Diary Of An ADI

A Driving Instructor's Blog

Originally posted in 2009. Updated annually, so here’s the 2020 version. It’s the end of December, we had a few flakes of snow in a few places, the papers are full of photographs of people’s dogs in snow, and children sledging on a combination of mud and 1mm of sleet, and dire warnings about the coldest winter since 10,000 BC (the last Ice Age). Same as every year.

Further to a post about cancelled lessons due to weather, I noticed on one forum a couple of years ago someone getting all excited about how there might be a market for specialised snow lessons at premium prices. As of October 2018 (and it hasn’t got even close to snowing yet), some instructors are already going on about not doing lessons.Snow on road scene 1

Let’s have a reality check here.

Until February 2009, it hadn’t snowed to any appreciable extent in the UK for around 26 years! We had two bad winters, but since then they have been relatively mild ones with almost no snow. Even when we get a little of the white stuff it is usually gone inside a week or two at most. Snow – and especially in the UK – is usually extremely localised. The media talks it up so it sounds like the whole country is blanketed in a metre of the stuff, especially if a few wet flakes fall in London. This  is enough to have people cutting down each others trees for their yuppie wood-fired stoves, and panic buying Evian at the local Waitrose. It can keep the BBC news bulletins going for days at a time.

Every year, the incompetence and bureaucracy at local councils typically means that every time there is any bad weather, it’s like they’ve never experienced it before. This – and the media hyping it to death – makes things seem a lot worse than they really are. Having a ‘specialised snow Instructor, in the UK (especially in England) would be like having a fleet of icebreakers sailing the Mediterranean: bloody stupid!

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Back here on Planet Earth, I will carry on doing things the way I always have done: use whatever weather comes to hand as a teaching opportunity if it is appropriate, and charging normal lesson rates for it.

One bit of advice. Make sure you have the right mixture in your wash bottle, and a scraper for removing any frost or snow. A further bit of advice. Never, ever, ever be tempted to buy a metal-bladed ice scraper. Always plastic. Trust me, I’ve tested metal ones for you, and you are welcome. Don’t use metal.

Will my driving lessons be cancelled due to snow?

It depends on how much of it 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 a lot of sense to do them if you can to get valuable experience. But beginners perhaps shouldn’t because it’s just too dangerous for them. It’s your instructor’s decision, even if you want to do it.Snow on road scene 2

Do driving lessons get cancelled when there is snow?

Yes. It depends on how much snow and how advanced you are as a learner driver. If your instructor cancels then you should not get charged. If you are, find another instructor quickly.

If the police are advising people not to travel unless it’s essential, having a driving lesson in those conditions is a bad idea. That’s when they’re likely to be cancelled.

Also bear in mind that it doesn’t matter if you’re learning with the AA, BSM, Bill Plant, or any other driving school. The decision is down to your instructor based on the weather in your area.

Will my instructor tell me if my lesson is cancelled?

Yes. If he or she doesn’t (or just doesn’t turn up without telling you), find another. But why take the chance? Just call or text him and ask.

My instructor says he isn’t insured for icy weather

Someone found the blog on that search term (February 2018). I’m telling you in the most absolute terms possible that this is utter nonsense. I have never heard of insurance which says you can’t drive in certain weather, and especially not driving instructor insurance. If anyone tells you this, find another instructor quickly.

Do [driving school name] cancel lessons due to bad weather?

Cancelling lessons due to bad weather is down to the instructor and not the driving school they represent. So it doesn’t matter which school you are with. But yes, lessons can be cancelled for bad weather.

Any decent instructor might cancel lessons due to too much snow – either falling, or on the ground – making driving dangerous. They might also cancel due to thick fog, strong winds, and heavy rain/flooding. The decision lies solely with the instructor. If you disagree with their decision, find another one.

Will I have to pay for my lesson if it’s cancelled due to snow?

There is no specific law which says your instructor can’t charge you, but if he or she does it goes against all the principles of Common Decency. You should not be charged for bad weather cancellations initiated by your instructor. If you are, find another instructor as soon as possible.

However, if it’s you who wants to cancel, but your instructor wants to go ahead with the lesson, it’s a little more tricky. You being nervous is not the same as it being genuinely too dangerous. I had someone once who would try to cancel for light rain, bright sun, mist, and wind when she didn’t feel like driving. You’ll need to sort this out yourself, but as in all other cases, if you’re not happy just find a different instructor – being aware that if the problem is you, the issues won’t go away.

I want to do the lesson, but my instructor said no

You need to be realistic about the conditions. Just because your test is coming up, for example, and you don’t want to have to move it doesn’t alter the fact that the weather might just be too dangerous to drive in on the day of the lesson. When I cancel lessons in snow it’s usually with my newer pupils who I know can panic and brake too hard. On the other hand, if the police are advising against travel, or if the roads are at a standstill, I will cancel a lesson no matter who it is.Snow on road scene 3

As an example, one day in 2016 it began snowing heavily about 30 minutes before I was due to pick someone up late one morning. The roads quickly got covered and traffic began to slow down. His house was on a slope, and it was clearly becoming difficult to drive without slipping. I made a choice there and then to cancel the lesson. The snow lasted for about as long as his lesson would have, but was gone by the afternoon. Cancelling was the right decision.

Do lessons in snow cost more?

No. If you’re charged extra for normal driving lessons in snow, find another instructor immediately.

I’m worried about driving lessons in snow

Don’t be. You’re going to have to do it when you’ve passed, and it makes sense to learn how to do it now while you have the chance. A lot of people never see snow until they’ve passed their tests, then they don’t know what to do and end up crashing, like the red car in the picture above.

You should never drive in snow

That’s total rubbish. Unless the advice is ‘not to travel unless it is absolutely necessary’, doing lessons on snow or ice is extremely useful for when you pass. Partially melted snow is ideal for doing ‘snow lessons’ if you have the right instructor. The one thing you do need is to make sure you are suitably equipped in case you get caught out. A scraper, de-icer, the right liquid in your wash bottle – and perhaps a pair of snow socks.

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Do YOU do lessons in snow?

Generally speaking, yes – as long as I feel it is safe to do so, and unless the advice is ‘not to travel unless it is absolutely necessary’. I do not do lessons in snow because I am desperate for the money – I will happily cancel if I believe it is too dangerous. And sometimes it is.

Why do YOU do lessons in snow?

Several years ago we had two winters where it snowed properly for the first time in around 26 years. I had not experienced it as an instructor before, and I cancelled a lot of lessons. After several weeks I realised I was being over-cautious. It was one of those head-slapping moments, and I recognised that I could actually use the snow as a teaching aid. Not with the beginners or nervous ones, but the more advanced ones definitely.

Snow - bad enough to cancel or not?Basically, if the snow is melting and main roads are clear, there’s no reason not to do lessons. We can dip into some quiet roads and look at how easy it is to skid. If the snow is still falling and main roads are affected by lying snow, then doing lessons carries a much greater risk. A bit of common sense tells you what you can and can’t get away with.

I can state with absolute certainty that every single pupil has benefitted from driving lessons on snow if the chance has arisen for them.

Will my driving test be cancelled due to snow?

It is very likely. You need to phone up the test centre on the day using the number on your email confirmation and check. Otherwise, you must turn up – even if they cancel it at the last minute. If you don’t, you’ll probably lose your test fee – or end up having a drawn-out argument over it. Make life simple and follow the guidelines.

At one time, tests wouldn’t go out if there was any snow at all in Nottingham. In February 2018 during the visitation by ‘The Beast from the East’ (aka the ‘Kitten in Britain’), I had an early morning test go out with substantial snow on the side roads, repeated snow showers, and a temperature of -4°C showing on my car display. My wiper blade rubbers were solid, and making that horrible sound when they bounce instead of glide. I was amazed (but the pupil passed anyway). You can never be certain, but be prepared.

If my test is cancelled, will I have to pay for another?

No. They will send you a new date within a few days (or you can phone them or look it up online). And it will not count as one of your six ‘lives’ for moving your test.

Can I claim for out of pocket expenses if my test is cancelled?

No. Neither you, nor your instructor, can claim any money back. And you shouldn’t be charged for your lesson or car hire that day.Snow on road scene 4

Will snow stop a driving test?

YES. Snow can easily stop a test, or prevent it from going ahead. It doesn’t matter how you phrase the question, or who you ask, if there is snow then the test could easily be affected. They tell you all this when you book it.

Driving tests cancelled due to snow 2015 (or 2016, or 2017, or 2018, etc.)

It doesn’t matter if it’s 1818, 1918, 2018, or any other date. If there is snow on the roads and/or it is icy then your test may well be cancelled. It doesn’t matter what you, your instructor, or your mum or dad says. It is up to the test centre to decide.

Why was my driving test cancelled because it snowed?

Driving in snow is potentially dangerous even for experienced drivers. The side streets will likely be covered in sheet ice and compacted snow and you will skid if you even drive carefully on them. You could easily lose control. That’s why there are so many accidents in snow and icy conditions. You are a new driver and you probably haven’t driven on snow before. DVSA cannot take the risk, and you have to accept it.

PHONE YOUR TEST CENTRE TO FIND OUT IF TESTS ARE CANCELLED AT THAT TEST CENTRE BEFORE YOU SET OFF – YOU WON’T FIND THE ANSWER GOOGLING FOR IT. DECISIONS ARE MADE MINUTE-TO-MINUTE AND YOU CAN ONLY FIND OUT BY CALLING THEM.

In the past, I have had 8.10am tests booked in the middle of winter and sometimes I know for a fact that when I pick the pupil up at 6.30am the conditions are so bad the test is going to be cancelled. But until the examiners get in just before 8am there is no way of checking. That’s why I advise against my pupils booking early tests in winter – cancellations are far more likely when it is cold and icy, and it is more likely to be cold and icy (and foggy) first thing in the morning before the sun has come up properly.

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Virus imageAnd as if that previous story didn’t illustrate why we so urgently need to get the vaccine out without having morons involved in the distribution, I saw this on the MSN Newsfeed just now. It’s titled ‘Unbelievably long queue for butcher winds around London street’.

The interesting part is how London – which has just gone into Tier 4 and has the new COVID variant circulating – has so many people in close proximity to each other not wearing masks.

In fact, around 90% of them aren’t.

They are why we have a problem. And they exist in great numbers.

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COVID VaccineYou couldn’t make this up. Not content with the ridiculously slow rollout of the COVID vaccine, or giving it to celebrities first when there are people far more in need of it, or throwing bits away (same article) which amount to almost a sixth more availability if they didn’t, some twat has now caused 1,000 doses of it to have to be thrown away.

The vaccine was sent to a GP surgery in Macclesfield, but for reasons which haven’t been made fully clear, a ‘refrigeration issue’ made it unusable.

The thing is, the vaccine can be used for up to 5 days when stored between 2°C and 8°C, and the fact it had to be disposed of suggests that even this wasn’t adhered to.

Whoever is responsible for this should be sacked. And someone is responsible,

A spokesman for NHS Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group said: ‘This temporary issue is being resolved…’

No it isn’t. We don’t have enough vaccine to go around in the first place, and it is is exactly what it looks like. A full thousand doses have been wasted because of someone’s complete and utter incompetence. It can never be ‘resolved’.

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Rosalind Knight in Carry OnNot necessarily a name on everyone’s lips, but Rosalind Knight – whom I remember from school holidays watching St Trinians and the old Carry On films – has died at the age of 87 (I have all the Carry On films on DVD).

She played parts in a lot of 50s and 60s British films, and she was Bella Cresswell in the Only Fools And Horses Episode ‘The Jolly Boys Outing’.

RIP, Rosalind. And thanks for the memories.

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DVSA logoSocial media has been in meltdown all day because of the usual idiots and their ‘can we work or can’t we work’ nonsense. The answer was obvious to anyone smarter than a chimp, but DVSA has now confirmed it in an email for those who weren’t.

Driving lessons

The Government has confirmed that driving lessons must not take place in areas in Tier 4 from 20 December until the restrictions are lifted.

Driving tests

The Government has also confirmed that all car driving tests will be suspended in areas in Tier 4 from 20 December until the restrictions are lifted. This includes ADI part 2 and 3 tests and standards checks.

There’s more detail, so click the link.

My only concern is that this should also apply to Tier 3 right now. I mean, let’s face facts here. We have the new variant spreading like wildfire, people who will ignore the restrictions in place over Christmas… we’re going to Tier 4 whether we like it or not.

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Silicone Nose BridgeYou have to laugh. Right from the start of the pandemic – with the requirement to wear a mask (unless you are a twat or genuinely exempt) – glasses steaming up has been a problem. If you go by social media, anything from washing up liquid, through squirrel pee, shaving foam, all the way up to 20ml bottles of over-priced chemicals is the way forward.

The bottom line is that your glasses – in my case, sunglasses – steam up because the mask directs warm and moist air up into the lenses.

Sometimes, the solution doesn’t lie with trying to stop basic physics (moisture condensing on glass). It lies with basic physics not being involved in the first place (keep the moisture away from the glass). And these things are the answer.

I bought some and they work perfectly. You just put one over your nose, put the mask on top, and the moist air goes out the side and not the top. The fact that they’re re-usable and cost as little as £5 for a pack of ten of them makes them a much better solution than bottles of Magic Liquid that you’re going to keep wiping off and use up in a week.

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Notts COVID Cases (EZGIF Creator)Well, we have a vaccine, but we’re not out of the woods yet. We’re close, but not in time to ‘save Christmas’.

Actually, people are pissing me off more and more all the time. There are still those who believe it is all a hoax, closely followed by those who believe we should ‘just get on with life’ as if the virus didn’t exist. Many refuse to wear masks, and many refuse to comply with any restrictions. And the media encourages them.

My local newspaper keeps publishing ‘updates’ on cases in the Nottinghamshire area, and these frequently contradict each other depending on whether they are reporting daily or weekly figures, or if they publish them just after a government announcement. The real problem – apart from the obvious fact the journalists who write the articles clearly don’t understand what they are saying – is the nutjobs who read it and then comment on it, because they mainly consist of the anti-vaxxers and deniers.

The animated GIF at the top of this article shows how cases have varied between the beginning of October and last week across Nottinghamshire. Each frame represents the one-week rolling average taken from the Government website interactive map, The white areas are labelled as ‘suppressed’ on the Government website – which could mean anything from ‘not measured’ to ‘deliberately withheld’ (and given that the white areas exist from as recently as December, and in some cases relate to areas desperate to get out of Tier 3, that latter possibility isn’t as unlikely as it might seem).

There is no pattern whatsoever. It’s like a kaleidoscope. And yet the aforementioned nutjobs immediately see any of the paler areas (including the white in some cases) as justification for opening up and carrying on as normal, egged on by the newspaper in question trumpeting loudly at any low figures after a period of high.

The simple fact is that you can be pale green one week and purple the next,

The other annoying detail is the vaccine rollout. I said we had one at the start, but I am suspicious. You see, my mum and dad are 84 and 92, respectively. Both have COPD, and they are therefore in the higher risk categories. I came across this Vaccine Queue Calculator today, and ran both my parents’ details through it. It suggests they will be vaccinated between 22 December and 18 January. I’d not have any major issue with that a) if it turns out to be accurate; and b) if it wasn’t for the fact that the BBC was trumpeting about how Prue Leith had been vaccinated earlier this week.

I have no issue with Ms Leith being vaccinated and wish her well, but I cannot understand how or why she has been done so soon. She’s ‘only’ 80 and she is working normally – which suggests no earth-shattering underlying health issues that no one knows about. She’s also pictured queuing and walking into the clinic normally, and I can assure you neither of my parents could do that – even if they’d been asked to do so. There are people who are considerably higher in the Priority Groups who haven’t been contacted yet – this 108 year-old lady only got it today (yes, she’s in Wales and not London, but it’s still odd).

Having my parents done is all the more important, since I’m not due until March next year – whether I have an underlying health condition or not!

Then there was a story which suggests we might be throwing vaccine away. The US has scrapped an order whereby one sixth of the vaccine was being discarded, saying it was a ‘labelling error’. From what I can gather, each vial contains a clear 5 injections-worth, plus a bit extra to make sure that can be achieved. It’s the ‘bits extra’ that are being discarded. The reasons why this was happening are quite complex if you’ve ever worked in the industry, but they are primarily bureaucratic in nature (unless you ask a pharmacist).

There is no reason whatsoever – other than bureaucracy – why the extra bits can’t be combined and used. That’s what this story is detailing. Fortunately it is pharmacists and GPs who are advocating it, so a lot of the potential bureaucracy is stripped away. But it raises the question of what the UK has been doing, and indeed it would appear that some vaccine has been wasted. It is likely it still is.

Pfizer has said:

At this time, we cannot provide a recommendation on the use of the remaining amount of vaccine from each vial; this is a matter for regulators to advise on. Excess vaccine from multiple vials must never be pooled.

If it’s from the same batch there is no solid reason why it cannot be pooled. Even if it’s different batches there’s still not much reason (unless you speak to a GP or pharmacist before they thought of it first).

As a result of the aforementioned nutjobs, we need the vaccine quickly. No wastage, and no f***ing about giving it to celebrities first. Just get it out so we are safe from the idiots. Christ, I’ve got until March to have to dodge them. Then, you won’t have stories like this.

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Black Star RidersI saw this article today on the BBC website. Nottingham’s Rock City has turned 40.

Steel Panther (one gig)They’ve been shut down throughout the pandemic, and I’ve been worried they might not survive. It’d be a disaster if they closed for good.

The StranglersIt’s a brilliant venue. I must admit that some of the bands that play there aren’t my cup of tea, but the rock bands certainly are.

Sparks

Sometimes it’s a case of seeing them before they sell out to pop or rap. Other times, it’s a blast from the past, with bands you maybe grew up with and who are still going strong.

Brothers OsborneThen you get the genuine new bands who are good at what they do. In many cases, they’re big in America, but not so well known here.

HaimThen come the ones who are big here, but not as much so in the rest of the world.

Steel Panther (another time)And then there are the cult bands which most people have never heard of, but who have a huge following meaning they sell out unless you get in quick.

The Darkness - 1I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been now. Sometimes it averages once a month, and I’ve been doing that for many years.

The Cadillac ThreeThis year is one that will go down in infamy for the obvious reasons, but the future is looking a little brighter now as far as the pandemic is concerned.

The Darkness - 2

So here’s looking forward to Rock City’s next 40 years!

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COVID imageA potential COVID vaccine in Queensland, Australia, has been kicked out because… trial participants gave false positive test results for HIV – even though the trial coordinators had already suggested participants might produce antibodies that would do this.

You can only wonder if they’d have kicked it out for lower profile false positives. For flu, for example. Or Chickenpox. Or if it was more effective in men.

Just imagine. You might eventually have had a vaccine which was 100% effective against COVID. But because it gives a false positive for HIV – an automatic trigger for stupidity in the modern world – in the early stage trials, it is automatically designated 0% effective.

This world is mad. Really, it is.

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