I’ve been persuaded to start this blog by the people on my email list. Apparently they think it would be a good idea if I put some tips and tricks in print. But they also want stories, news, frequently asked questions, theory and practical help, advice on insurance, ideas for buying a car… and no doubt a lot more…
I’ll do my best. I am not a writer though, so I can’t promise you perfectly structured articles and news-pieces. I write it as I see it and if that offends some people I just want you to know it was not intentional. I’m not going to spend hours editing this blog, I’m just going to sit down and write something each week.
If you have a comment on anything I write, please respond using the comment box at the bottom of the page. Please make it relevant though, I don’t want any spam here.
So onwards with the first post… ooh, exciting!!!
The picture above shows my very first driving school car, a P-reg Peugeot 106. Well, when I say my first, I mean the first car I used for Phill Godridge Driving School. I did have a car before this but that was owned by Acclaim Driving Academy where I did my training. The little Peugeot was the first I could really call my own, though.
I went independent back in 1997 and have never looked back. I get invites from the big school every week offering a franchise deal. One school even sent me a calculator so I could work out how much I’d ‘save’ in a year by working for them. Turned out I’d be over £4000 worse off than going it alone! So much for the calculator trick.
To tell the truth, I like working for myself. I have no-one on my back telling me what targets I have to meet. I have no meetings with office staff to discuss what hours I’m supposed to be working. And I never really liked the idea of paying the wages of the boss who sat in his office all day and never taught a single lesson. Self-employed with me as my own boss is definitely the way to go. At least it has been for the last 18 years.
I now work an average of 30 hours a week. Monday to Friday and the occasional Saturday (…if I have to). I take Sundays off and usually around 3 weeks holiday. OK… you do the maths to find out how much I earn at £25 per hour less expenses. I’ll tell you this… it’s certainly not as claimed on the TV adverts, but it’s enough to get by on. Besides, I do have a few other interests which I may tell you about in the coming weeks if you’re interested.
I’ll tell you another reason I’ve decided to keep a blog. Time passes. In fact time passes too quickly. I picked up a new pupil a couple of weeks ago who was recommended by a former pupil. Turns out the former pupil was her mum who I’d taught 17 years ago… I remember the ‘bump’. That bump is now having lessons of her own!
It also happens that this month I’ve taken on two new pupils who are children of people I was at school with… apparently they’re all grown up now… it was a bit of a shock. After all, my own children are both still under 10. But when my kids are old enough to learn to drive, they can read back through this blog and see what I was doing ‘all those years ago!’
Here’s the first point I want to make then… Since I started teaching, in fact since I started driving, driving has not changed. Cars are still operated in the same way. You still deal with junctions, hazards and manoeuvres in same way. Driver behaviour has not changed (yes, there were lots of idiots on the road back then too). BUT… the driving test HAS changed… a lot.
When I took my test I was driving for about 15 to 20 minutes. No fast dual-carriageways. No reverse parking either on or off the road. No show me tell me questions. No independent driving AND… no theory test! The idea was to see if the candidate had learnt enough with an instructor that they were good enough to continue learning on their own. These days you have to prove that you are a good driver. Safe in all conditions and fully prepared to drive on your own. There’s a big difference there.
All in all I think the changes have been for the better, although there are still flaws. I see good drivers failing for something silly while borderline (at best) driver have a ‘good day’ and pass with no problem. Doesn’t seem fair but it is what it is. We just have to live with it and do our best on the day.
Here’s a quick pic of my latest successful pupil. After just 20 hours and a bit of private practice he scored just 2 minor faults at Bayton Road, Coventry (one of the hardest places to pass your driving test in the UK). He was one of the good ones that didn’t do anything silly… well done Zac.
But here’s something most driving instructors won’t tell you… Another of my pupils took her test on Monday and was not so fortunate. She ended up with 7 minor faults, 2 serious faults and 1 dangerous fault. So what happened? She picked up a serious fault during her independent drive. While following signs for the A444, or should I say trying to follow signs for the A444, she didn’t see a sign pointing right until she had almost passed the junction. She panicked and stopped the car at an acute angle blocking the road. The fault given was for incorrect positioning for a right turn. If she has simply driven past without panic she may have gotten away with it! However, the dangerous fault happened after correctly stopping to give way to oncoming cars when a truck was parked in front of her on the left. Unfortunately when she pulled away, she forgot to steer! The examiner had to push the wheel to avoid hitting the back of the truck. A dangerous fault was given as the examiner was forced to take action. I’m sure she’ll get it next time.
OK just before I wrap up this first post I want to send out a warning…
One of my pupils, who shall remain nameless, has just paid £59 for his theory test online. He had to wait 7 days before being issued with a test date which fortunately for him was at a convenient time. Needless to say he was ‘surprised’ when I told him the price was actually £25 and he should have been able to choose his own date and time when he booked it. He had gone to Google and typed in ‘book a theory test’. He went to the first site and followed instructions. He got his test but paid a hefty arrangement fee.
DO NOT DO THAT… instead go to www.gov.uk and book direct.
Hopefully he won’t be making that mistake again when it comes to booking his practical test… which BTW should only be £62.
If there’s a topic you want me to cover in these ramblings, do drop me a line. You can contact me through this website at any time or just send me an email.
That’s it for this week. Hopefully I’ll bring a bit more structure and planning into these posts as the weeks go by.