A Driving Instructor's Blog

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Just happened to catch this situation today whilst driving down a country lane in Bunny:

[flv:/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/sheep_in_road.flv 480 360]

I did the right thing: stopped and turned off my engine. The sheep were incredibly well-behaved.

The driver bringing up the rear said he doesn’t use dogs because they cost more to feed than the 4×4 does.

(This was playing with my new in-car camera in 720p/60fps mode – motion blur is reduced, but you get a bit of outer-edge distortion)

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Gatso CameraI saw this one in the papers at the weekend.

Geraldine Tavares was caught speeding 13 times in 2 months by the same Gatso camera. What makes it worse was that she was doing it in her mother’s car - which appears to have been one of those Motability-funded cars – and, as a result, her mother has had the car confiscated because the offences mean she is in breach of the terms of the agreement which allows her to have it!

As well as the 13 offences mentioned, Tavares was accused of 17 more (if I understand the report correctly). The prosecutor said he would only go ahead with four of them as they were a sufficient sample for the magistrates to make a decision. Of these four, she was clocked at 46, 48, and twice at 61mph on the same 30mph stretch of road in Wednesfield, West Midlands, all at around 4am.

She said she was tired.

Tavares was banned for two years and fined £100. Her disabled mother will have to wait two years before she can have the car back.

Tavares should have her licence taken away permanently! Just like the idiots who get towed behind cars in the snow who don’t think of what could happen to innocent bystanders, just their own stupid enjoyment, Tavares gave no consideration to what she could have done to other people by driving like that so frequently.

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The AA LogoThis is interesting. I wrote recently about how BSM has changed its Bad Weather Policy – or rather, abolished it – for its franchisees, right in the middle of the heaviest snow for decades.

I’ve just been informed that the AA, which didn’t have a bad weather policy in its agreement as far as I know, has decided to defer £100 of the franchise fee for the first week after Christmas until later in the year to help instructors over the worst of the current very extreme weather. They’re spacing out the deferred payment over four weeks during March 2010. They even have an option to refuse the arrangement if the franchisee doesn’t need it.

BSM LogoWithout commenting too much, there is a very interesting but apparent difference in the way franchisees are treated on display here.

Worth pointing out, as well, that I have had a number of search enquiries for “bsm going down”. I think this illustrates clearly the mentality of some people out there. Frighteningly, some of them are driving instructors!

EDIT 22/12/2010: There is a December 2010 update to this story here . The AA has again deferred franchise payments to cover the worst of the winter weather that we are again experiencing across the country.

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I hear that BSM has recently changed its policy with regards to bad weather (EDIT: This is an old story – The AA now owns BSM).

BSM LogoApparently, it was in the contract that if the local Test Centre didn’t do tests for a certain period then the franchise fee was adjusted. But recently, BSM has taken this clause out of the contract.

I don’t know (yet) what BSM franchisees are saying about this, but I can guess. Maybe some of them could let me know via the contact form?

The one thing to remember is that the weather is not in anyone’s control and all other instructors have to manage bad patches themselves. It is surprising BSM had this clause in anyway, although the franchise fee is somewhat higher than most others and I guess franchisees need something to show for the extra outlay.

Having said that, BSM franchisees ought to consider the financial impact paying out could have had on BSM as a whole if the clause had remained. Instead of just not getting a discount, they might have been not having a franchise to work for!

With the weather the way it has been no franchisee would have been paying anything from since before Christmas. BSM wouldn’t have survived.

On the other hand, franchisees can still teach – its only tests which are cancelled, which made the original deal a little unfair anyway.

EDIT 12/1/2010: On the flip side, look at this story.

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I had a test at 9.17am this morning, and it is cancelled. The examiner at Colwick said that the morning tests are likely to go to the wall, and this afternoon is looking highly unlikely as well.

He said it is looking good for tomorrow, though – but check first, because -2°C is forecast tonight.

Mind you, they forecast heavy snow – yet it spent most of yesterday and last night raining, sleeting, and thawing. But this has made a lot of roads more dangerous than ever (water on ice is not a good mix).

Having said that, as soon as you move out of the city it appears that the sleet was snow and it has settled again. About 0.5cm in Bunny. It is snowing in Wilford now (8.00am).

Call the Test Centre on 0115 961 1593 – remember they can only tell you if a test is on or not. They’e not there to get into a big debate over why the test is cancelled.

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Another one from the web. This one shows a couple of twats (it’s in London, so you’ll have to put up with the annoying nasal drivel coming out) driving in an extremely dangerous manner in February last year.

Notice how they have no regard whatsoever for the pedestrians at the crossings, or the motorcyclist to their right just after that. Even if they were driving safely, you could hardly say the driver was concentrating on the road.

The best part is that the idiot driving let the idiot filming show his face – so hopefully, the Police will have had something to say to him. This has to be one of the best examples of that type of low-life scum who should never be allowed out unsupervised, let alone get behind the wheel of a car.

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Bad DriverI was out in the snow last night not long after it had really started to come down (around 6.30pm). I was travelling along the A60 in Bunny.

The snow had covered the road, and I was doing about 25-30mph in a 40mph zone. However, in my rearview mirror I saw the usual twat appear – obviously going a lot faster than me.

He came up right behind, then when he got the chance with no oncoming traffic in the short distance between where we were and the right turn-off to Keyworth he swung out on to hatched markings (which were not visible under the snow) and overtook. He disappeared at speed – well above 40mph, and then well above 50mph when the limit changed.

It was a red pratmobile, registration number FE51 UGY.

You really do wonder how these scum manage to stay alive.

EDIT 7/1/2010: And another one tonight. During the rush hour, heavy traffic on Wilford Lane. Traffic queuing through the Compton Acres lights for some reason (which turned out to be a bloody cyclist riding in the middle of the road further down). This tosser in a Silver Mondeo (reg. no. LC03 VVT) came flying down the outside lane and forced its way in front of me outside the ROKO creche, causing me to have to brake in sub-zero conditions. It then tailgated the car in front and once it got on to Loughborough Road it drove off at well above the 30mph limit. I passed it at the Radcliffe Road lights – so what the hell was the point?

EDIT 8/1/2010: And two more. This morning I was on my way to a pupil – it was -3°C and icy. I was just approaching the Nottingham Knight roundabout when an Erewash Commercials lorry (reg. no. FJ04 UAU – going bloody fast: I thought those things were speed-restricted) being driven by a chimpanzee pulled out just in front of me, without any regard for anyone else. He caused me to brake sharply, and then proceeded to break the 60mph and 40mph speed limits on the A60 as he headed towards Bunny.

The tonight, a prat in a grey saloon (reg. no. A14 AGB) on Clifton Lane from Ruddington overtook me on a road which has solid white lines and signs saying “It’s 30 for a reason” (the reason being someone was killed there a few years ago) in snow and sub-zero temperatures. I made sure he knew what I though of his sexual DIY skills when I caught up with him at the CliftonLane/Green Lane roundabout a few hundred metres later.

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EDIT 29/11/2010: The DSA is cancelling driving tests due to bad weather, as it hits late in 2010. This post originally referred to late 2009/early 2010, but it is as relevant now as it was then.

Tests get cancelled. You need to phone up on the morning or turn up and expect the worst. They will not usually cancel until the actual day of the test – unless the weather is very bad (not in Nottingham, anyway). At one point last winter they did cancel days ahead.

I was trying to keep this post updated, but people are not finding it even though they are searching for information about cancelled tests.

I spoke with the Colwick Test Centre yesterday and all tests were cancelled both Monday and Tuesday. Bear in mind that we had a smattering of snow Monday night followed by -5°C and it was treacherous on most roads first thing, and nearly all side roads throughout the day.

We had a significant dumping of snow last night (Tuesday). Anyone with a test at Colwick really ought to phone first and expect it to be off. The morning ones in particular. I know that all the morning ones have been cancelled already – I have one scheduled for 2.30pm but I am not optimistic. Yep, just got a text from my pupil – the Test Centre has called him to cancel his test, so Wednesday tests are also totally cancelled.

I was up there yesterday with a pupil who has a test next week, and at 2.30pm instructors were turning up for afternoon tests! A phone call would have saved a lot of wasted time.

My advice is watch the weather forecast and check with the Test Centre before turning up. You MUST call the Test Centre (or at least turn up) because if you don’t they may assume you just didn’t show – and that is NOT the same as them cancelling it due to snow. THE TEST CENTRE PHONE NUMBER IS ON THE LETTER OR EMAIL OF CONFIRMATION YOU GOT WHEN YOU BOOKED YOUR TEST.

EDIT 7/1/2010 #1: Incidentally, you need to make your own minds up about the weather forecast. I’d embedded the BBC one in this post, but it is the biggest pile of misleading crap imaginable. On minute it says one thing, the next it is totally different – and at the exact same time the BBC weather forecast on the TV says something totally different again! According to the TV we are going to get snow today – the BBC website embed doesn’t say that, and although yesterday it said we would get some tomorrow and at the weekend, it now says nothing of the sort.

In fact, the BBC weather forecast is not a forecast at all. It’s more an historical record of what DID happen (the Beeb burns its fingers every time it tries to forecast: remember Michael Fish and the Hurricane? And the Barbecue Summer last year? And the Mild Winter we’re currently in the middle of?)

EDIT 7/1/2010 #2: And a test at 3.30pm cancelled today. No tests conducted at all since Christmas from what the Test Centre staff tell me.

EDIT 8/1/2010 #1: Just saw the search term “will driving tests be cancelled on monday” in my stats. The Test Centre only makes a decision on the day – and if you have an afternoon test it won’t make a decision until around midday. They get enough flak from people for cancelled tests as it is, so you can imagine what would happen if they cancelled Monday today (Friday) and it suddenly warmed up over the weekend!

However, you need to use a little commonsense. If it stays like it is, your test will more than likely be cancelled. Yesterday, I had a test booked for 3.30pm, but I had arranged with another pupil that it would most likely be cancelled and they could have a lesson at that time if it was. So I kept the slot filled instead of losing it altogether – and the pupil who had the lesson also benefited.

EDIT 8/1/2010 #2: Further to my comment about the BBC’s horrendous weather forecasting skills, above, and the fact that their last update to their three-day forecast said today in Nottingham would be clear, bright sun – I just drove through a blizzard in Bunny.

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I think I’ve figured out what the Nottingham City and County Councils are doing to conserve rock salt. Take a look at this video clip from yesterday (Saturday).

[flv:/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/snow_on_road.flv 480 360]

See how one side of the road is clear, and yet the other side is covered in snow. Also notice how in some places it is obviously treated, but then it suddenly changes again to untreated. Clever, isn’t it? Just grit half the road!

The problem is that driving from treated to untreated then back again is extremely dangerous for anyone, let alone for inexperienced drivers.

EDIT 4/1/2010: Just watching BBC Nottingham News and they are laying into the Notts and Leics councils for their appalling performances in gritting roads.

Specifically, roads in Mapperley and Carlton in Nottingham are actually closed off. This is in the middle of a large city, where the primitive minds of the council are determined to force everyone else to live in the Stone Age!

I had to pick a pupil up from one of these roads today and there has been absolutely no attempt whatsoever to keep them open. It is sheet ice everywhere. It seems that there was a further dusting of snow last night in some areas, and Mapperley had most of it – and that was on top of a temperature of between -4°C and -5°C when I went out this morning.

On the TV, the council said that on roads where they can’t grit they provide gritting bins. The reporter showed quite clearly that these bins are empty, and said “what’s the point in providing them if they aren’t filled up? ” The programme shows roads littered with abandoned cars, chocked with bricks, which the owners simply haven’t been able to move. One young girl crashed into a wall while they were filming.

I have seen no more than 3 or 4 gritting lorries since the snow began before Christmas – and I am out on the road a lot. I saw dozens more of them back in February last year.

To make matters worse, heavy snow is forecast for Nottingham tomorrow.

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Note: This post is from JANUARY 2010. There are more up to date posts concerning the heavy snow and ice from December 2010 onwards. There are also posts from 2011 and 2012 – and any other year it’s cold and we get snow.

I’ve had a few hits from people asking why their driving lesson was cancelled due to snow (one of them today from Scotland). Not lessons with me, you understand, but lessons with their own instructor wherever they may be located.

Your instructor should have explained this to you, but when the roads are icy you WILL skid. Even a simple stop will result in a slight slip, and this is worse on slopes. In fact, on some slopes (and in some conditions) it will be impossible to stop no matter how slowly you drive. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the Ice Skating Fiesta post. This is a situation you can easily get into without even trying.

Now, someone who is a reasonably experienced driver will be able to handle a bit of ice – and this includes some learners who are well into their training. But for beginners, and especially those who are prone to jerky steering or harsh braking, driving in such conditions becomes potentially hazardous. And when conditions are particularly bad, the experienced and smart driver knows it is safer not to go out at all (and that Fiesta driver was obviously not especially smart).

Your instructor will make a decision based on his or her assessment of the conditions and the level of skill you have attained. It isn’t a slight on you or your driving ability: its just commonsense.

Believe me: no instructor wants to cancel lessons just for the sake of it.

I suppose I’d better also add that an instructor cancelling lessons because of a foot of snow is not the same as the pupil cancelling it because they went out last night or just don’t feel like a lesson today.

And remember that the test centre will cancel a test for a whole lot less reason than a driving instructor will cancel a lesson.

Common questions (and this is added for 2012’s first snowfall at the start of February, due to the large number of search terms on the topic):

Will my driving lessons be cancelled due to snow?

It depends on how much snow there is, how far advanced you are with your training, and your instructor’s attitude to teaching in snow. There is no rule that says you mustn’t have lessons in snow. In fact, it makes sense to do them so you can get valuable experience. But beginners shouldn’t do it, because it’s just too dangerous.

Also remember that what YOU see as being “advanced”, your instructor might not agree with. It’s his or her decision.

Will my driving test be cancelled due to snow?

Quite possibly. And with the amount we’ve had around here (2012), plus the low temperatures, almost certainly. You need to phone up the test centre on the day using the number on your appointment email confirmation and check. Otherwise, you MUST turn up – even if they cancel it at the last minute. If you don’t, you’ll lose your test fee.

Please try to understand this: if there is snow on the road, and/or if the roads are icy, then the chances of your driving test being cancelled are very high. It doesn’t matter how many Google searches you do to find the answer you like best, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s 1912, 2012, or any other date. It also doesn’t matter what other people say…

The only thing that matters is what the test centre says. PHONE THE LOCAL TEST CENTRE AND ASK THEM ON THE DAY OF YOUR TEST.

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