A Driving Instructor's Blog

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Hatice Sadir - a normal (but dishonest) womanThere was a story in the media recently about someone who attempted to cheat on the theory test by having a bluetooth device under a headscarf.

As usual, ADIs across the web forums and social media know more about the story than anyone else – even though they only just read it in the newspapers – and it has prompted the usual “ban the burkha” mob to mount their soapboxes once again now that Brexit has given them the necessary bravado.

The woman in question, Hatice Sadir, was Turkish. She spoke very little English, and had failed a test a few weeks previously. It appears that she paid someone £300 for a two-way bluetooth device including specially designed headscarf. She booked a test with voiceover through headphones, and this was therefore audible to whoever was on the other end of her two-way link, and they told her the answers as the questions were read out.

Test centre staff recognised her from her previous visit. They noted that she hadn’t worn a headscarf the first time and were suspicious at that, and the fact she finished the test very quickly – which they found unusual for someone with language difficulties.

You will note from the photograph of Sadir, apparently outside the court, that she appears very westernised. She has a tattoo on her arm in the fashionable mode. The fact that she is (probably) Muslim is irrelevant. However, in their versions of the story, The Sun and the Daily Mail have identified the “headscarf” as a “hijab”, as is their modus operandi these days.

Sadir, a mother of three, was just a very stupid woman who was desperate to get a licence. Her (probable) religion has nothing to do with it. The only thing I find annoying is that she got a suspended 20 month prison sentence, when she refused to identify whoever it was who was providing the service she paid for. It ought to have been 20 months in custody just for that.

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Another mass shooting in the USA. And just when you think that, this time, someone must start to take gun control seriously over there, you see this:

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, however, said gun control would probably not have stopped the attack.

He added that if a “crazy” gunman launches such an attack, there is no way that law enforcement officers could be there to stop it.

“The best way is to be prepared to defend yourself,” he told CBS News.

Look, you right wing, NRA-affiliated prat, if he couldn’t have obtained the gun in the first place just by showing his ID (and reports suggest he didn’t even have to do that because he bought it online), this almost certainly wouldn’t have happened – like with most of the mass shootings your country is famous for. How the f**k does anyone over there have the ‘right to bear’ an assault rifle? It’s designed to kill people. Period.

It is lack of gun control that has led to it, and lack of gun control which continues to fuel it.

And what Paxton has said is doubly stupid given that the situation is still ‘live’, and no one could possibly know enough about the shooter to determine his motives at this time, and thus conclude so absolutely that his actions weren’t preventable. Gun control would have likely prevented at least some of the 251 people who have already died in mass shootings in the US this year.

We don’t have mass shootings in the UK to anything like the level they do in the USA. Over here, it needs a special kind of psychopath with an especially deep sexual inadequacy to get hold of a gun and kill a lot of people all at once. In America, you can get a gun with your corn flakes, and if it then turns out you’re also inadequate, you’re already tooled up for what comes next.

And I woke up this morning to discover that as well as the 20 dead in El Paso, another 9 have been killed in a separate incident a few hours later in Ohio. The jackass this time was carrying a high-capacity assault rifle and extra magazines.

Gun control is the only answer. Not the full answer – but a damn sight better one than what they have right now.

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Media manipulated test pass ratesA few days ago, the media was awash with reports about how the driving test pass rate had plummeted, and it was all because of the “new parallel parking manoeuvre” that had been introduced. It was a great opportunity for ADIs who have been against “it” from the start to give their two penn’orth.

Although the link above was from The Telegraph, the Daily Mail ran the same illiterate crap, and several others followed. Comic news site, Yahoo, even went so far as to blame the same “new” manoeuvre on a separate FOI request, which revealed one candidate took 21 tests in a single year.

It seems that in the world of newspapers, someone who has just been given their first job in journalism does one of these FOIs every year. I think it must be some sort of induction test to make sure they can fill in an online form properly. And every year, without fail, there is someone somewhere who has taken an ungodly number of tests before passing (and some of them still haven’t passed, even then). It is a separate statistic which is independent of how easy or hard the test is. It merely shows that just as some people are crap journalists, there are others who are crap drivers and perhaps ought never to be allowed to drive. Ever. But it is separate.

The really laughable part is the reference to this “new parallel parking manoeuvre” – all the more laughable since there are ADIs who have allowed themselves to be associated with the claims. Because there IS no new parallel parking manoeuvre! Even some joker representing a querulous organisation which, in a previous incarnation, specialised in stirring things, ranted about how “dangerous” it is without clarifying the glaring naming error (perhaps because he didn’t know himself).

What there actually is is a piss-easy manoeuvre which involves checking your mirrors and looking ahead to make sure it’s clear, pulling over on the right-hand side of the road, then reversing back a couple of car lengths without ending up on the pavement or on the other side of the road again, and finally driving off and going back over on to the correct side safely. It’s the kind of thing any 17 year old is going to be doing 5 minutes after he passes when he sees one of his mates on the other side of the road.

The manoeuvre is referred to as “pulling up on the right”, “stopping on the right”, or similar phrases. And it is not a “parallel parking manoeuvre”.

It’s only dangerous if people haven’t been taught to do it properly. Mine have to do it on busy roads in Long Eaton and with oncoming/passing/parked lorries on a busy industrial estate in Colwick, and the only problem I’ve had was when someone decided for reasons not even known to himself to turn the wheel on to half lock as he reversed and veered outwards (and since he didn’t notice until I showed it to him on the dashcam, it was probably best he was caught early anyway). A disproportionate number of tests seem to include it, and I thought they’d pull back on it after the original introduction – where virtually every test did it – but they haven’t.

The media has claimed that the pass rate has plummeted. They base this ridiculous statement on something like the graph at the top of this article – which shows the national pass rate for the last three years. I have carefully adjusted the axes to make it look as bad as possible, just like pretty much every journalist does when they’re talking about numbers. Yet it is only a little over 1% decline over three years. If you ignore the fact that life has been going on for more than the last three years, it looks like the pass rate is on a downward slope into oblivion – even if it would take over 40 years to get to zero at the rate it is going.

However, if you look at pass rates since the introduction of the driving test in 1935, a completely different story emerges.Official pass rates since 1935

I cut these data down to one approximately every 5 years up until 2007, and from there on the data are yearly. Because of that, and also because I started the y-axis at 20% instead of 0%, they look a bit more dramatic than they are (i.e. the right half of the graph covers 19 years, whereas the left half covers 65 years – imagine the 1935-2000 part stretched out to three times wider).

Something odd happened between 1975 and 1990, and between 1990 and 2000 (a rise followed by a fall). But since 2000 the pass rate has been virtually flat – hovering between 44% and 47%. It is currently at about 46%, and there are no blips or drops worth a mention (i.e. any changes to the test have neither improved or worsened pass rates to any significant extent).

As I said, the top graph shows what you can do if you don’t represent data properly, and the message that comes across if you’re an ADI or journalist who doesn’t understand data is both confused and wrong.

The only time the pass rate has been significantly higher than it is now was in a different era. No internet, no smartphones, dial phones wired to the house, two postal deliveries a day (one of them before you got up), bottled milk on the doorstep, outside toilets, bin men who actually carried bins overflowing with filth and tipped them in the back of a truck, anything up to 1,000 times fewer cars on the road, no motorways, no roundabouts, and so on. DVSA does itself no favours harping on about training standards being the issue when the pass rate is hovering around 45%. It’s just the norm, and has been for almost 20 years – and up to more than 50 years if you allow a few percent extra variance.

One thing is certain. The pass rate has not fallen (or risen) significantly for the last 20 years. And the proper graph clearly shows its not likely to change much in the next 20 either – unless some idiot forces it to. I try not to say bad things about them, but I’m sure DVSA is disappointed that the 2019 data point isn’t joined by an almost vertical line up at 90%, and will likely blame this on poor training again.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention. The reason I wrote this is that DVSA has had to send out an email correcting the false media stories.

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Audi embedded in houseA DVSA alert came through yesterday informing us that they’re investigating the possibility of introducing graduated driver licences (or something along those lines). Again.

First of all, let’s look at the facts surrounding this news (i.e. what’s actually in it, and not what the media headlines are saying).

  1. They’re only exploring the possibility. It won’t happen anytime soon.
  2. There will be a consultation before – and if – any changes are made.
  3. They are talking about new drivers’ “first few months on the road”.
  4. They don’t know exactly what – if anything – will be introduced.
  5. “New drivers” means everyone, and not just 17 year olds.
  6. Any changes would be for future new drivers.
  7. The impetus for this comes from the Government, and not DVSA per se.

Don’t forget that it took over 40 years to get learners able to go on the motorway, and even in my time as an ADI there were numerous “nearly” moments within different governments. Even the final kickstart took over two years to implement.

So why is the issue of graduated licences coming up once again?

Data show that 20% of new drivers have a significant accident within the first 12 months of passing their test, and it is that statistic which is being addressed. However, if we look at separate data, which has been reported many times previously, there is an enormous blip in the accident statistics where the following points are identified from individual cases of those involved:

  • 17-25 year old
  • male
  • rural road
  • on a bend
  • at night
  • more than one occupant in the same age group
  • excessive speed involved
  • no other vehicle involved

If you translate this data, it basically means young show-offs with little experience driving too fast for their skill set, distracted by their mates, and whipping the wheel round to take a bend they only saw as they entered it, then spinning off into a tree or field. Frequently, at least one passenger is fatally injured. Although males feature highly in these figures, females are still represented, where the distraction is often slightly different but equally stupid. This whole scenario is why insurance is so high for that age group.

It comes down to inexperience. Inexperience of driving, and inexperience of self-preservation. And whether you like it or not, it applies to more 17 year olds than it does 40 year olds – a) because there’s more of them, and b) 17 year olds are more likely to exhibit behaviours which compound their inexperience. The whole issue is about actual accidents and actual deaths. It’s not some random game to moan about because you think your son or daughter is an angel and shouldn’t be treated in a manner that you consider to be unfair.

I’ve mentioned this before, but many years ago I had what was then my best ever pupil. He was a smart lad, from a wealthy (-ish) family, high-achiever at school, pleasant (as was the whole family), and a quick learner. He was an excellent driver when he passed his test first time after only 23 hours of lessons. And he promised me he’d drive safely.

His mum wanted him to do Pass Plus, because she was concerned at his lack of experience – a sentiment I readily agreed with because he’d passed so quickly. Six weeks later – during which time he’d been driving in the beaten-up little Fiesta his mum had bought him – I was amazed at how far he’d drifted away from what I’d taught him. He was cornering too fast and taking chances when crossing the path of other traffic. I pulled him back during the Pass Plus and left him with some words of wisdom once it was completed.

Sometime after, I began teaching his then girlfriend, who his mum had referred to me. The girlfriend told me that he had already damaged his car by hitting a kerb cornering too fast (he hadn’t told me that), and that when he was out with his mates he would drive very fast, sometimes over 70mph in 30mph zones (he didn’t tell me that, either). I was concerned for her, but she said he’d never do it with her or with his mum in the car, because his mum would kill him if she knew. And I can promise you that he was in no way unique. Some of those I’ve taught since have made it absolutely clear how they’re going to drive when they pass. And they do.

And that’s why something has to be done. Far too many young people behave like this as a matter of course. They know full well they are in the wrong (which is why they hide it), but they do it nonetheless because it gives them street cred with the other monkeys in the jungle, and is the next best thing to sex for a 17 year old. Being inexperienced doesn’t enter the equation as far as they’re concerned. It’s no use pretending that your little darling doesn’t do it, because he or she almost certainly does to some extent. I even saw an ADI making this claim. Quite frankly, if a teenager is in rebellion mode – as many are – being the offspring of an ADI might even increase the likelihood of them behaving like prats.

So although I think DVSA isn’t addressing the root of the problem, it is at least trying to deal with the possible outcomes of that problem. Any restrictions placed on new drivers would at least give them time to gain some experience before they’re let off the leash, and the testosterone (or oestrogen) is able to kick in fully.

Not all young people are dangerous

Potentially, yes they are. They are inexperienced, and that alone is enough to lead to errors of judgment. Bad behaviour just compounds it.

When I was younger, going skiing every year was risky and fun, and resulted in a broken collar bone the first time I did it through going too fast when I was still crap. I discovered that snow-ploughing at speed (i.e. as fast as possible) over moguls on a glacier in Verbier with almost no surface snow down a black run is actually not as good an idea as I had originally thought. At the time, having the entire lift system shut down so mountain rescue could get me off the glacier and to the hospital, then being temporarily disabled and off work for a few weeks when I got back was a badge of honour. These days (and as soon as the following year, in fact), I would see it as bloody dangerous and wouldn’t be that stupid again – even though I’m a much better skier. Being unable to drive and off work now would be a royal pain in the ass, and enormously embarrassing. That’s what maturity and experience does to you.

It’s unfair to penalise only young people

They’re not. They are talking of penalising all new drivers. The fact that younger drivers would be most affected is a statistical thing, as is the fact that 20% of new drivers have a significant accident in their first year of driving.

I see older drivers driving more dangerously

That’s a separate issue. The one being addressed here is lack of experience.

My son (or daughter) doesn’t drive like that

This makes me laugh. Yes they bloody well do! Inexperience, by definition, applies to all new drivers. Furthermore, unless you are with them every time they drive, you haven’t got a clue what they get up to. I’ve lost count of the times some prat (often with “P” plates on) has pulled out in front of me or cut me up, and the only reason there hasn’t been an accident is because of my anticipation and reactions (both as a driver, and as an ADI using the dual controls). Those drivers could easily be your son or daughter. You have no knowledge of it and no control over it whatsoever. In my opinion, coming out with this statement is one of the contributing factors as to why there is a problem in the first place (along with letting them have an Audi or BMW as their first car).

Actually, that’s another thing. The only reason anyone buys an Audi (or BMW) is to drive fast, so a new driver who gets one is not going to be sticking to the speed limit or driving cautiously. The only time you’re likely to be stuck behind one being driven slowly is when the driver is texting or pissing about with the stereo. The rest of the time, they’ll be trying to get in front. You can argue as much as you want about that, but it is a simple fact. I see it every day.

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I got an email tonight from the Food Standards Agency (I’m signed up to alerts). It’s amazing how many recalls are issued each week – they’re mostly for bits of plastic or salmonella contamination, though many are labelling issues where something in them isn’t declared on the label.

The one I received tonight was of the latter type. The Co-op is recalling something called a “Veg Taster”.

Because of “undeclared fish”!

I can’t find out what a “Veg Taster” is, and I’m certainly not going out to buy one. But the name suggests that it is suitable for vegetarians. They do “Fish Tasters” as well, and the undeclared fish in the FSA alert involves salmon, so you can sort of half guess how it happened.

Joking aside, though. It could be a problem for anyone with a fish allergy.

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Bill and Ben - Flower Pot MenI can’t find any specific information to back this up, but a little bird told me that Bill Plant was in financial difficulties again earlier this year. And they have apparently switched from BMWs to Volkswagens. The exact words used that Bill Plant went bust again earlier this year.

Regular readers might recall that I can’t use any photos with Bill Plant’s logo on it, because they demand I take it down if I do. They did the last time I mentioned their troubles.

The company which rescued them last time – Ecodot – was dissolved in 2014, and became Bill Plant. Companies House (CH) indicates that both Ecodot (deceased) and Bill Plant have the same registered address. The last submitted balance sheet suggests that between 2017 and 2018, Bill Plant’s P&L reserves had fallen from a negative £156k to negative £563k. They opted not to provide full P&L accounts.

That was as of May 2018, and the 2019 submission isn’t due until May 2020. So they could well have technically gone bust and no one would know unless they announced it.

One to keep an eye on.

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Protester being arrestedThere’s a passage in Catch-22 where the Chaplain is musing over his misfortunes, and asks himself:

Did it then seem probable, as he had once overheard Dunbar ask, that the answers to the riddles of creation would be supplied by people too ignorant to understand the mechanics of rainfall?

I have exactly the same feeling right now, having just watched the BBC Evening News, where they interviewed some of those idiots protesting over climate change in London.

Does it really seem probable that the solution to global warming will come from a bunch of hatchet-faced, middle-aged and elderly women – the same kind who camped out on Greenham Common in the 80s – with multi-coloured dreadlocks and half a kilo of face jewellery? Is The Truth only likely to be given to people stupid enough to superglue themselves to buses, trains, and each other? Or 16-year olds who should be in school?

I don’t think so.

At the time of writing, over 950 of these imbeciles have been arrested, with 40 being charged for various offences (so far). Photographs of several of these middle-aged prats being arrested show that it is probably the most exciting thing that’s happened to them in the last 50 years. One of their number, an exotic specimen who goes under the name of Larch Maxey – and I’d not be surprised to find that that doesn’t appear on any electoral list – is quoted:

On Tuesday we’ve got a series of strategic points around the city which we will be targeting to cause maximum economic disruption while simultaneously focusing on Parliament and inviting MPs to pause.

In other words, they’re going to try and block parliament from sitting. If Maxey engaged at least two of his handful of brain cells, he might realise that the “economic disruption” he is causing is also responsible for far more pollution than usual, as cars and lorries (and public transport) sit gridlocked. Police are travelling from all over the country – using road transport – to help. High profile dipsticks are flying in (or using trains) especially so that it can be seen how committed they are to The Cause. And let’s not even consider the carbon footprint associated with all that extra superglue that’s being sold.

Extinction Rebellion needs to get it into its thick skulls that we’re not going to go back to living in caves and eating algae.

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Victoria Parry - now with THREE drink-drive convictionsYou couldn’t make this up.

Regular readers will know that I don’t hold back on telling it like it is. I don’t give damn that the trend is towards making it a crime to tell the truth if the truth involves women or those from minority groups having done something wrong. The truth is the truth, regardless of sex or ethnic origin.

This BBC article reports that Victoria Parry, 30, was three times over the drink-drive limit when she smashed into three other cars and careered down an embankment, where her car burst into flames. She’d drunk a bottle of wine. In court, she admitted to dangerous driving – a serious offence which carries an unlimited fine and up to 14 years in prison. To make matters worse, Parry has two previous drink-drive convictions.

Now, if Parry had been a man, he would have been starting a long prison sentence right now. He’d have been fined a lot of money. And he might even have been put on the sex-offenders’ register just as a precaution.

Sarah Buckingham - some sort of "legal" authority, apparentlyParry’s case was different, though. You see, both she and the Judge were women. As a result, she was not handed down a prison sentence – which would have been absolutely guaranteed if she were a man. In the Judge’s precise words:

If Miss Parry was a man, there is no question it would have been straight down the stairs, because this is a shocking case of dangerous driving against a background of two previous convictions for excess alcohol.

The BBC article makes no mention of fines or bans, either, and I can’t find any mention in reports from other sources.

Naturally, the mitigating circumstances – which also came from a woman – Parry’s lawyer, Lucy Tapper, pin the blame firmly on men. Parry is apparently an irresponsible pisshead because of being in an abusive relationship, so it’s clearly the fault of men that she has three drink-drive convictions (now) and is lucky she hasn’t killed someone. To be fair, there is no mention of who the “relationship” was with, and I might have got that particular anti-male assessment wrong. Tapper whined:

There is deep and genuine regret on her part.

You forgot to mention that that regret extends across three convictions, now, Lucy. You missed a trick to lay it on even thicker.

Parry and the Judge, Sarah Buckingham, should both be in prison. Parry for being the serial drink-driver that she is, and the Judge for utter contempt of what remains of our legal system.

The case has been referred to the judicial watchdog. Although she probably won’t be, Buckingham should be looking at applying for shelf-stacking jobs at Tesco, where she can do less harm.

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Part of me feels a bit sorry for Theresa May. She took on a problem – Brexit – which has no solution, and which is not going to let her keep her job however it pans out. But then, I remember she is also a Tory, and my pity vanishes. Being a Tory is probably why she comes out with crap like this.

The BBC reports on the “youth crime summit” taking place at Downing Street. She opened it with the comment:

We cannot simply arrest ourselves out of this problem.

This is stupid, even for a Tory. If the police had greater numbers and arrested more people, there’d be fewer of the twats hanging out on the streets trying to commit crimes in the full knowledge that currently they won’t be arrested, and that they’ll get off lightly if they are. They could at least arrest part of the problem away.

Then again, if the Tories have always been stupid and out of touch, they can’t hold a candle to the unions on that score. Plans to have teachers and youth workers help report crimes are being opposed by those fossils. So basically, you’re left with a  situation where teachers and youth workers want to deliberately overlook crime, and the police don’t want to (or can’t) arrest anyone anyway even if they’re aware of it. And we will no doubt continue to pretend not to see which groups are primarily involved in the problem – a detail which could be used to help sort it much more effectively if we stopped playing the PC card over everything.

In other words, we stay exactly as we are now, with juvenile wankers going out to stab people to score points based on where the knife enters the victim’s body, and having their idols write pathetic songs about it, thus fuelling the problem still further.

Sometimes, there is more than one thing that needs to be done to solve a problem. In this case, at the very least the police should be arresting people and the teachers/youth workers should be reporting people. Period. And speaking personally, I don’t give a damn who is committing the crime as long as I can see that efforts are being made to stop them from doing it.

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reg_fe17dkfIt is clearly a precondition to owning a BMW, Audi, or Mercedes that you have to be a certified f***ing twat, with no discernible brain activity in the head area (it’s all concentrated in the groin, of course). Their behaviour happens too often and too consistently to be a coincidence.

I didn’t have my dash cam on because I’d just been to the hand car wash, so I couldn’t catch the idiot on film, but driving past Chilwell Golf Club – at the traffic lights – there was a lorry, then me, then this f***ing halfwit in the silver BMW M240i (FE17 DKF) racing up at speed. The lights were on green, the lorry and me were moving, and twat boy decided he would still go for the overtake. He misjudged everything, and ended up slamming his brakes on and forcing his way between the lorry and me. There was no one behind me at all, so the manoeuvre was as pointless as it was dangerous.

It’s wan*ers like this who are directly responsible for the daily incidents involving injuries and death on the motorways and trunk roads. It was an oldish-looking guy, bald head, and the fact that he was in an automatic in the first place suggests his mental faculties were such that he ought not to be trying stunts like this.

If the police are interested – and they should be, although they probably won’t – he appears to live in the Rylands, since that’s where he turned off (ironically, he was stuck at red lights as I went by).

On the subject of arsehole drivers, I saw on the local newsfeed yesterday that drivers in Leicestershire were being advised to stay away from the notorious Watery Gate ford at Thurlaston. Water levels were already high, and were expected to rise further with overnight rain. They did, and the level gauge shows that there was 1 metre depth of water for about 40 metres of road to drive through (if you were stupid enough to try in anything other than an off-road vehicle).

Cue: a Mercedes driver, who was stupid enough to try.Mercedes stuck in Watery Gate ford in Thurlaston

They had to get a fire engine and a dinghy out to rescue the prat, and there’s an ambulance because he or she is probably “traumatised”. The poor dear. Note how the water is over half way up his doors!

They should have their licence taken away permanently for something like this. Or at least be charged for the emergency service call out.

I take most of my pupils through the ford on Beanford Lane near Oxton at some point during their lessons. Most haven’t a clue what the “FORD” sign means in the Highway Code – even if they’ve ever seen it. Almost no one knows what a ford is in the first place, these days. The Bean ford isn’t very wide, whereas Watery Gate is.

But I won’t go through it if it’s been raining hard, and I stop or slow down to assess the depth using the level gauge before I do. Attempting to take on a metre depth of water in a normal car is unbelievably stupid, especially over such a long distance.

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