Diary Of An ADI

A Driving Instructor's Blog

Celebratory fireworks displayAbout bloody time. An email alert from DVSA advises that learners will be allowed on motorways – with an instructor and dual controls fitted to the car – from 2018.

This change will only apply to cars – not motorcycles. Only ADIs will be allowed to do motorway lessons – not trainee instructors. Mum and Dad (or best mate) will not be allowed to take anyone on the motorway.

Motorway driving will not be included on the driving test. Motorway lessons will be voluntary.

The exact date hasn’t been decided yet, and until it has, it is still illegal for learners to go on the motorway with anyone.

Share

I just saw this report from the Evening Standard. Imagine what would happen if a 37-year old man did this:

  • had a gambling addiction
  • was an accountant for a tech company
  • created over 400 fake invoices
  • stole £350,000 in one year
  • spent £250,000 of it playing online poker
  • concealed details to avoid being caught

Now imagine what would happen if the only altered detail was that it was a 37-year old black woman.

Unbelievably, Natalie Saul, the thief in question, was given a two-year suspended sentence, 250 hours unpaid work, and a fine of £360 (and I haven’t missed any 0s off that). She was defended by a woman, Lucie Daniels, whose pathetic mitigating plea included:

This offending is so out of character, she has worked hard and paid her taxes and been a responsible citizen…

The judge, Catherine Newman – yes, that’s right: a woman – said:

It has caused considerable harm to your employer which could ill afford to lose such a substantial sum, but thankfully survived. Your grandmother’s death rocked the stability of your hitherto good citizenship.

You had a steady partner who had no idea of your gambling addiction and stands by you. I’m prepared to take the wholly exceptional course of reducing your sentence and suspend it.

Saul was only caught when she went on maternity leave (sigh) and the new accountant uncovered the fraud. Incidentally, it isn’t made clear what happened to the other £100,000 she ripped off.

Newman also said:

I’m taking a considerable risk that the Crown will think it lenient and appeal, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

Let’s hope the Crown agrees, does appeal, and also kicks Newman out for gross incompetence (not to mention what appears to be overt discrimination). If Saul had been a man, they’d be arguing the upper sentencing limit wasn’t enough, but Newman seems to think that even the lower limit isn’t low enough for a woman. Thank God for equality, eh?

Share

JudgementOver the years, I’ve taught many pupils whose ability behind the wheel gave me cause for concern. In some cases, it seemed that they would never learn simple clutch control, gear changing, and steering, let alone roundabouts and complex road junctions, and even when they reached test standard, it was obvious they still had issues. To this day, I sometimes ponder over what I am helping to release on to the roads.

Only one pupil that I know of has ever given up driving – on the grounds of it being too expensive, though the “expense” may have been to do with causing over £1,000 damage to a £1,500 car in three separate incidents involving inanimate objects within two weeks of buying it. She did over 100 hours with me until I finally persuaded her to switch to automatic lessons, whereupon she took another 100+ automatic hours and passed after 7 or 8 attempts.

Another pupil passed on his third attempt after 160 hours. I discovered two years later that he had learning difficulties brought on by an accident when he was younger, and I also now know that he has had numerous small accidents through emerging without checking properly at junctions.

Another was almost a clone of the previous one in terms of how he looked and drove. He passed first time after 80 hours, and his sole ambition was to drive 200 miles with his best mate to see his grandma who lived the south coast on other side of London. I made him promise me he’d do it in 30-minute hops, because of his concentration issues.

And another also passed first time after 60 hours. She put in an almost perfect drive on her test (I was sitting in back), and to my knowledge she has had a problem-free five years or more since. These are probably my worst four.

So, the question is this: if you could push a button at any point, preventing any given pupil from ever being allowed behind the wheel of a car, would you do it?

It might seem an easy question to answer, but consider that by making such a decision you are influencing someone’s entire future. Given the number of young pupils I take on who have emotional issues (including anxiety/depression) requiring medication these days, you may also be influencing someone’s life in a more direct sense.

Of course, in real life there is no actual button to press, so taking it to a more realistic level: if you decided to do it, how would you tell someone they were never going to be able to drive? And at what point?

In only one of the four examples I gave above would I have been right if I had gone ahead and said it. But I would only have been “right” with the benefit of hindsight. All the others had similar control issues which were overcome only with great difficulty, so if I had made the same decision with them I would most certainly have been wrong in at least two cases. When I look at my career overall, I have lost count of those pupils who’ve had major problems to start with, but who have suddenly broken down the wall and turned out to be excellent drivers.

This is the problem with trying to play God. You’re not God. You cannot see into the future, and that means you can make mistakes.

The reason I mention all this is that I noticed someone has raised the issue regarding the suitability of “some” people in becoming driving instructors, suggesting that there should be some barrier beyond the current Criminal Record Check that prevents “certain people” from being allowed to train as ADIs.

The question I would ask is: on what basis you to decide if someone is suitable or not? Is it a retrospective thing, in that they’ve said things you disagree with? Is it that they annoy you? Are they quiet? Loud? Do you dislike their appearance or their tone of voice? The danger is that pressing the metaphorical button I mentioned earlier can take on a very personal slant if you’re not careful. Some people may even use it as a way of achieving something they are frustrated at not being able to achieve using more direct means.

There is already a system in place to check for instructors who cannot teach properly (the initial qualifying process, and the standards check), and it can certainly weed out the seriously bad material. Admittedly, it is somewhat harder to find those who simply don’t teach properly, especially when it appears that a large number of ADIs appear to want to put on a show when they have their standards check, judging by the questions they start asking when they get the dreaded “letter”. But if an ADI has a decent pass rate, is it really any other ADI’s business if they otherwise come across as complete dipsticks? And does being a dipstick before you start training to become an ADI mean you shouldn’t be allowed to become one?

Perhaps these God-wannabes will rely on comments from their pupils before deciding to “push the button” on someone they don’t know? I mean, if I have someone who keeps cancelling lessons at the last moment (or who just doesn’t turn up whenever the weather’s nice, claiming they were “unwell”), and who I’ve spoken to sternly on more than one occasion about their reliability, explaining how much it costs me when they do it (even though it isn’t costing them, because I don’t charge them for it, even though I should), and who I have eventually gotten rid of if they haven’t stopped lessons anyway because of all the talking-tos… if they go to this Glorious God-wannabe and tell them I used to shout at them… well, hey! Push the button, why don’t you?

Remember that “shouting” is in the eye (or the ear) of the beholder, and isn’t always an absolute. Raising your voice to tell someone they just made a mistake is one thing, but raising it to tell someone they just cost you another £25 on top of the previous four times they did it is something else entirely.

When I lost my rat race job, my sole aim was to get back into employment as soon as possible. I needed to earn money to pay my bills. My decision to train as a driving instructor was motivated by that: income from employment. I didn’t experience an epiphany, where the clouds parted, and the Heavenly Host sang while a booming voice told me I had been chosen. And as I recall, getting my green badge when I passed my Part 3 involved paying £300 and waiting several weeks for it to arrive in the post. There was no pulling it out of a stone, or having it handed to me by a mystical female hand rising from a pool of still water by the light of a full moon.

No. It was me that did the choosing, and that choice was based on doing something that sounded enjoyable whilst earning a decent income. In many respects, the fact that the company I chose to train with was probably more interested in my money than my suitability meant there was little chance of my educational background and business experience getting up anyone’s nose. Since qualifying, I’ve had loads of grateful pupils pass, a full diary most of the time, and a lot of fun.

And it seems there would still be someone out there who would happily press the button if they could were I to do it all again.

(Note: The graphic used above refers to judging without possessing all the relevant facts.)

Share

White Qashqai WN15 UXVI’m starting to get seriously pissed off with some of the prats on the roads these days. As if it wasn’t bad enough that Nottingham City and Country Councils have got road works on virtually every route into and out of the city, you have people like the driver of this white Nissan Qashqai, registration WN15 UXV on Tuesday, 8 August 2017.

I was on a lesson with an already nervous pupil when we hit unexpected traffic. It turned out the imbeciles in charge of the area around the Wheatcroft roundabout (Rushcliffe Borough) had cut it from four lanes to just one sometime before 6pm – so during rush hour. The reasons for the road works are not immediately clear, though it is likely they are to do with the ongoing destruction of greenbelt for the new housing development just there.

ck03aylWe’d been sitting in the queue for around 10 minutes. When we saw that lanes were closed and were merging, we signalled and someone allowed us to move out. Several minutes later, as is usually the case, someone really clever decided to drive further down and jump part of the queue (Silver VW Polo, registration OY57 KHD). We let him in. Then, after several more minutes, when we had reached the actual merge, there was a surge of traffic trying it. The first was a white van/minibus, registration CK03 AYL. He forced his way in right at the level of the cones. He was being tailgated by the Qashqai.

The Qashqai literally barged us out of the way, forcing me to take the controls. To make matters worse, the cross between Jimmy Krankie and the Michelin Man driving it, and Bubbles the Chimp in the passenger seat thought it was funny.

The reason it took so long to get through in the first place was because of openly arrogant and ignorant twats like this. But THEY don’t care as long as THEY get what THEY want.

Just a reminder that all three of those cars mentioned here were breaking the Law. They were overtaking – on the inside – and forcing their way into queues of traffic. The stupid cow in the Qashqai was the worst of the the three (and the monkey she had in the passenger seat was aiding and abetting).

Dashcams are great, by the way, just in case anyone’s recollection of the events are unclear.

White lorry - LT62 CDO or CT62 CDO (TTR117)And while I’m on this subject, a similar thing happened this afternoon on the A60 heading towards Mansfield. I was on another lesson, and we’d stopped at lights in Daybrook. A white lorry, registration LT62 CDO or CT62 CDO – unmarked, but identified with the container code TTR117 – deliberately tried to run us into oncoming traffic.

Again, dashcams are great.

Share

Broken BritainThe Brexit fiasco leaps from one incompetent episode to another. The latest being the reports that the UK was willing to pay a €40 billion divorce bill, quickly followed by a statement that it wasn’t.

It seems that Theresa May – who is no longer in charge of the government – was willing to pay this in order to move along with Brexit negotiations. But Downing Street has dismissed this because:

…leading supporters of leaving the EU said they would not accept handing over such a large sum.

Brexit supporters have caused enough damage already. Someone should just turn round and tell them to f*** off and grow up.

The sooner we get a 2nd referendum, the better.

Share

Sad Hill Cemetery in the movieI just caught this story on the BBC website.

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly (TGTBATU) is the best film of all time. I should say that that’s just my opinion, but I don’t want to water it down. It just is.

It has sentimental value to me as well. An uncle, who died many years ago, was going to take me to see it when it was on at the cinema. I had been captivated by the music, which was being played a lot on the radio, and he said he’d take me. It never came to pass, because about five minutes after he’d said it, my auntie pointed out that it had an ‘X’ rating and they wouldn’t let a 7-year old in.

I digress. A while back, I was playing around with Google Earth, and since TGTBATU was on one of the satellite channels again I looked up the location of Sad Hill cemetery – the setting for the iconic final scene in the movie. The scenery in the film had always impressed me, but the location in Northern Spain turned out to be overgrown. It was an unofficial off-the-beaten-track tourist target, but it was just an overgrown valley – albeit still with great scenery. I’d made a mental note to visit the place if I ever got the chance.

Anyway, it appears from this story that a group of volunteers has renovated the site and put it back to the condition it was in when the movie was shot.

Time to start planning the trip.

Share

You have to smile sometimes. I just received this email. It’s just a hunch, but it might be a scam.

From: Charles Koch <email address removed>

Subject: CONTACT ME URGENT

Dear Beneficiary,

How are you today, I hope all is well .Be informed that due to your delay ,YOUR FUND worth of (USD$950,000.00) was converted into ATM-Card which you can use to withdraw in any ATM Cash Point Machine Worldwide and have been programmed by the issuing bank .Note that the issuing bank has packaged the ATM CARD with the secret code and registered it with DHL courier service. Also you can withdraw the sum of US$5,000.00 per day.Therefore, quickly contact DHL COMPANY with below

information:

Your full name……..

Your address……….

Your country……….

Your age …………

Your occupation……..

Your Phone number……

Director :Mr Charles Koch

Email address: (Zimbabwe email address removed)

The only money you have to send to DHL COMPANY is only US$95 only,according to the director of the issuing bank for the smooth delivery of your package to your door step. Also you should reaffirm your full NAME, ADDRESS,TELEPHONE NUMBER AND DRIVER’S LICENSE OR PASSPORT to them to avoid wrong delivery.

Congratulations!

Yours faithfully,

Funds Remittance Department

The really frightening thing is that there will be some prat who responds to him.

Share

Following other vehiclesThis story has appeared in a few newspapers recently. It concerns the stopping distances in the Highway Code (HC), and “research” by Brake – one of the usual suspects when anything like this kicks off. The charge being levelled is that the HC is wrong, and stopping distances are actually much longer.

The first thing to point out – even though it’s too late, and people on the forums are already running with scissors over it – is that only the typical driver’s reaction time is being questioned. It has nothing to do with the braking distance (remember that overall stopping distance is equal to the thinking distance + braking distance). The second thing to recognise is that it isn’t even a new issue. It had been ably discussed at least as long ago as June 2016 on Chalkdust Magazine, and if I was being cynical I would suggest that Brake had been at a bit of a loose end since its last crusade, seen this article, and picked up the reins.

The HC’s standard figures for stopping distances date back to the 60s, and this has led many to argue that they must be out of date just based on that. Consequently, most arguments start with the premise that stopping distances are wrong, and then proceed to cherry-pick disparate data which appear to support that premise. Most arguments focus on the braking distance.

I’m not going to repeat Chalkdust’s calculations here, but it is important to understand from the outset that braking distance in real situations has nothing to do with the weight of the vehicle. Braking distance is all to do with friction, and since any vehicle on the road has brakes which can freeze the wheels instantaneously if they’re applied hard, and an amount of rubber in contact with the road surface which is proportional to the size and weight of the vehicle, it is the overall friction between the tyres and the road which matters.

As an aside, if we’re going to be pedantic about it, tyres are better than they were in the 60s, road surfaces are better, and brake systems are better. So, if anything, a car in the 21st Century would probably stop more efficiently than one in the 60s did. But as I say, the issue isn’t about braking distance.

Chalkdust pointed out last year that the HC stopping distances allow for a thinking time of 0.68 seconds, and they suggest that this appears to have been chosen because it meant that the “thinking distance” in feet is the same as the speed in mph – which is one of the methods learners use to  memorise the stopping distances table in the HC. By comparison, the United States uses 1.5 seconds, and Canada assumes 2.5 seconds. Chalkdust suggests a new “thinking distance” in metres which is numerically equal to mph, and which equates to 2.24 seconds.

SpeedCurrent Thinking DistanceCurrent Stopping DistanceNew Thinking DistanceNew Stopping Distance
206122028
309233048
4012364072
50155350100
60187360132
7021
9670168

Brake has decided to argue something completely different, coincidentally adopting the American thinking time of 1.5 seconds (but following “research” into “average thinking times”). Consequently, its proposed stopping distances are somewhat shorter than Chalkdust’s– and horrendously un-rememberable!

SpeedCurrent Thinking DistanceCurrent Stopping DistanceNew Thinking DistanceNew Stopping Distance
2061213.419.4
3092320.134.1
40123626.848.8
50155333.568.5
60187340.295.2
7021
9646.9121.9

Even without the decimal fractions, there is no pattern to aid remembering them. At least with Chalkdust’s figures, the “thinking distance” is memorable, thus more or less eliminating one of the variables involved.

In my opinion – and I’ve said this before – knowing the actual stopping distance at any given speed is as useful as a chocolate fireguard. Knowing that the current 70mph stopping distance is about as long as a football pitch is much more useful than knowing it is 315 feet or 96m. Let’s face it, if you’re in a situation where this is suddenly important, and you’re trying to push the pedals through the floor to avoid something in front of you, you’re not going to be worrying about how far 96m is from where you are now.

The “two-second rule” (which would probably become the four or five second rule based on this), or some variation of it, is infinitely more useful.

Modern cars are lighter than they were in the 60s

No, they’re not. A Ford Anglia – the car allegedly used to set the current numbers – weighed about 740kg. A Ford Focus weighs around 1,400kg. Even a Citroen C1 weighs over 800kg. A BMW Mini weighs about 1,200kg, compared with about 650kg for an original Mini back in the 60s.

Tyres were different back then

Yes, and they are unlikely to have been as good as those we have today. Modern cars have better tyres and better brakes, and more of them is in contact with the road. Modern roads have better grip. If anything, modern cars can stop much more quickly that their 60s counterparts could under the same conditions.

Share

HackingThe BBC reports that an electronic billboard in Cardiff has been hacked, and until it was turned off was displaying offensive images and messages. You can probably guess the nature of these.

They should have taken a look at the one at the rear of the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham last week, prior to the Pride march at the weekend. And that one wasn’t classed as having been hacked, even though it was a hundred times more offensive.

Share

TumbleweedThis story has been in the news the last day or so. It concerns a new roundabout in Mickleover, Derbyshire, where there were 10 accidents within 48 hours of it opening.

Resident Peter Hall told the Derby Telegraph: “These accidents are not driver error but the result of a poorly designed, unlit roundabout on a 70mph dual carriageway.

“By my reckoning at least 10 vehicles have had accidents within less than 48 hours of this new junction opening – so it is probably the most dangerous roundabout in the country.”

Sorry, Peter. It IS driver error. It’s people being too thick to drive in accordance with what they have in front of them, choosing instead to put their heads down and hammer into the unknown. That sort of behaviour is one of the biggest problems with driving standards on our roads today.

It isn’t just young and inexperienced drivers, either. Far too many of these younger drivers will go through life not having a clue, and then they will become older drivers without a clue. Of course, there are already plenty of clueless older drivers from earlier generations, and they are almost as bad right now as today’s snot noses will be in 30 or 40 years’ time.

Some years ago, when they were building the tram system in Nottingham, they removed three roundabouts in Clifton and turned them into junctions. I can remember one of my pupils was on a lesson, and we drove down Farnborough Road towards where the first roundabout would have been several weeks earlier, and he actually stopped to look around. In the middle of nowhere! This shows what is going on inside some people’s heads. And sometimes, it’s not a lot.

Derby Telegraph has a video of traversing the roundabout from several directions, and it doesn’t look anywhere near as bad as is being suggested. It is clearly signed, and only a complete prat would miss it. There are “SLOW” signs, primary route direction signs, triangular roundabout signs, illuminated/flashing matrix signs, blue “left only” circles, both normal black and red “left bend” chevron signs, not to mention cones – which are always a bit of a give away that something might be ahead.

The most obvious physical “problem”, as distinct from the mental ones already highlighted, is that the approach roads are NSL – one of which is a dual carriageway. Being Derbyshire, that will translate to most of the residents as meaning “as fast as you can in your Audi or Corsa, whilst simultaneously peeling your banana and picking parasites out of your mate’s fur”.

To be fair, it would appear that some of the signage has gone up since the accidents, but not as much of it as the Telegraph (or Peter Hall) is suggesting. The direction signs – big green “primary route” roundabout signs – look very well-established, and if you know that a roundabout is coming then you start looking for it.

Share
1 2 3 255