Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Driving Schools Annoying the Locals


It's all about live and let live.

I've been reading those driving instructor trade magazines again and there have been some interesting pieces about how locals get wound up by driving school cars using their area to practice and the shocking behaviour of some driving instructors. It's always something I think about when practising manoeuvres or getting a new learner going on those quiet streets.
   In the fair city of Nottingham there is a lot of development going on all the time. New houses going up and more supermarkets than we'll ever need. This means that the quiet areas of land I once used when starting a new learner are disappearing with first lesson pupils now starting out on the road. There are a few areas where it is possible to start out and obviously these are popular with driving instructors. Wide roads, no speed bumps and little traffic mean we can put a nervous pupil at ease without them panicking about getting in everyone's way.
   Unfortunately a few locals seem to resent this enough to start complaining to test centres and local authorities. Nothing better to do it seems. As instructors we must do everything we can to make the situation as peaceful as possible. If I see two driving school cars on a stretch of road then I'll go elsewhere. I find it embarrassing when we're all bunched up together. Some don't though and will happily become the third, fourth or even fifth car on the road to be parking or whatever. Not very diplomatic and sure to wind people up.
  Manoeuvres can be tricky and finding a suitable place to practice is all important. I won't do a left hand reverse on a road that means we will be hindering traffic. On test a candidate may be asked to manoeuvre on a reasonably busy street but on lessons I don't think we should. I see main roads on an estate I use being blocked by pupils practising the turn in the road when just round the corner is a road with hardly any traffic on it. That makes me wonder what's happening, so the people who live on the street are bound to be annoyed. Makes it look like we don't care what they think. When doing a reverse parallel park I always tell my pupil not to pull out and start if there is a car within view coming down the road. If someone comes round the corner and you've already started, that's one thing. If you blatantly pull out and force them to stop when you could see they were coming then that's something else. Ignorant if you ask me but I've seen it done.
   On  the odd very rare occasion I've had people come along and ask us to move. I just act all polite and professional and then move as asked. I don't like it and I am well within my rights to refuse but in the interests of diplomacy and people putting bad things on the internet I comply with their wishes. I've read reports of instructors giving the locals verbal and throwing litter out of the car windows but that must be a real small minority who give such a bad impression of us all.
  There you are. There's only so much space on the road and it's getting more crowded all the time. Let's keep things nice and cosy eh?

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Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Where's Your Learner Driver Head At?

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Now let's not get into an argument.

There are many factors in driving that an instructor can teach. Control skills, procedures, road traffic law, hazard awareness and the like. When we fall into the realm of attitudes and preconceived ideas things can get really messy really quickly. It can be an effort to keep a professional lid on it when personal issues and opinions come in to play which go against what an instructor knows to be right. How far should we go to confront negative attitudes in learners?
   Some pupils find it hard to pass the driving test. Most people pass first or second attempt but a few will take repeated attempts before they are successful. Sometimes it's pure nerves getting in the way. What happens when it is how someone thinks that's the problem? For the first time in thirteen years of teaching I'm thinking of referring a pupil elsewhere to see if a different approach is the key.
   When a pupil blames 'that stupid roundabout' for things going wrong there's not a lot of places you can go with it. Appealing to reason was my first choice. Explaining that a roundabout can't be stupid because it's just a roundabout, the same one everybody else is driving around without trouble. My words are greeted with laughter and no thought given to how the driving might not be up to standard. Not much chance of thinking how to put it right then.
   Turning up late every time when they know I'm in an area covered in double yellow lines shows a certain lack of basic respect. When a pupil just doesn't see this and is repeatedly late it get's difficult. Asking to be dropped off at different places is fine with me. Just let me know earlier than 2 minutes before the lesson finishes. Again a basic disregard for others that doesn't show up on the pupil's radar. It's like simple courtesy is an alien concept to them.
   When a pupil regales you with tales of friends who are obviously really bad drivers while laughing like it's the best thing they've ever seen you know it's going to be an uphill struggle. Explaining the moral obligations of being insured to drive can soon get tedious when your learner just doesn't care. Other's do it so why shouldn't they? My pupil started to break the speed limit. When I pointed this out I was told by my pupil that 'my friends drive much faster than this'. Six points in two years here methinks.
   This pupil is actually a really nice person. As we discuss these issues I can feel what should be tuition descending into argument. I don't ever want to get shouty with a pupil so I keep my breathing nice and slow while I put my side across. There is much more emphasis on attitude coaching in driving instruction these days. I don't think we have much chance of changing those attitudes that are deeply ingrained and constantly supported by others outside of driving lessons.
   In an age of complaints and people taking offence over any tiny thing we need to tread carefully when arguing the point. Pupils are paying customers and expect to be treated well during lessons and quite right too. There does come a time though when pressure has to be applied in the nicest way possible. Before I tear what's left of my hair out. Ha.