Monday, May 4, 2009

Is your son or daughter ready for their driving test? Let the driving instructor decide.

I’ve been a driving instructor since 1994 and have successfully got hundreds of pupils through their driving tests and onto the road. One thing I never, ever do is allow pupils to go for their test unless I think they are ready because apart from the fact that it is a complete waste of their money, it can have a negative effect on their confidence.

My experience is good enough to tell me when someone has a good chance of passing their driving test. So what I say to pupils is, when I think it’s time to book your test, I will tell you. However, sometimes a pupil will tell me they want to book their test and when I question them, what do they say? ‘My mum said I’m ready’ or ‘my dad said it’s time’.

How do the parents know? Have they been doing my job in their spare time?

Parents can be a real pain when it comes to their kids’ driving tests. For some reason they seem to think they know when they are ready, just because they have had a certain number of lessons or have been learning for a set length of time.

Mum or dad thinks that because they only needed ten lessons to get through their test, the same will go for their son or daughter. They can’t seem to get their heads round the fact that not everyone is the same.

My job is to make sure drivers are safe and experienced enough to handle themselves on the road. If I have any doubts that a pupil could be dangerous to themselves or other road users, I have a duty to continue their tuition until such a time I feel they are ready to go it alone and I will not put them forward for their driving test.

So why do parents think they know best? Why do they think, despite the fact that they are not qualified driving instructors, that they know their son or daughter is ready to take their test? And why when I tell them they are not ready do they look at me as if they don’t believe me, as if they think I am trying to get more lessons and therefore more money out of their kids?

I wish parents wouldn’t get too involved and I wish they would place more trust in my professional judgement. I don’t mind them offering their time to take pupils out on practice lessons in between their lessons with me – that’s very helpful - but when it comes to knowing whether their son or daughter is ready for their driving test, they really should leave that decision to the Approved Driving Instructor and appreciate that us professionals only have their best interests at heart.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

What Happens on the Practical Driving Test: Revealed

As an Approved Driving Instructor I am regularly asked by pupils to explain what happens on the day of the practical driving test, so I have put together a guide that will prove useful for anyone who has booked their driving test and is wondering what to expect.

Before the Test
It is generally recommended that a lesson of at least one hour is taken before the driving test. This allows time for practising and adapting to the day’s weather conditions, as well as allowing you time to relax and go over anything that may be causing you concern.

I usually arrange to arrive at the Driving Test Centre around fifteen minutes before the time of the test. We park up somewhere suitable and then go into the waiting room. At the allocated test time, the examiner calls your name. They ask to see both parts of your Driving Licence (photo card and counterpart) plus your Theory Test certificate. Don’t forget to bring these with you! Both of you then proceed outside to the car.

The Beginning of the Test
In the car park you will undergo the first part of the Practical Driving Test – the eyesight test. The examiner will ask you to read a number plate from 20.5 metres (67 feet) to check that your eyesight is sufficient to drive safely. You must pass this part of the driving test in order to proceed. Providing everything was in order with your eyesight test, you will proceed to the car.

At this point you may be asked by the examiner to lift the bonnet of the car and answer some questions about basic car maintenance. Further questions may be asked when you get inside the car. I always make sure that my pupils are fully briefed in advance on the types of questions they may be asked and show them how to find their way round the engine and the full range of in-car functions any driving instructor worth their salt will do likewise.

Out on the Test
After the questions, the practical driving test will begin and for the next forty minutes or so you must follow the examiner''s directions and proceed according to the road markings, signs and weather or light conditions.

You will be asked to demonstrate two manoeuvres which could be a turn in the road, reverse park, park in a bay or reverse round a corner and you may also be asked to carry out an Emergency Stop.

The end of the Test
The test ends back at the Test Centre at which point you will be told by the examiner whether you have passed or failed. If you have not managed to reach the standard required and have failed the test you will be given the opportunity to discuss the reasons with the examiner. Your instructor can be present at this point if you would like them to listen to the debrief with you.

If on the other hand you have passed, congratulations! You will be given a form and information on how to exchange it for your full driving licence before being driven back home by your instructor. Your instructor should give you some information about Pass Plus, an optional course that can help you become an even safer driver, give you experience of driving on the motorway and even get you a discount on your car insurance.

A driving test can often be a nerve racking experience for many pupils but with the right tuition and support you should be able to approach it with a suitable degree of confidence and skill. All in all, if you can demonstrate that you are safe on the road and able to handle various driving situations, there should be no reason why you won’t be handed that all important pass certificate!

Suzuki Swift makes excellent car for learner drivers

Anyone taking driving lessons in Dagenham, Hornchurch, Romford or Ilford will get to experience the comfort and style of the new Suzuki Swift GLX if they opt for driving lessons with Fingers Crossed Driving School.

Learning to drive in a top of the range super mini, with a 1.5 litre petrol engine and manual five speed gear box is what you get with the Suzuki Swift GLX.

The Swift is an incredibly sophisticated and exceptionally comfortable car to drive. It has excellent road holding and smooth handling and, of course, the essential summer luxury: air conditioning.

According to The Times, the Swift is a car that ‘enjoys being driven’. The sought-after tag that this car has attained is due to a strong demand and limited supply, resulting in the Swift boasting a certain exclusivity. It is definitely a car that isn’t seen in tedious abundance on the road like a Ford Fiesta.

I have received extremely positive feedback from my driving school pupils who have all enjoyed learning to drive in the Swift. Other cars commonly used by driving schools can prove difficult to manoeuvre because quite often they are too long or too wide. The Swift, however, is perfectly compact and therefore ideal as a tuition car.

Learning to drive in a Suzuki Swift means style, comfort ... and a touch of the elite!

Looking for a driving instructor in Hornchurch or Dagenham, Romford or Ilford? Don't base your choice on price; base it on quality.

When looking for a driving instructor in Hornchurch and Dagenham many prospective pupils will base their choice on price. However, with most driving schools in Havering and Barking and Dagenham only differing on the cost of driving lessons by a matter of a pound or two, pupils should be asking a few more questions when shopping around for a driving instructor.

When people phone me to enquire about driving lessons the first thing they always ask is ‘how much?’ But what they really should be saying is, ‘how many years experience have you got and how many satisfied pupils have you got through their test?’

Experience counts for everything where driving instructors are concerned. Does it matter whether you are paying £ 17 for a lesson or £ 20? What really matters is how good the instructor is and how much experience they have. A talented and well established instructor will be able to teach far more effectively than one that has only been doing the job for a short period of time. Opting for cheaper lessons from a lesser experienced driving instructor is false economy: far better to go for an instructor that can teach well because in the long run fewer lessons will be needed, so even if the lessons are slightly more expensive, money will be saved.

So many pupils come to me saying they are useless at manoeuvres. They have been with another instructor and have never been able to get the hang of a reverse park or turn in the road. But all it takes is a few minutes and I’ve got them mastering these manoeuvres in no time. Basically it’s experience in teaching that helps get the method across in a certain way that seems to sink in. Why couldn’t they get it before? Because the instructor didn’t have the skill required to show them properly.

Thinking about learning to drive? Or maybe you are looking for a driving instructor for your son or daughter? Whatever you do, don't base your choice on price. For the sake of 50p or even a couple of pounds per lesson, is it really worth the safety risk and quality of future driving skills?

Tailgating drives me mad - and it scares learner drivers too!

The dangers of tailgating are considerable, especially during the winter months when weather conditions are already treacherous. If it wasn’t dangerous enough already, when a learner driver is involved the risks are multiplied.

I know only too well that driving instructors can be plagued by impatient and inconsiderate drivers on a daily basis. Don’t these people realise the risks they are taking themselves? Learner drivers are renowned for pulling up unexpectedly or even rolling back. So why do people think it’s a good idea to drive right up behind us?

Tailgating is a dangerous business that is the cause of many road accidents yet it is something that can be so easily avoided it’s no accident, it’s a conscious decision that someone makes to drive too close to the car in front. And when someone is learning to drive, it does their confidence no good at all to have an ignorant driver closing in on their bumper.

By driving so close drivers make the pupil more nervous and therefore increase the chances of them making a mistake, which will inevitably lead to an accident. And as far as the insurance goes, it will be the tailgater’s fault!

Learn to drive in Dagenham and Hornchurch - and become a safe driver with proper skills and experience

Learning to drive isn’t just about reaching a stage where you can pass a driving test. It’s about becoming a safe, confident driver with good skills and experience.

The challenges faced by newly passed drivers, such as driving alone, experiencing motorways and parking in awkward spaces are not given anywhere near enough consideration in the lessons leading up to taking the driving test.

Statistics show new drivers are more likely to have an accident within the first two years of passing their test due to a lack of skills and experience.

That’s why the overall aim should never be to just pass the test. When I teach, I aim to introduce pupils to as many different situations and conditions as possible. I am dedicated to building confidence and making them aware of all types of hazards.

After passing the test, experience and skills develop over time. However, a Pass Plus course allows drivers to safely gain more experience improve existing skills acquire new skills, reduce accident risk and even obtain a discount on their car insurance. The Pass Plus course involves motorway lessons, country lane driving and all weather road experience and is well worth the investment.

Driving is a skill that can change your life, boost your independence and even improve your chances of getting a job.

Learning to drive? Learn to drive safely. Choose a driving instructor with years of experience and a dedication to the job and not only will you pass your test, you will become a safe, confident driver with a skill that will serve you for life.