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MeowTalk from AkvelonMankind has this never-ending belief that animals have their own languages. There’s maybe a possibility with apes and monkeys, but when you start moving to different branches of the evolutionary tree, I think you’re stretching it a bit.

The latest story is to do with a cat translator app – called MeowTalk – which aims to translate your cat’s meows into meanings.

The article on the BBC website says:

Research suggests that, unlike their human servants, cats do not share a language.

Each cat’s miaow is unique and tailored to its owner, with some more vocal than others.

Apparently, this isn’t seen as any sort of problem to the engineers who developed the app. But let’s be honest. It is. A big problem.

We had a cat once where visual clues were far more important in knowing what she felt. If she hissed and drew up to 20mls of blood from you, she was happy – but now fed up with being stroked (she could become fed up anywhere from 5 seconds to 20 minutes after commencement of stroking, but there was no obvious way of knowing which one it was going to be on any given occasion). If she hissed and drew 40-50mls of blood, it meant that she didn’t want to take the tablet you were trying to give her, but which she’d swallowed voluntarily when the vet had demonstrated how to do it only yesterday. If she hissed and drew more than 50mls of blood, she didn’t want to be flea-treated. Sometimes, as you walked past her on a chair, and if she was in a playful mood, she’d lunge at your leg and draw varying amounts of blood depending on whether she hit a vein or an artery without making any sound at all.

I don’t think they have an app for that, though if they did let me just say that ‘PsychoMeow’ is copyrighted.

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USA Election graphicAt last, Joe Biden has made it to the White House. It’s still disturbing that it was so close, but it’s the result America – and the civilised world – needed.

The Americans are lucky. They were able to rectify the crass mistake which occurred in their country in 2016.

Here in the UK, the one we made just before Trump was elected remains.

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David Lewis and familyTo all those tosspots on Facebook driving instructor (and anywhere else) pages who keep saying COVID-19 is all a con and overplayed just to try and keep working, try engaging your only brain cell and wake up.

I saw this story on the news tonight. David Lewis, from Pentre, Wales, lost his wife Gladys to COVID on Thursday. Then, the following day, he lost two sons, Dean and Darren, also to COVID. Other family members have also subsequently tested positive.

In future, and once we’re through all this, if anyone ever tells me they were part of this group of deniers and other assorted halfwits, I swear I’m going to punch them square in the face wherever they are.

You can donate to the GofundMe page here. It’s to help this poor bloke who now has three funerals to pay for, thanks to COVID-19

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COVID virus graphicOriginally published 22 October, Last updated 5 November 2020

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the SEISS has been extended to April 2021. It will be paid in two instalments – the first, covering November-January, and the second covering February-April. It was initially targeted at people who were working fewer hours than they normally would be as a result of the ongoing situation, and who were eligible for SEISS in the first place (i.e. received the first two grants), but with the latest development of a new lockdown with all lessons and tests being stopped then it is back to where it was earlier this year.

As I understand it, those who couldn’t claim previously still won’t be able to. I do feel for them.

The pandemic is a developing situation, but it would appear that many instructors’ minds don’t work in the same way, and remain fixed in the past – and they were usually wrong even then.

When the SEISS extension was first announced it was during different restrictions, and was going to be 20% of earnings. This compared with 80% of earnings for the first grant, and 70% for the second earlier this year. However, it was still better than nothing. Then things changed, restrictions were increased, and the amount of the extension payment was raised to 40% of earnings. This was even better than still better than nothing.

On 2 November, this was changed to 80% for the duration of the lockdown, and 40% thereafter. However, it has now changed yet again, and will now be paid at 80% for the entire period November-January. The amount of the February-April grant has not yet been set.

You would have thought that instructors would have worked out by now that the situation can change overnight. But they don’t, and treat every change as somehow being carved in stone. No one knows what the next few months will bring, but at least those of us eligible for the grant will be covered.

Claims will open from 30 November 2020, and HMRC will notify people accordingly.

But if they’re paying it in instalments, how do they know we won’t still be locked down?

Oh, Christ! That was my response to this question before the latest change. Look, it doesn’t matter now, because it has already changed to 80% across the whole of November-January. You won’t have to worry about doing your sums anymore trying to work out the (absolutely meaningless) average overall figure. It’s 80%, period.

You’ve still got to pay tax on it

Yes. Yes, yes, yes. You are being given a percentage of your pre-tax earnings without actually having to earn it, so you’ve got to pay tax on it. Anyone who expects otherwise shouldn’t be running a business.

 

Reminder: Use the proper GOV.UK link to find out the latest situation with the grant. Don’t just guess.

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US Election graphicI’m watching the drawn out process that constitutes ‘democracy’ in America. I shouldn’t complain – ours has its own quirks.

But looking at a BBC page where they ask a panel of typical US voters how they feel waking up this morning with the count ongoing, I just thought I’d add my own view.

The overriding question I have is this: why in God’s name is it so f***ing close?

Are there really that many people in the USA who want Trump in again? I mean, it was a mind-bogglingly catastrophic result that got him in back in 2016. But again? What kind of people actually want him as President after the last four years?

People are nuts.

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I rarely book theory tests for my pupils. However, one of my current lot had a practical test booked at the end of March and it was cancelled. We all know how the year panned out after that, and his theory certificate subsequently expired in June.

He doesn’t have internet access at home, and to cut a long story short as to why he hadn’t booked it himself, two weeks ago I booked his new theory test for him. The original date was 8 November – and you can probably see where this is heading.

Anyway, I got an email from Pearson VUE today, which says:

The Government has announced that England will be put under national restrictions from Thursday 5 November until Wednesday 2 December to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

Due to this, your theory test cannot go ahead.

You now need to reschedule your theory test at:

[link to booking]

When you sign in, you’ll see that there is a date and time for your test. This is not the actual date of your new test, this is just a placeholder, and you must change this to be able to take your theory test. You will need your driving licence number to do this.

Yours sincerely,
Chief Executive

When you click the link you have to log in with the candidate name, licence number, and date of birth,

As the email says, you will see a date given – it is not valid, so do not just leave it thinking you have a new date and time. You don’t. What you have to do is change the test centre, because that isn’t valid either. If you don’t, it will look like there are no available dates, but once you select the appropriate test centre available times and dates appear.

When I logged in, the dummy date given was 11 December and the test centre was identified as ‘NOTTINGHAM GBR’ with no actual address. The calendar widget showed no available test slots for the entire three month window. I selected the appropriate Nottingham test centre, and the address information was then given and available dates/times appeared on the calendar widget. The earliest was 23 December – there were available slots on only three days in December, then it was January.

Why is there no test centre mentioned on the rearranged date?

Groan! Something else to kick up a stink about. Look, the email tells you the date is a ‘placeholder’. If you log in and it says some time in December, it doesn’t mean you have a test in December – it states that clearly. What you have to do is select the appropriate test centre, then choose from whatever dates are available. And what dates are available will depend on who got there before you.

And you still need to be ready to go through all this again if the lockdown gets extended. If it does, it isn’t DVSA’s or Pearson VUE’s fault, anymore than having to cancel this time, or all the times before, have been. It is what it is.

No dates are available when I log in

Change the test centre. Then you should have dates to choose from.

The available dates are in January

Then book one and stop moaning. It is what it is, and complaining isn’t going to claw back lost time.

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DVSA LogoAs if it wasn’t already obvious – and it wasn’t to many ADIs out there – DVSA has issued a statement that theory tests are cancelled between 5 November and 2 December. They’ve clarified that with:

These measures mean all theory tests in England will be suspended from 5 November and restart on Wednesday 2 December.

An update on 13 November indicates that these dates are inclusive now, so tests restart on 3rd.

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DVSA LogoAn email alert from DVSA following the announcement of the 2nd lockdown.

Update on lockdown measures in England

Following the announcement on Saturday 31 October 2020 around further lockdown measures being introduced in England, we are working closely with the Government to agree the impact these will have on DVSA services.

All driver and rider training and tests will be suspended in England from 5 November until 2 December 2020. We will be contacting affected test candidates soon.

We’ll keep you updated on the situation and provide further guidance when we’re able too.

It’s funny, but given the fact we’re going into lockdown again, and DVSA has cancelled all tests again, and that infection rates and deaths are rising again (see how many ‘agains’ I used there?), the burning issue out there in the jungle amounts to:

It doesn’t say we can’t teach though

We need a vaccine before these idiots kill us all. Read the email, morons. It says ‘all driver and rider training and tests’. See that word ‘training’?

I now await the ‘well, it isn’t very clear is it?’ comments, followed by the ‘they can’t tell us what to do’ indignation once it finally sinks in.

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Nottingham COVID-19 HeatmapLook. You brought it on yourselves – and passed it to the rest of us – so grow up and start behaving like adults just for once!

Nottingham has entered Tier 3 of restrictions because of escalating COVID-19 infections. For the last month, we’ve had report, after report, after report of students partying and ignoring social distancing and mask rules. At one point, 75% of all Nottingham infections were among the students and that age group. Even today, police have raided parties of more than 30 people in student residences.

The image above is a ‘heatmap’ of infections in Nottingham throughout October. It goes from yellow, through red, purple, and black to indicate higher infection rates. You can clearly see how it was the 16-29 year age group which was infected the most. It should come as no surprise – even to those doing Mickey Mouse courses at Nottingham Trent University – that if they ignored the rules and behaved like twats, it was going to get passed on and spread among the rest of the population. And that is exactly what we’re seeing now.

Nottingham hospitals are seeing more cases now than back in April. The government SAGE group has announced today that the country is already four times ahead of the ‘worst case scenario’ they predicted for winter. In recent weeks, students in Nottingham have been quoted as saying ‘you’re spoiling our fun’ and ‘we should be having the time of our lives’ to police, who have broken up house parties being held illegally.

So it beggars belief that this article should appear today. Some quotes:

Molly Watkiss: it’s a little bit harsher for us, which I don’t really find fair

Tarah Jackson: We’re being blamed for the rise in cases

Kayleigh Lieu: Students are getting more and more frustrated

How is it ‘harsher’, Molly? You mean you can’t go out and get pissed whenever you want? And Tarah, you’re being ‘blamed’ because you – your group – IS the cause. You incubated it without keeping it in an incubator! And Kayleigh, you’re frustrated? Well, let me tell you how frustrated I am at YOUR group’s antics which have put my parents’ lives at great risk again. I mean, precisely what part of the term ‘lockdown’ or ‘restriction’ is it that you can’t get your immature head around and realise that it applies to you, too? Apart from your own group, no one gives a f**k that you’re ‘paying £9,000 for it’. It was obvious that this was going to happen, so more fool you for paying it with that risk hanging.

Rest assured, ladies. When this is all over, you can live in the knowledge that each of you has at least some of the blood of more than 50,000 dead people on your hands, because without any doubt whatsoever your attitudes (and probably your actions) have made this situation far worse. It wasn’t your fault you came (back) to university, admittedly, but unless you have been isolating, wearing masks, and not going on freshers’ events, you most certainly are at fault somewhere. And the numerous news articles clearly show what happened in reality.

The heatmap shows exactly what was always going to happen, but it illustrates the age factor with knobs on. In early October, the authorities stated that infections were rising dramatically, but that unlike in April it was among the younger – less likely to die – groups. This was waved around as some sort of victory banner. But in the absence of any form of lockdown – and even less common sense among that affected age group – it has been spread to the wider community. And that wider community is the one that IS more likely to die.

Just to close, this article covers what happened in Nottingham last night – the last night before Tier 3 came in. And this companion article shows the ‘type’ of person involved. Normal members of society – and especially those with the same body aerodynamics as Thunderbird 2 (among which I am numbered) – do not go out in fancy dress, and especially not right now.

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logsheetThis story has been doing the rounds since yesterday. You might remember that last year DVSA was looking into the introduction of graduated driver licences for the umpteenth time, and there was a large (and expensive) consultation over it. The subject comes up on a regular basis, usually once every 1-2 years.

I said back then that they were only ‘looking into it’ and it wasn’t likely to happen anytime soon. Well, it seems that – also for the umpteenth time – it’s not going to happen at all, again. Well, not until some future repetition of the whole ‘study’, anyway.

‘Looking into it’ came around this time because statistics show that 20% of new drivers have a significant accident (often involving someone being significantly dead as a result) in their first 12 months of passing the test. And the statistics also show that it is most frequently young people showing off skills they don’t actually have who are involved. This was what the government wanted to address. Last year, anyway. And it put DVSA on the case.

Of course, a lot has happened since last year. For one thing, we now know that this government values livelihoods (which equates to votes) above lives. Anyway, keeping that ethic on a roll:

Roads minister Baroness Vere told the Commons’ Transport Select Committee that the Department for Transport was abandoning work on graduated driving licences (GDL), partly due to concerns about the potential impact of restrictions on employment opportunities.

That’s bad enough. All that time and money wasted just to end up making a decision they could have made last year, since it has absolutely nothing to do with the outcome or content of the consultation. The more worrying part as far as I’m concerned, however, is as follows:

She said that the DfT had asked the Driving Instructors Association to develop a new modular curriculum for learners to cover issues such as driving in adverse weather, at high speed, on rural roads, and how to handle distractions while driving. She also said the department was considering a logbook system to prove learners had undertaken all the necessary modules.

Brrrr. Flashbacks to the rat race will keep me awake tonight!

You see, I already cover all of those things on my lessons. The only thing often lacking is driving on snow, which isn’t exactly something you can dial up on demand in this country. More than 99% of my pupils get to drive in the dark – when I think about it, I’ve had far more trouble getting some of them to drive during the day if they’re learning between November-March and only do evening lessons. I’ve even worked as late as midnight on two occasions just to give two who’d learnt during summer the experience. The only harsh weather I won’t do lessons in at all is when it is snowing heavily and the advice is not to travel (basically, if I wouldn’t go out in it, my pupils aren’t). We wait until it stops, then the lying snow becomes a useful tool. They all go on the motorway, and they all get to drive on rural roads, including single-track ones. And whatever road we’re on, if it is safe to do so, they will drive near to the speed limit and learn to think well ahead.

So the prospect of having the DIA telling me to do it differently does not exactly fill me with buckets of enthusiasm.

The next worrying part is other instructors. To start with, not everyone has easy access to all the road types mentioned, and some instructors in rural locations might have to drive for literally hours to get anywhere near a motorway or dual carriageway, whereas others in cities will likely have the same problem finding rural routes. I also note that there are already numerous dissenting voices from those instructors who only work during daylight hours now complaining about the night-time driving bit. And even if whatever they do eventually come up with gets past the permanent dissenters, the issue of a ‘log book’ rears its ugly head.

The Pass Plus Scheme was a great idea. When someone passed their test, they did Pass Plus to gain experience of all road types and driving conditions. By completing it, insurance companies offered discounts to new drivers. But it was abused systematically by many ADIs throughout its lifetime. Rather than waste time and fuel on actually delivering the relevant modules (note that word used by the government yesterday), they would simply take payment and sign off the course as completed. The student got the certificate and the insurance discount, and the ADI got some money (up to £200) just for filling in a form. Consequently, insurance companies stopped offering the discounts, and that in turn killed Pass Plus – which wasn’t improving driving skills at all as a result of how it was being ‘delivered’. And history has a habit of repeating itself.

This proposed log book scheme would simply end up as ‘Pass-not-quite-Plus’, or ‘Pass Plus Lite’. It would be open to precisely the same kind of abuse, and I would lay odds that it would be abused pretty much from day one. It’s absolutely guaranteed to be. There are a lot of people out there who only work between school runs and don’t go anywhere near night-time driving even now, and they’re not likely to change. Furthermore, if the lockdown has shown anything, it’s that the number of militant ADIs who hate DVSA with a passion is substantial, and I’d wager a fair few of these would suddenly decide not to teach in the dark anymore just to be contrarian, or show ‘solidarity’ with those who ‘can’t’.

Passing responsibility to ADIs over something like this is a bad, bad idea. Not because we’re all idiots, but because far too many are. Mind you, on the plus side, since the DIA is effectively run by such types, the chances of them coming up with something that the government will agree on is as likely as Hell freezing over. All the same, whatever they do come up with – and, God forbid, if it were ever approved – will simply end up being change for change’s sake. I mean, if ADIs completing log books wasn’t a big enough risk by itself, the DIA will inevitably – and they will, if this goes ahead – recommend allowing mummy and daddy to sign off parts of the log book to overcome some of the issues created (night-time and all-weather driving, for example) as they try to ‘represent their members’. The government will never back that, because mummy and daddy are bigger liars than those ADIs who used to say people had done Pass Plus modules when they hadn’t when it involves their little darlings and the prospect of them taking fewer paid lessons.

There is nothing wrong with the syllabus as it stands. It’s written down clearly in ‘Driving: The Essential Skills’. The only problems are with how much of it gets taught by some instructors, and CCL was supposed to address that a few years ago. Once you start pissing about with what instructors are doing – again – you’ve moved just about as far as it is possible to go from the original issue of 20% of new drivers having serious accidents within their first year because of their attitude.

Only graduated licences stand any chance of dealing with that core problem.

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