A Driving Instructor's Blog

I had a heart stopper today.

I was on a lesson with a pupil who has her test booked in about a month’s time. She’s a good driver, and we’d done a two-hour motorway session in heavy traffic, road works, and rain. We were on our way back to her house, and I’d asked her to follow the signs towards Nottingham. She’d done really well, successfully interpreting signs saying “all routes” as we passed through Loughborough, as well as those specifically referring to Nottingham. Apart from Q&A and chit-chat, I wasn’t having to say much at all.

We approached a dual carriageway from a side road (T-junction) with Nottingham to the right, and it looked like she’d checked and decided it was safe to move into the central reservation. I know I would have gone if I was driving. Suddenly, she braked, stopping right in the middle of the carriageway closest to us. Cars travelling along the 50mph dual carriageway were forced to stop.

I got her moving, and when there was finally a chance to pull over I asked her why she had done what she did. Then it dawned on me, and I asked “did you realise it was a junction?”

She didn’t. She’d just driven straight out on to a 50mph road without realising it was there!

We all make mistakes, and this one was mine. Many of my pupils are occasionally freaked out by the fact that it seems I can read their minds. Obviously, I can’t. But what I can do is pick up on the smallest twitches, eye movements, inappropriate speed or acceleration,and so on, and realise what they’re thinking (or not) before they do something. In this case, I’d committed the cardinal sin and been complacent. I didn’t expect my pupil to make such a mistake and so wasn’t looking for it to happen – when usually, I am. But it did happen, and I wasn’t prepared for it.

We were lucky not to be involved in a pile-up, and I’m kicking myself for letting it get to that stage.

I would have liked to have apologised to the woman who had to stop, but obviously on a dual carriageway that’s not an option. In fact, it wasn’t for another few miles that we had the chance to stop to discuss it ourselves, and I was careful not to mention it until we did.

Anyway, if my hard lesson helps anyone else, that’s good. Just remember: never forget that your learners are learners all the time they’re with you.

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