Saturday 21 May 2016

Pitfalls of Arranging Driving Lessons by Text


There are advantages to actually talking.

As an independent driving instructor in Nottingham I have to keep admin time down to a minimum. I'm sure you know what I mean. When getting home after a full day's teaching I can't face 10 phone calls as well as sorting out emails. It would take all night. In response to voice messages I have a standard text I paste in which thanks the person for their message and asks where they are and when they are available. This helps me to filter out people who are too far away or need lessons at times where I am not available. Helps keep the fruitless phone calls at bay. If someone specifically asks me to phone and talk then I will. People do prefer to text rather than talk anyway it seems. If someone texts and I call them straight back chances are they will not answer even though they must still have their phone nearby.
   There are disadvantages to texting though. Many people don't read them properly and so only tell me when they are available and not where they are. I don't get to ask the questions I would like to ask and neither do they get to ask me anything.
   I arranged a lesson by text for last Thursday morning. After driving out to Carlton and locating the new person we set off only to find that she required an automatic car and I only have a manual. It was her partner who had arranged the lesson so we had not communicated at all. I showed her the texts I had received and pointed out that there was no mention of an automatic vehicle. I dropped her off back at her place and drove home. I couldn't charge her for the lesson as it was a genuine misunderstanding. I bet if we had spoken on the phone then the subject of an automatic car would have been mentioned.
   One good thing about texts is that if someone turns up at the wrong time then you can use the text message to show that you turned up as per the message and prove yourself right. It's a satisfying feeling to be right and know that you can prove it. Ha.
   You can never be sure that a text has been received. If on the very rare occasion I need to cancel a lesson and I send a text I always imagine the person stood on a rainy street corner waiting for me because they haven't seen the text. Lots of people do receive texts but ignore them. The youth are very good at this. I have asked people if they want a driving lesson and don't get any reply at all. When I asked a pupil if he realised I was waiting for a reply so I would know if I can book someone else in he told me he never realised. They can forget that there is another person waiting for a response. I suppose in these times of social media and suchlike the amount of pointless noise they have to screen out is pretty amazing.
   You really can't beat the personal touch of actually talking on the phone. I think with all the time pressure and amount of information we have to deal with nowadays it may become a thing of the past.

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Friday 13 May 2016

The Subtlety of Inter-Driver Communication


Some things just can't be found in the Highway Code.

I've noticed recently how difficult it can be for some pupils to grasp the idea of communicating with other drivers by means of signals, speed and position. Many pupils need something definite they can use such as a fixed distance from a junction to put on the indicator rather than considering what they are actually telling other drivers. Many pupils find it difficult to look directly at other drivers and thus miss out on looks and gestures that would give them quality information on what another driver intends to do. They will even miss thee obvious flashing of headlights and so miss the gap that was being offered. Apart from 'Mind Driving' by Stephen Haley there aren't any learning resources which deal with this kind of thing.
   A pupil recently had an issue on test with the timing of indicator signals. When changing lanes he will look into the door mirror with his fingers on the indicator stalk expecting other drivers to know telepathically that we want to move over to the right. I explained that putting the signal on can influence other drivers into doing what you want them to do which is either hold back and let you in or get passed quickly and allow you in behind them. No signal means no response so they will just sit along side you and prevent the lane change. Get that signal on before you try to move. There is no set time to put on an indicator. You have to look at the overall traffic situation and consider the message you are putting across when you signal. This is something learned by experience.
   When manoeuvring some pupils will keep moving in and out of reverse gear for no good reason. They do not consider that the revering light is being turned on and off so any driver sat waiting won't know what we are doing and may assume that we are abandoning the manoeuvre and driving on. They may get into gear and prepare to move off only to find the light is back on and we are actually continuing to reverse. I can see how this would be annoying.
  Pupils who tap the brake on and off instead of using one smooth application of pressure fail to realise that the brake lights are on and off which is confusing to following drivers. Brake lights are probably the most important signal there is when it comes to preventing accidents. Getting the brakes on lightly and early gives more warning to the following driver and increases safety.
   Flashing headlights is a bone of contention for me. I always teach pupils that it is only a warning of your presence and can be interpreted in many ways. The vast majority of pupils when asked believe that flashing headlights definitely means someone is letting you through and would proceed if someone flashed their headlights. Totally wrong and potentially dangerous but that's what people think.
   Eye contact is important. Being let out of a junction is easier if you turn your head and look at other drivers. Such a simple thing as this adds a touch of the personal I find and people are much more willing to let you out once they know you are looking at them. Pupils on driving lessons tend to avoid eye contact as a result of nerves and miss out on opportunities to proceed as a result. Arm signals from cyclists would be a welcome addition to the world of signals as they seem to be something of a rarity.
   So there. Have a good think about how you communicate with other drivers and explore how it can be improved. it makes driving a much easier and pleasant experience and fosters a friendlier attitude on the road. Word up.

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