Diary Of An ADI

A Driving Instructor's Blog

No one can have failed to have seen the news concerning Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which was apparently shot down over Ukraine last week.

Without jumping to any conclusions over if – or by whom – it was shot down, let’s just assume that it was for a moment. The first question I would ask is this: who could be so stupid as to do it in the first place, and then be so chicken shit scared to admit it after they’d done it? The second question is: why?

There are obviously a lot of complete pricks in this world, and at the moment they all seem to be congregating in Ukraine.

On top of that, if Vladimir Putin is in any way involved (as many are claiming), then the man needs some serious head surgery very soon to sort out his obvious problems with megalomania. Why – in the 21st Century – would anyone in the civilised world want to behave the way Putin is on the world stage? Such behaviour might be second nature to the troglodytes who are pushing radical and militant branches of Islam in their sorry little corners of the world, but Russia managed to dig itself out of that kind of cesspit once. Putin is just shoving it back down the hole again.

If he’s not careful, he might end up going the same way as Saddam, Gaddafi, and all the other pricks that the world got tired of having mess up peoples lives for entire generations at a time.

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TickWell done to Rod, who passed on Tuesday with just 3 driver faults. Current plans are for both him and his brother to do Pass Plus when he gets back from his summer holiday – I’ll believe it when it happens, as everyone plans to do Pass Plus, but they seldom follow it through!

As I explained to him (in front of his dad) last week, he couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery. Rearranging lessons he hadn’t got booked, giving me the wrong time of his test (fortunately, too early instead of too late), and picking up habits off his mum (who appears to be related to Lewis Hamilton as far as advice on speed is concerned) in ten seconds flat whilst ignoring what I am teaching him for weeks at a time. All light-hearted, of course, as he has been a good pupil and we’ve successfully overcome his dyslexia.

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The DVSA has reported its findings and conclusions following the consultation earlier this year into modernising driver training. The details of the outcome are as follows:

The government introduced a simpler grading structure for approved driving instructors (ADIs) on 7 April 2014.

The government has also decided to:

  • take steps to help ADIs publish and publicise their grade
  • look at the options for replacing the ADI part 3 test with one that uses the same criteria and marking system as the ADI standards check
  • continue to look at the possibilities of introducing a vocational qualification, while making sure that concerns raised can be addressed
  • talk to the driver training industry about how we can best reform the trainee instructor licence
  • start work on an online booking service for ADI standards checks
  • consult separately about changing the ADI fee structure
  • change the law so an ADI can ask for their name to be removed from the ADI register
  • provide the option for an ADI to take an ADI standards check to renew a lapsed registration, after talking about the practical implications of this with the ADI national associations
  • not pursue the introduction of fines (called ‘civil sanctions’) that the ADI Registrar could issue to ADIs for the time being

The grading structure is obviously already implemented – apart from the information in the embedded link in the quoted text above, I wrote about it back in March.

Of those yet to be implemented, the wording of the first one is interesting. It’s being interpreted ambiguously by many of the radical rabble-rousers out there. If you look at it objectively, what the DVSA is saying is that they will “help” ADIs publish and publicise their grade. They don’t actually say that they ARE going to publish them whether ADIs like it or not, yet it is that threat – which first surfaced several years ago – and I think it is that earlier proposition which prevents many of the radicals seeing this current statement for what it is.

The second one is also interesting. Recently, some crackpot had concluded on a forum that I had declared somewhere that they had replaced the PST marking sheets. Actually, I had said nothing of the kind – what I had said was that in view of the changes to the Check Test, with it becoming the Standards Check and all, with the integration of CCL topics within that I couldn’t imagine that the Part 3 test would remain as it was. I simply pointed out that if the PST sheets changed, I would obtain copies and provide them for download. So I think this particular outcome vindicated my comments completely, though anyone with an ounce of common sense would have realised the Part 3 was going to have to change. Whether it does or not even after this is another matter – there’s a General Election next year, and all of this may end up swept into the gutter.

There’s further talk of reforming the trainee (pink) licence. Previously, the talk was of getting rid of it completely, though this has been scaled back to merely “changing” it. It’s still as far away from actually changing as it was three years ago. And as I say, there’s an election next year.

All the other stuff is fairly niche, and doesn’t really affect most instructors (well, not unless they’re fully paid-up unionistas, in which case every syllable and letter has to be nit-picked to death).

On a different note, it’s worth looking at some of the responses which are quoted verbatim in a separate document accessible from the findings link. Apart from the appalling typing, grammar, and spelling, I couldn’t believe one response to the issue of vocational qualifications. The respondent has written just short of 6,000 words in his reply! Others have used the opportunity to have a go at the DSA/DVSA. I love this one:

The current system is useless

Bless. I bet it took him all night to write that, and no doubt he had help! But it illustrates why the DVSA is sometimes reluctant to listen to “the industry” or “the associations” if this is the kind of input they’re going to get. The current system isn’t useless. It could be better, but no one knows how at the moment – after all, Mr “the current system is useless” is typical of those who propose alternatives simply by virtue of opposing the current state of affairs.

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The show is available on catch-up on ITV Player until around 16 August 2014.

An ITV press release a couple of weeks ago alerted me to this programme, and I commented on that release at the time. Since I wrote the piece – and before the show was aired – both of the people appearing on it have contacted me. Neither was happy with my opinion about these sorts of shows and the type of people who appear in them. It’s also generated a disproportionate (and suspicious) amount of traffic to the blog.Applying make up behind the wheel

This genre of TV show has become very popular with the media in the last few years. Without exception, those appearing on past programmes have clearly been involved for reasons of self-interest – and I’m talking about the kind where appearing on TV is the objective, not the kind where they actually learn something and change their ways. You see, when someone is eating behind the wheel on the motorway, driving with no hands, texting, speeding, etc., you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realise that this is both dangerous and wrong. However, these previous shows have glamourized the whole sordid business of driving badly by following the contestants – there is no other word to describe them – into bars and other places where they can show everyone how cool they think they are.

My initial assessment of the forthcoming programme – which I stress that I hadn’t seen at that time – was based on all of this. All I had was the press release for yet another hour of bad drivers who the TV company thought made for good TV.

In fact, I was wrong to suggest (or expect) that bad driving would be glamourized here, too. The show did not – in any way, shape, or form – suggest that the normal behaviour on the road of the two featured drivers was anything other than of an appallingly low standard. One of them – the one who wrote to me and stated that he was now a better driver than me – was an accident waiting to happen. He was speeding, shooting red lights 6 seconds after they went red (and claiming they were on amber), and so on.

A simulated (but realistic) collision with someone driving like he did under normal circumstances scared the shit out of him. The programme suggested that this had changed him, and one can only hope that it did. But I have to say that anyone who was driving as badly as this guy was prior to that experience is likely to need a little more than a scare to put things right. As I have said, it isn’t rocket science knowing the difference between right and wrong, and when someone actually denies or defends it then you have to wonder why they are even on the road to start with. And as for driving better than me… well, let’s just say that I’ve never had to make such a huge leap from such a low starting point, so I don’t think so. Let’s just hope he drives a little better than he did before.

The other driver got less screen time, but she was actually more dangerous in her original state, She was eating, texting (almost continuously if the edit is in any way representative), playing with her dog (and letting it “drive”), applying make-up, doing her hair… all the stereotypical things you constantly read about in the press when there’s nothing more important to cover. Although she might resent this comment, she had the attention span of a goldfish, and that’s where the problem was. She, too, was subjected to a simulated incident, and got a serious wake-up call as a result.

Whether the experience changes the behaviour of these two people in the long term remains to be seen. The programme didn’t attempt to suggest that this had happened, and nor could it have. I still maintain that most of what has apparently been “learnt” from the experience by the two drivers would have been available to all but the dullest examples of homo sapiens if they’d have applied some common sense in the first place, or unless they had other underlying issues – like poor attention spans. Unfortunately life doesn’t seem to work this way, and even if they do learn from it, how on earth would you roll it out to the general public?

Each crash involved the writing-off of at least one, and up to several vehicles. These crashes required vehicles kitted out with advanced remote control systems to be totalled. If you did this for the general driving public it would cost maybe £10,000-£20,000 per experiment, and with around a million test passes each year (or approaching that figure), that would add up to between £1 billion and £2 billion! It isn’t likely to be rolled out anytime soon.

The programme was actually well made and somewhat different to its predecessors. But I was right when I said that the characters involved would feature hooks and deviate somewhat from what would be classed as “normal” (in the most general sense). When these shows start featuring boring, ugly people with no trips to clubs or coverage of expensive hobbies and pastimes included, they will begin to chip away at the problem. Until then, they remain unrealistic.

As an aside to all this, the female participant in the show has been plaguing me with emails. She doesn’t come over as very bright, in my opinion, although with hindsight that might also have been apparent in the programme. After all, she did allow her dog to “drive”, amongst other things, and you don’t need to be too smart to realise how dumb that is.

Suspiciously, I received another message on the same subject and using the same pathetic tone from an IP address only 5km away from Miss Britain’s Worst Driver within the time bracket of her first two. She denied this was from anyone she knew, then admitted in passing a few days later that it was one of her friends. Basically, it was exactly as I’d suggested to start with as a result of the suspicious IP addresses – but which she had denied.

I tried to explain to her that her IP address had been routed through Hounslow, and the other one from Staines – about 5km away. I seem to have spent the last two days trying to explain to her that no one has actually said she LIVES in Hounslow, just that the email was routed through there. She cannot get her head around the fact that her email DID go through Hounslow. And the other one through Staines, which made me suspicious. I mean, to get two messages on the same subject, within minutes of each other, with the same snivelling tone, and only 5km apart as far as the logged IP address goes… you’ve got to wonder, haven’t you? She even claimed she had talked to her ISP and they’d told her “only one digit [of the IP address I’d logged] was correct”, which is utter bollocks, since it was a BT address and that means at least three characters would have matched even if it was otherwise wrong.

You know, of all the hundreds, even thousands, of people I have taught, I have never come across anyone like this. Is it any wonder she ended up being picked as one of Britain’s Worst Drivers?

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I could have killed one of my pupils yesterday. He booked a last minute lesson in the only space available in my diary – at 9pm on Sunday evening. I could have said no, but he has his test coming up. But I did lay it on thick about how I was missing the World Cup final because of him.German keyboard

I got home in time for extra time, and saw Mario Götze’s brilliant goal for Germany. I’m glad Germany won – they were the best team in the tournament, and any other result would have just been unfair. But something about the BBC’s coverage rankles me.

Götze’s name is spelt with an ‘o’ with an umlaut (or diaeresis in linguistic jargon). Thomas Müller’s name also has an umlaut, as does Mesut Özil’s, André Schürrle’s, Benedikt Höwedes’s, and manager Jogi Löws’s. The, for good measure, you have Kevin Großkreutz. And yet the BBC incorrectly reports these names as Gotze, Muller, Ozil, Schurrle, Howedes, and Lows (and misses out other diacritics). The German newspaper, Die Welt, obviously uses the proper spellings.

I’ve always been better at speaking German than any other language – I can’t actually speak fluently, but I can get by whenever I go to a German-speaking country (you know, order food and beer, get a taxi to take me where they serve food and beer. That sort of thing). But it was bad enough that they tried to replace umlauts with letters at one time. I used to do business with a company called Bausch and Ströbel, and in the English-speaking world they printed their name a “Stroebel”, because in the English-speaking world people are either too stupid or too arrogant to understand the umlaut.

In a similar vein, I’ve seen Löws written as Loews, and Götze written as Goetze. And it’s bloody wrong.

I find that the same thing happens with pupils who have non-British origins. Chinese pupils especially seem to often adopt English names instead of their Chinese ones to make it easier for the Brits. I’ve got a clutch of learners at the moment from India, Latvia, Lithuania, Senegal, and so on, and I make a point of learning their names and finding out how to pronounce and spell them correctly. I will go so far as to find out if they have a shorter nickname that they use themselves sometimes, but I insist on using their correct names if they are happy with that.

So I’d expect the BBC to at least spell the names of German footballers correctly instead of just missing out critical symbols which govern the pronunciation.

It was still a great goal, though.

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I saw a handful of palaeontology stories on the BBC website this week that made me smile. The first one informed us that Archaeopteryx “wore feather trousers for display”.Archaeopteryx

I love the way that they can confidently deduce the entire colour scheme on the right from the fossil on the left. And I’m also amazed that anyone could make a living out of mocking up these creatures (if you look closely in the link, the feathered one on the right is a collection of bits of modern birds glued on to a model).

The second story concerned the “largest flying bird” ever.The largest flying bird ever

This time, we get an artist’s impression rather than an actual model – look closely at the beak region and marvel at what appears to be an Albatross with teeth added.

The third story – and this link is not on the BBC, though that’s where I first saw it – provides a video showing how a 440 million year old spider would have walked.

The amusing thing about this is that the video gives the impression of a creature the size of a small dog, when in actual fact the spider in question was only a few millimetres long. I can’t imagine an arachnid that small moving in a similar manner to an elephant!

Anyway, I’ve come to the conclusion that the steps involved in creating a mock-up of anything that’s extinct are as follows:

  • select a modern animal to compare against
  • change the environmental context as necessary
  • pick the most bizarre colour palette you can find in Photoshop
  • add some teeth

You will note how I have demonstrated this using a cuddly Toucan. In its normal setting, it looks just like a Toucan should.A Toucan

However, by applying the above steps, you can see how a prehistoric version – toucanosaurus – would have looked if it had walked into New York (it couldn’t have flown, as it would obviously have been flightless back then). This is a definite likeness of such a prehistoric Toucan if one ever existed, by the way.Toucanosaurus

I mean, who can prove otherwise?

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Back in January, I commented on plans to cut the speed limit on certain sections of motorway to 60mph. The argument given by the perpetrators was that it would reduce pollution, which was effectively a knee-jerk reaction to impending EU legislation that has been ignored until the last minute by our Mickey Mouse government. The proposal was all the more stupid because the same government was talking about increasing the limit only three years earlier.Motorway Traffic

In my article, I showed how the reduction in pollution resulting from lowering the speed limit was a) theoretical, because you can’t drive anywhere near the speed limit most of the day on the stretch of motorway in question; and b) even if you could, you’d be there for longer, and so this cancels out the initial gain completely.

Fortunately, the jokers who are still clinging to power have decided to scrap the idea. Well, “shelved” is the official term used. And quite right, too.

It made me laugh when I saw a single link from a cycling forum (I didn’t know cyclists could write) referring to me as a “petrolhead”, and suggesting I had provided “no citation”. In fact, I had. But what I also did was understand that citation, then apply it to the situation being discussed. It’s a cross you have to bear when you have an education – you know, understanding things with numbers in them, then applying them. That small detail is clearly beyond the wit of the average cyclist.

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With all the bad stuff going on in the world, little filler stories like this warm the cockles of your heart!

An internal flight from Washington to Denver was stuck in Wyoming due to a thunderstorm. So the pilot, Gerhard Bradner, ordered pizzas for all 160 passengers. He paid for it out of his own pocket, too (in the UK, I reckon that would come to at least £150).

Almost as heart-warming is the fact that when the airline’s president heard about it, he informed Bradner that he will be fully reimbursed.

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That’s what Surepass are advertising! And I wonder how long this advertisement in the Bromsgrove Advertiser stays up if the ASA gets wind of it?It's free - or is it?

I don’t have a problem with people advertising instructor training. I don’t care if its an individual or a large school, and as long as they qualify their claims, they can dangle whatever carrots they like. The reason for this is that the vast majority of instructors fail at a business level – and that’s assuming that they even make it through the three exams and qualify in the first place.

I’m uneasy about this Surepass advert for several reasons. Firstly, it is advertised under “catering – hospitality” and “retail – wholesale”, and it is described as “job type – permanent”. Being a driving instructor is none of those things. The first two are just clumsy, and the last one is completely wrong (unless Surepass are actually employing salaried instructors now). Instructors are self-employed, not employed.

We’re also back to the old “salary: £20,000 to £30,000 /year” claims. While this isn’t technically wrong, it is extremely misleading. There is no way a £30,000 salary can be guaranteed when the person earning it is selling lessons for £20 an hour, and having to provide a car and fuel. It’s possible, but you simply cannot guarantee it. £20,000 is a far more realistic claim, especially for a new instructor. However, if you look at their instructor pages they also talk of £40,000 and even £45,000 a year gross earnings! Maybe they need a lesson in the differences between turnover and income, as they seem to be getting them mixed up.

Surepass also make some very strong claims. They reckon they have a 90% pass rate for Part 3, and further claim that this is 67% higher than the industry average. They also refer to a “guaranteed income”. As I say, unless they are employing people rather than selling franchises this is a very tenuous claim (the ad actually says you will be franchised).

The advert also refers to a “guaranteed car”, though I couldn’t see a car option in any of their franchise packages, nor is one mentioned on their instructor training pages. The maximum gross earnings figure appears to increase the bigger the franchise you sign up to.

However, the biggest problem with the ad is the use of the word “free”. Every occurrence is marked with an asterisk, which means that there are conditions attached. But nowhere in the ad are these conditions explained. Indeed, when you click the “Apply Now” button, you’re informed that it costs £2,500, and there is still no explanation of the word “free”. I guess that to find out you have to actually apply, and that is surely not right.

I’ve predicted several times this year that there is likely to be a new rush to offer instructor training, and this is the sort of thing I was referring to.

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This is in the Irish Independent, but it relates to a UK driver. It reports that a 79-year old man driving a Mitsubishi Shogun was involved in a crash on the A26 in East Sussex last month. When police arranged for a test (not sure if it was roadside, as he had to be cut free from the wreckage after he collided with a lorry), it emerged that he could only read a number plate from a distance of 1 metre!Reading a car number plate from 20 metres

I can’t even create a scaled graphic to illustrate the severity of this – the red dot arrow is about 3 metres in relation to the longer 20 metre one!

You’re supposed to be able to read a new style number plate at 20 metres (correct at the time of writing), yet this senile idiot – who hasn’t been named, though he should have been – could barely see a plate at less than a 20th of that distance. For all practical purposes, he was blind. His licence was immediately revoked – presumably under Cassie’s Law. At least now this old fool isn’t likely to kill anyone. Hopefully, he will be prosecuted, too.

I have absolutely  no sympathy for these people. And still you get those comedians (usually getting old themselves) who believe that older drivers are not worthy of any kind of special testing to make sure they aren’t lying through their teeth about their fitness to drive. It’s “ageist”, they say.

Older drivers are far more likely to become liabilities on the road purely as a function of getting old. It doesn’t matter how poorly new or young drivers behave – it’s a totally separate issue. Nor does it matter how many centuries the decrepit older driver has gone without having an accident. The simple fact is that as we age, we tend towards biological malfunction and eventual collapse (i.e. death). Once you’re over 70, you’re a darn sight closer to total collapse than you are of winning Wimbledon.

Unfortunately, the brain also begins to slide as you get older, and it would appear than this prevents some elderly drivers recognising their weaknesses. Of course, most just knowingly lie in order to keep their licence.

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