A Driving Instructor's Blog

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Heard on the radio that the M1 has been closed today (12th November, 2008) with major diversions since around 8.30 this morning in Leicestershire due to an accident. In addition, there has been another serious accident in the queue of traffic caught up in the jams resulting from the first. Police are having to carry out ‘accident investigation work’, which means the road will be affected for a while to come.

And to top that off, there’s now another accident on the southbound M1 in Nottinghamshire.

Up until now I was wondering about accidents (and breakdowns). You can set your watch by them: you get one accident and one breakdown every day on an important road into and out of the city. In the morning, it will always be on the busiest carriageway. In the evening it’ll be the other one, which is now busiest. If there are roadworks, the breakdown or accident is bound to be right in the middle where there’s no hard shoulder.

I could understand it if there were lots of accidents or breakdowns all day. Or if they occurred everywhere. And the frequency of daily accidents suggests that there should be a lot throughout the day. But there are aren’t. Accidents (and breakdowns) are carefully designed to cause maximum disruption at the most incovenient times, and in the most inconvenient places.

I blame it on a Government Conspiracy!

Edit: After a post made on 12 December 2008 I checked back and, believe it or not, today (the day this original post was published) was as near-as-dammit a full moon! I’m getting more convinced that lower primates are affected by the phases of the moon and – when they also carry a driving licence – mayhem can ensue.

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No Right Turn SignFirst thing this morning I was on my way to my first lesson of the day when I had to suddenly brake. Two old dears in a silver car (FL53 YNO) had decided the No Right Turn sign (opposite) - on a bend with solid ‘no overtaking’ lines both sides – didn’t apply to them, and the safety issues it was designed to address were not relevent when they turned right there.

Then tonight there were two stunning examples of stupidity. I was with a pupil and we were turning right from major to minor. The pupil was just about straight, having turned into the road, when a silver pratmobile (YH02 NFU) actually cut the corner completely and overtook us. It sped off at considerably greater than the 30mph limit for the area. It’s also worth noting that the pratmobile had a huge dent in the back. Clearly, the peanut-brain driving it had exceeded the limits of his capabilities – small as they obviously were - on at least one other occasion.

The same pupil was on a 60mph road when we were dangerously and unnecessarily cut up by an Audi – what else? – (VA04 EUW), which then sat in front of us. My pupil asked ‘why did they do that? What was the point?’ A hard question to answer without including a few home truths.

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Well, I lost one today.

This guy always had cashflow problems and stopped taking lessons for a few weeks after about 5 hours because his boss wasn’t paying him (something to do with cheques clearing), then his boss decided to pay him monthly so he stopped lessons again for about a month. Another problem was his phone – he’d text me, then not reply if I texted back because he’d ‘run out of credits’. When he phoned me it was usually from a different phone each time – and that includes different mobile numbers.

He started lessons again a few weeks ago, then on the second one (8am in the morning) I got a voicemail at 7.03am informing me the machine had ‘chewed his card and could he have the lesson and pay next time? He would get a new card from the bank when they opened.’ This was from a witheld number, so I could only try and use the existing numbers I had for him.

I texted and said he’d not get a new card that easily and I didn’t want him to get in debt, so we’d cancel the lesson. I asked him to confirm later in the week that last Saturday’s (the next) lesson was OK and that he could afford it. I heard nothing. I tried calling him and all the numbers for him were unobtainable or produced no reply. I then cancelled all lessons, and texted him to say I had done that.

I got a voicemail from yet another mobile number yesterday saying he had been waiting for me for the last two lessons, and then added that his phone had been locked. Great! Make yourself contactable, why don’t you?

I called back and got one of those pathetic voicemail messages that go on for ever. So I sent a text explaining that I couldn’t risk turning up if pupils weren’t going to be there or couldn’t afford lessons.

So he’s gone. A lucky get out for me, I think, though I pity the next instructor he ends up with (and I was his second).

Update: Today (the day after this post) he has texted me to say he’d left his phone at home yesterday. So putting two and two together, he dumped me because I didn’t contact him yesterday – even though he didn’t actually have the phone he’d used to call me, so he couldn’t receive any calls I made to him! He says he can do a lesson next Friday! I told him I’m not his instructor any more: I’m well rid of this one.

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Well, today started off as a typical Sunday. I was travelling to my first lesson and for some reason this vest-clad, tattooed zombie in a red Kia people carrier (LC04 CEN) decided he was going to tailgate me – and I couldn’t see his headlights in my rearview mirror, so that shows how close he was. This went on for about a mile and half until he turned off into a side street.

Picked up my pupil, and as we got out on to the Ring Road – about 30 metres before a left turn off – a red people carrier cuts across us from the right lane and takes the exit road. Guess who it was? That’s right, zombie man in his red Kia (LC04 CEN), and he then tailgated the car in front of him until he passed out of our view. I’m pretty sure he had kids in the back – they probably won’t reach adulthood with this bloke as their father, and certainly won’t stay there with him as a role model.

Later, I was dropping off a new pupil with no previous experience outside his house. The pupil waited until it was clear and then got out of the driver’s seat. As I went round the back of the car he held the door open for me. I saw a car coming and said: ‘No, close it. I’ll get it when it’s clear’. However, the blue car – a prat-mobile with a fin on the back, not sure what model – coming up the hill (VN02 VEP) was being driven by a sour-faced weasel-woman and I think we made her Sunday by giving her the opportunity to sound her horn from 20 car lengths back. I doubt she is familiar with the concept of the brake pedal (or even gravity, seeing as she was going uphill). After I had driven off she was at the end of the road and – typical of her kind – had pulled out into the middle of the main road to block people coming one way so she could go the other. I passed this classy piece at the next set of lights.

And finally, having dropped off my last pupil I was coming around a roundabout in the left lane so that I’d be correctly in the left turn-only lane on the exit (intending to turn left at the next set of lights). There were three cars in front of me, and none at all behind except for a black soft-top Audi A4 (FM05 MSX), being driven by one of those women who, from their appearance, is probably a shop supervisor and has gone into massive debt to get their ‘dream car’ so she can pretend to be something else. I was doing 30mph. The speed limit was 30mph. I was about four car lengths behind the car in front. She made it up to about 40 in the wrong lane so she could cut in front and so forced me to slow down. The best part was that she waved as if to say ‘thanks’. This sort of behaviour – where there is no benefit to breaking the law – really annoys me.

In my time as a driving instructor I think I can safely say that Audi drivers are amongst the worst I encounter. They can never stay behind, and speed limits mean nothing to them.

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You get highs and lows in this job!

Yesterday started off bad. I was on my way to my first pupil who had her test that day. Just left home and was travelling along a 30mph dual carriageway at precisely 30 when a Gorilla in a pratmobile (shaved head, tattoos, black vest) came flying up behind and tailgated as close as he could possibly get. He was really close. Once I was sure he wasn’t going to overtake I signalled to move into the right lane, as I intended to turn right just ahead, and as I moved he typically (and I know it is deliberate when they do it) chose the same time to do the standard prat manoeuvre of swinging out and trying to go past. I pointed to my head (sorry, but I’m not perfect by a long shot when it comes to reacting to these neanderthals). He pulled alongside to try and exchange opinions – though precisely what part of his driving (tailgating, breaking the speed limit, attempted dangerous overtaking) he thought was worth defending is anyone’s guess. I provided him with a descriptive four-letter word, starting and ending with a ‘T’ to go and look up in his Ladybird Big Book Of Words and continued on my way in a legal manner. Meanwhile he ramped it up to about 60 and carried on his way.

It got worse when I picked up my pupil. She’s failed several times already and I can tell by her mood and manner whether she is going to drive well. Her mood was not good. Her driving was great, though. We did the warm-up and she successfully completed all the manoeuvres to a high standard (last time she failed for hitting the kerb when doing the reverse park – something she never does in lessons). My biggest worry, though, was what she would do if she failed. The previous times she’s been inconsolable and has had the worst fits of crying I have ever witnessed in this job or anywhere else. Well, she failed (only four faults, but two were deemed serious) - and she was devastated. She was hyperventilating and breathing into a brown paper bag!

So far, my day was ruined. I hate it when they fail.

Next lesson was another pupil whose test was that afternoon. He’s also failed a couple of times previously - drives great on lessons with me but just can’t hold it together on test, as he gets very nervous. But he passed! His mum was made up, and so was he. It was especially nice because he is off to University in a few weeks and this was pretty much vital for him. Well done SG-N!!!

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In the UK we have a road sign which warns you you’re near a rest home or other area where you might encounter elderly or infirm pedestrians (shown here).

Old or Infirm People road sign

Old or Infirm People road sign

According to a story in the press this week (various newspapers, but full story in the Daily Mail) campaigners are demanding for it to be scrapped because it is ‘insulting to today’s fitter, healthier senior citizens’. They’re saying that it should be replaced with traffic calming measures (it often is) or a new image which is more politically correct.

Help The Aged senior policy officer Lizzy McLennan (26) says: “Very few older people are hunched over, with a walking stick.

“They are assuming everyone who is old looks like that, and they don’t.”

Erm, no Lizzy. They’re not doing that, nor have they ever done so (and at your age you probably wouldn’t know that). What they are doing is warning you that you might encounter infirm people.

Gordon Lishman (no age given), director-general of Age Concern says:

“The motivation behind these signs is positive.

“However, in practice a reduced speed limit in such areas, as implemented in school districts, would be a more welcome way to achieve this.”

Hold on, Gordon. Don’t get carried away. School districts also have a road sign irrespective of whether or not they have traffic calming measures. Haven’t you seen this one? And while we’re on the subject, do children actually look like that nowadays?

Barry Earnshaw (65), chief executive of Age Concern Lincoln says:

“I am 65, so therefore I am considered an elderly person.

“The sign doesn’t represent older people as they are today.

“There should be a generic sign that is representative of all vulnerable pedestrians, regardless of age.

“The objective is to make people slow down – there needn’t be separate signs for sifferent types of pedestrians. It is very outdated.”

Of course it is, Barry. I’m sure your ‘generic sign’ – perhaps a smiley face or something – would be really useful outside schools, stables, and hospitals and would prevent a great many injuries and deaths. But what on earth would be the point of putting up a warning sign at all if senior citizens nowadays are all fit, athletic, superheroes? It must just be my imagination that they’re building so many care homes and ‘retirement villages’ around the country.

At least some people haven’t succumbed to senility just yet. The Taxpayers’ Alliance said the objections were ridiculous and a waste of public money. Campaign director Mark Wallace said:

“They should pay more attention to the real concerns of older people – rising taxes and soaring household bills.”

Problem is, Mark, the ones kicking up the stink probably don’t have to worry about those things. That’s why they have so much free time on their hands to come up with ridiculous stuff like this. Whatever happened to eating ice cream on the benches in shopping centres and trying to get on the bus 10 minutes before their bus passes become valid?

Waterfowl warning sign

Waterfowl warning sign

But the best response has to be the one that came from the Highways Agency. A spokesman said they would not be making further alterations.

“To change every sign in the country would cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds – and a change in the law.

“It’s not a simple process, and I don’t think most people would see it as a high priority for government spending.”

Quite. But while we’re on the subject I think the RSPB ought to start a campaign as a result of that highly offensive sign warning of waterfowl. Every duck and moorhen in the country should be compensated for the gross insult that sign has delivered concerning their appearance.

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