Thursday 30 December 2010

How many lessons?

This is one of the most common questions asked by people learning to drive and is one of the most difficult to answer accurately.  This is because the number of lessons someone needs is affected by their ability, commitment, practice and the ability of their instructor.  There are people out there on the roads who have had no lessons at all and some who have had more than 100.  In my opinion, the former is far too few and the latter is way too many.  Furthermore, the more attempts at passing your test, the more lessons you will inevitably end up having.

So how many is too many?  Well if you consider that the DSA say that the average is around 45 hours of tuition, coupled with 30 hours private practice, then that gives a really good indication.  Your instructor should always be able to give you some idea of how many lessons you will need but the actual number may change as you work through the syllabus.  As a guide, you should be aiming to complete your training and pass your test within the 45 hours.  If it doesn't look as though you are going to make it, then you should talk to your instructor about your progress.

If you are still not happy, then take an assessment lesson with another instructor and see if they can give you an idea of the progress you are making.  Do bear in mind that your instructor is (or should be) a professional and therefore is best placed to assess your driving and identify when you should take your test.  However, you are the customer and as such you should take ownership of your learning process and ensure that you are getting value for money and are not being taken for a ride.  It is a difficult judgement to make sometimes but the overriding consideration should be this - if you are not entirely happy with your instructor's approach, then do something about it.

Emma Ashley

Friday 29 October 2010

A Parent's Responsibility...

There is an awful lot of criticism of drivers these days, some of it justified, and the authorities are constantly trying to make our roads safer by introducing a variety of road safety measures.  I understand their motivation entirely and have as my goal making the roads safer by producing safer drivers.  However, now I'm going to have a rant! 

The responsibility for safety on the roads does not only lie with motorists but also with pedestrians.  Everyone who uses a road (which includes the pavements) is a road user, something which I constantly reinforce to my pupils.  It is therefore extremely aggravating when pedestrians take unreasonable liberties with traffic.  We can all think of examples but for some reason, parents with children are the worst.  Those who seem to think that hanging the front wheels of a pushchair or pram over the kerb is a good way of signalling their intention to cross the road.  Those who carry children into the road in order to put them in the back seat of their car and then stand with their head inside the car strapping the child in working on the basis that if they ignore the traffic it will miss them.  Even worse, those who shepherd the children out alongside the car in an erroneous belief that their protective hand will somehow prevent an oncoming car from mowing everyone down.  I just don't understand the mentality of parents who have such a cavalier attitude towards their children.

Parents, you do not have some bubble of immunity around you which will protect you from an error by a driver.  Are you really happy to play the lottery with the lives of your children?  For their sake, think before putting them, or yourselves, in harm's way!

Saturday 18 September 2010

A successful week

It's been a good week for the Ashley School of Motoring!  Two pupils have passed their tests, one on the second attempt and one on the first.  Huge congratulations to both Charlotte and Hannah.....!!!!!!

There is nothing so rewarding for an instructor as seeing the look of sheer delight on pupil's faces when they pass.  Reactions vary massively.  The most talkative can be reduced to stunned silence, the quieter ones can be reduced to tears but it's all good for me.  I am just overwhelmingly happy that they are happy.

So thank you to Charlotte and Hannah and all my pupils who have passed up to now.  Who's next I wonder?  You perhaps...?


Saturday 11 September 2010

The perfect driving instructor...what to look for.

When we go shopping for something we take our time to make sure that we have the right item before we pull out our wallet or purse and part with our hard earned money.  Sometimes we look for recommendations from people we know or even reviews from complete strangers.  Sometimes we try the item out, clothes for example or have a demonstration of the item from a sales assistant.  Sometimes we might even sit and make a list of all the features we want from an item before taking the plunge.  Isn't it amazing then that we don't do something similar when choosing a driving instructor?  And, believe me, some people don't.

So what should we look for and what should we think about?  This is where I would start.
  1. A fully qualified DSA approved driving instructor.  Uncle Joe may be a good driver but you need to learn the right way to drive so have at least a few lessons with a DSA instructor.  You can find these by looking for the green DSA logo.  There is also a green licence attached to the windscreen which they must display when instructing.  If the licence is pink then it means that they are a trainee instructor.  This doesn't mean that you shouldn't learn with them but be aware that they are not fully qualified.
  2. Make sure that the car is insured for you to drive as a learner and to be taught in.  Hardly any standard car insurance will be sufficient and accidents without insurance are bad news for everyone.
  3. Pass Rate - Beware, a high pass rate doesn't necessarily mean that the instructor is good.  It may be that they encourage you to take more lessons than you actually need before taking your test, costing you more.  Likewise a poor pass rate doesn't necessarily mean a bad instructor.  Most pupils who fail do so because they do something silly on test, not because the instructor has failed in their teaching.
  4. What are their terms and conditions? - Get them up-front.  If they won't let you have them, ask yourself why.  Make sure you are happy with all of them.  Bear in mind that they are there for your protection as well as theirs.
  5. Beware Hidden Costs - Some instructors charge £60 for you to use the car for the test in addition to the test fee to the test centre.
  6. Special Offers - Find out what happens when the special offer ends.  Sometimes the savings from a good deal at the start are wiped out by the costs later on.
  7. Testimonials - Are there any testimonials?  Ask them to put you in contact with a couple of current or ex-pupils so that you can chat to them about their experiences.  Ask lots of questions.  Is the instructor polite, well-presented, patient, reliable, punctual, professional etc.?  Is their teaching good?
  8. Take a trial lesson or two and make sure that you are completely happy with all aspects of the lesson. If you are not completely happy then tell the instructor.  The instructor may well be able to adjust their teaching style accordingly.  It may be that there it just doesn't work.  If so, don't worry about walking away and finding a different, more suitable instructor but do please tell the old instructor.
  9. Finally, don't book a group of lessons until you are completely satisfied that the instructor is right for you.  Any additional money that you might spend in assuring yourself that it is the right instructor is money well spent.  Having to take 8 or 9 lessons with an instructor that you don't get on with because you have paid upfront is a waste of money and won't help your driving, so take a couple of lessons at a slightly higher price if necessary to make sure.
I hope the above helps you to make the right choice.

Wednesday 11 August 2010

They don't teach you that...

The training to become a driving instructor is tough and the amount that you have to absorb is considerable, which probably explains why only 30% of those who start out manage to qualify .  However the one thing that they don't teach you is how to cope with and react to the success or failure of your pupils when going for test. 

While you are out on test the poor instructor is either left at the test centre worrying about how you are doing or sitting in the back watching - and worrying about how you are doing!  I don't know which I prefer but probably sitting in the test centre?  Usually there is at least one other instructor going through the same hell as me.

Sitting there on edge, watching for my car to come round the corner at the end of the road, heading for the likely final manouevre, the bay park, before the test is over and the result is known.  Then, standing by the entrance watching (or listening) for the tell-tale signs.  Will it be a big smile, a scream of delight or a hung head?  And believe it or not, sometimes I can't tell.  And whatever the result and whatever the reaction, I go through it too.  If you pass, I am over the moon, for you and for me.  You have achieved what you have set out to achieve and I have helped you to get to that point. 

If you fail I am genuinely devastated for you.  I admit I find it difficult to remain detached as learning to drive is a journey that we have literally been on together.  I have been known to shed the odd tear as well because I know how much passing means to you.  It is at this point that meaningful words usually fail me.  I can,and will, talk incessantly on the journey back from the test centre but I recognise that none of it really has any effect and it is not until the emotion has died down that we can begin to look at, and understand, what went wrong.  That's why the post-test debriefing by the examiner is so important for you and me.  Without it, we don't really know where to start so always ask for it and request that your instructor be present (if they are not already). 

I also understand the desire to give up and the belief that you'll never pass.  No matter how true that feels at the time, everybody has the ability to pass, even Ozzy Osbourne (and it took him 18 attempts!)  So all my words and sympathy if you do fail are really for one purpose - it's to say "Don't give up" - keep on until you do pass; it will be worth it.


Tuesday 3 August 2010

Mobile Phones

I see so many people talking on their mobile phone whilst driving!  I've seen people sitting at green traffic lights holding up traffic whilst answering text messages.  I've even seen a guy riding a moped one handed whilst texting.  In spite of all this I believe that the law in relation to using mobiles whilst driving was ill-conceived.  What....!!!!!????  You cannot be serious?  Well, I am - and this is why.

Is there much difference between using a mobile phone, adjusting the radio, chatting, tending to the children in the back, reading, shaving, putting on makeup, eating, drinking, dozing or eyeing up the 'talent'?  All of these (and the list is not exhasutive), whilst driving, are potentially dangerous and should be avoided whenever possible.  If your eyes and mind are not on the road, then you are driving carelessly.  By indulging in any of these non-driving activities, you are putting your own and other lives at risk.  Your driving licence does not give you the right to do that.  I am simply not interested in those who claim that they are as safe whilst doing those things as when they are not.  Complete and utter rubbish!  No-one can be totally single-minded when driving and it is unrealistic to expect it but to clutter the senses with more than is absolutely necessary is madness.

The law of 'careless driving' or 'without due care and attention' covers all of these and more besides.  The problem is not, and never has been, about having a suitable law in place, it is to do with applying it and ensuring that the punishment is severe enough to discourage people from doing it.  It has never been that difficult to prove careless driving - if you run into the back of someone, the results speak for themselves and certainly where a mobile phone is concerned, the technology actually makes it easier!  You can check if someone was on the phone! 

The solution, in my opinion, is easy.  If you cause any kind of traffic incident, i.e., being involved in, or causing an accident, whilst indulging in one or more of these activities then you should lose your licence until you can prove that you can drive with due care and attention.  If that necessitates having a driving test, then so be it.  If you choose to take the risk then you have to live with the consequences, whatever they may be.


Friday 30 July 2010

The Tesco Roundabout - dream or nightmare?

In Gillingham, the Tesco roundabout is the biggest cause of grief for motorists, learners and experienced drivers alike.  It is actually not that difficult but to the novice driver, it can appear daunting at first approach and can cause mayhem.  This is not helped by drivers who don't know how to correctly navigate the roundabout (more of this later) and the poor way that the signs on the roundabout have been arranged.  For example, on approach from Gillingham, the roadside signs state that the only lane which can be used for the M2 is the right hand lane.  However, the roadsurface signs show that both the middle and right hand lanes can be used.   How can the simple motorist be expected to know which one is right? 

In addition, exit from the Tesco superstore shows the fourth exit to go to Sittingbourne; every other sign on the roundabout shows that exit to be for Rainham.  I know it is not actually wrong but wouldn't some consistency have been nice?  I cannot understand how signs like these can be messed up in this way.

Finally, the lane markings on approach to and round the roundabout have worn away, if they were ever there in the first place.  I appreciate that the inconvenience caused whilst they are repainted would be significant, the council seem sufficiently capable of causing inconvenience to the motorist currently - I'm sure this one wouldn't be beyond them.  I won't hold my breath though!


Reading the road...literally!

There are far too many road signs! We are inundated with them, sometimes having 3 or 4 signs indicating the same hazard, sometimes within 2 metres of each other. There is a real danger of information overload for drivers and important signs being missed because of unimportant ones.

It is an important ability in learnng to drive that we learn to read the road and that includes spotting hazards ourselves rather than relying on the authorities to tell us about them. For example, do I really need to know that the road on the left contains humps for 3/4 mile? If I am clever enough to use it as a short cut, then surely I can see the humps for myself? A silly example I know but there are many, many more. 

Welcome to my blog...

So this is a new venture for me and  for the driving school.  I shall be posting quirky things that happen whilst driving, not only to me but to my pupils as well (anonymously of course) and also opinions that I hold.  We all see examples of driving which beggar belief and I probably see more than most - I hope I don't commit too many myself.  I suspect this blog may contain the odd rant here and there about the way people drive as well.  As one of my ex-pupils said to me the other day "...there are some muppets on the road...".  How right he is!

So I hope you enjoy my blog :)