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Thursday, 13 November 2014

How to Pass Your Driving Test First Time

It is easy to see why many people believe that the most important part of learning to drive is learnt simply by driving the car. It's true that mastering the necessary practical skills is definitely an important part of learning. You will need a good level of practical experience to co-ordinate the controls and also a good deal of experience in varying situations in order to be confident in the decisions you are making and the actions you are taking. But practical skills and experience form only part of what it takes to learn to drive safely and responsibly. 

To learn fully and effectively there are four main elements of learning; Knowledge; understanding; attitude and practice. 

Gaining Knowledge
Nobody likes a know-it-all until it comes to driving. Then every other road user depends on you to know what to do and then do the right thing. If you don't know what to do in a driving situation then you can take too long to make a decision and have an equally good chance of making the wrong one.
This makes you unpredictable and this scares other drivers because it increases the risk of a collision. If you've ever felt annoyed at the person in the supermarket who stops without warning, you'll know how other drivers feel when you are unpredictable.
Lack of knowledge also increases the risk of you breaking a law which could result in a fine or even a driving ban.

Your level of knowledge affects the decisions you make and actions you take when driving. During the test your driving examiner will check to make sure you can consistently make the right decisions and take the correct actions - any gaps in your knowledge are likely to show up in your driving and may result in faults being marked.

What you can do to help yourself learnKnowledge comes through study, so study frequently - the official publications "the Highway Code" and "Driving - the essential skills" are highly recommended reading materials for all drivers.

Developing Understanding
Knowing what to do is not always enough to convince you that it is the right thing do or even important to know. Sometimes we need to explore the reasons why this is the best thing to do in order to accept it.
Understanding can be developed through 'doing', so it is important to practice doing the right things.
Take this example; Normally you'd position your car about a metre from the kerb. There's not much to remember and it might not seem that important, but when you explore and consider the reasons why this distance is an important safety margin and then experience the benefits, you develop a better understanding, and in turn a good understanding helps develop a good attitude.

What you can do to help yourself learn: Don't be afraid to ask questions during your lessons,especially if you don't understand or agree with something - in fact your driving instructor encourages you to do so as this not only helps broaden your understanding, it also helps the instructor understand how to support your learning better. A poor understanding can lead to mistakes and mistakes lead to crashes. 

Demonstrating a Good Attitude
When you become a driver, you become a member of one of the biggest team participant events there is. In this team everyone depends on one another's co-operation. Some of the team are more experienced than others and some not as good as others - what we all have in common is that we all make mistakes from time-to-time.
We have to show tolerance of other's mistakes and actions because once you become annoyed or upset, your decisions and actions are affected and you become part of the problem, which ultimately increases the risks.

During the test your examiner will be monitoring your attitude to check that you are able
demonstrate tolerance and patience whenever necessary.

What you can do to help yourself learn: You need to become self-aware and recognise the behaviour in other drivers that makes you annoyed or angry and ask yourself why this is. Some drivers get annoyed simply because they've given way to an oncoming vehicle and the driver doesn't wave to say thanks - do you really need to put your own safety and that of others at risk by driving angrily for such a minor reason? Do you really need to be acknowledged every time you give way to someone? Instead, take comfort and pride from the fact that you were courteous and safe.

Developing Your Skills Through Practice
You will need to develop your practical skills and there's only one way to do this and that is by practising.
The key is to practice doing things the right way otherwise you will become very good at doing it wrong.
The sign of a good driver is well coordinated use of the foot controls and steering. This results in smooth driving which is unhurried.
During the test your examiner will check that you can maintain full control, and as you may expect, a loss of control can result in a fault being marked.

What you can do to help yourself learn: Once you have achieved a good level of coordination ask your instructor if they feel you are ready to practice privately with a suitable family member or friend. Remember though that you MUST be insured to drive any car you drive and the person supervising you MUST be over 21 years old and have had a full licence for at least 3 years. Check out Marmalade insurance for provisional licence holders on this link to my website http://www.udidit.co.uk/#!marmalade-/cowz

There's no real secret to passing first time, you just  need to take responsibility for studying to improve your knowledge, improving your understanding, developing a good attitude and getting plenty of practice with a professional instructor and private practice.

© UDIDIT Driver Training 2014 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Top 5 Driving Test Faults and How to Avoid Them

There’s no such thing as a perfect driver, drivers often make mistakes, but a good driver is able to recognise a problem and take the appropriate action to correct it. Here are the 5 most common faults committed on the driving test and how to avoid them

Top 5 Male Faults
Top 5 Female Faults
Junctions - observation
Junctions - observation
Mirrors - change direction
Mirrors - change direction
Move off - safely
Reverse left - control
Junctions - turning right
Reverse park - control
Response to signs - traffic lights
Control - steering

Observations at Junctions
A typical fault at a junction is emerging without having checked effectively.
Making effective observations means not just looking but actually seeing what is there, making the right decisions and then taking the right actions. If you don't make effective observations you could cause another road user to slow, swerve or swear.
Poor observations are often caused by stopping too far back from the end of the road which restricts your view into the new road. The same goes for emerging when parked cars are blocking your view and you don’t move forward to improve your view.
Another common reason is the amount of TIME you take to look properly. If you approach the junction too fast or if someone behind is being impatient, you may feel under pressure to go and you won’t give yourself enough time to look in the right places. This can especially happen at roundabouts.

How to avoid this fault: An essential part of your junction routine is LOOK-ASSESS-DECIDE-ACT. Make sure you get the car into a good position where you can see clearly into the new road. Sometimes you may even reach the give way line and still can't see because of an obstruction of some kind. In this event edge forwards using clutch control to get a better view and only emerge fully once you know it's safe in both directions.
Another underlying cause may be that you are trying not to be hesitant. Hesitation in driving is not always a bad thing. If you swap the word “hesitation” to “caution” it becomes a good thing as caution can save lives. Many learners misunderstand this and believe they can’t hesitate at all. You can and should when necessary, but avoid being “unduly hesitant” or in other words “over-cautious”. Don't be rushed by an impatient driver behind or by thinking that there’s a time limit for waiting for a safe gap to emerge into – if there hasn’t been a safe gap, you can’t go and won’t be expected to.

Changing Direction -Mirrors
There are many similarities with this fault and not making effective observations at junctions. The huge number of mirrors checks needed means that there is a much greater chance for these to be missed and therefore a greater chance to be marked as a fault.
There’s that old saying you may have heard of ‘look before you leap’, well this definitely applies to observations at junctions and mirrors. You are expected to look well before changing speed or changing direction or signalling. Common faults include not looking in the mirror at all or looking at the same time as taking action or after you’ve started to take action such as changing position.

How to avoid this fault: Use your mirrors frequently throughout your drive and be aware of what is happening behind you and how this is changing at all times. This helps you to keep a track of what's happening and what might happen if you want to change speed or direction. The mirror checks you make before changing direction should confirm what you already know and that the action you are intending to take is the right one. The key steps of LOOK-ASSESS-DECIDE-ACT also apply to the way you use your mirrors. A good tip is to commentate and say to yourself before you take action, for example; “I’ve checked the mirrors, I won’t cause any danger if I signal and then change direction”

Move off safely
In this case it means failing to move off safely. This usually means you haven’t checked all around properly – often missing the final blind spot check just before releasing the handbrake. There’s another link to LOOK-ASSESS-DECIDE-ACT. You need to know if it’s safe to go and whether you need to let others know you intend to move off. This is a fault because if you move off without knowing what’s happening around you, you might put someone else’s safety at risk.

How to avoid this fault: Many learners get so wrapped up in deciding whether or not to signal that they forget to check their blind spot. Make sure you are well practised in assessing the situation around you. Your mirrors do not show everything so get into the habit of checking your blind spot by scanning the road, pavements and any driveways like a life depends on it. You may get away with not looking a thousand times or miss the check once and cause danger or worse – NOT checking your blind spot is always a gamble.

Reverse Left, Reverse Park - Control
This usually means that the manoeuvre was inaccurate – the wheels either hit the kerb hard or the car was too far away from the kerb, or over the lines when bay parking. The possible causes for this include going too fast with poor co-ordination of the foot controls and mistimed steering. Other causes are poor spatial awareness due to the driver looking at one particular place for too long or only in one place. For example, the nearside mirror.

How to avoid this fault: The key to any manoeuvre is getting the car to move at a slow but steady speed, so to be good at it get plenty of practice at getting the car to move slowly on uphill and downhill gradients as well as on flat roads and corners with varying degrees of sharpness.
This slow speed creates time for you to notice and correct any mistimed steering before it becomes a problem, giving you time to check lots of different views so you can work out exactly where the car is in relation to the kerb or line.
Spatial awareness can be improved through practise. Of course, you may well get the speed right but misjudge the turning point if you are not well practised, but a slow steady speed helps as it limits the impact. This creates time to make frequent glances into the door mirror nearest the kerb – in modern cars with high parcel shelves and broad pillars this is often the only way you can see the kerb and is perfectly acceptable as long as these glances into the mirror form just one part of your all round observations and are not the main focus of your attention.

Steering - Control
An example of this is when turning into a side-road and the car didn’t go where it should. This results in either the car hitting the kerb hard or swinging out too wide. This mistiming is often caused by being too close to the left kerb on approach, or not looking into the road when turning left or approaching too fast. When turning too late for a right turn, again this is often because you are not looking into the road but instead focussed too much on approaching cars.

How to avoid this fault: After checking the mirrors, signalling and positioning, it is essential to get the speed down before selecting the appropriate gear for creating enough time for looking, assessing deciding and acting. Make sure you are well practised at using the MSPSL routine and have the car fully under control and have made your observations and decisions well before turning so that the only things you need concentrate on when you reach the side-road is looking into the road and judging the turning point.

Junctions - turning right
This fault means you were late in positioning or incorrectly positioned before turning right. If you position the car incorrectly this gives confusing messages to other road users and leaves doubt. This can lead to them making the wrong decision. For example, if you stay too far back from the side-road turning point it encourages emerging drivers to pull out in front of you. This fault also includes not moving forwards into the correct position when turning right at traffic lights.
A common reason for not moving forwards is lack of knowledge such as; “Am I allowed to move forward before the filter light comes on?” or “Can I go into the yellow box?”

How to avoid this fault: The solution to this fault is reasonably simple – study well and know your Highway Code. Be aware of the unintended messages you can give simply by your car’s position and remove any confusion by positioning as advised by the Highway Code.

Response to signs - traffic lights
There are a wide range of things this could mean, such as; the driver reacting late to amber lights and failing to stop when it was safe to do so or not complying with a red light.
This could also mean the driver was late in moving off when the light changed to green and it was safe to do so. Not moving off on a green filter arrow is especially common.
These faults are often caused by not planning far enough ahead and not anticipating the lights changing or mentally switching off when the car stops.

How to avoid this fault: You should scan the road ahead and if the lights have been on green for some time expect them to change. Most traffic lights have a sensor of some kind that is triggered by vehicles approaching, so scan for clues such as vehicles approaching or waiting in the side roads. These sensors work in a similar way to those at pedestrian crossings and change when activated. If you can read these clues, you can plan to reduce your speed and therefore give yourself more time to react if the lights do actually change.
When you come to a stop at the lights you shouldn't mentally switch off. Treat this just as a pause in moving forward and stay alert. While waiting you need to continue gathering information, such as watching the other traffic flow to see if they are slowing down or stopping because their lights have changed. Remember though - Don’t be tempted to go too early when the lights are still on red and amber – wait until the lights are green and it’s safe to go.

To avoid getting any faults during your test you need to be well prepared – this means knowing what to do, why you are doing it and that have had enough lessons and practice to do it properly.
Good Luck!

© UDIDIT Driver Training 2014 

Monday, 20 October 2014

Driving Lessons 10@£99 Are the Terms and Conditions Fair?

In my previous blog - Bending Space & Time - I had a bee-in-my-bonnet about the standard of advertising in the driver training industry and gave an example of an advert where just one word made all the difference between it being completely honest and truthful or misleading. Having bought this to the attention of the advertiser, they did the decent thing and took action by removing the misleading word 'beginner' from the following campaign, which had a dramatic effect, as the number of people purchasing the lesson vouchers dropped from 220 sold to 77 and it would appear that the previous consumers may well have made a different transactional decision had it not included the word “beginner”.

The example I used is not the only business in the driver training industry using the cheap voucher offer scheme and in addition, it is becoming increasing common to see driving schools using introductory offers at bargain basement level prices, for example; 10@£99 (10 hours for £99.00 compared to the average price of £23-£25 per hour) - I'll explore the fairness of the terms and conditions later in this blog.

Misleading context
What if an advert said “buy six get four free” would that be fair?
Not necessarily and especially if it’s not made clear to the customer that they are obliged to purchase more than the six they've paid for in order to remain eligible for the four “free” lessons.

In the knowledge that I would be writing an article on this topic I contacted Nottinghamshire Trading Standards for advice and they provided a copy of the guide TSBI 43. According to this guide “Describing a product as 'free', 'gratis’, ‘without charge' or similar if a consumer is going to have to pay more than the cost of responding to the advertisement and collecting or paying for delivery of the item” is a breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (the CPRs).”

What are the CPRs and what do the Regulations cover?
The CPRs cover commercial practices between traders and consumers. These are defined as "acts, omissions, course of conduct, representation or commercial communication (including advertising and marketing) by a trader, which is directly connected with the promotion, sale or supply of a product to or from consumers, whether occurring before, during or after a commercial transaction (if any) in relation to a product".  A product is any goods, or service, and includes rights and obligations.

Do you know these rules?
Much of the driver training industry relies on the trust shown by their clients and this trust is hard to establish but very easy to erode, so my guess is that the majority of us cannot afford to allow non-compliance. Without a thorough knowledge of these regulations you may easily ignore these rules and may well be unwittingly leaving both you and your business open to prosecution.

What are the consequences of non-compliance?
Enforcers may take civil enforcement action in respect of a breach of the CPRs under Part 8 of the Enterprise Act 2002. This can be done by applying to a court for an enforcement order and a breach of any order could lead to up to two years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. The CPRs also contain criminal offences, which can be prosecuted by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) or Trading Standards. The penalties are:
· On summary conviction, a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum (currently £5000).
· On conviction on indictment, an unlimited fine or imprisonment for up to two years, or both.
What is prohibited?
Effectively the CPRs prohibit trading practices which are unfair to consumers. There are four different types of practices to consider:
1. 31 specific practices which are always considered to be unfair. (Listed in the guide TSBI 43)
2. Misleading actions and omissions.
3. Aggressive practices.
4. A general duty not to trade unfairly.
For practice types two to four it is necessary to show that the action of the trader has an effect (or is likely to have an effect) on the actions of the consumer. There does not have to be a physical consumer, as this is a test looking at how the average consumer is, or is likely, to be affected. The CPRs identify three different types of consumer - the average consumer, the 'targeted consumer' and the vulnerable consumer - recognising that different types of consumers may react to a practice in different ways.
A full version of the CPR 2008 can be downloaded from this link https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/284442/oft1008.pdf

Playing Fair
Lets revisit the first four words of my previous blog - Legal, decent, honest and truthful. These are the benchmark values for all advertising and are included at the foot of each communication from ASA, including the one they sent to me when kindly providing the following statement for my article.

The Advertising Standards Authority is responsible for ensuring the content of UK ads stick to the rules. One of the key rules is that ads shouldn't mislead.  Misleading ads are not only unfair to consumers; theyre also unfair to those businesses that play by the rules.
The Advertising Codes apply across media, including online.  We are aware of concerns around ads for driving schools, and whether theyre being upfront and clear about the services they offer.
In particular we've received complaints that ads for driving school services have misled because they have:
·         Exaggerated pass rates or claimed guaranteed passes
·         Not provided clear pricing structures
·         Failed to ensure testimonials are always genuine
·         Made market leader claims without holding suitable evidence
The ASA has previously taken a dim view of marketers claiming to guarantee results.  Furthermore, advertisers should ideally hold evidence to back up their claims.  If anyone has any concerns that an ad for a driving school is misleading and not upfront and clear with consumers, or that it denigrates a competitor then we encourage them to get in touch with us.
We take these concerns seriously and can and will take action to stop misleading claims from appearing.
Visit www.asa.org.uk for further information, or to raise a complaint.

Put to the test
When advertising a deal is it essential to consider the CPRs, which say “it is a breach of the regulations to omit material information; to hide material information; to provide material information in a manner which is unclear, unintelligible (take note Voucher Scheme), ambiguous or untimely”

Armed with this knowledge and ASA’s advice I carried out a quick internet search and soon came across numerous deals/offers for 10@£99 – except a customer can’t buy just 10@£99 as without exception, the examples that I reviewed imposed various restrictions to the number of beginner lessons with the remaining “free” lessons being held back until more are purchased. This in itself is not the issue and some terms and conditions were very thorough, however I suspect not all of these terms and conditions have been checked for compliance with regulation and one particular example penalised the consumer by withholding ANY refund if the prerequisite number of lessons weren't taken.

Unfair Terms and Conditions
In an attempt to protect their interests a driving school may consider introducing a number of terms and conditions, but in doing so they may also inadvertently create unfair terms within that contract. Therefore it is vitally important to be conversant with and consider the regulations covered in the Office of Fair Trading downloadable guide (OFT311) Unfair Contract Terms Guidance - Guidance for the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999.
Take for example; Group 4: Retention of prepayments on consumer cancellation –paragraph 1(d) of Schedule 2.
This states; those terms may be unfair if they have the object or effect of: (d) Permitting the seller or supplier to retain sums paid by the consumer where the latter decides not to conclude or perform the contract, without providing for the consumer to receive compensation of an equivalent amount from the seller or supplier where the latter is the party cancelling the contract.

I don't use contracts - or do I?
Perhaps the simplest forms of contract we have in our industry are those used for lesson bookings, whereby much of the industry has a set number of hours required for cancellation without incurring a fee. An instructor may charge if the customer cancels within that set number of hours, but often ignore the requirement to have a reciprocal clause compensating the customer if the instructor was to cancel at short notice. If there's no reciprocal clause the contract may be in breach of the regulations.

Guaranteed Pass - there's only one way to do this and it's not legal

Continuing my online search I also came across a school with the headline offering a GUARANTEED PASS which upon further inspection wasn't actually guaranteeing a pass at all, instead it guaranteed free training if the customer failed three attempts at the driving test.  There were numerous statements such as “XYZ are the fastest growing driving school or ABC is the UKs largest and London's Premier school or XYZ has an exceptionally high first time pass rate

The Advertising Code clearly states; before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation.

It would be interesting to see, if challenged, whether any of the aforementioned advertised claims are capable of objective substantiation. Take this example of a genuine advert that I think pretty much sums how not to comply.

“XXX is one of the fastest growing independent driving school in East London. We are only one of few driving schools to use DSA certified instructors only. Our lessons are premium quality and our PASS RATE is just AMAZING. Book your lessons with London's premier driving school and give yourself the chance to pass FIRST TIME [sic]

Let’s look at the content of this advert.
Ironically in the first statement the advertiser asks, “Who are you going to trust with your lessons?” It would be interesting to ask a psychologist what conclusions they might draw from this opening statement.

Fastest growing - not capable of objective substantiation unless they have evidence of their competitor's growth rate
We are only one of few driving schools to use DSA certified instructors only - Honest? Truthful? You decide.
Our lessons are premium quality and our PASS RATE is just AMAZING - not measurable or substantiated by documentary evidence
Book your lessons with London's premier driving school -  that's a big statement and one not capable of objective substantiation

The driver training industry is striving to be recognised for its professionalism, we are changing the way in which we teach, but we also need to review the way in which we run our businesses. Therefore my motivation for writing about these issues is to hopefully raise awareness and prompt some inward thinking and reflection. I've touched upon just some of the regulations, but hopefully you've gathered by now that there are a raft of measures set in place for consumer protection, many of which you may or may not be familiar with and you may or may not already be using to ensure compliance. Our industry and the services we provide are in no way any different to any other, we haven’t got, and shouldn't have any special dispensation and most importantly we are all open to prosecution should we fail to comply.
In addition, due to the nature of our relationship with our customers and reliance on recommendation, in some ways we need to be more credible and I strongly believe that a firm foundation for credibility is to hold true to those four values - Legal, decent, honest and truthful and so I’ll leave you with this final thought.

Would your marketing stand the test if challenged? 

Driver Instruct Partnership provide driver training business support and advice plus much more for its members. Go to www.driverinstruct.co.uk for more details on how to join the "John Lewis Partnership" of the driver training industry, where the business is owned by its members.
©Stu Walker 2014

Friday, 17 October 2014

Bending Space and Time - or the Truth?

Legal, decent, honest and truthful

These four words form a key part of the intrinsic values of every Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) – don’t they?

For some time now I’ve had a bee-in-my-bonnet about the standard of advertising within the driver training industry, including both the intended and unintended messages these communicate.
I realise that for many ADIs this is the first time they have been self-employed, becoming not only a training deliverer but also, amongst many things, their own website designer, copy & proof reader, and marketing manager. However, websites and social media content generally goes unchecked and a lot of the transgressions are unintentional, but I guess even when giving them the benefit of the doubt, is ignorance really a valid defence for a responsible business owner?

Some businesses should know better
I recently received an email from one of the voucher scheme providers and one headline caught my interest
Get 4 beginners driving lessons - £12
After the usual round of eye-rolling and tutting I looked past the headline and clicked on the “fine print” which told me that the "Deal consists of 2 hours worth of driving lessons at the start and 2 hours before the driving test."
This revelation got me wondering what I’ve been doing wrong all these years –I’ve been doing pre-test preparation lessons two hours prior to the test and tend to get the beginner lessons out of the way quite early on when the pupil is...huh erm.... a beginner (Seemed more client-centred to me).

Now taking into account the fine print this particular headline appeared to be a little misleading, so I followed the advice of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and sent the following business-to-business email politely requesting a change to the wording.

Dear Voucher Scheme Provider,
I would like to bring to your attention the misleading nature of a current advert you have running for XYZ Driving School. This advert clearly states:  "Get 4 beginners' driving lessons"
However; the terms and conditions restrict this to two beginner lessons.
Quote: "Deal consists of 2 hours worth of driving lessons at the start and 2 hours before the driving test". This means the customer cannot take four beginner lessons and [the advert] is therefore misleading and should either be removed or reworded.

Very shortly after I received the following reply from Voucher Scheme

Thank you for your E mail.
Any customer purchasing the deal with the merchant XYZ will get two 2 hour free lessons at the start when you begin learning. Any lessons the instructor feels the customer needs leading up to the driving test the customer will pay the merchant XYZ for. Before you take your driving test the 2 lessons all customers will have before their test will be free of charge. This equates to 4 lessons in total each at one hour in length.” 

For us mere mortals who couldn’t follow that logic, here’s a summary;
Two x 2 hours + 2 hours = 4 (1 hour lessons) and these are free
Where did the £12 go?  And how does 2 x 2 + 2 = 4? And how does a two hour lesson become a one hour lesson?

Time Travel
This made me wonder how I managed to miss the ADI training classes on how to bend the space and time continuum....
...and then it struck me, I realised just how it is they can deliver beginner lessons just before the test and only charge an equivalent £3 per hour – they must have a time-machine taking them back to the beginner lessons and then at the end of each day it takes the instructor back to the 1970’s when the cost-of-living was lower.

If they haven’t invented time travel then I suggest this particular advert isn’t accurately representing the service being offered and so I made it clear to Voucher Scheme Provider that if they continued the campaign with its current wording then I would have to formally complain to ASA. This did the trick and Voucher Scheme Provider sent another email informing me that the wording had been changed, although by this time the campaign had ended with over 220 vouchers sold.

Now you might be thinking so what? What’s this got to do with me anyway? Well, as a consumer and business owner it’s all about a sense of fairness and no doubt at some point we’ve all questioned the validity of an advertisement’s content, so why wouldn’t I challenge those in my industry which directly affect my business?

Buyers Remorse
Here’s the problem. Those 220 customers are now 220 fewer customers for all those businesses who follow the rules and play fair. Also, those new customers may regret not having read the fine print when they eventually find out that their expectations are not met and consequently a distrust of the industry as a whole grows. I recently took a call from a potential client who'd bought a voucher and spent the entire duration of the lesson driving around a car park because the instructor didn't know the area.

Over the next few weeks I continued to look out for further advertising by this company and sure enough around a month later a similar email was received. This time though, the wording had indeed changed and the beginner lessons simply became lessons. The effect was dramatic, as this time around the number of people purchasing the voucher dropped from 220 to 77. So, it appears that a large number of consumers were possibly misled by the wording of the previous advert and may well have made a different transactional decision had it not included the word “beginner”.

Many ADIs work independently and are unaware of the rules and regulations. Without an awareness of the advertising codes ADIs are likely to fall foul of the rules and leave their businesses open to all manner of issues. Driver Instruct Partnership provide business support and advice to help it's members meet the legal requirements. 

You can find out more on our website www.driverinstruct.co.uk

©Stu Walker 2014

Sunday, 2 March 2014

The Dummies Guide to Dealing with Learner Drivers - Car Crash Television

You must have noticed the dumbing down of many things over the past decade or so. Nowadays it seems everyone accepts bad behaviour as just part and parcel of everyday driving, but it's not just driving that's affected.

What clearly indicates a dumbing down in general is TV. In between the too loud adverts, we have TV producers who seem to be obsessed with a format I affectionately call "Goldfish Memory TV". 

Whilst the adverts are designed for people with hearing difficulties, these programmes must be designed for older people who suffer from frequent 'senior moments' because every two seconds or so we're reminded what's coming up later on in the programme, what's happening after the break and what happen before the break - incidentally, coming up later in the blog, a Freddie Mercury tale not to be missed.

To the dismay of many instructors, it's recently been reported that a television production company here in the UK is planning a programme which uses reality TV stars ('star' being a loose term) to teach people to drive, so I guess we'll be seeing actual reality 'car-crash TV' in the near future. 

I can just picture it now - the overturned car with someone shouting "I'm a celebrity, get me out of here!!" 

Anyway, now that I'm old and grumpy enough, I can happily blame the influences of TV and computers for causing this dumbing down. 

Digressing slightly. 

On the plus side, although I obviously don't condone using them whilst driving, it appears that the advent of smart phones could have actually helped reduce road rage incidents. Probably due to drivers no longer getting agitated by queueing, or even realising they're in a queue. 

It used to be "arrrggggh we've stopped again!!!" now it's more likely to be "yayyyy we've stopped again, Facebook opportunity!!!!" 

The funny thing is, these drivers must think no one will notice them. We used to have nodding dogs on the parcel shelf, now when you look around in traffic we have nodding drivers or ones who look like they've fallen asleep with their chin on their chest but with the tell-tale light from their phones lighting up their faces. "Actually officer, I can explain, the pale slightly luminescent glow you saw on my face is from my new moisturising cream" (As advertised very loudly on TV - with 80% of 20 women agreeing)  

Back to the TV. 

Before that little break I was going on about TV. With dummies teaching dummies you can begin to imagine the type of characters we'll meet daily once the celebrity instructors take over.

Narrator - "When dealing with mini-roundabouts, the generosity of the over courteous driver often creates the situation known as the "Mexican Stand off". This is where every vehicle from all entry points come to a stop with no one wanting to make the first move". 
(Cue the music from 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly' for background effect). 

For added suspense and a sense of jeopardy where none exists...

"In extreme cases of over-exposure to reality TV, sufferers may also experience an auditory hallucination known as "Big Brother Syndrome". Sufferers of this condition reportedly hear a man with a Geordie accent saying "Day 23 at the mini-roundabout...who goes? You decide" 

To add some credibility I'd draft in Sir David Attenborough to narrate with his distinctive voice...

"This creature, commonly known as the Pot-bellied Truck Driver (Latin - Knucklus dragus dragus) is often nocturnal with notoriously poor eyesight (resulting from lots of time spent alone). When spotted they are mostly seen in herds travelling in tight formation - never more than 3 metres apart, communicating only by using a series of honks and flashes. Due to their poor eyesight, smaller vehicles such as cars are often mistaken for juveniles and are given even closer protection by the herd..."

Although I blame TV for contributing to the downfall of driving standards, there are occasions when entertainment benefits. There's a popular urban myth amongst instructors which explains how one particular incident during Freddie Mercury's driving lessons had a huge influence on his later masterpiece 'Bohemian Rhapsody'.

Legend has it that whilst waiting to emerge, his instructor dual-braked the nervous Freddie and asked what he intended and what he could see. The conversation went something like this....

Freddie "Let me go!"
ADI "I will not let you go!"
Freddie "Let me go!"
ADI "No I will not let you go!"

ADI "I see a little silhouette of a van"
Freddie "Shall I go, shall I go?"
ADI "No, let the van man go"
ADI "Your face is whitening, 
Freddie "It's very, very frightening........Ford Mondeo!!, then a Clio!!"
ADI "Ford Mondeo.......Nissan Figaro!"

How true that story is, I guess no one will ever know, but it's clear that Freddie wasn't a natural driver and later revealed he was very keen to ride his bicycle.

Anyway, enough of my grumpy old man routine, I'm off out to practice my new celebrity style "Goldfish Memory TV" driving instruction. "Coming up before the brake, mirrors and a signal" or "Coming up after the brake, more acceleration".

OMG, I can see you're well jel....

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© Stu Walker

Thursday, 13 February 2014

The Dummies Guide to Dealing with Learner Drivers Part Deux

Following on from my previous blog where I touched upon the bizarre situations driving instructors and their pupils experience on our roads, here are a few more top tips for the dummies out there. These too are inspired by the real-life and bewildering antics of retired learner drivers - or full licence holders as they are better known.

#11: Driving instructors are keen to ensure their pupils cover a full learn-to-drive syllabus. Amongst the more obvious topics, such as car control and road safety, are the less obvious but equally essential Morse code classes. Morse code provides a solid foundation for dealing with drivers who use the flashing of headlights in the style of the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. For example; One quick flash means “I’m waiting for you to go” (or this can be one long flash), two quick flashes means “thank you” (or this can be one long flash) and multiple quick flashes means “You f#%king idiot, I'm waiting for you to go!” (or this can be one long flash).

#12:  Drivers suffering the debilitating effects of coming into contact with a full licence (chemical coating causing amnesia, see Top Tip #6) often find great difficulty in using the complex external communication system fitted to motorised vehicles. Whilst there is currently no known cure, (and euthanasia not yet considered ethical) scientists are working around the clock looking for a solution. In the meantime experts believe that sufferers can overcome this problem by signalling either left if they intend going left or right if they intend going right.

#13: Those drivers suffering from the acute form of signal confusion (Latin – Unpredictilitus) can take some comfort in the knowledge that they are creating opportunities for driving instructors to teach their pupils the fundamental principles of mind-reading. Roundabouts are a great place to put this into practice. Try signalling left two exits before the one you want, or swapping lanes at least twice without signalling. When faced with this test, by attempting to pull out in front of you, the learner may demonstrate that they are at the early developmental stages of mind-reading. In these situations try developing their lip-reading skills using words of no more than two syllables. No doubt you will already be familiar with many of these. (Note: if following a learner who is at the early stages of mind-reading see Top Tip #1)

#14: It is essential that learner drivers develop a good understanding of the law. You can help demonstrate its importance whenever you see a learner practising a manoeuvre outside your house. (Caution; avoid contact with the instructor, see Top Tip #6). Instead, whilst stamping both feet, shout from across the road “I'm going to call the police” The police will welcome your request to stop chasing bad guys and be grateful of the opportunity to arrest two people carrying out a legitimate manoeuvre in a safe and legal manner. “999 what’s your emergency?” “Yes operator, send someone quickly there’s a learner driver parallel parking around my car... quick, quick they’re slowly getting away....”

#15: An alternative to top tip #14 is to play hide-and-go-seek. When you see a learner preparing to reverse around your car, quickly run to it and drive off down the road or around the block pretending that you have to be somewhere urgently. The learner finds this game highly amusing and can’t wait to have another go, especially as they are hilariously left in the middle of the road looking like they are reversing around an invisible car. Bear in mind that most driving lessons are at least an hour long, so to avoid being found, it is recommended that you keep driving around the block for around 55mins. (Caution: As this game is so amusing, the driving instructor is likely to tell all their colleagues which car owners are willing participants, so be prepared for a long day)

I hope you've enjoyed the light-hearted humour I've used to highlight some of the issues faced by both learner and instructor at the hands of some experienced and apparently responsible drivers. I would like to point out that most days go without anything noteworthy happening and when it does we are trained well enough to avoid incident. I've managed to stay collision free since I passed my test in 1983 and as an instructor have had one very minor rear end bump in the 1990's. (We'd been stopped at a junction for 30 seconds when the driver behind misjudged his braking, well when I say misjudged his braking, he'd forgotten he was driving a Mini Metro and not a car with proper brakes).

Learning with a qualified instructor is actually pretty safe and people are surprised at the relatively low insurance premiums we enjoy. I'm led to believe that almost three-quarters of collisions involving a learner are actually the other driver's fault - rear end collisions mainly. 

There is a serious message behind all this humour. It raises the question of how full licence holders transform their habits from the safe practices we teach them during the learn-to-drive process, into the obvious complacency which no doubt contributes to the number of people each year who are injured or worse, on our roads.

We could point the finger at the learn-to-drive process and the limitations of the traditional techniques used, and in recent times we have done exactly that and have extended the range of techniques to include a more client-centred approach. This is an attempt to ensure learners take responsibility for their learning and future actions. Even so, this is a long-term strategy and we appear to be fighting a losing battle when it comes to continued learning for existing drivers. 

I've jokingly called full licence holders 'retired learners' In actual fact they were learning from life experiences years before getting behind the wheel for the first time - many are told by the people who care for and influence them the most that "you only learn to drive properly once you've passed your test". I wonder if this "properly" includes tailgating; speeding; cutting corners or crashing? 

No one stops learning and as soon as they're let loose on the roads they continue to learn from the environment and unfortunately begin to practice what they regularly see and experience - or in many cases, what they can get away with now that the UK's roads are so lightly policed.

A couple of questions being asked regularly are "Should driver education start at school age? and should drivers be retested periodically? Now that sounds like a good topic for another blog.

© Stu Walker 2014

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