Its a question I was asked the other day, why give up being a driving instructor?
Well, there are a number of reasons, but firstly Ill tell you the hoops that instructors have to jump through to become qualified.
Now, anyone with a full licence and a couple of years of driving can jump into the passenger seat and take a 17 year old out on the roads with no training or knowledge. In my mind thats like letting a baby play with a loaded shot-gun!
Just plain stupid, and it upsets me to think that grown adults put themselves into that situation!
There are 3 exams you have to sit and obviously pass to become an instructor. The first is a theory test, on the same lines that the kids take, only we have 100 questions and we have to score 98%. Well if you cant walk the walk you cant talk the talk as they say!
So all you need for this is a very good knowledge of the highway code.
The 2nd exam you have to sit is your driving test, and its not the same, it lasts for an hour, it includes motorway driving and you are only allowed if my memory serves me correctly 6 minor faults in total!
The 3rd and final test is regarded as the hardest, however, due to my years of sales and questioning and answering techniques I found this fairly straigt forward. It was the driving test I found the hardest!
The 3rd exam is broken down into 2 parts. The first part is that you are giving a brief by the examiner of an area that he would like to be taught. He plays the part of a student! I was given the chance to teach him how to reverse around the corner from the right! Now this isnt exactly a common lesson that is taught, this is because its only really done if you are driving a van, as its easier to do as you can see clearly due to blindspots. And, because you would never be asked to do this on a test, and is therefore rarely taught!
The second part of the test is fault finding. Again he plays the part of a student, your job is to identify the fault, explain it and correct it to the student.
I can honestly say that they do not make it easy for you!
However, there are a few things you need to take into consideration. Firstly that the course is costing you anything from £4000 upwards! The second thing is this:
You only get 3 chances to sit each exam, so you could pass exam 1 and 2 then fail the final exam 3 times. The real kick in the doodahs is that you then have to then wait 2 years, and resit exam 1 and 2 again! No other profession that I know of has to do that! Its just a simple retake!
I also had the disadvantage of being an Englishman living and working in Scotland, not wishing to upset any Scots (Paul) who read this, but when ever Braveheart was on, for the next few days I got nothing but grief! A majority of course, apart from Rugby or Football when its all of them! Id like to think that it doesnt make a difference but having lived there for 5 years I can say that it did. I took it with a pinch of salt, and must admit to giving as much banter as I recieved!
As driving instructors we are also graded, grades 1, 2, 3 are not recognised and you are not entitled to teach. Grade 4 is what 75% of all instructors are, grade 5 is above average, and a grade 6 instructor is as rare as rocking horse shite and the highest you can go!
As I said, I found the driving test the hardest and past it on my 2nd attempt. The 3rd exam I passed 1st time around, which is rare and started off as a grade 4 instructor. After the test was over, the examiner, still not having told me if I had passed or failed. Must admit that I thought I had failed it, due to only something like 12% of folk pass it first time. He then turned to me and said, please take a seat in the waiting room and think long and hard why you want to become a driving instructor! Now that didnt sound to good to me!
So after he kept we waiting what seemed like hours but really around 10 minutes whilst he made himself and not me a cuppa, he called me in. Gave me a full debrief and a number of bollockings! which lasted 10 minutes and then finally said Im pleased to tell you that you have passed! I had a job to know what to say or do. I was totally dumbstruck! I expected to have my trainee licence taken off me not given a pass! I took my test in Bathgate.
And so I was fully qualified and my green badge was proudly displayed on the front of my windscreen! If your driving instructor has a pink badge he is classed as a trainee, not to say he cant do his job, but he isnt yet fully qualified!
Now, every now and again, you are called to do what is known as a check test. It basically means a supervising examiner sits in the back of your car whilst you teach one of your own students. Nerve racking for me and for the student! He then grades what he sees! I must of done well on my last check test as I was upgraded to a grade 5! So I was a very happy chappy!
So why stop teaching, its cost me alot of money, hours of time has been spent on lesson plans and teaching aids, so why?
The simple answer is that there is no money in it anymore. By the time you have taken out fuel, insurance, maintenance, tax, and all the other drains on your hourly rate, your hourly rate is so low that the paper boy is earning more!
How instructors survive is beyond me! Less and less kids are learning to drive due to costs of running a car, have you tried to insure a teenager recently!
Which brings me onto an important area, which we, here in the UK have failed to act upon.
Recently in the news you will no doubt of heard that under European laws, gender cannot be used to work our a premium, this not only concerns insurance but pension annuities as well. Bloody Euro politicians and meddlers should know better. Of course gender plays a part. Its fact. Women live longer than men!
I digress, but, what this means is that insurance premiums as a result have increased, whether its £1500 a year or £2000 a year means no difference to the majority of youngsters. Its still too much.
But the problem is not being addressed from the right angle. This is where Im afraid that Europe has got it right.
The problem being that 17-24 year olds in this country have the highest death rate due to car accidents in Europe, why? We have one of if not the hardest test in Europe. The level of tuition they get from quailified instructors is of the highest quality! Our roads arent any more dangerous. So what is the problem?
In Europe they dont have the death rate that we have or the massive insurance costs. So what are they doing different?
Its very simple. In Europe, you have to sit your theory test and pass before you are given your provisional licence. Then once you have passed that you have to have a minimum number of lessons by a qualified instructor, before you are allowed to sit your test, not enough hours you dont sit your test! Simples!
Here the average amount of hours spent behind the wheel of a car before passing your test is just over 40. In Europe depending on country its in excess of 60 , some even upto 100! Thats of professional tuition, not parents gripping onto door handles for grim death!
Now before you shout and say, thats alot of expense in driving lessons. We dont purely teach people how to drive, we teach people how to stay alive! Can you honestly put a price on your sons and daughters heads! If you do then shame on you. Letting babies play with loaded shotguns?
These extra hours of tuition give the instructors time to teach all sorts of techniques and encounter problems that they wouldnt normally or possibly come across. Im afraid that the figures speak for themselves.
In Europe they dont have the needless loss of life, their insurance premiums arent high!
So next time your instructor says your son or daughter isnt yet ready please dont begrudge him the hours, he is keeping your son or daughter alive!
Oh and please dont say, it only took me 12 hrs to pass my test. Well for one just to put things into perspective, in the late 70's there was less than 12 million vehicles on the road, today in excess of 35 million, thats alot of moving problems to deal with and keep yourself safe! So when you took your test you had it easy.
I would put money on it you wouldnt pass today! Why not book an hour with your local driving instructor and ask him to give you a mock test just to see how well your doing? It could be the best £25 you have ever spent. He could even save your life by giving you a couple of tips!
Being a driving instructor is not easy, you have to be able to drive, teach and be positive and encourage all at the same time, as well as keeping yourself, student and other road users alive.
Its fun, exciting, pulse racing at times, you have to be an agony aunt and have sack loads of empathy and encourgement, but for me, sadly Im not a charity.
Ive been qualified for 8 years now. Ive taught some wonderful and some not so wonderful people and have had many funny moments whilst teaching, some of which I may recite if pushed!
Our Fiat 500 1.4 sport is fully kitted out with dual controls, what a great car to learn to drive in! Its still up for sale if anyone is interested!
The name of my driving school? "Round The Bend" I certainly was!
P.S. One other thing, never ask a driving instructor what his pass rate is like. Do you think he is going to turn round and say its crap? Would you ask a dentist how many of his patients fillings fell out? Or how many of a Chefs customers went down with food poisoning? No, its a bit of an insult! Instead simply ask him how many faults do your students normally pass with. My students passed with an average of 6 minor faults (this also included any fails as well), I think the national average for passing is around the 10 mark.