A Driving Instructor's Blog

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Swarm of GnatsI’ve mentioned this before, but I started the blog way back in November 2008. That first month, I got 7 visits! It’s gone steadily upwards ever since, and at the present rate, I figure that the blog will pass the 1,000,000 visitor mark early in 2019.

So I guess I must be doing something right, even if I’m not pulling in McDonalds or Coca-cola levels of traffic.

I keep an eye on my stats, and investigate any blips. I had one recently where increased traffic was coming from Facebook and landing on the Should I Become A Driving Instructor article. After a bit of digging, I discovered that the owner of a Facebook group had linked to it in good faith.

That article is a long one, and it runs to more than 15,000 words, which is about a quarter of the length of standard novel. For me, that’s no problem whatsoever – I can both read that number of words (in about 20 minutes), and write them (albeit over a longer period). Tossing off a 1,000-worder takes me perhaps an hour, on and off, including digging out and editing a suitable image to go with it. If I know what I want to say, I have no problem writing it down, and the only bottleneck is how quickly I can type (or physically write if I’m putting it on paper). I guess that the only problem with all this is in assuming that other people can cope with that many words. But then again, as I’ve said before, it’s my blog and if they don’t like it, there’s the BACK button.

As an aside, I used to be able to physically write very quickly with what everyone said was “girlie” handwriting (i.e. it was neater than theirs, legible, and flowing). I’ve always had an interest in calligraphy, too. Many years of using computers means I get cramp if I try handwriting for long now, and it doesn’t feel anywhere as neat as it used to be – though pupils often comment on how neat it is.

Anyway, back on topic. It seems, though, that it is me who is somehow in the wrong for making that article 15,000 words long judging from some of the inane comments on that Facebook page!

The reason for this seems to be rooted in what the Internet Age has done to people’s intellects. Consider this question:

Discuss the issues facing someone who is considering becoming a teacher.

For me, a complete answer could easily run to 10,000 words or more. However, for many people today, a perfectly acceptable answer might amount to:

Smile lol

Regular blog readers will already know that I have a low opinion of many of those I have to share this planet with, and who cross my path in the course of a typical day (other driving instructors often make up a fair proportion of those). This is the main reason I don’t have comments enabled.

The point is, though, that if you were thinking of becoming a teacher, which answer is likely to be of most benefit to you? The one with a lot of relevant words on a complex subject written by a teacher, or the one put together by a monkey using random hieroglyphics? Incidentally, if you think it’s the monkey one, just accept that I’m trying to help you.

That’s why the Should I Become A Driving Instructor article is 15,000 words long. It’s not aimed at monkeys.

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Stopwatch faceAn email alert from DVSA advises that from 10 October 2018, the timings of driving tests will be changing for one day each week so that examiners can receive appropriate training and development. Timings on other days will remain unaltered.

It is absolutely no problem, though that hasn’t stopped the usual culprits demanding to know why we – instructors – weren’t consulted over it.

The simple answer is that it’s none of our sodding business what times the tests go out, especially if the changes are only likely to amount to a “13.22” test instead of a “13.35” one. It’s not like they’re adding one at 2am or anything.  As long as we know the test time in advance – which we do, from the moment it is booked – that’s all we need.

It appears (and I’m reading between the lines here) that the day on which timings are changed will be different from centre to centre. I’m sure – if I try real hard – I could twist that into being inconvenient for me. In reality it isn’t, though.

I would imagine that already-booked tests will not be affected – or, if they are, candidates will be made aware of any timing changes.

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2017 Ford FocusYou may have heard about a problem with Ford’s Ecoboost petrol engines, where cars are apparently overheating, failing, and sometimes even catching fire.

The situation is a little confusing, as it appears to be due to more than one problem. For the 1.0 litre engine, the issue is simply overheating, and only Focuses produced between October 2011 and October 2013 are affected, and this amounts to nearly 45,000 vehicles, of which 96% have already been repaired. For the 1.6 litre size, C-Max, Fiesta, Focus ST, and Kuga models produced between 2010 and January 2018 are affected. A safety recall for the 15,000 vehicles involved was issued in January for this, and it is more serious.

All the 1.6 litre cars are subject to safety recalls if they haven’t already been fixed due to the seriousness of the problem. As I understand it, the 1.0 litre issue isn’t specifically a safety recall, and involves replacing some hoses, but it needs fixing all the same. In the case of the larger engine, the head can rupture and possibly result in fires.

Ford is going to cover the entire cost of any repairs, and also refund anyone who has already paid for the work.

Since a safety recall is involved, any instructors using cars in the groups affected will most likely need to prove that remedial work has been carried out if they are using them to take pupils to test. Don’t be surprised if you’re asked for it, and don’t be surprised if the test doesn’t go out if you don’t have it.

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Parking Ticket on windscreenSomeone found the blog today with the search term “how far from the kerb can you park?” I’m not sure what the context was for the question, but this is what I tell my own pupils.

To be completely legal, you should park within 19” (48cm) of the kerb – I round this up to half a metre when I’m being metric. Finding a definitive source of any actual distance is a nightmare, but my understanding is that many local authorities started to follow what London has always adhered to (PCN Contravention code 26). However, I point out that whatever the Law does or doesn’t say, half a metre is a bloody long way – it’s almost the middle of the road – and you’d have to be a complete idiot to think that parking that far from the kerb is acceptable.

In practice, you should park within about 30cm of the kerb. More than that and it starts to look bad, maybe even interfering with other road users. If you are on your driving test, parking wider than this could start to attract driver faults. You do not have to be the full half a metre away before you can get a serious fault.

Can I get a parking ticket if I park too far from the kerb?

Apparently, you can. I wrote about it ages ago, when traffic wardens in Wales were issued with tape measures to check for violations. I’ve never met anyone who has been ticketed for doing it, although I’ve seen hundreds who perhaps should have been.

What is the official legal distance you are allowed?

I don’t know. I’ll be damned if I can find any clear reference, but some local authorities have been policing a distance of 18″ (45cm) after following London’s lead.

Just face facts. If you’re more than 45cm – half a metre – into the road, you’ve effectively stopped in the place where all the other traffic drives. You are way too far away from the kerb, no matter whether you’re male, female, or a blue badge holder. Somewhere or other in all that, you are doing something wrong, so why not just learn to do it properly instead of arseing about trying to find loopholes?

Which Law am I breaking?

I have no idea. Parking tickets are enforced by the local authority, whereas criminal offences are obviously covered by UK Law. If you get a ticket for parking in the middle of the road, your best bet is to accept you did it, pay the fine, and learn to park properly. Because if it turns out you’d parked dangerously once you’d kicked up a stink, you might find it much more expensive to deal with in more ways than one.

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Pile of £20 notesI noticed an FAQ on the Intelligent Instructor website just now, where an ADI was asking for advice on how to plan ahead for the winter and Christmas periods.

The answer includes the following:

Think of clever ways of increasing your short term income. … I know an instructor who made over £1000 on Christmas Eve just by advertising his ‘Looking for a last-minute gift?’ marketing ploy!

Whoa! Hold on a minute, here. Until someone has actually taken a lesson – notwithstanding any last-minute cancellation policies you might have in place – the money is theirs, and not yours. In fact, instructors taking huge wads of cash for future lessons then spending it is one of the most common reasons for them to start cancelling lessons, or becoming uncontactable, leading to pupil complaints.

Any ADIs reading this should remember: if you take a block booking payment, the money is not yours until the pupil has taken the lessons. You’re holding it in trust. If they pay you, for example, £700 for 30 hours of lessons – as one of mine did the other day (in cash) when they took up an offer I do – that money effectively comes to you in £23 portions as they take each lesson hour. It most definitely does not belong to you immediately they hand it over. If they only take one hour a week, you only get £23 a week from the pot. If they request a refund at any time, you are duty bound to give it to them minus whatever lessons they have taken, and in the worst case scenario you might have to refund them the entire £700 – which could be fun if you’ve already spent it on Christmas, as suggested by someone in that Q&A, and are asked to refund early in the New Year because they’re strapped for cash and want to postpone lessons for a while.

The same goes for gift vouchers or any other promotion. You can’t take money from people unless you are prepared to refund it in the event of unforeseen circumstances (add the condition “non-refundable” at your peril). Refuse once, and you and your business will probably never recover from the negative press you’d get.

I make it absolutely clear to all my pupils from Day One that any block payment money remains their property until they’ve had the lessons, and that I will refund any outstanding amount immediately upon request. I’ve already pointed out that they might have cash flow issues, but it’s also common for pupils to pay for blocks of lessons, and then move away from the area – especially if they’re students. Whenever that happens to me, I refund in cash, or by bank or PayPal transfer. In one odd case, I did it with postal orders, because I don’t use cheques, and the pupil was a nutcase who wouldn’t give me their bank account details. I wasn’t about to shove £140 in cash through their letterbox, so I shoved postal orders through, instead.

It’s essential to be able to cover whatever money you’re holding in trust at any one time.

Over the years, I’ve picked up a fair number of pupils who have written off fairly substantial sums to other instructors when block bookings have gone wrong. The local franchises around here all seem to wash their hands of whatever their instructors get up to when it goes tits up. Nearly all my affected pupils have had the old “I can’t fit you in” ploy played on them, or the instructor has simply gone AWOL. One recent case – where the franchise refused to do anything – was when an instructor “retired” owing the pupil money.

My opinion of many ADIs is such that I don’t think they should be given such misleading advice about taking money for block bookings, because it’s just asking for trouble. In my experience, far too many pocket the cash and then avoid giving the lessons, so this could be one temptation too far.

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I updated this again. I’m still getting hits on the same search terms so I thought I’d give examples when I get them:

  • 13/10/2015 – “bribe driving examiner uk”
  • 14/03/2016 – “how to tell if your driving examner is corputed [sic]”
  • 26/03/2017 – “driving test how does bribe work woth instructors [sic]”
  • 26/03/2017 – “bribing driving examiner”
  • 28/03/2017 – “how much to bribe a driving examiner”
  • 12/12/2017 – “have someone else do my driving test”

I wrote this article back in 2011, but I’m still getting people finding the blog on the search term “how do I bribe driving examiner” or something equally lacking in good English and grammar.Bribery - it means handing over money

Look. If you are so stupid that you don’t know how to do this, ask yourself if you really should be driving a car unsupervised. Because you really shouldn’t. But since you obviously are that stupid, it means handing over money in return for a favour – in this case, a test pass even if you are a crap driver.

The simple fact that you’ve typed the question into a search engine means it can be traced back to you, and for all you know the agencies could be looking for people just like you. So well done for flagging yourself up to them as a cheat and a liar.

It’s hard to fathom how weak-minded someone needs to be to consider a criminal act such as this as a viable way to get what they want.

Bribery of driving examiners has less than a 0.1% chance of succeeding. However, the risk of jail (or deportation if you’re not from the UK) if you try it is so high, it is pretty much guaranteed. It’s far easier – and cheaper – to learn to drive properly and to take and pass your driving test legitimately. Just look at some of the idiots who have been prosecuted – two morons in this story, lots of them in this one, two more here.

One thing that’s becoming apparent is that the people most likely to consider paying someone else to do their test for them are usually from countries where fraud and corruption is a part of the political constitution. It’s also apparent that those most likely to take money from these idiots and then to try to impersonate them (even though they look nothing like them) come from those same communities!

Let’s try this in big red letters to see if it helps some of the stupid ones out there understand it better:

IT IS EASIER AND CHEAPER TO PASS YOUR TEST LEGITIMATELY THAN IT IS TO TRY AND BRIBE THE EXAMINER OR TO PAY SOMEONE TO IMPERSONATE YOU.

IN YOUR OWN COUNTRY – WHETHER IT IS IN THE EAST OR THE WEST – YOU MAY WELL FIND THAT EVERY ASPECT OF GOVERNMENT IS CORRUPT, AND EVERYTHING CAN BE OBTAINED IF YOU PAY THE RIGHT MONEY TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE. IN THE UK IT IS THE EXACT OPPOSITE. THEREFORE YOU ARE TAKING A HUGE RISK.

YOU ARE PROBABLY DESPERATE TO DRIVE SO THAT YOU CAN GET A JOB. IF YOU GET CAUGHT TRYING TO CHEAT YOU’LL BE LUCKY IF YOU EVER WORK AGAIN IN THE UK.

EVEN IF YOU FOUND A CORRUPT EXAMINER (HIGHLY UNLIKELY IN THE UK), AND ASSUMING THAT YOU GOT AWAY WITH IT (EVEN LESS LIKELY), THERE IS A GOOD CHANCE YOU WILL END UP KILLING SOMEONE BECAUSE YOU STILL CAN’T DRIVE.

How can I tell if my examiner is corrupt?

Or, as it was asked to find the blog, “how to tell if your driving examner [sic] is corputed [sic]”.

Ask him. If you end up in handcuffs in the back of a police van, then he obviously wasn’t. Or you didn’t offer him enough.

It’s cheaper to learn to drive properly, you idiot.

Can I get done trying to bribe an examiner?

Or more accurately, “can I get done tryong [sic] to bribe a [sic] examiner”?

See above.

Does bribing the driving examiner work?

Or, as was asked to find the blog, “does bribimg [sic] driving examiner work”?

See above.

Is it easier if I get someone to take the test for me?

If you get away with it, and if the person you choose is any good at driving, yes – but only in the sense that you won’t have to bother learning to drive properly. However, it will mean that you are still a crap driver and you may well end up killing someone. Paying someone to take the test for you is more expensive than learning properly. Your chances of successfully gaining a licence this way in the UK are almost zero, and even if you did initially get away with it, at some point they will catch the person you paid, trace all those he worked for, discover you were one of them, and take your false licence away. You will then be fined, perhaps imprisoned, or even deported if you are not a UK citizen.

If you’re still so stupid you want to try it, go ahead. And watch me laugh when you get caught.

Some idiot found the blog today on the search term “have someone else do my driving test”. Sorry, mate, but unless you get real you’ll be a loser until the day you die.

How could they catch me?

Look. This is the UK, and they take fraud very seriously. There is a special Fraud & Integrity department at DVSA which specifically looks for and investigates cases of bribery.

In any situation involving deception, you have the best chance of getting away with it if you are the only one involved, and the only one who is aware of it. By paying someone to take your test for you, or by trying to bribe an examiner, you are automatically increasing the number of people who know. You can control what’s inside your own head, but you can’t control others, and those other people – the test sitter or the examiner – are going to be involved with many like you also using their dishonest services. You can’t control any of those other people, and all it takes is for one of them to get caught, and the entire fraudulent network is immediately identifiable. Something as simple as someone being pulled over by the police for driving erratically could be enough to spark an investigation. The Fraud & Integrity group could even set up sting operations. Anyone an examiner has tested is known by name, and can be traced through their licence.

You would always be living in hope you don’t get found out. But eventually, you would be.

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Statistics - it doesn't have to be complicatedI first published this back in 2012 after someone had found the blog on precisely that search term!

Passing the driving test is a skills-based event, so probability doesn’t come into it – not in any way that could be manipulated or measured, anyway. But I had another one recently come to the blog via the term “the probability that a person passes their driving test is 75%”.

The problem here is that people get probability and statistics mixed up – and they don’t understand either.

Every test centre has a pass rate. These are all statistics – measurements of what has actually taken place – and any given test centre might have a pass rate anywhere from under 30% all the way up to 80% or more. Why is this?

Mallaig - north of nowhereTake Mallaig in Scotland, for example. It is a tiny fishing village in the middle of nowhere. It has something like 10km of roads in total, no dual carriageways, one roundabout, a total population of about 1,000, and is 140 miles away from the nearest motorway (it’s actually only a few miles north west from the place where Connor MacLeod was born in Highlander). In the business year 2017/18 a total of 21 tests were conducted at the test centre there, with a pass rate of 71%. In contrast, Nottingham has three test centres, and between them there were over 20,000 tests conducted during the same period, with a pass rate of about 45%. Nottingham has a population of over a quarter of a million, lots of dual carriageways and complex roundabout systems, a busy city centre, and protracted rush hours vying with overrunning roadworks and ever-changing road restrictions. Similarly, Bradford’s three test centres conducted around 15,000 tests, even though it has a slightly larger population than Nottingham and similar types of roads. However, one of its test centres had a pass rate of just 37% in the same period.

In 2012, Bradford – well, one of the test centres there – was highlighted as having the worst pass rate in the country at less than 30%. Bradford’s problem at that location is that there’s a high sub-population of non-UK nationals. As unpalatable as it might be to the politically correct mob, non-UK provisional licence holders have a tendency to want to go to test before they’re ready, and they will often do it in their own cars without ever having had any formal training in the UK. And they do it again, and again, and again, test after test, with no training in between tries. All large cities have this problem one way or another.

I’ve got just such a pupil right now. There is no way I would ever let him go to test using my car the way his driving is, and I have told him he needs more lessons before he tries again. But he won’t listen, and keeps going in his own car after taking a single hour with me each time. It’s hard to put this into words, but he hasn’t got a bloody clue how to do even the simplest of roundabouts, and when he encounters one with lanes marked on it the lines may as well not be there. In fact, in his head, they aren’t there. As soon as he realises it’s a roundabout he panics and – poof! – the lanes just vanish as far as he’s concerned. He is in his 30s and has driven for many years in one of those places where you are “able to drive” if you can put your head down and accelerate into heavy traffic and weave around hundreds of others all doing the same. It’s also one of those places where the men will never admit that they can’t do something, even when it is completely obvious to everyone – including them – that they can’t. He simply cannot get it into his head that he hasn’t got a cat in hell’s chance of passing his test until he sorts this out. But he’s got another one booked even now.

DVSA actually publishes pass rate data by ethnicity – something which surprises me, given the risks of misinterpreting the data to suit personal agendas – and if you look at the lowest rated Bradford test centre, the pass rate among those identifying as Asian or British Asian and Black or British Black is 34.5% whereas among those identifying as White it is 47%. You have the same skew in Nottingham under those same headings, and pretty much everywhere else. It’s a big difference, and although the data don’t go into finer detail, I would lay money that it is the non-British element within those groups which is pulling the figures down. Where the ratio of non-UK to UK is higher in any given community, the overall pass rate in the location covered by that test centre is so much lower.

Non-British Asian/Black people taking tests tend to be older, have families to support, have low-paid jobs (carers or security, for example), are desperate to get a licence to improve their prospects, and are isolated from their larger family and have no financial backup beyond their wages. They also tend to have many years’ previous experience of driving – albeit badly – and believe they are capable of passing the test over here. Habits are deeply ingrained. Whites tend to be 17-24 year olds who are only learning to drive because its the next thing they need to do in their lives, who haven’t driven much before (if at all) and so don’t have habits to break, who probably won’t get a car for the next year or two anyway, and who can often sponge off mummy and daddy for the lesson fees. It’s not a clear cut division, but it is the tendency nonetheless. And that affects the statistics.

You can already see how complicated this is. A test centre’s pass rate is meaningless except for comparing that centre’s performance over time, and it has no clear bearing on the rates from other centres in other parts of the country because other factors are involved. For example, Bradford’s apparent “improvement” since 2012 is highly likely to have been a deliberate manipulation to make it look better following the bad press it received back then. As an illustration, Mallaig’s pass rate could go up to 90% or fall to 20%, but that would not affect Nottingham’s statistics unless the change were the result of something which affected everyone in the UK, and in a quantifiable manner. I mean, imagine DVSA adding a motorway element to the test. Mallaig’s nearest motorway is further away than London is from Nottingham, so they couldn’t possibly do it, but test centres like Nottingham Watnall and Chilwell – which are both right next to the M1 – would see it affect on their pass rates.

Car with L plateStatistics are a statement of what did happen. They are not probabilities – a prediction of what will happen.

If someone takes a driving test having never driven before, and never having had any lessons, they will fail – no matter what their test centre’s pass rate is. Statistically, the centre could have a 100% pass rate, but someone who can’t drive has a 0% probability of passing. It follows logically that even if someone has had lessons, unless they’ve had enough to make them good enough they will still fail. Only when they have had enough training to make it possible for them to pass a test does probability enter into the equation – but even then it is still not something you can assign a definite number to, because so much depends on nerves, road conditions, events on the day, and so on.

All you can say is that if a candidate can drive to an acceptable standard, and doesn’t do anything stupid on their test (for whatever reason), there is a high probability of them passing. That probability is much higher than the pass rate at the test centre they’re using, but definitely much less than 100%.

If they can’t drive to an acceptable standard, the probability of them passing is close to 0%.

DVSA is not looking for perfect drivers who don’t make any mistakes. The criterion they are using is that the test candidate should be safe enough to drive unsupervised so that they can then gain more and more experience over time.

What are the chances of passing a driving test?

If you can’t drive, they’re approximately zero – you have no chance whatsoever. If you’re a good driver, your chances are very high. It’s that simple.

So my chances are better if I take one or two lessons?

If you can’t drive well enough to pass the test during those lessons, your chances of passing a real one are still almost zero.

Take the parallel park exercise as an example. If you can’t do it during lessons, you’re not going to be able to do it on the test. The same goes for every other aspect of driving that might result in a serious fault on test if you don’t do it properly.

What are the chances of passing my driving test after failing the first time?

Your chances of passing have nothing to do with your previous attempts. If you can drive without your instructor intervening on lessons, you’ll probably pass your test. If you can’t, then you will probably fail it.

Too many people go for their test before they are ready – especially when they’re desperate for a UK drivers licence. Some think they’re ready, some want to be ready, and some just don’t want to (or can’t) spend any more money. Then they fail.

If you’re not ready you will fail. Even if your dream came true and you scraped a pass, you’d be dangerous on the roads.

Yes, but what are my chances of passing second time?

Exactly the same as they were the first time if you still can’t drive properly.

I can drive, so why did I fail?

Assuming that you really can drive, it might just have been a bit of bad luck on the day – some other road user doing something you didn’t expect, or that you’d never had to deal with before. It happens.

However, a lot of learners mistakenly believe that they are better than they are. Many take their tests based on how many hours of lessons they’ve had (in turn, based on how much they could afford). The risk of failing is much higher if you approach your test that way.

What is the best time of year to take your driving test?

There isn’t one, any more than there’s a “best time of day” to take it. If you can drive – and don’t make any serious mistakes – you will pass, whether it’s at Christmas or in summer, morning or afternoon.

What are the statistics that somebody will pass their driving test 2nd time?

That term has been used to find this article. If you can’t drive properly, your “chances” are exactly the same as they were the first time. Passing the test is about ability, not chance.

What are the chances of passing the driving test third time?

That term has been used to find this article. The simple answer is that your chances of passing your test are the same every time you take it if you assume that your ability remains constant. If you get better at driving, your chances increase, but they only become “good” once you can drive well.

The likelihood of passing your driving test is based on your ability, not probability. People who fail at their first attempt are usually better prepared for the second. However, some people are simply not prepared at all and are just gambling on scraping through every time.

If the probability of passing your test is 75%, what is the probability of passing in under four attempts?

Someone found the blog on that search term. I suspect it is a maths question rather than a driving one, but I will answer it as though it were the latter.

Passing your test is not based on probability. If you can’t drive, then you have no chance of passing, and the probability is effectively zero. As your driving ability improves, so does the probability that you will pass. However, it is impossible to put a number to driving ability such that the probability of passing can be calculated, and even if you could, you’d then have to factor in other equally unmeasurable numerical representations of any number of unpredictable events on the day of your test which could shift your chances of passing either up or down the scale.

Just for the record, and as I’ve just explained, the probability of passing your test is not 75% in the first place. And whatever the outcome of your first attempt, that has no measurable bearing on what happens on subsequent tests. It is quite possible to only just fail one test, then fail miserably on one or more of your following attempts.

Generally, most people do improve between tests, but so many other variables are involved that general improvement in the candidate’s ability might not show up as a reduction in driver faults. I’ve seen people fail with perhaps two faults – one of which is a serious – and then pass their next attempt with maybe 9 driver faults.

Does everyone have the same chance of passing their test?

Everyone has the same opportunity to pass – they’re all being tested to the same standard. However, everyone is different, with different abilities, and success in the test is governed by ability.

Since I’ve been doing this job I have encountered people who, quite frankly, should be prevented by Law from ever going near a car. Frighteningly, I know of at least three of them who have passed their tests – one of those has had numerous minor accidents related to emerging without looking properly, and another did so much damage to her car in the fortnight she owned it by keep reversing into her gate post (three times that I know of) that she has given up driving and got rid of the car.

Aren’t you at fault for teaching these people to drive?

Believe me, I think about that all the time. I wish that we were allowed to tell people that they should give up the idea of driving. I have my own way of dealing with it – but I know that they just go and find someone who will carry on teaching them, and they take test after test until they pass.

I had a guy a couple of years ago who failed five tests with me (he’d failed several before). He refused to do more than a single one hour lesson before each attempt because he’d already “spent enough”. He argued that he failed on something different every time, and so all he had to do was not make that same mistake again and he’d be all right. He wouldn’t accept my explanation that his “different” mistakes were due to the same underlying issue, which if dealt with would increase the likelihood of him passing. That was in January 2014, and it was the last I saw of him. Well, until November 2014, that is, when I saw him coming out of the test centre as I was going in with a huge grin on his face. While he was with me, he spent £230 on lessons and £310 on tests over three months – pro rata, he would have spent a further £500-£800 in tests by the time I saw him nine months later in November.

This is how these people are. You can’t tell them directly that they can’t drive. And even if you did, someone would still teach them.

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vw_touran_fd17vweI was teaching a pupil how to handle the Nottingham Knight roundabout today.

Oh, if only the f—ing halfwits who have licences had even a grain of a clue, how much easier my job would be.

Here, you can see a black VW Touran, registration number FD17 VWE, decide that lane markings didn’t apply to her as she cut dangerously across the lanes. She was also speeding, and it wouldn’t have surprised me if she had her brats in the back if Social Services are interested in picking up any unfit parents right now.

This is a still from the full video which shows what she did. Stupid cow.

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honda_civic_bn05olhAnother lesson, this time in Wollaton. School run time.

My pupil was following the sat nav, and we were turning right. We’d just passed a light-controlled junction with all the mummies backed up and I’d told the pupil to carry on to next junction away from the road the school is on. As we approached it, this stupid bitch in a silver Honda Civic (old style), registration number BN05 OLH, cut us up dangerously.

This is a still from the full video showing what she did.

We followed her for about a mile, and she went into the Hemlock Stone pub – most likely either to pick up her brats from an agreed meeting place, or to get pissed on Prosecco as part of her anger management programme. Either way, she was a crap driver who shouldn’t be on the roads.

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Empty parking baysI originally wrote this article in 2011. There are updates here, and here. This main article has been updated again in July 2018 to reflect the new test, which came into force from December 2017.

The new test has done away with the Turn In The Road (aka “three-point turn”) and Reversing Into A Corner. These have been replaced with Forward Bay Parking and Stopping On The Right. The Reverse Bay Park and Parallel Park manoeuvres are still tested.

At the time of the original article, some test centres didn’t ask candidates to do a reverse bay park simply because they didn’t have a car park to do it in. It was no secret that in those areas a fair number of ADIs didn’t bother teaching it (virtually no one taught it in Nottingham before Colwick Test Centre opened – the first TC in Nottingham to have a car park big enough to do it).

Since December 2017, there are now two bay park manoeuvres – the original reverse one, and one which involves driving in forwards, then reversing out again. A reader informed me several months ago that the reverse park is always done at the TC, whereas the forward park can be done at various locations outside (supermarkets, council parks, etc.). I wasn’t aware of that, and had assumed that they could both be done anywhere.

Supermarket car park bays

Many drivers are terrified of any sort of parking and spend a large part of their driving lifetimes avoiding doing it. So it must be a bit of a bugger now that all the test manoeuvres are parking manoeuvres. It’s actually quite funny (and sad), sometimes, if I’m in Morrisons’ car park in the mornings. You can watch mainly older drivers, some of whom clearly have trouble walking, parking as far away as it is possible to be from the store entrance – even though there are spaces very close to it – solely because they want to stay away from other cars.

Bays can be laid out in a rectangular pattern, diagonally (often called “herringbone”), and in regularly or haphazardly arranged linear blocks. I’m sure there are other types, but these are the most common ones.Bay layouts

Reverse Bay Parking

If you get this one, it will be either right at the start, or right at the end of your test in the TC car park. The examiner will not tell you which bay he wants you to reverse into, from which side to do it, or in which direction you should be pointing. He will just expect you to do whatever you normally do and  finish inside a bay. He doesn’t care what method you use, and within reason you do not need to be exactly in the centre of the bay or precisely straight. You can even be parked on one of the lines, and it still isn’t a fail.

So what counts as a fault? DT1 – the examiners’ SOP – says that faults are:

  • poor co-ordination of controls
  • ending up straddling two bays
  • unnecessary shunting forwards and backwards
  • turning the steering wheel the wrong way
  • stalling

Observation:

  • no blind spot checks
  • relying too much or entirely on the mirrors
  • ineffective observation
  • looking but not reacting to other vehicles or pedestrians
  • waiting too long for other users in the car park

Basically, faffing around and causing hold ups, and not looking for/reacting to people who you might be holding up or are likely to reverse into.

So how do you do it? There isn’t a “best way”, but there are several alternatives, all of which have their place at one time or another. Some pupils can handle one way better than the others.Bay parking from a fixed position (rectangular grid)

My preferred method for beginners is to start in a fixed position at right angles to the bay you want to park in, and about a car’s width away from the end of the bays (the orange car in the diagram). The fixed point in question is usually relative to the third line away from your target bay, though I did once show someone how to do it in an 18’ minibus and that involved the fourth line – it’s just a case of knowing where to start from.

Put full lock on and reverse until you are at 90º to your original position. Use your wing mirrors to determine when you’re parallel with the bay lines. Then straighten up and reverse into the bay.Bay parking from a fixed position (angled grid)

The method works just as well where the bays are in a herringbone pattern, although you have to angle the car as shown.

Success with this depends entirely on being able to start from exactly the same position relative to your target bay every time you do it. You need to find a reference point on your car, and line it up with the third (or whatever) line away from your target bay.

I prefer this method because a) it requires the smallest amount of space, b) anyone can do it, and c) you can put it into written words and follow it prescriptively.

An alternative way is to simply turn away from your target bay as you approach it – possibly even driving into another bay opposite if it is vacant – then reverse back in a straight line. This is fine if you have enough room, and if you don’t have to correct your position too much.

The most flexible method is simply to use your mirrors to aim into your target bay – possibly with a little forward/backward shuffling if space is tight. The problem with this method is that it is almost impossible to put into simple words because there are so many variables, and since many learners steer the wrong way when reversing, the complexity just makes things worse.

Whatever method you use, make sure you look around for pedestrians and other traffic before you start reversing, during any pause, and when there is something that needs an eye kept on it (i.e. people walking in your direction – at some stage you may have to wait for them to pass). My preferred method is broken down into three distinct stages, and pausing at the end of each one gives a window in which to look around. If you try to bay park in a single movement, be very careful not to miss your safety checks – you will fail if you miss them, especially if there is something you should be dealing with.

Forward Bay Parking

Driving forwards into a bay is as easy as reversing into one. You just steer in a different place. You also need to start further away from the ends of the bays so that as the car swings in it doesn’t cut too far into neighbouring bays. The examiner will be marking using the same criteria quoted from DT1 above. So don’t faff around, and keep a look out for anything that might need dealing with.

My preferred method involves lining up a specific point on the car with the nearest line of the bay you want to drive into at a right angle to it. Put full lock on and move forward until you are at 90º from your starting position. Straighten up and drive into the bay. However, this is only half of the manoeuvre, and you will now be asked to reverse out – which must be done safely and without excessively encroaching on the neighbouring bays.

Reverse out of the bay in a straight line until the ends of the bays are at roughly the same position as your reference point for driving in. Put full lock on in whichever direction you need to leave the car park, and carefully drive away.

Again, my method involves fixed stops, and these act as trigger points for looking all around – and especially behind you. Look before you move. At every stop. The forward bay park manoeuvre takes longer than the reverse, so more safety checks will be needed for that reason alone. You are also much more likely to be reversing towards or crossing the paths other vehicles or pedestrians because of your wider start position.

There is no reason why you can’t just drive into a bay in one single movement, but like I said earlier, if you miss any safety checks – and especially if you don’t see something you should have – you will fail.

Are there any other ways to bay park?

The fixed position method for reverse bay parking has two major drawbacks in the real world, 1) you have to have at least two more lines lines beyond your target bay otherwise you can’t do it, and 2) the bays have to be a standard size. So if you want to get into an end bay or one that’s been over- or undersized by whoever painted it, you’ve got to choose another way.

The 90º method is certainly the easiest. It works in the real world, but you must have room or else you simply can’t do it. It is perfect for use on the test because it works reliably and is easy to teach to a point where the learner can do it by themselves. Note that the size of the bays is irrelevant when forward bay parking.

The mirrors method requires good reversing skills, which many learners simply don’t have – nor do they have the financial resources or desire to part with such resources in order to acquire such skills , particularly if it turns out they have a problem.

I show all these methods to my own pupils, but in almost all cases it is the 90º one that we go with. I explain that they will have plenty of time to practice the other ways once they’ve passed. Being brutally honest, taking two minutes to park in Asda once they’ve passed is only going to annoy a few drivers (and maybe give them a bit of a giggle), whereas taking two minutes over it on your test could lead to a fail. So it makes sense to focus on a method that works rather than one that they have got the next 40 years to perfect.

Which method should I use on my test?

It’s up to you. However, I always explain to my pupils that although I am teaching them to be good drivers for the rest of their lives, we mustn’t forget that I am also teaching them to pass their tests in the most cost-effective time frame for them (and no matter what they might claim, all ADIs are teaching their pupils to “pass the test” – it’s what they are paid to do!) This is not the same as only teaching the bare minimum to pass.

To that end, the 90º method is usually the best option for me and them, because it works every time as long as you get one simple reference position right, and it also works in real life.

I remember my own examiner telling me when I’d passed my driving test that it was only the start, and that I’d be learning for the rest of my life. She was right. And that is just as true now as it was then. If you can park reasonably well, you’re going to be fine – you don’t need a PhD in the subject.

Will the car park be empty when I have to do it?

Assume not. In the TC car park, it usually is substantially empty, but I’ve been there and seen tests having to do it when the park is full up with cars and vans, and it is far too common that some prat of a driving instructor (are you listening, SAM?) has yet again ignored the TC manager’s requests to stay out and gone there to practice (or pretend to need the toilet) as tests are coming back.

Supermarket and council car parks are unlikely to be empty, or to remain so while you’re in them. You may have to park next to another car, or even between two of them.

Can I open the door to check my alignment?

Yes. In all honesty, you shouldn’t need to – but, yes.

How does the examiner know I’m inside the bay?

Some will get out and walk around the car at the end of the manoeuvre (usually, if you’re not straight or are displaced to one side). Others will open their door and take a look – with practice, you can easily tell if the car is in and if it’s straight just by looking at the position of the  bay lines next to you, and examiners are good at this. Some will just lean forward and glance in the left wing mirror (that’s how I do it).

How does my instructor know I’m inside the bay?

Same as the above. If we’re not straight or not in a bay, I will often get the pupil to get out and walk round the car and see for themselves.

Will I fail if I’m on a line or not centralised?

No. Finishing on a line or very close to one  is not an automatic fail – the examiners’ DT1 document used to state that, and I am not aware that the criteria have changed. You should always aim to finish dead centre at the first attempt, of course, and you are allowed to correct yourself. But take this example.

A while back, one of my pupils hated the reverse bay park manoeuvre, even though as far as I was concerned she was very good at it. Of course, this was the manoeuvre she got on her test. It was at the end as she came back to the test centre, and I was watching from behind a hedge so she couldn’t see me.

She reversed back and was cleanly inside the bay, but for some reason she decided she needed to fix it. She drove forward, then reversed back into almost the exact same position. She tried again, and once more ended up in the same position. Then she had another try and this time ended up diagonally across the other side and with her rear nearside wheel half way inside the neighbouring bay. I saw the wipers settle and knew that she’d turned off the ignition, so I walked over thinking “damn, she’s failed”. As I approached the car, the passenger window was open and the examiner said “just a minute DOAADI, we haven’t finished yet”. I walked on and stood somewhere behind. The examiner said something to my pupil, who then tried adjusting it one more time. She finished not quite straight, but just inside. And she passed.

So never assume anything.

Do they do the bay park manoeuvre at Watnall?

Both forward and reverse bay parking can be conducted on tests at all the Nottingham test centres.

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