Diary Of An ADI

A Driving Instructor's Blog

Chavs from Bulwell this time. Standard behaviour on the Nuthall roundabout.

The pupil was just driving home, and roundabouts are one of his current worries. Everything going smoothly, then these prats appear – at speed, in the wrong lane, across three lanes of traffic, and then they’re in the wrong lane anyway and cut across again at speed and head off the way we were going. Registration number MW16 ZUD.

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And another one from last week. Heaven only knows what was going through their tiny minds.

In this case, it was a relatively new pupil who can also be a little jumpy. She wanted to be dropped off in the city centre, and at that time in the evening it is pretty quiet. The Mercedes (reg. no. FP20 JDZ) just stopped inexplicably at green traffic lights, and didn’t move even with us coming up behind. They weren’t even aware we were there until I sounded the horn.

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And a couple of weeks ago, this one. Another elderly driver, though that’s not why I am posting these.

The pupil in question on this one is quite jumpy, and he just about shit himself when this happened. Then I just about shit myself when I saw a 3.5 tonne truck behind us slam his brakes on at the last moment.

Once more, the driver who emerged – and I couldn’t quite see his registration on the video, but it was FH14-something – likely has a clean driving licence, and would use that as evidence he wasn’t a danger on the roads. But he is a danger.

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Sometimes, the message that you should hang up your driving keys is loud and clear. You just don’t hear it.

This happened on a lesson last week (it was an elderly driver). Click the video to start it. As the clip opens, note the dark red car (YG65 FPT) in the left hand lane on the roundabout in the distance. He’s all but committed to taking the exit, but decides at the last minute to cut across firstly two lanes of traffic, and then across another once he’s managed it in order to take a different exit. I knew he was going to pull in front of us, which is why we made no attempt to go past in our lane. Then, for reasons best known to him, he stopped at green traffic lights with traffic going past on all sides. Finally, he decides to move back over into the left lane. He remembered he had indicators for that one.

There is another roundabout about 200m further along where he was originally heading, where he could safely have doubled back if he’d gone the wrong way.

Ironically, he probably has a clean driving licence, and uses that to argue his age group shouldn’t be questioned over their driving ability.

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DVSA LogoThis is an old article which was updated several times over the years to maintain a link to an up to date DL25 – which was the name of the form used to record the result of a driving test. However, since November 2019, DVSA has switched to using an electronic version of the DL25 via iPads during the test. There is no longer a paper record created at the end of the test. And I have since discovered that as of April 2021 (and apologies if the link has been broken longer than that), DVSA no longer provides the DL25 for download. I guess it makes sense that they don’t, since it is now obsolete and would not reflect any changes to the test going forward.

What happens now is that the candidate is told whether they passed or failed, a debrief is given the same way it always has been (referring to the faults displayed on the iPad), and a copy of this same results list is emailed to the address given when the test was booked.

It’s a straightforward exercise getting the pupil to email or text you a copy if you really need it. Quite frankly, in most cases you don’t – you can refer to the pupil’s copy the next time you see them, and you’ll already be aware of what they failed for by listening to the debrief.

However, right now having a copy of the old DL25 is useful when conducting lessons – especially for new instructors. The test is still marked pretty much the same as it ever was (at the moment), it’s just reported differently. And the test report (explanations of what is expected) is useful to anyone learning to drive.

Here is a PDF file of the last DL25 form that I had. Note that some of the pages were for examiners’ internal use, and are not relevant to pupils.

The test report is explained in detail in this article (and note that DVSA has recently updated its own guidance on the test result/report as of May 2021, and this supersedes any articles concerning the DL25 in paper form).

Can instructors use an iPad when doing mock tests?

The short – and correct – answer is no, they cannot. There’s no point arguing about it: you can’t.

When a candidate is on their test, they are not classed as a learner driver. Therefore, the examiner is not the supervising driver. That is why the examiner is not breaking the Law by filling in an iPad form.

However, when they are on lessons, pupils are still learners, and that means the instructor is the supervising driver. It is illegal for whoever is in overall control of the car to use a handheld device while the car is moving (or if the engine is on, even if you’re stationary, if you’re going by the letter of the Law),

Personally, I have never understood the fascination many ADIs have with ‘mock tests’. The only test that matters is the real one – because it is conducted by someone who is specifically trained and authorised to administer them. Anything else is just play-acting and the outcome is pointless. This is even more true when the test conductor insists on dressing up in hi-vis jackets and farting about with a clip board. In these situations, they’re not examiners – they are still the supervising driver. And the pupil knows it is you, and not an examiner, so the perceived benefit of generating ‘the test situation’ is moot.

Having seen many paperless tests in action (i.e. no big deal at all), I can assure you that filling in a DL25 by hand on your mock-test pantomime sessions instead of on an iPad is not going to ruin the impression anyone has of you.

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DVSA logoThis was originally published way back when the blog was still new. It has been updated several times since.

As of 2019, DVSA no longer uses a paper test report (the DL25 form). It is all done using an iPad, and an email copy of the test result is sent instead. It means that there is no longer a maintained copy of the DL25 on the GOV.UK website, and that further means that there is no longer an explanatory sheet given. This article deals with that explanatory sheet when it still existed.

However, DVSA now provides an online explanation of what is required. It is effectively the old test report in a new format, and it is very informative.

The benefit of the new format is that it refers to the existing test manoeuvres, whereas the paper DL25 was never fully updated when the new manoeuvres were introduced in 2017, and so didn’t detail possible faults with those.

The original article follows.


A lot of people find this site using search terms like ‘driving test report explained’ or ‘what are S and D on the test report’. I’ve explained everything below. This is taken from the sheet you get [prior to 2019] whether you pass or fail your test, which is officially known as the DL25. The explanation sheet you receive tells you what the examiner was looking for, and why he or she marked you as they did.

I always give out copies to – or at least run through certain sections with – my pupils.

1(a). Eyesight Test

At the start of the test the examiner asked you to read a vehicle registration number. If you do not meet the eyesight standard then your test will not go ahead. If you need glasses or contact lenses to make sure you can read the number you must wear them whenever you drive or ride.

If you can’t read the number plate of a car the driving examiner (DE) chooses outside the test centre then you can’t take the test, i.e. you ‘fail’ immediately.

2. Controlled Stop

You may have been asked to show you were able to stop your vehicle in good time and under full control, as if in an emergency situation. Remember, when driving in wet or icy weather conditions, it will take you longer to stop safely.

One in every three tests gets a full-blown emergency stop, and you will need to be able to do it the way your instructor taught you. In addition, the DE will ask you to pull over and move off again several times during your test, and at least one of these may involve stopping behind another parked vehicle or obstruction, and then moving off again.

3, 4, 5 and 6 Reversing and turn in road exercises

Depending on the test you took, you may have been asked to complete one or more slow speed manoeuvring exercises. You needed to show you were able to keep control of your vehicle. This needed to be done whilst taking effective observations and acting correctly on what you saw.

This covers all of the manoeuvres, although you will only be asked to do one of them during a normal test. The manoeuvres are:

  • turn in the road (not tested since December 2017)
  • left corner reverse (not tested since December 2017)
  • right corner reverse ((not tested since December 2017)
  • stop/reverse/move away from the right (since December 2017)
  • forward bay park/reverse out (since December 2017)
  • reverse bay park
  • parallel park

It is/was very rare for someone taking the test in a car to be asked to do the right corner reverse (it is/was usually vans which get that one) – but  you could have been asked to do it (that came straight from my local test centre manager). Likewise, some test centres don’t have parking bays and therefore don’t usually ask candidates to reverse bay park, but that doesn’t mean they never will (forward bay park is done away from the test centre in a supermarket or council car park). Your instructor should have at least run through any questionable manoeuvres with you because you’ll need to know how to do them once you’re driving on your own.

For all the manoeuvres you must be in control of the car (e.g. no stalling, not too fast or too slow, and not too jumpy). You must also be safe (e.g. looking for other road users before and during movement, and dealing with them appropriately).

7. Vehicle Checks

It is important that the vehicle is in good working order before you start the engine. The examiner asked you some safety questions of a ‘show me / tell me’ nature. You needed to show a basic knowledge of the checks you should make on a regular basis. These include checks on oil and water levels and tyre pressure and tread depth.

This refers to the show-me-tell-me questions. Make sure you can answer them for the car you take your test in – for example, knowing how to check the oil using the dipstick is one thing, but being able to identify where it is another matter entirely.

Note that from 4 December 2017 one of the questions will be asked while you are actually driving. I’ll update this article nearer the time.

11 Precautions

These checks are simple but important. Before you started the engine, you needed to make sure that your seat was adjusted correctly to allow you to reach all your driving controls with ease. This is because an incorrect seat position can affect your ability to take observations and keep proper control of the vehicle.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a pupil who was asked to go through the cockpit drill on their test. However, I have heard stories of candidates being asked to do it, so make sure you know how to adjust your seat and mirrors properly.

12 Control

Throughout the test you needed to show you can use all the controls smoothly and at the correct time. This means less wear and tear on your vehicle and a smoother ride for your passengers.

This covers use of the clutch, brake, and gas pedals as well as the steering and other controls. Make sure you can use them properly.

13 Move off

You needed to show that you can move away on the level, on a slope and at an angle safely, under full control, taking effective observation. Move off only when it is safe to do so.

This covers moving off in control (e.g. without stalling) and safely (e.g. looking all around, including your blind spots, and signalling if necessary). Examiners tend to be quite relaxed about signalling when it isn’t strictly necessary, but they will pick up on not checking your mirrors and blind spots – so even if you signal correctly, if you don’t check properly you could be faulted for it. This is a common cause of failing the test.

14 Use of mirrors – rear observation

You should have used the mirrors safely and effectively acting correctly upon what you saw. Where mirrors are not enough, for example to cover ‘blind spots’, then you must take effective rear observation. You must always check this carefully before signalling, changing direction or changing speed. You needed to demonstrate you can use the Mirror – Signal – Manoeuvre (MSM) routine effectively.

This relates to using the mirror-signal-manoeuvre (MSM) routine properly in all situations. It is another common reason for failing your test – particularly if you encroach on the lane next to you at multi-lane junctions and on roundabouts.

Check your mirrors (and blind spots, if relevant) before you change lanes or position (e.g. when passing parked cars or other obstructions). Make sure you look properly and don’t just go through a robotic routine – it is surprising how many times I see learners apparently look somewhere and yet fail to actually see the lorry or car coming straight towards us.

15 Signals

You should only use the signals shown in the Highway Code. On test you should have signalled clearly to let others know what you intend to do. This is particularly important if it would help other road users or pedestrians. You should have always signalled in good time and ensured that the signal had been switched off after the manoeuvre had been completed. You should not beckon to pedestrians to cross the road.

Forgetting to signal is a common fault – especially during the independent driving section of the test. Forgetting to cancel a signal is also common. Make sure you don’t signal too early or too late, and don’t signal to overtake every obstruction.

16 Clearance

You should have given parked vehicles and other obstructions enough space to pass safely. You needed to watch out for changing situations such as pedestrians walking out from between parked cars, doors opening and vehicles trying to move off. You should have been prepared to slow down or stop if needed.

Although it seems to vary depending on where you are, most DEs are very strict when it comes to passing parked vehicles. One common problem is when the candidate slows down for an obstruction on their side to let an oncoming vehicle through, and gets too close to the obstruction. As they steer out they often “shave” the obstruction (i.e. get close to it). Going too fast for the situation is also marked quite harshly.

Response to signs and signals

You needed to show that you can react correctly to all traffic signs, road markings, traffic lights and pedestrian crossings. You should have obeyed signals given by police officers, traffic wardens, Highways Agency officers and school crossing patrols. You should watch out for signals given by other road users and carry on only when you are happy it is safe.

Be ready for traffic lights changing if they have been on one phase for a long time (going through an amber when there was time to stop is a common fault). Watch out for pedestrian crossings, and look for pedestrians standing near them – they will have pushed the button, so the lights could change at any moment. Look for school crossing patrols (be aware of the time of day), and don’t miss speed limit changes or other relevant signs. Read the road ahead by seeing what is happening and predicting what might happen next.

18 Use of speed

You should have made safe and reasonable progress along the road. You needed to keep in mind the road, traffic and weather conditions, road signs and speed limits. You needed to show confidence based on sound judgement. Remember, at all times you should have been able to stop within the distance you can see to be clear.

Don’t go too fast, and don’t go too slow. Don’t take chances. Plan ahead.

19. Following distance

You should have always kept a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front. You should be able to stop safely, well within the distance you can see to be clear. You should leave extra distance in wet or slippery conditions. Leave enough space when you are stopped in traffic queues.

A lot of people are caught out by getting too close to the car in front – either when driving or when stopping at lights.

20. Maintain progress

On test you needed to show that you can drive at a realistic speed appropriate to the road and traffic conditions. You needed to approach all hazards at a safe, controlled speed, without being over cautious or slowing or stopping other road users. You should always be ready to move away from junctions as soon as it is safe and correct to do so. Driving too slowly can frustrate other drivers which creates danger for yourself and others.

I once had a pupil who was a great driver, but who collapsed mentally whenever she took her test. One day, just as we were going off to a test, her mum came out to give her a pep talk: ‘Now don’t forget what we told you, Jane. Drive everywhere slowly’. I could have screamed. Less than 90 seconds after driving away she tried to merge with a busy 50mph dual carriageway (where most people do 60mph) at just under 30mph!

Don’t hold other people up, and don’t drive differently to the way you do on your lessons.

21. Junctions including roundabouts

The examiner would have looked for correct use of the Mirror – Signal – Manoeuvre MSM procedure. The examiner was also looking for correct positioning and approach speed at junctions and roundabouts. This is because these skills are essential for dealing with these hazards safely. Turning right across busy roads/dual carriageways is particularly dangerous. To drive safely and pass your test you must be confident that you can judge the speed and distance of oncoming traffic safely. You also need to look out for other road users emerging and turning at junctions and be ready to alter your course or stop. Be extra watchful in poor light or bad weather conditions for the more vulnerable road user, such as cyclists and motorcyclists.

This is self-explanatory. Inappropriate speed is the learner driver’s worst enemy in many situations – if you can’t do the damned things at the best of times, why should attempting a junction at Mach 3 make it go any better? Think and plan ahead – and make sure you know how to handle situations in the first place before you take your test.

22. Judgement

Your examiner will have assessed your judgment skills throughout the test. You will have needed to show sound judgment when overtaking, meeting or crossing the path of other road users. You should have only done this when it was safe and legal. You should have made your intentions clear and been sure that you understood the intentions of other road users.

Again, speed comes into this for many learners. If you see a car coming towards you and there is a narrow gap that only one of you can get through, do not try and plough through – even if you technically have right of way (i.e. the obstruction is on the other side of the road). The Golden Rule as far as I’m concerned is don’t trust anyone else out there (and especially not if you’re in a car with L plates on it). Check your mirrors, slow down, and watch the other driver carefully… and remember that for most people who mess this up, it isn’t that they have deliberately decided to take the other car on – it’s just that they haven’t thought anything at all!

23. Positioning

You should have positioned your car in a safe position; normally this would be keeping well to the left of the road. You needed to keep clear of parked vehicles and be positioned correctly for the direction that you intend to take. You needed to look for and be guided by road signs and markings. Other road users may judge your intentions by where you are positioned so be aware of where you are at all times.

Don’t weave all over the road, and stay in lane (unless you are deliberately changing lanes for some reason). And watch the kerb, especially on bends (and when looking at the speedometer, and when checking mirrors, and when changing gear, and… you get the idea). Don’t get distracted by looking at or dealing with one thing for too long.

24. Pedestrian crossings

You should have been able to identify the different types of pedestrian crossing and take the correct action. You needed to monitor your speed and time your approach to crossings so that you can stop safely if you need to do so. You should have paid
particular attention where crossings were partly hidden by queuing or parked vehicles. You should also show consideration for elderly or infirm pedestrians who are trying to cross the road.

Self-explanatory. Look and plan well ahead and watch for pedestrians pushing buttons.

25 Position / normal stops

You should have chosen a safe, legal and convenient place to stop, close to the edge of the road, where you will not block the road and create a hazard. You should know how and where to stop without causing inconvenience or danger to other road users.

Self-explanatory. Don’t stop in driveways, opposite junctions, too far from the kerb, and so on. The examiner will ask you to pull over and drive off again several times, and they will be looking for mirror checks, signals, and your choice of location.

26. Awareness and planning

You must be aware of other road users at all times. Your examiner is looking to see that you plan ahead to judge what other road users are going to do. This will allow you to predict how their actions will affect you and react in good time. You needed to anticipate road and traffic conditions, and act in good time, rather than reacting to them at the last moment. You should have taken particular care to consider the actions of the more vulnerable groups of road users such as pedestrians, cyclists, other motorcyclists and horse riders.

Look and plan ahead and always assume the worst. Cyclists in particular are likely to change position or direction without warning.

27. Ancillary controls

You needed to show that you can operate all of your vehicle’s controls safely and effectively. The examiner was looking to see that whilst on the move you kept proper control of your vehicle whilst using secondary controls. These include demisters, heating controls, indicators and windscreen wipers.

If it rains, make sure you know how to use the wipers and washers. If it’s cold, make sure you know how to demist the windows inside. If it gets dark, make sure you know how (and when) to turn on the lights.

Eco Safe Driving

You should drive in an ‘eco friendly manner’, considering your impact on the environment. Plan well ahead and choose appropriate gears, avoid heavy braking and over revving of the engine, particularly when stopped or moving off. If you have to stop for a long period such as at road works or railway crossings, consider stopping the engine to reduce pollution and save fuel. The examiner will assess this on your test; however this assessment will not affect the overall result of the test. If there are areas that need improvement you will receive appropriate feedback at the end of the test.

As it says, you can’t fail for this (not yet, anyway), but driving in an eco-friendly way will save you money in the long run.

So how does the examiner mark you? If you look at the driving test report itself, you can see columns with ‘S’ and ‘D’ over them – that’s for ‘serious’ and ‘dangerous’ faults (often referred to as ‘major’ faults), and you are not allowed to get any of those (you’ll notice that the eyesight check only has a box under ‘S’ – if you can’t read the number plate the DE points out to you then the test doesn’t go ahead and you effectively fail there and then).

You can get up to 15 driver faults (often called ‘minors’) and still pass – but you need to understand that there is no way any DE is going to let someone get all 15 in a single category. So if you stall the car once when moving off, you might get a single driver fault. Do it two or three times when you move off and you are sailing close to the wind. Do it more times than that and it will more than likely become a ‘serious’. However, it is quite possible to stall just once – in the wrong place at the wrong time – and end up with a ‘serious’ or ‘dangerous’ fault for it. Likewise, you could stall several times, each time in a different situation, and get away with much more.

What is the difference between a driver fault, a ‘serious’ fault, and a ‘dangerous’ fault? There’s no definitive answer, but an example would be moving away safely: if you don’t check over your right shoulder and no one is there (and you only do it once), that might be a driver fault. If you don’t do it and someone is coming (or if you do it repeatedly), that would be ‘serious’. And if you don’t do it but whoever is coming is close enough for you to cause a problem, that would be ‘dangerous’.

It is amazing how many people go to test without knowing the basics, and yet are fully clued up on how many faults they can ‘get away’ with! Don’t rush going to test. Failing is not nice. Passing first time is – and it gives you great street cred!

What do the ‘S’ and ‘D/C’ boxes mean at the top of the form?

I believe that the ‘S’ box is ticked if the car used for the test is a driving school car (as opposed to a private vehicle), and the ‘D/C’ box is ticked if the car has dual controls fitted.

What does ‘DF’ mean?

It stands for ‘driver fault’. A driver fault is what most people refer to as a ‘minor’ fault. You can get up to 15 driver faults, but no ‘serious’ (S) or ‘dangerous’ (D) faults (often referred to as ‘major’ faults).

What do ‘R’ and ‘C’ mean under Reverse Parking?

‘R’ means you did it on a road somewhere (i.e. it was a parallel park), and ‘C’ means it was done in a car park (i.e. you reversed into a bay).

Where is ‘dry steering’ marked?

It isn’t. Dry steering isn’t marked anywhere because it isn’t a fault. As long as you’re in control you can steer pretty much any way you want.

What does ETA mean?

It means ‘examiner took action’ and it can be marked under V (‘verbal’, meaning the examiner said something like ‘STOP’) or P (‘physical’, meaning the examiner used the dual controls or grabbed the steering wheel). You can assume that this is always a serious fault.

When marked – for example, if the examiner used the dual controls – many learners argue that they were ‘going to stop, but the examiner got there first’. My explanation to them is always that if the examiner had to do it, then they were too late and so they don’t have a valid argument. The examiner is not going to wait and see if you cause a pile-up before deciding you were at fault. He will let the situation go so far, then he will step in whether you like it or not.

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Pro Pod - map history viewOriginally published in 2014, but updated due to numerous recent enquiries.

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of people looking for test route information. Once upon a time, official test routes were published by DVSA (when it was still DSA) and available for download. They stopped publishing them in 2010, but that didn’t prevent people who had already downloaded them circulating them. In later years – even right now in 2021 – certain unscrupulous instructors and money-makers were even selling them at silly prices.

One major problem with test routes is that they change over time as DVSA adds new ones or removes others. They can even change on the day of the test for reasons such as roadworks or road closures. And unless they are being officially published you have no way of knowing if ones given to you are correct – or if someone has just cobbled together some old information into a crude list of road numbers and names and perhaps charged you a tenner for it. I can absolutely guarantee that many of those advertised on old-fashioned HTML websites are these original out-of-date lists. The other major problem is that deliberately trying to teach just test routes doesn’t get better pass results, but it does produce less able drivers.

You don’t really need to know the precise test routes used. All you need is a general awareness of key features where pupils might have problems.

It isn’t difficult to work out where the examiners go on driving tests, even without using technology. They’re never going to travel more than about 20 minutes away from the test centre in any direction, so all the roads leading to the test centre are going to be involved (minus motorways in most cases). If you know the examiners to look at, you’ll see them from time to time during your lessons, so you now know they use that road or location. You can also ask your pupils where they went after their tests, and although this can produce more confusion than it does answers, you might be able to extract a bit of useful information. The examiner will often give you some details in the debrief, especially where faults were committed. And finally, you can sit in on tests (when there isn’t a pandemic) and actually watch where they go. You can quickly work out which specific areas to concentrate on by putting all of this together into your lesson plans.

The best way, though, is to use some sort of tracking device, which logs the precise route taken by the car. These days, most satnavs have a feature which allows you to do this. Personally, I don’t like that method because it tends to be tied in with the satnav software, be satnav-specific, and it can be a right pain trying to download it and manipulate it on standard mapping software. The other problem is that you’re unlikely to be able to leave it running while someone is out on test, because the examiner will be using theirs, and thinking back to my old satnav years ago, it didn’t always get a signal if it wasn’t stuck on the windscreen. I’m not saying they’re like that now, but they are designed to be used in that position – and not in the glove box. And the other weakness is that the satnav is the recorder, so you have to wait until the test is over and you can grab it before you know where it went.

Dashcams are another way. The better ones also record GPS data, though often – like satnavs – you can only manipulate this within the camera manufacturer’s specific software. And again, you only get to see it after the event.

A third option is to use one of any number of apps for smartphones. These log routes in a format that mapping software understands. I’ve tried them, and they do work – with a few limitations. Firstly, you would need to leave your phone in the car when it went out on a test, meaning you’d be phoneless for the duration. A spare phone would work, but obviously this feature uses data, so you’d need a separate phone account. And when I tried them, the free versions of apps tended to be restricted to sample rates of 20-30 seconds – and that could mean a route through a junction and roundabout system might show as a straight line across a field or lake. If you wanted a 5 second sampling rate, you had to subscribe.Pro Pod - Hybrid map and satellite history view

My solution was to use a dedicated tracker. I use a ProPod tracker from Trackershop. It’s a small device the size of a matchbox, which I keep in the car. The main feature for me, apart from logging accurate position and even postal locations, is that it broadcasts its location in real-time. This means that at the test centre, I can watch the car moving on a map overlay (either on my laptop or the Trackershop app on my phone). It also means that if a test were abandoned for some reason – and that hasn’t happened yet – I’d know exactly where to go to find my car and pupil.

The picture at the top of this article shows an old test route for Chilwell Test Centre (click on the image for a larger view). This is my tracker dashboard ‘history’ view, with a specific historical time period displayed (the duration of the test in question) on a map overlay. The picture just above (click it for a larger image) is the same route with the satellite view enabled. You can zoom in almost to the level where pedestrians would be visible.

The Trackershop cloud service keeps journey history permanently (as long as you have an active account), and you can download and edit data as necessary whenever you feel like it – you just need to to know the date and time of a past test, for example, then go and find that route in your dashboard. As I mentioned, you can view data in real time on whatever overlay you have chosen, and watch the pointer moving every 5 seconds while your pupil is out on test – I find this useful for knowing when they are due back.

Pro Pod - KML file in Google EarthThe cloud data can be easily exported and downloaded. As well as GPS coordinates it logs times, speeds, and postal addresses for every data point. The picture above (click it for a larger image) shows the same test route displayed as a KML file rendered in Google Earth (note that I had to physically extract the GPS data to create this, but it isn’t difficult if you know what you’re doing).

As I have already indicated, you should not be doing your lessons across such precise routes. But they do give you an idea of where tests go.

Where can I download test routes?

You can’t download them from DVSA. The sites that offer them are provided by people trying to earn money from something that is otherwise simple to do yourself. Given that test routes change over time, it is probably cheaper to record your own.

Why don’t you provide your test route data?

A point of principle. DVSA stopped publishing them because instructors were trying to teach only the test routes, and I know full well that that’s why people want the information now. My logged routes are for my own use – I don’t stick to test routes on lessons and never have, but I want to know where the routes are so I can deal with any weird stuff.

Should I pay for downloadable test routes?

My advice would be no. DVSA stopped publishing them for a reason, and if someone is trying to profit from selling them then he or she is going against that. There’s a good chance you’re being sold old routes, anyway, and you would never know if they changed unless you kept on buying them every month or so.

How do I know the routes I’ve bought are correct and up to date?

You don’t, and they’re probably not. In fact, unless a local group of ADIs is giving you daily copies, they couldn’t possibly be reliable. In the worst case, they could be totally imaginary and simply cobbled together to be reasonably close to actual routes. Judging by some of the ancient-looking sites that list them, they’re quite likely to be the original ones that they stopped publishing in 2010. As I said above, routes change with time.

Is it possible to record test routes?

Yes. There are free and paid for apps available for both Android and iPhone which use GPS to record journeys. Similarly, there are numerous GPS tracker devices available which do the same (I use a Pro Pod tracker). If you use a phone app as a logger, you have to leave a phone in the car.

You can also record routes using dashcams. As well as using my tracker, I also have a dashcam recording all the time. On more than one occasion I have been able to show a pupil exactly where and why they failed, even though they had no idea what the examiner was talking about in the debrief.

Do I need to know the test routes for my test?

Absolutely not. The examiner will give you directions as necessary, or ask you to follow the satnav or road signs. However, if there are one or two awkward features – big roundabouts, steep hills, or so on – your instructor should know about them and make sure you know how to handle them well before your test.

How many test routes are there?

It varies from test centre to test centre, but there could be 10, 20, or more. When they were still published by DVSA (while it was still DSA), one Nottingham test centre had 38 if I remember correctly. You couldn’t possibly memorise all of them even if you knew them all. Being brutally honest, many learners on test might not recognise their own streets when out on test, so how can they be expected to ‘remember’ multiple routes?

Can I use my tablet to log routes?

Potentially, yes. If it has a GPS chip inside, it doesn’t necessarily need to be connected to the internet or a phone network to log GPS positional data, though it would if you wanted to use it as a satnav or monitor it in real-time. However, you’d need some software that could make use of the chip. It would also depend on your device’s specification as to how accurate the data were, but you’d still be able to get decent route maps – they just wouldn’t always be necessarily precisely lined up with the roads on maps you laid them on to. I understand they are accurate to around 6 metres or better.

From what I know of Apple iPads, only the more expensive ones with phone connectivity have GPS chips in them. The WiFi only ones don’t.

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British pound coinsA new game appeared across social media over the last year. It’s called ‘why don’t you put your prices up to £40 like me?’ Apparently, it is played every two weeks, and each round has to assume it has never been played before.

It started off fairly innocuously, but it’s turned into another tool of the mind-game brigade – these are the ones who want to sell you coaching courses so you can put your prices up, because obviously you can’t unless you pay someone some money first. The problem is, the people on the other end are often already in the group that doesn’t understand the difference between turnover and profit, the one that didn’t know there was an SEISS grant until just before Christmas, or the one that likes to collect acronyms to use in their lessons (because the more acronyms you have, the better an instructor you are, right?) Consequently, if you believed everything you read on social media, you’d be forgiven for thinking the average lesson rate throughout the country is currently somewhere between £35 and £40 per hour.

I already know what typical lesson prices are in various locations. I also know why they are higher in some very specific locations, and lower in rather more others. But I decided to do a bit of current research, and this is what I found.

I used Google Maps and searched for ‘driving schools [location]’, and then had a look at the websites that came up. I only chose the independents or small local schools I’d never heard of (I’ll mention the nationals later), and I chose as many as ten examples for each location (64 sites in total). I chose common or garden locations across England, and deliberately sought out several in what I know are affluent areas. These are the results.

Location

Range for 1 hour (£)

Range for 10x block (£)

Birmingham

23-28

22-26

Brighton

30-35

28-33

Colchester

27

26-27

Exeter

30-40

28-38.30

Leeds

25-30

25-28

Liverpool

25-30

23-28

London

15-38

23-35

Newcastle

23-28

21-25.75

Nottingham

28-31

25.50-30

Saffron Walden

24-35

23-40

Southampton

28-37

28-35

Swindon

30-34.70

28-33.50

Taunton

25-30

22-27

A few of these schools did not offer one hour lessons – it was either 90 or 120 minutes, so I adjusted the figures to get hourly rates. Some, especially around Swindon and Exeter, had extra conditions for rural locations (approximately £2 per hour greater). Many offered larger discounts for bigger block bookings (I have used the 10 hour block discount figures in all of the above).

One thing is obvious. Only a very small number of locations are charging anywhere near £40 an hour, and fewer still are offering such prices across the board. Saffron Walden came close, but one school there was genuinely advertising almost £10 per hour lower than the others. Swindon schools had the most variable charges depending on pickup location (along with Exeter).

London was interesting. Chelsea – an extremely affluent area – skewed the results significantly at the higher end. Bow, Hendon, and the eastern side had the lowest rates. Morden and the south had the highest behind Chelsea. But Chelsea aside, London was little different to most other places.

It was the south of the country where rates were highest overall. Swindon and Saffron Walden had by far the most examples of websites which wouldn’t give the prices unless you contacted them.

In all of these areas, the national schools were generally towards the higher end of the ranges.

Obviously, there are other places you could find which are affluent and where the same higher rates tend to be charged. But there are also plenty of others which mirror the lower rates. My data above is just a sample, but it is a fairly large sample which covers England fairly well, and so paints a realistic picture of what is being charged around the country. And it is nowhere near £40. Somewhere between £27 and £30 appears to be the average.

I am not criticising what anyone charges (though that school in Saffron Walden charging £10 less than everyone else is missing a trick, in my opinion). If you can charge, it, then charge it. But what I am criticising is the idiots who keep asking the damned question, and those who then throw fuel on the fire, all of them acting all smug because they live in one of the few areas where you can get away with it. It’s all very well saying ‘charge what you’re worth’, but it doesn’t work too well in places like Newcastle, where people simply can’t afford £40 lessons. And they can’t, no matter what Tarquin from Pleasant Valley (it’s in Saffron Walden) might say. North of The Thames, the average is typically closer to £30, and North of Sheffield it’s even less.

And another issue on the periphery of this is the deliberate decision to increase prices solely in order to try and make up for loss of earnings during the last 12 months. Personally, I find that rather cynical, and it is difficult to separate this from the repeated argument about £40 lessons.

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COVID virus imagePhew! That was a relief. I was worried I might not get the fourth SEISS because my 2019/20 profits were down as a result of the start of the pandemic, and it was touch and go as to whether my self-employment income amounted to more than my private pension. Fortunately, it did.

I went through the claim just after midnight, and I’ll be getting a windfall of £3,000 – which will help enormously as I gradually build back up to a decent number of hours.

It’s funny, that. I started work on the first day the lockdown was eased, but I specifically spaced lessons out so that I’d have time to sanitise the car, and kept one day free for taking the weekly Asda delivery (though I’ve started going back in over the last fortnight, and will return to a normal shopping at some stage). I didn’t try to fill each day, and if one or two were empty, no big deal. I also spaced lessons out so I could take it easy starting up again, because I knew that after a year out it might be tiring.

As it happens, it hasn’t been. It’s been fun, and I hadn’t forgotten anything. The only problem was finding out what new roads had appeared since I last went out, and which ones had either disappeared or now have roadworks on them (and Nottingham City Council decided that many roadworks should start on the same day everyone went back to work, as is their wont). But I did see that those who had tried to fill their diaries to the brim from Day One have been complaining about not enjoying it anymore (and thinking of retiring or staying in their lockdown jobs), being stressed, and being exhausted.

You only have yourselves to blame. You can’t expect to be able to run a marathon, for example, if it’s a year since you last did any jogging.

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COVID Lateral Flow Test StripAn email alert from DVSA is encouraging people to take lateral flow tests on a regular basis. I should stress that this is currently only targeted at Wales – and I have no idea why that is.

I have been ordering free test kits from the NHS, and run one twice a week. Each kit contains seven tests, and each test consists of a swab, a small pod of buffer solution, a sample tube, and a test strip/cartridge in a sealed pouch. You break the buffer pod and squeeze it into the sample tube. You open the test strip and lay it on a flat surface. Then you wipe the swab around your tonsils and up your nose. Dip the swab into the buffer for 15 seconds, squeeze it out as you remove it, and then clip the lid of the tube shut. It has a small hole in it, and you place two drops of the liquid on to the test strip. Wait 30 minutes, and your result is indicated in a window on the strip. You also get seven Ziploc disposal bags to bin everything neatly. Full instructions are provided, and there are online videos to show you how to do it.

Test kits can be ordered on the GOV.UK website. I did it on the basis that I am working with young people who might be infected. You can order one kit pack per day, and they typically arrive next day (my last one was ordered Sunday and arrived Monday). You can also collect them at various pharmacies, or get tested at a testing site.

While others can carry on arguing about whether COVID is real or not, whether it’s legal to ask people to wear masks, and threatening to appeal to the Court of Human Rights over the mere suggestion you might not be allowed to go on piss up to Magaluf unless you’ve been vaccinated or can prove a negative test result, I will carry on taking it seriously and trying to stop anyone else catching it.

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