My name’s Sue Duncan and I am a driving instructor. My instructor colleagues and I play quite an important part in your young people’s lives. When we get an enquiry about driving lessons – guess what’s the first question we get asked?
How much are your lessons? And then – how many lessons will my son or daughter need? These are the wrong questions! Your son or daughter is the most precious thing that you have. So why would you want to skimp on what is probably the most dangerous activity that they are going to get involved in? I am absolutely sure you don’t want to be getting that awful knock at the door at some ungodly hour of the morning. You surely want to be confident that they are going to be safe drivers, well taught in how to manage and avoid risk. So why are you putting a price on safety?
The questions you should be asking are –
- what grade an instructor is?
- what additional training and qualifications they have undertaken over and above the basic qualification?
- Whether they are a member of a local or national association – this shows how enthusiastic they are about their job?
- What their pass rate is?
And very importantly, what an instructor does to teach students about the risk factors and how to avoid them. Look for instructors who are signed up to The Honest Truth. We undertake to teach students the messages about risk, and coach them about dangerous behaviours on the road. We discuss with them in bite size chunks the risks of distractions, peer pressure and risk taking behaviours such as speed and drink. We do this at a convenient time during their lessons, just a few minutes at a time. And we do it because we want them to appreciate the fact that driving is a risky pastime. And we do it because we want them to be safe, responsible drivers, and not to become one of the awful statistics. Driving is not just about the ability to control the vehicle and deal with traffic. It’s about attitude and working with other road users so that we all get home safely.
So if you want them to get life skills, as well as mechanical skills, look for an Honest Truth instructor through The Honest Truth website.
I said we play an important part, but it’s not just us. You need also to consider what kind of example you are setting your young people, and whether you are leading by example. Because by the time they come to us for lessons they have already formed a lot of their attitudes and their beliefs about what is acceptable. We often say that we know a lot about how the parents drive when we get their young people in our cars. Because if you have shown them that it’s OK to get angry at other drivers, they think it’s OK to do that. If you show them it’s OK to drive up close to the vehicle in front, they think it’s OK to do that. If you show them it’s OK to speed, then they’re going to do that too. And use their mobile phone. OK, they may not do those things while they’re in our car, because they know that they won’t pass their test by doing that. So they will conform for us. But what about after the test when we’re not there?
Most instructors welcome involvement by parents while their young people are learning to drive, though sadly, not many do.
- Ask if you can sit in the back?
- Take an interest in their lessons, most will have records of some kind that you could ask to look at
- Look at the handouts we give them
- Re-read the Highway Code with them.
- Discuss The Honest Truth messages with them.
- Take an interest in what they are doing while they are learning.
Since the introduction of the New Drivers Act, anybody who accumulates 6 points within the first two years of passing their test, will have their licence revoked and they will have to start all over again, with a new provisional licence, re-taking their theory and hazard perception test, and re-taking the driving test. They’ve probably developed a few bad habits in that time too, so will be back to an instructor to sort them out. How annoying would that be? How costly? But this can happen if the job’s not done properly in the first place.
Your instructor will be the person best placed to decide when students are ready for the test. So often we are pressurised by parents who see the test as the end goal, wanting to get there as soon as possible. What parents should be doing is working with us towards a goal of young people who are going to be safe, responsible drivers.
Personally I would be absolutely devastated to have one of my students involved in a serious or fatal crash shortly after passing their test.
- because they had taken their test too early
- before they were ready to take on the responsibility of having a licence
- because they’d got involved in a situation they could not deal with
- because they didn’t have enough experience
- because they took risks.
And I know my colleagues feel the same. .
So please, ask the right questions.