A Driving Instructor's Blog

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You see the adverts everywhere: Become a Driving Instructor. Work hours to suit yourself, and earn £30,000 a year. No experience [or skills or qualifications] necessary. That part in italics is the rub. They don’t say it, but it is implied – and that’s one of the big problems facing this industry today.

Historically, driving instructors as a group have never been the brightest bunch of people in the world, but at least they knew a bit about driving just by virtue of experience. OK, they have a bit of chip on their shoulder which forces many to liken themselves to doctors or other skilled professionals whenever they get the chance. But times have changed.

No experience, skills, or qualifications. And you can become a driving instructor.

Nowadays, the focus is on earning £30,000 a year and not having to have achieved anything at school to get it. Driving instructors are getting younger – so young, in fact, that the wisdom of years for them is way off in the future. This why you see instructors breaking speed limits, tailgating, abusing residents and other people (you should see the noticeboard in my local test centre), and otherwise driving like the chavs they are teaching.

At one of my local test centres this morning my pupil drove into the car park and we saw another learner car reverse parking in a bay. We waited some way back until the car had (very slowly) completed their manoeuvre, then we went in to do the same. In the meantime, another learner car had pulled up behind us. But instead of waiting for us to park, the idiot instructor allowed (or advised, but certainly didn’t stop) their pupil to pull into the car park as well and position alongside us to reverse park on the opposite side. I couldn’t really believe it, but it just goes to show what is happening between the ears of many instructors today. Very little.

It’s the same when you’re out teaching. You’ll find a corner or piece of road to do a certain manoeuvre and some other instructor will pull up behind you. They’re basically queueing to use the location. Only yesterday I had a pupil do a Left Reverse around a sharp corner and another car pulls in to do the same manoeuvre around the same corner – just as well we didn’t need to do it again. Last week I was doing the same manoeuvre around a different corner. My pupil had driven a little far ahead of the usual start position and that was all it took for another learner to pull in behind and ‘steal’ the corner. Also last week I had a pupil doing a Turn In The Road and another learner car came so close to us to do the same manoeuvre we had to wait.

If I turn into somewhere and see a learner car I go somewhere else. If I see a learner parked before a corner I assume they’re going to use it and drive on. If I see a learner parked on a clear, straight, wide road then I go and do my Turn In The Road elsewhere. Other instructors really could do with taking note.

This one is going to be a running theme.

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Had a pupil on a pretest lesson today and coming off a roundabout we were tailgated very closely by a jackass in a dark grey Volkswagen Golf GTi (H595 JWK). Seeing as we wouldn’t move (we couldn’t: it was busy), he undertook us and then sat just in front of us in the same queue of traffic we were in! I’m sure his peanut-sized brain was truly satisfied after this.

Then, on my way to another pupil – again, sitting in traffic, a prat in a blue Vauxhall Astra (FL57 ORH) undertook me and several other cars in heavy traffic. He undertook in parking bays. Best part was everyone he undertook went past him at the next two sets of lights.

Mind you, no one is exempt from stupidity. On my way home tonight after my last lesson I looked in my rearview mirror and found I was being tailgated by another driving instructor! He appeared to try and overtake me as he moved into a slip road to turn right… this subject is worth a separate post.

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Good result for England, and an even better one for Theo Walcott – would never have happened if he wasn’t an Arsenal player! Good write-ups on the game from Sky and comments from Capello in the BBC article.

I wonder if this will now silence the racists who’ve had the daggers out for Fabio Capello since he was appointed England Coach? All this crap about how ‘an England coach should be an Englishman’ from the likes of these knuckleheads I see every day driving their pratmobiles, cutting everyone up, no doubt with the George Flag hanging out their bedroom windows, and a ‘staffy’ crapping in the backyard.

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Yesterday had the makings of the worst ever for lunatics.

I was with my first pupil at 10am in heavy rain and in the space of less than 20 minutes we had a blue Audi (ML54 YTM) cut us up, a silver Citroen C4 (PE08 USJ) undertake us at traffic lights at speed, then we were dangerously overtaken by a Broadbent & Co white van (FY05 UDL), and finally we were overtaken dangerously again on the Ring Road by a silver Astra (W326 LNU).

Surprisingly, there was a big lull until my fourth pupil later in the day around 6pm. A grey Toyota (H1 HSO) tried to overtake just after traffic lights, failed, then began to tailgate very closely. I glared at him and he dropped back. About a mile later as I was indicating to turn off he managed to salvage some of his pride by tailgating again for a few yards before shooting off. Finally, I was on the Ring Road and I saw this next idiot approaching at high speed in my rearview mirror in a Vauxhall (AK07 YMR). I was in a 50mph zone, so I pulled over to let him pass – which he did, and then cut into the small gap in front of me! Once he got through the gap he flew across three lanes and shot off in the 50mph zone at at least 70mph.

Honestly, people are getting worse.

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But to offset the timewaster described in that last post, I’ve had two new pupils this week.

The first one yesterday has no experience at all, but is a quick learner and he’ll have no trouble. He was a referral from someone I taught last year. The second one today got my number from Yellow Pages and although she has limited experience I think she will also be a quick learner.

These go nicely with a new pupil who started with me last week. Three pleasant, easy-to-get-on-with, eager-to-learn young people easily offsets one timewaster.

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Well, the bad weather brought ’em out this weekend.

I was with a pupil on a narrow country lane and we were doing close to 60mph. A woman in a BMW X3 (GV54 VUU) just had to overtake on a bend and with a blind corner coming up – only to stop about a quarter of a mile further on in the village and do what appeared to be the makings of a U-turn as we passed her.

With another pupil, we were doing the Turn In The Road exercise. A woman in a Honda (FM08 VZE) simply couldn’t wait 15 seconds and dangerously squeezed through behind us.

At the end of Saturday I was on my way home and was tailgated so closely I couldn’t see the headlights – this is in heavy rain and spray, of course – by a blue Mini Cooper (FH08 BWE). As I pulled over into the inside lane he overtook and sped off at easily in excess of 80mph, even though he’d passed into a 50mph zone.

Today, I was on my way to a pupil during rush hour and a weasel-boy in a black Clio (X10 ALE) decided that he would jump the queue in the wrong lane, then cut in front of me with less than a car’s length of space available without indicating. I think he saw what I mouthed at him and it was comical seeing him keep his head twisted to the right side to avoid making eye contact in the mirror. Makes you wonder if they actually realise what prats they are if they respond so shyly when someone takes them up over it.

And finally today, I was with my last pupil as it was growing dark and we were doing about 50mph on a 60mph road (single carriageway) due to traffic in front. A weasel in a black Volkswagen Golf (AE53 WYO) overtook in the face of oncoming traffic at about 5mph more than we were doing. They then sat one car in front in the same queue of traffic we were in.

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Earlier this week, I’d just finished for the day and was driving home when I felt my phone vibrate. When I got a chance to stop and have a look I didn’t recognise the number, so I called back. This was at around 9.45pm – the original call coming in perhaps 10 minutes earlier.

The call went something like this – imagine a very thick accent, very difficult to understand on the phone:

Me: Hello, I’ve got a missed call from this number – you called a few minutes ago?

Him: Yes. I’ve got a driving test tomorrow and I wondered if you were available.

Me: I’m afraid I’m fully booked tomorrow – what time is your test?

Note that I have no intention of taking someone I’ve never seen drive to test – I’m just trying to be polite.

Him: 1.30

Me: No. I’ve got a lesson on right at that time. I’m sorry.

Him: So you’re not available?

Me: No. I’ve got lessons all day and one at exactly the time of your test.

Him: Couldn’t you cancel them?

Me: No, because a lot of these people have tests of their own coming up and they need to take the lessons. I can’t cancel people like that.

And he still persisted in trying to persuade me – I suppose that at 9.30pm he must have been getting a bit desperate.

It’s hard to fathom, sometimes, how the minds of some people work.

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Had a day off today and went on business to Wiltshire. Coming back along the A346 between Ogbourne St George and Chiseldon (just south of Swindon) I was nearly killed by a complete pillock (didn’t get the number) overtaking at speed coming towards me in heavy rain. I had to slam on my brakes and stop to avoid a head-on collision. If that’d have been any of my pupils after passing their test I suspect they’d have been killed either by collision or running off the road down the embankment.

Listening to Rush - Presto, Hold Your Fire, Snakes & Arrows, Signals, Moving Pictures

On the mp3 player today...

Then just north of Stow-on-the-Wold on the A429 I was overtaken in torrential rain by a baby chimp in a black Volkswagen Golf (what else?) on that stretch of road where a whole family was wiped out by an imbecile overtaking in March this year. About 20 minutes later I caught up with him and wondered why – he was driving like a total prat when I saw him the first time, so I hardly expected to see him again unless he was smeared across the front of a lorry. Then I saw the Police car in the queue of traffic in front… clever little chimp! Once the Police turned off near Shipston-on-Stour he was at it again – and he caused an oncoming car to slow down as he nearly had a head-on with them when he overtook three other vehicles in one go. The rain was so heavy at this point you could barely see more than 10 cars ahead.

Finally, the motorway was absolutely solid due the weather and with it being a Friday. On eventually leaving the motorway I was on the junction roundabout (3 and 4 lanes wide, snarled up with traffic at 4pm) and an idiot in a white Inviron van (VD56 AJV) in the left/outside lane decided he needed to be somewhere else, and just tried to pull out in front of me. He was going to go whether I braked or not. He then managed to cross all four lanes in one go and last I saw he was on the inside lane. God only knows how someone who drives a company vehicle can be such a poor driver he is a) four lanes wrong that close to where he needs to be, and b) so stupid that he changes lanes like this in these conditions!

Still, all these examples are great for using with my pupils when I try to get them to understand what sort of pond life they will have to deal with when they pass – and hopefully prevent them turning into pond life themselves.

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OK, so a little bit of yesterday included.

Last night I was in a quiet industrial area with a pupil going over a couple of manoeuvres. She was completing her Turn in the Road and just about to drive forward in pouring rain (and it was torrential) when this thug in a gold Rover, I think it was (R338 SJF) decided he was going to not stop at all and just went for the gap. Both me and the pupil had to brake hard (I can’t take chances when cretins like this are in the area). He drove into the UKMail depot at the end of the road.

This morning I was on my way to my first lesson and an articulated lorry (FY53 EYO), which had just taken a corner on to a roundabout with a turning radius similar to the orbit of Saturn, decided to break the 30mph speed limit on the inside lane in order to undertake me so he could pull out in front and turn right at a mini-roundabout several hundred metres ahead. I was about to say it isn’t often you get lorries doing this, but oddly enough I was with a pupil yesterday and we were joking about how we were doing the 60mph limit on the road we were on, and the lorry in front was pulling away quite rapidly. It must be big business being able to tinker under the hood of an artic…

No Left or Right Turn

No Left or Right Turn

Driving back from this pupil, as I crossed the tramlines and a railway line heading towards the city – clearly marked with the sign shown on the right – a specimen of White Van Man driving an Oriel Printing van (YJ05 YDZ) slowed down, causing me to almost stop on the tracks, and turned left. All he had to do (and he was probably following his satnav anyway if he wasn’t from this area) was go 100 metres ahead, turn left, then left again, and he’d have been on the road he wanted – except legally.

Later, I was near a school with another pupil around lunchtime and we were doing the Left Reverse exercise. Some guy in a Ford people carrier (L4 RLX) decided those yellow zig-zags meant he could stop there. He only drove off when cars coming up behind couldn’t get through, seeing as he was blocking the road as well. But personalized plates mean you can do this sort of thing, right?

But the most overriding feature of today was an overturned lorry on a roundabout. It happened sometime before 11am (and it appeared to be some sort of skip-carrier), because when I drove around the roundabout at 10.45am the traffic had already started to build up and the Police had got at least two three-lane feeder roads coned down to a single lane to keep traffic away from the affected lane and the one next to it. It was already pandemonium.

It meant that I was late to three lessons today. The last one I nearly cancelled, but the pupil was fortunately able to move it back by an hour. This was at 6pm (moved to 7pm). Now, I don’t want to criticise whatever it was people were doing up there, but at 5.15pm there were tailbacks of several miles on all the roads leading to the roundabout and – I subsequently found – on just about every other road within a 5 mile radius as people sought to avoid it. Wherever I went there were queues, and people turning around to try and find alternatives. It was chaos.

So why the hell did it take over 9 hours to move an overturned lorry? God only knows how many days it would have taken if it had caught fire or something.

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It’s not just the bad weather than brings them out of the woodwork!

Driving with a pupil this afternoon and we’re in a busy shopping area. We’re coming up to a Puffin crossing and we’re close enough for the pupil to have to brake quite quickly as they change to red. But this doesn’t stop a complete imbecile in a silver estate car (Y840 JRB) cut in from the right hand lane ahead of us! In fact, seeing as he’s done it within 2 car lengths of the lights (and 3 car lengths of us), there isn’t time for him to stop (even though he was clearly thinking about it) and he shoots them on red.

Then this evening – during rush hour – I’m with another pupil driving through a busy urban area with narrow streets. A white van (SH06 SVG) with a trailer decides that it is just going to stop – blocking both a T-junction on the street, and us – in order to allow the passenger to get out. My pupil checks her mirrors and moves to go past and the moron inside just indicates and pulls off as she draws alongside. Just for the record, the trailer didn’t have a registration plate on it either, adding to the list of crimes this neanderthal has probably been involved in this week as he’s driven to and from work (and it’s only Tuesday).

Having said this, the heavens opened a little later and rush hour became anything but rushed! Typically, a few spots of rain somehow contrived to bring everything to a complete standstill when – if everyone drove sensibly – you shouldn’t really have noticed much difference.

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