A Driving Instructor's Blog

I’m keeping this one updated into 2010… originally posted just before Christmas…  

Snowflake ImagesReading some of the forums, you always find a load of smart arses who – if you can believe a word they say – never cancel lessons because of snow.

They are idiots. Or liars. Or both.

Up this way we haven’t had much snow – just a dusting over the last two nights. The problem, though, has been the temperature. It’s been down to -5°C, and as I said a couple of posts ago, the Nottingham City and County Councils still appear to be in conference deciding which roads to grit (and now its weekend, they won’t finish deciding until next week).

Yesterday, I took a pupil out at 8am – he’s at the stage where he needs to know how to drive in less-than-perfect conditions. However, we had a problem with the windscreen washer water freezing in the pipes (and that is with plenty of antifreeze in – but obviously no enough: I added a bottle of methylated spirit last night).

This morning I had a 9am lesson. The extra dusting of snow was treacherous on just about all roads (most of which still hadn’t been gritted). Even at a crawl I was slipping (ABS kicking in), and on downward slopes there was considerable movement no matter how slow you went. At one point I went over a roundabout on a slope and felt sideways movement – yet no discernible speed was shown on the speedo! The pupil’s road was as bad. She is a relative beginner, so I decided that one shouldn’t go out.

I used the opportunity to take the car into a hand car wash – I chose the hand wash because all the drive-thru washers in this area are out of action due to being frozen solid. It took the guys 25 minutes to get the water through – all their pipes and jet-wash machines were frozen solid! When I drove out the water on my mirror was sheet ice, and any droplets were formed into icicles immediately.

Then at 3pm this afternoon, I parked outside another pupil’s house. It had been sunny all day, but it suddenly went very dark. Just as she came out it began to snow heavily. She has a problem with harsh braking and steering – taking her out in that weather would have been stupid, so we cancelled the lesson.

And I had one booked at 6pm this evening. She is a beginner, and although the snow has stopped, it is lying on the ground and will freeze as the temperature falls (-2°C is forecast tonight). Again, at this stage she’ll gain nothing by driving in such hazardous conditions.

So today has been a total washout – I’ve lost £140. But it would have been irresponsible to put that above safety.

NOTE: This was originally posted on Sunday, 20/12/2009 – I lost the last three posts when I upgraded the database, so added them again today.

EDIT 5/1/2010 #1: I’ve been getting hits on “what happens next when a test is cancelled”.

Well, up until the end of that day your test will show as “taken”, but when the examiners finish for the day (which could be very early if they all go home because of a full day of cancellations) they will log your test as cancelled and you will automatically get a new date through the post. You should also be able to look online and see your new test date either later that day or the following day. If it still shows as “taken” call them up straight away – sometimes they forget.

Usually, you (or your parents) will go ballistic when you find out how far in the future your test is! You might be lucky and get a fairly early rearrangement, but it often goes in at the earliest normal bookable slot. Just phone up and moan, or keep looking for cancellations on the DSA’s web site.

If you do go for a cancellation, be very careful. I have had people whose tests were cancelled just before Christmas find early cancellation dates for this week. Now look out the window or listen to the weather forecast and see if they made a wise decision by doing that…!

Don’t forget: the weather isn’t the DSA’s fault. They are perfectly entitled to cancel for safety reasons if there is ice (or fog, or high winds, or heavy rain) around even if you or your parents have looked in your garden and decided there isn’t! And your Test Centre cannot do anything much about your test booking – you must call the normal booking line, not the Test Centre. At best they will do what would be much easier for you to do and phone the main booking line.

EDIT 5/1/2010 #2: I spoke with the Colwick Test Centre today and all tests were cancelled both yesterday and today (Monday and Tuesday). Bear in mind that we had a smattering of snow last night followed by -5°C and it was treacherous on most roads first thing, and side roads throughout the day.

It is 6pm now and it has snowed (it still is a little) – not much, but it has covered the bare ground again. I don’t know if we will have much more, but lows of -3°C are forecast once it blows over. Anyone with a test at Colwick tomorrow really ought to phone first and expect it to be off. The morning ones in particular.

I was up there this afternoon 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.

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