Diary Of An ADI

A Driving Instructor's Blog

Such as, why is it that men with complexions out of a Tipp-Ex bottle and legs like baler-twine feel that they must wear shorts in hot weather?

Or why do women who take time to dress in appropriately light summer clothing then decide to wear Ugg boots as well?

Or why do people with the physique of Shrek, the income of John Paul Getty, and the driving skills of a chimpanzee decide that they have to buy BMW Z-series sports cars and drive them around on Saturdays?

Saw one of those this morning. It looked like the airbag had gone off and was driving the thing. At a small roundabout near me he was turning right, and with one lane closed due to road works it was a bottleneck. Of course, this didn’t stop him stopping for no reason at all (or rather, some reason best known to himself) and causing a hold up. Even when he drove off on to the 50mph slip road he was only doing around 25-30. Strangely for a BMW driver, he didn’t even exceed 50 when the limit changed to 70mph.

Weekend drivers are a law unto themselves!

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Well, it was Saturday (nearly). Wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a full moon tonight, too.

Driving along the Ring Road with a pupil on a 40mph stretch and a Weasel-boy in an old red Renault Clio (V710 JLC) struggles past at about 45 and then dangerously cuts in front literally less than half a car’s length away. It had to be deliberate – either that or stupidity just reached a new high. Once the limit went up to 50mph he was definitely doing at least 60.

And a few minutes later coming off a roundabout a silver Vauxhall (Astra, I think: LS51 SYF) decided that she (Weasel-girl this time, I think) was going to overtake on the short merge area, and in spite of the fact my pupil accelerated like a proper driver the Vauxhall driver’s pea-brain wasn’t able to deal with the new situation and she went ahead causing us to brake sharply. She then tailgated the car in front dangerously for about a mile until we turned off.

Seriously, I wonder how these people pass their tests… and how they manage to keep their licences.

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Yesterday (30/08/2008), I’d emerged from a side road on to a 50mph road which was totally clear in either direction. I’d accelerated up to 50 when in my mirror I see Weasel-boy approaching in his blue Renault Megane (PK06 OFM) at Mach 2. We drive for about a mile and a half with him tailgating me through speed zones of 50, to 40, 50 again, 40 again, then back to 50mph. All the while oncoming traffic has prevented him overtaking. When we get to this final 50 zone, and with a solid white line on our side as we’re on a hill with a hidden summit, he overtakes.

Brilliant manoeuvre, as he can now sit in front of me and behind that caravan we’ve been following all this time. I noticed from behind that above the back of the seat – like all these Weasel-boys he barely came above the seat – he looks just like Hergé’s Tin Tin, complete with the quiff. I could see the quiff moving all over as he resolutely demonstrated his inability to look at me in the mirror.

At a small roundabout he then tried to overtake the caravan on the inside. Obviously, not a very bright Weasel-boy as he was nearly crushed against the roundabout as the caravan cut in.

There’s something scary in all this, though. You get a lot of people who pass their tests and yet they are completely ignorant of what is required to drive safely. A pupil this morning was boasting about his friend who apparently ‘took 10 lessons then decided he was good enough, booked his test, and passed, even though he said he didn’t know anything about driving‘. I discovered this when I tried to find out who’d told this pupil there was a six-month waiting  list for the driving test (it’s 4-5 weeks).

This same friend had also sagely announced that ‘you learn everything you need when you go out driving on your own‘.

Yes, I suppose you do. If you live long enough to learn it.

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Had a pupil on test recently who encountered an unusual situation (well, not unusual for the area it occurred in, but unusual for someone taking their test). She was driving along and suddenly thought there was something seriously wrong with the car. She had no idea what to do.

The examiner explained to me what happened. Driving through a particular area they were suddenly surrounded by ‘about 20’ Police cars, Policemen running all over the place on foot, and the noise the pupil thought was the car was the local Police helicopter which – in the examiner’s own words – was nearly sat on the roof.

It reminded me of another Police incident sometime last year. A pupil had asked me a while prior to her test what to do if there were Police cars. We covered it (i.e. Police cars coming up behind, and at traffic lights), but not an actual Police incident where a house raid is obviously underway. It’s not exactly something you can simulate during lessons – particularly seeing as every one would be different. I remember saying something like ‘don’t worry about it too much because it won’t happen on your test’.

Well, it did. So that’s twice!

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Nice first-time pass yesterday (well done, KA) by a pupil who is moving to Wales at the weekend. He tells me this will save him £300 a week with immediate effect now he doesn’t need to use the train. And just completed a Pass Plus with a pupil who passed a couple of weeks ago (well done RH), and who has told me his job has already taken off skywards as a result of getting his driving licence.

This is what being a driving instructor is all about!

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I don’t know if it’s just me, but even the simplest roadworks seem to take forever these days. Currently, I can think of several simple resurfacing jobs which have been going on for weeks and months when I seem to recall in the past that bigger jobs were carried out in a fraction of the time.

In our city centre, one particular road was milled and resurfaced several weeks ago. Admittedly, the ‘raised ironworks’ signs were only there for about a week before the resurfacing was carried out. But the resurfaced road has had no white lines for at least three weeks. And guess what? They decided to do that final small thing during this morning’s rush hour! One lane closed on a major link to the city.

On another busy road, they’ve been ‘widening’ it by about a metre either side just outside a new business park for months now. Every day at 9am the temporary lights go up, about 30 workmen set about doing very little for an hour, then it’s time for a cup of tea until midday, then it’s lunch, then another hour or so of very little activity, then pack up and go home about 3-3.30pm.

And on yet another busy link road they’ve had it closed off at weekends for the last month or so, and even when it re-opened they still hadn’t painted the bloody lines on it.

Why the hell can’t someone make them contract to do nights and finish the work as quickly as possible?

Earlier this year (January, I think) there was a retaining wall which was being maintained. A sign said the work would take about 13 weeks to complete – why this long is anyone’s guess. After something like 18 weeks the sign was taken down and the work was eventually completed around June. Most of the time there was no one working and just a load of equipment with those wire fences narrowing this traffic blackspot down to one lane much of the time (temporary lights, of course). I suspect someone got a talking to, as the lights went and the fence was pushed in a bit so that two lanes could be maintained (notwithstanding morons using the chip shop, taxi drivers, buses, and so on parking in the narrowed area).

Why a simple job took 25 weeks (not the planned 13) of chaos is open to debate. But the damned road was again partially blocked this weekend because they’ve now decided to resurface it next to the retaining wall! Technically, the job still isn’t complete.

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Learning how each pupil’s mind works is important. They can surprise you very easily.

I’ve had a handful of people who, when asked to turn right at a roundabout, have literally tried (or intended) to turn right – as if it were just a crossroads. In all cases they hadn’t heard the word ’roundabout’ and after questioning (and sometimes following tears) it became clear that they didn’t recognise the big concrete circle in front of them as a roundabout. In one case, this was less than 30 seconds after we’d just gone around it from the opposite direction!

You have to be ready for it. No pupil has ever actually done it: I’ve stopped them as soon as their hands have moved.

But one case I’ll always remember was driving down a country road with a pupil in clear weather and a clear road. We’re driving in a straight line, when suddenly I’m thrown from one side of the car to the other as we swerved sharply all over the place. After we’d righted and were going straight again I asked my pupil:

What did you do that for?

She said:

I was trying to avoid that horse poo in the road.

This was the same pupil who had once squealed and curled up in a ball in the driver’s seat while we were doing 50mph on a dual carriageway because a lorry had overtaken us. I simply took the wheel and – not quite following the Official Driving Instructor Teaching Guidelines – said:

Don’t EVER do that again

And she never did. She was the most entertaining pupil I think I’ve ever had.

On a more serious note, some people have real problems to deal with. I was teaching a pupil with dyspraxia and we’d sorted out his initial inability to raise the clutch gently in a real driving situation. When stationary he could find the bite gently, but when moving off his left leg was like a bungee cord: Boiing! Up like a shot.

One time we were driving at 60mph on a straight road. It was nearly 10pm, dark, and there were no other cars around. All of a sudden he just turned the wheel and we were heading towards the kerb. When I pulled us over and talked to him about it, I asked the question:

What made you turn the wheel in that situation?

He answered:

I honestly don’t know.

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You get some pupils who are absolutely brilliant to teach every way you look at it. They book regular lessons, rarely cancel, always turn up, and they never cause you a problem.

On the other side of the coin, I’ve had pupils who have cancelled or changed more lessons than they’ve actually taken. I’m flexible to start with, I warn them if they carry on taking the mick, and I get rid of them if they do it again after that (I had one who had cancelled or rearranged 4 out of his first 5 bookings, then didn’t turn up to the next one he’d specifically arranged during a school holiday. To make matters worse, his dad reckoned he should be test-ready after only 12 hours, having never driven before!). To date, that’s only two out of hundreds of pupils I’ve ditched.

I have one who has only ever let me down once: I turned up one Saturday morning at 9am and he didn’t show. It turned out he was comatose in bed with a hangover. We don’t do Saturdays anymore.

I have another who had let me down by being at a music festival when I turned up to a booked lesson (apparently his phone battery had gone dead and he couldn’t contact me, nor I him). He’s on a final warning because the next lesson I turned up for he was absolutely paralytic at 6pm.

The other one I got rid of had used up all the possible excuses. One time she was painting her bedroom and ‘forgot’ the lesson. She was ‘ill’ more times than I have fingers to count with. But the best one was when she called an hour before her 6pm lesson – she was at school and the exam, which was scheduled to start at 3pm, still hadn’t begun. The last straw was when she was ill yet again. I simply told her I couldn’t afford not to teach her anymore.

To be honest, it’s best when they just tell you the truth: ‘I can’t afford the lesson this week’.

That’s becoming more common with the credit squeeze and all.

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Just listening to the radio between pupils and I heard that a promotional video for the 2012 London Olympics had been withdrawn because of complaints. Guess why?

Some moron had used a portrait of Myra Hindley – who was serving a life sentence for serial child murder until her death in 2002 – as part of the promotion! You can read the full story on the BBC website.

Whoever did that is just further proof of the plummeting intelligence levels we have to put up with in the UK these days. How stupid could someone possibly be to even think of doing this?

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I have a pupil who is taking a long time to grasp certain aspects of driving. She’s been having particular problems with road markings, road signs and signals, and roundabouts – in spite of having done well in excess of 50 hours training between me and her previous instructor. Well, we went out yesterday and dealt with some of the biggest roundabouts in this area and I think she’s got it at last!

Admittedly she still sometimes over-reacts to the red light (slamming the brakes on) and not the green arrow saying she can go when she comes up to those phased light signals. She just seems to see things differently to everyone else. But the signs are good for the future.

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