A Driving Instructor's Blog

ADI

I’m writing this just as a response to various things I’ve heard from other driving instructors.

I posted a few weeks ago about how Vauxhall is feeling the pinch and has decided to stop supplying tuition cars to BSM for free. I must admit that I didn’t know BSM got these cars for free. I do know that BSM instructors can pay a lot of money for their franchise and I simply questioned if this might cause that franchise fee to rise still further.

The news seems to have sent nearly all other instructors totally crazy, though! And I don’t mean BSM instructors.

The common desire seems to be that BSM should collapse and all its instructors ‘be made redundant’ (demonstrating the typical instructor’s total lack of understanding over salaried- and self-employment). One thing I learn from this is that membership of the Human Race isn’t clear cut and fringe membership is possible – how anyone could wish redundancy on their fellow man in these times is beyond me.

Another one is that this should cause BSM to put its lesson prices up. The belief amongst some instructors here seems to be that if BSM puts lesson prices up, other big schools like The AA , Red Driving , and so on will follow. Then, all the hapless instructors who are currently charging silly prices to try and steal work away from everyone else will be able to put their prices up as well (no doubt to a level which still undercuts the big schools so they can continue to try and steal work away).

Also heard more than once is an attitude to learning that BSM got the cars for free that is so strong your ears nearly catch fire. "How dare BSM get its fleet for free!" is what it amounts to – and this from people who aren’t franchised to BSM and have no business poking their noses in like that. How BSM gets its cars is BSM ‘s business. They don’t come and tell these people how to run their businesses, so what gives them the right to try and tell BSM how to run theirs?

The overriding attitude is one of glee. The world is getting more and more full with very sad and very malicious people, I’m afraid.

Being serious and objective for a moment… it will be interesting to see how BSM resolves this. If you think about it, it would be surprising if any large national school actually paid for its fleet – an agreement with a manufacturer is more likely because they get the major advertising and the school gets the cars. Yes, it’s a pain that the individual man in the street can’t get the same deal, but at corporate level strange things can and do happen. Vauxhall is quite likely to end up closing plants and making redundancies, so giving away a couple of thousand cars that can only be sold on for perhaps half their value is an expense it has to address first. Hopefully, BSM will resolve the issue from its own side and source its cars from elsewhere without having to charge its franchisees any more money – I was told by an instructor it is in talks with FIAT, but I cannot confirm this. I have no affiliation with BSM , by the way, but I do not want to see it fall.

Just to add that this post is starting to get a few hits and I suspect (judging by the search terms used) it is from BSM franchisees worried about what is happening. This is just my opinion, but it is also a realistic summary of the situation as it stands based on available information…

BSM is in talks with Vauxhall to come to an agreement over the deal. It may end up having to pay for the cars it previously got for nothing. It may be that Vauxhall and BSM part company. I heard a rumour that BSM was talking to FIAT, but I have seen nothing written about this anywhere. The only official information at this time is that Times story.

If you’re a BSM instructor, don’t worry. Something will happen and there’s no way Aviva is going to just close down the driving school. The BSM franchise is already easily the most expensive out there and no one in their right minds is going to ask you to pay more. BSM’s driving school is too successful to let fail.

Ignore the stupid and malicious rumours you keep seeing and hearing. Just wait and see what happens.

*** Click Here! BSM and FIAT sign deal (23/07/2009)***

EDIT 13/10/2010: And note the latest change here, as BSM decides to switch back to Vauxhall and Corsas.

EDIT 28/6/2012: And don’t forget that BSM is now run by The AA.

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In the Midlands we didn’t have a huge fall of snow, but on Monday evening it was as bad as it got. An additional problem has been the freezing temperatures overnight causing slush to freeze solid.

I’ve had a test booked every morning this week – and I have another tomorrow. The three so far have all been cancelled and the test centre has already told me tomorrow’s will be as well because of the low temperatures (that’s good of them because they say if I cancel now they’ll put me on the ‘bad weather’ list so the pupil doesn’t have to pay and I don’t have to waste my time turning up when it isn’t going ahead).

On the one hand it is costing me a bloody fortune. Four tests (2 hour bookings) and 4 hours of beginner lessons means nearly £300 lost income!

But on the other hand those pupils nearing test standard have benefited greatly from being able to drive on snow and see how easy it is to skid if you drive or brake even a little too quickly.

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Another story in yesterday’s press (and covered further today) dealt with the female driving instructor, Denise Dawson , who had been mugged by a gang of violent thugs on an estate in Bristol. She’d positively identified the one who robbed her – and with whom she had struggled – at an identity parade.

The thug in question was Liam Perks (20). As it turns out, he is obviously some species of pond life:

The court heard that Perks, of Henbury, Bristol, had admitted a separate charge of conspiracy to burgle, for his involvement in a gang which stole motorcycles and prestige cars. He is awaiting sentence for that offence

You’d think this little weasel would be on a hiding to nothing, wouldn’t you? Not so. The Judge – possibly a victim of a blow to the head at some stage in an earlier part of his life – decided:

…Mrs Dawson’s good character and compelling evidence could sway the jury, even though she had had only a fleeting glimpse of her attacker.

He said: ‘Denise Dawson was a particularly impressive witness because she showed courage, clarity of thought and was undoubtedly honest. The jury may lend more weight to her evidence than the facts allow. You cannot be sure she got it right.’

The judge said that her evidence was not enough for a conviction.

You couldn’t make it up, could you? A positive ID of a known thug ‘isn’t enough for a conviction ‘.

This so-called ‘judge’ (Jamie Tabor ) also freed a woman who tried to poison her husband with rat poison because he (her husband) was cheating on her. Mr Tabor seems to have an unfortunate habit of imagining up complicated backgrounds to relatively simple cases. You can’t help wondering at what point he would actually side with the victim and against the accused…

I mean, if someone is happy to try and poison a family member, surely they have committed a crime which puts other people at risk no matter how out-of-character it was, how sorry they were, or how disturbed they may have been? Same as someone who kills, mugs, rapes, and so on.

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This in an interesting story from today’s press – well, those which have space after they’ve covered that bloody UFO fiasco.

I didn’t realise BSM got all its cars free of charge from Vauxhall . That’s one heck of a deal they have going there. Or it was. Looks like General Motors has decided it can’t afford this anymore and it wants BSM to pay.

Vauxhall is now in talks with the driving school to get it to pay for the fleet. The change in policy is expected to cost BSM several million pounds.

The credit crunch is hitting even the biggest players, it seems.

I know that people on school franchises pay a lot of money, so I wonder if this will affect how much BSM drivers pay? That’s one of the advantages of being completely independent: you don’t pay anywhere near as much for your car… and things like this don’t affect you either. At least that’s one good thing for me with everything that’s going on at the moment.

EDIT 18 Feb 2009: I noticed someone searched for ‘has BSM recently been sold’ and only came to this page! For goodness sake, look for more recent posts – for example, the one which gives itself away really: BSM Sold To German Buyer !

*** Click Here! BSM and FIAT sign deal (23/07/2009)***

EDIT 13/10/2010: But BSM is switching back to Corsas after only one year.

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I was out with a particular pupil a few days ago and something struck a chord with me as I kept saying the same thing. It then occurred to me that there are several phrases (including variations) which you end up saying a lot – so much so, that I think I may end up having one or two of them carved on my tombstone when I’m gone!

1. “Mind the kerb!”

Especially when they’re just starting out, many pupils have this blindspot which is always occupied by the kerb. You can be driving down a straight road and the smallest thing – sometimes it’s so small it doesn’t even exist – will make the pupil head towards the kerb.

I had one who subconsciously steered away from those pedestrian refuges (with the tall white lamp on them) every time she passed one. Steering away from other vehicles is very common. It doesn’t matter if there is a 15 metre ditch, a lamp post, a tree… steering away from the other car is the only priority!

2. “That’s too fast!”

Just about every thing they do wrong can be attributed to excess speed one way or another. You can’t use the MSM routine properly when you’re approaching within two car lengths of a junction at 30mph, anymore than you can check to see if it’s safe to go.

3. “Watch where you are going!”

Some pupils can easily ‘switch off’, especially if they are tired at the end of a lesson. You’ll be driving on a long, straight road and you start to get uneasy as the car starts to drift. You don’t say anything immediately because you don’t want to over-instruct… but then it drifts further. If you allow it to continue, before you know it you’re on the other side of the road.

4. “Now plan ahead for this”

You’re doing something simple, like turning left at traffic lights or a junction. As you come round the other side, before you know it you’re across the other side of the road or heading on to the left pavement as the pupil either under- or oversteers.

5. “Stay in lane!”

Perhaps tied in with ‘switching off’, some pupils have really serious problems seeing white lines on the roads. Add to that the fact that they see roundabouts as something similar to a Rubik Cube and you’ve got a deadly combination.

The one that particularly bugs me is when they are doing the roundabout perfectly then – all of a sudden – they decide they’re not and jerk the wheel so hard, almost full lock, that the car just about tips on to two wheels as they try to change lanes. And it’s usually more than one lane they’re trying to jump – nothing is simple for them.

I’ll always remember one pupil – Chris – who had had problems on roundabouts, but we’d just about got them sorted out. I once asked him what he thought the problem was, and he said:

I honestly think I’m going to kill us both when I’m on one.

Anyway, he drove on to this large roundabout perfectly… and then decided he shouldn’t have, and that the best solution was to stop dead. In the middle of entering a busy roundabout with cars coming in from all sides!!!

I pulled him over and said:

Chris, you know how you said you were worried that you might kill us on a roundabout? Well, stopping in the middle of one is a good way to do it!

6. “Did you see that skip around the corner?”

When we’re doing the Reverse Around A Corner exercise, if I notice that a pupil hasn’t looked into the road they’re going to reverse into I’ll often wait until they stop and then ask if they saw the skip (or car, or pedestrian, etc.) that is stopping them from doing it. One pupil cracked me up.

Me: Did you see that skip just around the corner? [there wasn’t one, but she hadn’t looked]

Philippa: [quick as a flash] “Yes. It was yellow”

I was really impressed.

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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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