A Driving Instructor's Blog

Bad Drivers

Black Toyota Corolla - KM05 PWXI did my first motorway lesson this morning and everything went completely according to plan. The pupil said it was the best lesson he’d ever had.

Ironically, the only thing that I’ve had any negative thoughts about concerning lessons on motorways is if any pupil should panic and slam the brakes on. So as we left the M1 at Junction 23 to go through Loughborough, we were turning right at the roundabout, and who should try to overtake dangerously on the merge on to the A512?

Yes,a black Toyota Corolla, registration number KM05 PWX – driven by some stupid bitch who shouldn’t be on the road. It wouldn’t have surprised me if she had her kids in the car, either (all five of them, no doubt). You can see how far over she is in the photo – it was a single lane at this point. And she was speeding, too, once she got past us.

Of course, my pupil duly obliged by braking, but fortunately not too hard, since there were cars behind us.

Nothing directly to do with doing lessons on motorways, but just typical of the twats who infest the roads these days.

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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.

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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.

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Driver using mobile phoneFrom today (1 March 2017) the penalties for using a mobile phone when driving have increased.

If you get caught now, it’s 6 points on your licence and a £200 fine. New drivers – those who passed their tests less than 2 years ago – should bear in mind that the points will put them at the limit provided during the probationary period. In theory – and, hopefully, in reality – that means you’re banned.

DVSA’s photo used in the news release carries the words “make the glove compartment the phone compartment”. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen – the typical 17-year old can only put their phone in one of two places: in their hand, or between their legs. Well over half of my new pupils try that at first, and I know for a fact that however much I emphasise the dangers and penalties, when they pass they’re going to do it. I also know that they will use their phone while they’re driving – it is a condition of 17-year olds today.

I fully agree with higher penalties. The only form of education which stands any chance of working is one which carries a significant punishment with it.

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Learner car recoveryI saw this story a few days ago about a man in Norfolk who failed his driving test “in just 5 seconds”.

It reminded me of something that happened to one of my pupils about 7 years ago. He drove back into the test centre and I made my way through the waiting room to go and listen to the debrief. With hindsight, I think I heard a loud clang as I did so, but it didn’t register at the time. When I reached the car the passenger door was open and the examiner had his head in his hands and was saying:

I can’t believe you did that. I just can’t believe it.

I asked what had happened, and the examiner told me he’d asked my pupil to pull forwards into a parking bay, but he didn’t stop in time and had driven into the crash barrier surrounding the car park. I went to the front of the car and saw that there was no damage – just a very slight scuff. When I got back to the passenger side the examiner was still repeating that he couldn’t believe it. I looked at the fault sheet and said:

Do my eyes deceive me, or did he only have two faults?

The examiner replied:

That’s the whole point! It was almost a perfect drive.

Then he said he couldn’t believe it a couple more times, and added:

I’ve got to fail you because there could have been someone standing there. You can obviously drive and we’ll see you again soon.

My pupil was a very good driver, but in spite of that it took him another five attempts to pass in the end, as he picked up a different single serious fault on the four more he failed. I used to rib him about how he’d managed to fail that first one literally less than one second from the end. And I use the example to emphasise to all my other pupils that they mustn’t switch off as they head back to the test centre (which is a common issue with learners).

I should add that I have no issue whatsoever with the examiner’s decision nor with his explanation. He was 100% right. Examiners have no way of knowing how someone drives the rest of the time, which is why candidates need to be squeaky clean on their tests when it comes to safety matters. If they aren’t, the examiners have to (or should) err on the side of caution.

As for the pupil, we are still in regular contact – though I have ignored him this last weekend. He is a Chelsea supporter whose smugness is currently off the scale. And I’m not.

As for the guy in King’s Lynn in that original article, it’s a similar situation. Yes, he had a brain fart – but what if he’d had a similar fart while driving alone just as a group of school kids started to walk across a road? The examiner had to fail him, no matter how good the rest of the drive was. If he hadn’t, there’d really be no point in having a driving test system in the first place.

With new pupils, and especially (though not exclusively) those who have driven in other countries, I often say “UK rules, UK rules” at some point, as they turn into a junction and aim for the right-hand side of the road. With some, it is a deliberate act, but very new drivers it is just a steering issue.

I saw another ADI end up on a pavement and nearly through a hedge earlier this week as his pupil over steered into a junction and then didn’t straighten up (probably with a bit of gas thrown in for good measure, followed by blind panic, which usually happens). I think we’ve all been there at least once in our careers. Indeed, it was such occurrences that led me to realise that the dual controls are a useful tool for teaching beginners, and not something to avoid using at all costs.

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I originally wrote this article as the result of the most ridiculous editorial written by a female journalist in one of the usual newspapers which prints crap like that. She was trying to justify why she couldn’t drive. She was only 30, for God’s sake!Fry observes bad driving

The news story was badly written and full of inaccuracies and untruths. In fact, it was typical “femail” fodder, if you get my drift. It didn’t stay available for more than a month or so, and the exact things it said are long since gone. I’ve summarised the important details of my response to that article in the bullet points below:

  • Just because your brother or sister passed when they were 17 has no bearing on how quickly you will learn, no matter what your current age.
  • It is a general truth that the older you get the harder it is to learn new things, but that is not carved in stone.
  • I’ve had many 40+ drivers who are far better learners than many 17-25 year olds.
  • Dreading your lessons will not make learning any easier.
  • It DOES NOT take 1½ hours training for every year of your life to learn to drive.
  • On average, those who pass have had 47 hours of professional instruction and 20 hours of private practice
  • My own pupils have taken anywhere between 14½ hours and 160 hours (both extremes were 17-19 year olds)
  • Two of my quickest learners were around 50 years of age.
  • The longest I know of took 100 hours with me, 100 hours with an automatic instructor, and seven attempts to pass her test (and that was still impressive). She was in her late 40s, but I can guarantee she’d have had the same issues if she’d have been 20.
  • As people get older they branch off mentally in all kinds of directions. Some are mentally 60 years old at 30, whereas others are 20 years old at 80! Although other factors might creep in with very old people, the latter attitude will make you learn quicker.
  • Some people are already branched off as they leave the womb! They will find driving difficult no matter what – and this is often why they put off learning until they’re older and desperately need a licence, and then start blaming it on age.
  • Your likelihood of passing your test is based on how well you can drive, not on historical statistics suggesting the pass rate is falling.
  • Historical pass rates are actually quite stable.
  • Just because a teenager can run faster and for longer, play football better than you, understand technology, etc., does not have any direct bearing on how quickly YOU can learn to drive.
  • Experience comes with age, and that gives older drivers a huge advantage – if they’d shut up about the other stuff.
  • Your nervous system and muscles do not shrivel and die the day after your 25th birthday.

Can I learn to drive when I’m 50?

Someone found the blog on that term. Yes, you can! Two of my best-ever pupils were 50+. However, not everyone is the same. I can get one 17-year old who picks up everything first time, and another who should (in my opinion) give up the idea of driving for the sake of humanity and get a bus pass instead! And it’s exactly the same for older learners. Age isn’t an automatic barrier. But it can be a bigger barrier if you let it become one by thinking old in the first place.

People can pass at any age. The real question is “should they?”. You can only find out by trying.

Is learning to drive difficult for a 60-year old?

Another search term used to find the blog. It depends on what kind of 60-year old you are. If you’re 60 but think like you’re still 20 (or 30, or 40) then you can probably learn as easily as you would have done if you were still that age. But if you think like you’re 60, going on 70, it might well be a challenge for you. Then again, it might not.

You won’t know unless you try. Don’t use your age as either a weapon or an excuse.

Can you be too old?

My personal opinion on this is yes, you can. But it’s not as simple as just your age, it’s also down to how you, your mind, and your body have handled it. I had one lady some years ago who was “around” 70 – she wouldn’t admit how old, but she’d hinted that it was 70+. She was disabled through arthritis and her lessons were being paid for through Motability. She was absolutely lovely – she was learning guitar, wrote poetry, and liked music (especially rock). She’d decided to learn to drive because her husband had died and she wanted to get around.

I don’t know how long it would have taken her, but the signs from the lessons she did were not good. I had to buy extra mirrors because her arthritis prevented her turning her head, and every lesson was like a beginner’s session – she forgot everything we’d covered before. Her Motability funding ran out until she’d passed her theory. She did phone me to say she’d be back once she’d passed, but I never heard from her again.

Some older people have serious age-related coordination and cognitive issues, and these are bound to affect how easily they can learn to drive. Other older people have very “young” minds and have fewer – if any – issues in this area.

I once knew someone who was mentally in his 50s or 60s by the time he reached 25. All he wanted was a wife and kids, and a pipe and slippers by the fire. Someone with that sort of outlook is likely to have serious issues learning something new by the time they really do get older (and believe me, he did).

Eventually, virtually everyone is “too old” to drive. For some, it might be in their 40s or 50s, while others may still have what it takes in their 80s. As an aside, I recently did an assessment on a near-90-year old woman who’d had an accident and had lost her confidence. She wanted an honest opinion to help her decide whether to hang up her keys or not. She was a good driver – very alert – so I told her she was fine, but to have an assessment with someone regularly or if she felt her reactions had changed in any way.

But anyway, it is logical that there may be a point at which some people shouldn’t waste time and money trying to learn. It’s just different for everyone.

You won’t know if any of this applies to you unless you try it.

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That well-known scientific organisation VoucherCodesPro.co.uk has carried out some “research” into the kind of music being listened to at the time people had accidents. They conclude that Adele, Justin Bieber, and Sia were the biggest offenders. The full list is as follows:

    1. Adele – 18%
    2. Justin Bieber – 17%
    3. Sia – 15%
    4. Slip Knot – 14%
    5. Rihanna – 14%
    6. Drake – 13%
    7. The Beatles – 10%
    8. Calvin Harris – 8%
    9. Eminem – 8%
    10. Kanye West – 7%

No other data are given – such as age, sex, ethnicity, or location – which would be on any scientist’s list of vital pieces of information (mind you, it’s probably illegal to identify sex and ethnicity in case they point to something the Thought Police don’t like). All they say is that respondents were “over 18”. Oh, and that the average number of accidents these people had had over a two-year period was two, with fourteen near misses!

When you combine that last part with the fact that – with only one or possibly two exceptions, and even then only just – the type of music being listened to says a lot about the mental ages of the people responding, you get a very good idea of where the problem actually lies. It’s all baby music.

By comparison, I have had one accident in 10 years – and that was because some stupid cow ran a red light in poor weather in the dark. I can’t recall any “near misses” in that same period, even with learners driving. The “research” clearly shows that the kind of person most likely to listen to Adele or Justin Bieber is the type most likely to be an inexperienced/crap driver who is likely to hit things instead of going around them. It doesn’t prove in any way that Adele and Justin Bieber are direct distractions.

When asked why the music has been such a distraction, the top reasons cited were – “I was singing and dancing when I should have been focusing on the road” (43%)…

I can’t imagine many men doing that. I’m sorry, but I just can’t.

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Any half decent driver will already be aware of the shocking behaviour of many people who use the roads. If you drive for a living – especially if you are considered to be a “professional” driver – apart from the fact that you use the roads more and you see more, you’re also likely to notice more.Playing cards

Regular readers will know that I often publish registration numbers of people I’ve witnessed behaving badly on the roads. It makes me feel a lot better, and the jackasses involved can’t really make an issue out of it because I simply state the truth – they were driving as I describe (and the camera doesn’t lie). However, two similar events this morning got me wondering if the owners of companies are aware of the potential damage being done to their businesses by the Neanderthals they seem to employ to drive their vehicles.

These companies probably spend a fortune in time and money on advertising, a decent website, or a lot of arseing about on social media (I’ve never understood how a “professional” can migrate their entire business to Facebook – it’s almost as logical as my previous “professional” company’s decision to switch their official font from Times New Roman to Comic Sans), and yet the negative impact just one monkey in one of their vans can have doesn’t seem to be something they even consider.

Speaking for myself, I will quite happily boycott a company (or a particular outlet) if I get poor service. For example, I will never again set foot in the new McDonalds branch in Clifton as a result of the absolutely crap service from the moment it opened. For similar reasons, I will never use KFC in Colwick, because if there is even one person (or car) in the queue you’re looking at a minimum 10-minute wait (longer in most cases) per person, most of it because the spotty-faced oiks who frequent most KFC branches get to the front of the queue before even starting to consider what they might want. The drive-thru ordering intercom is frequently broken (i.e. vandalised) and the zit-faces in the queue will still take 10 minutes to order while another zit-face on the till writes it all down – and you know that this time the absence of multitasking via the ordering computer means that they will only start to process each order after the piece of paper has been transferred, and after the previous order has been completed. As soon as you see the notepad and pencil being used, that’s the cue to reverse out and go to Greggs, instead.

There are numerous fish and chip shops I won’t use because they’ve never got anything ready. I’ve come to the conclusion that those awards for “best chippie” they all have splurged across banners outside have about as much value as the NVQs my previous company used to issue to shop floor staff for proving they could walk and chew gum at the same time (“equivalent to an ‘A’ Level”, they used to say). They can’t all be “the best”. The only way a chip shop can hope to get one of these meaningless awards for “best chips” is if they cook each batch to order, and you know that that’s exactly what they’re doing it when you see half a dozen or more people standing around inside waiting like a scene out of Dawn of the Dead – which defeats the whole point of going for some chips in the first place. One thing you don’t want to hear when you walk into a chippie is “can I take your order, please?” It means they are putting you in a queue instead of just scooping some ready-prepared chips into a paper bag (Captain Cod on Perry Road, take note). Some of them will try to take your money before informing you that “we’re just waiting for chips”, and it’s got to the point where I specifically ask “have you got chips ready?” when I walk in. If they haven’t I walk out again.

Sandwich shops can be even worse. Often run by a single person, there’s every likelihood that when you go into one she (it’s usually a she) will be trying to fulfil a telephone order for the local building site, and will be in the middle of frying 300 rashers of bacon and 100 eggs on an underpowered electric hob using a normal-sized non-stick frying pan (I’m not making that up, either – Greedy Guts on Woodborough Road take note). You might get a sideways glance from her (or him) if you’re lucky, (The Cob Shop on Andover Road and Munch Bites on Nottingham Road, both in Basford, and Spoilt For Choice on Cinder Hill Road take note). And there’s usually some filthy-looking retard standing in the doorway smoking wherever you go, and I absolutely detest the smell of cigarettes when I’m around food.

But I digress. If they were the types of companies I was ever likely to use, Aspley Workwear and Midland Commercial Cleaners would now be on my list of places never to do business with. And all because of the most horrendous behaviour by respective drivers of two of their vans this week. Undertaking, speeding, and tail-gating are three things that do it for me.

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I was driving over Lady Bay bridge today with a pupil, and the car in front of me – a grey Mini Cooper Countryman, reg. no. FD14 TYC – suddenly swerved sharply to avoid a head on collision with another car.Grey Mini Countryman - FD14 TYC

For a split second I wondered what she was doing, but then I saw the tell-tale flicking of her eyes from lap to road in her rear view mirror, and it became rather obvious.

Texting while driving is on the increase again. Meanwhile, all the police seem to do is spend the better part of every day parked in their camera van just beyond recently-changed speed limits signs.

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The police don’t seem to bother with pulling over crap drivers these days. If they did, they’d certainly want to have a word with the driver of a black Ford Focus, X803 JBE, which was driving at speeds close to 100mph on the ring road in a 50mph zone, and weaving in and out of traffic during the late rush hour.Black Ford Focus reg. no. X803 JBE

I saw him coming and slowed down, otherwise he could easily have lost control and hit someone.

I’m not exaggerating any of this, either. It was one of those situations that happen once in a blue moon. The police really ought to be stopping this guy every time they see his car, because he’s probably got quite a few other things to hide. People like this always do.

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