2. of the National Standards Document I see that most of the Performance Standards information is directed towards organisations rather than individual instructors which most of us are. I have been with a couple of franchises over the years and neither had any kind of policy regarding threatening behaviour towards instructors. The terms and conditions documents mainly focussed on the financial and time keeping aspects of the job. There were never any guidelines about what to do if attacked.
   It would have been useful to have had a policy to present to learners upon beginning a course so they are aware that threatening behaviour will not be tolerated. The DIA code of conduct doesn't mention this either. It is purely the instructor's obligation towards the pupil. Perhaps we should put more emphasis on the pupil's obligations towards their instructor?
   The knowledge and understanding requirements raise some interesting questions. I have never read a health and safety in the workplace document that was much use to people who work in vehicles. I've never had a fire extinguisher or first aid kit in the car once. I don't know if I'm legally obliged to do so. Perhaps I should go and find out.
 The extent and limits of our obligation to protect learners from the risk of physical or verbal violence during sessions is an interesting one. Does it mean a threat from third parties? I don't know what I would do if a learner was attacked by another angry driver. I like to think it would never happen. You can be in real trouble if you physically restrain someone these days. Where would you find out what is acceptable? I wouldn't know if I'm prepared to put myself in harm's way for a learner or if I'm even obliged to. I like to think my bravery would save the day.
  Interpreting body language and tone of voice is second nature to an experienced instructor I would say. Sometimes a pupil can tense up and then it's just time to lay off the instruction for a while and have an easy drive. Let things cool down. I find pupils always apologise during the next lesson if they think they've been difficult. There's usually a reason behind it that has nothing to do with driving lessons. There are limits to how much we can defend ourselves but I don't know what these are either. No info on where I would find out which is a downfall in this document. 
  A lot of difficult situations can be avoided just by the instructor being calm and consistent themselves. Takes a bit of effort sometimes. There are times when I can hear annoyance creeping into my voice and I have to control it. Nobody wants an angry instructor. We set an important example by how we act in the car. By keeping it relaxed and professional we can go a long way towards avoiding any unpleasantness. Happy days.