Category - Training

Ramadan And Driving

I originally wrote this back in 2010, but it gets a new raft of hits each year, usually around the start of Ramadan.

I had a pupil fail her test a while back, and on the way home she mentioned that Ramadan had started. She insisted that she felt OK, but I couldn’t help wonder if it might have had some effect on her concentration otherwise she wouldn’t have brought it up.

Ramadan is the month of fasting for Muslims. During it, participants abstain from eating and drinking between the hours of sunrise and sunset. Technically, those fasting are not even supposed to drink water (there are exceptions for pregnant women or those with specific illnesses), and some participants take it more literally than others. At least one reader has had concerns that Ramadan has affected their driving, and in 2016 it was unusually long at 32 days. In 2017, it ran from 26 May to 24 June, and in 2018 it spanned 17 May to 15 June. In 2019, it ran from 5 May until 4 June. It’s pretty much a full month anyway.

Some years ago, I worked in Pakistan – in Karachi – for a short time, and was there during Ramadan. Some people ate during the day, but very little, and some fasted properly. But in the main, they just got on with things and worked normally. I have vivid memories of the sights and smells of street food when I went to see Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s tomb one evening.

At the other end of the spectrum, when I worked in the rat race over here, Ramadan and other such religious festivals were used by some (not all, I must add) simply to avoid work. Some of my shop floor staff tried it on regularly, but I knew what they were up to – having a smoke outside when you’re supposed to be praying is a bit of a giveaway.

I used to have the (bad) habit of getting up at 8am or earlier, drinking only a cup of tea, not eating anything until I finished work in the late evening, then pigging out on kebabs or curries. Occasionally, during the day, I’d crave something to eat there and then, at which point I could easily put away four Mars Bars and drink a litre of Lucozade! Someone who is very slight would probably not be able to get through the day without being affected at least a little – and this must also apply to those fasting during Ramadan.

If you are teaching Muslim pupils it’s worth discussing the subject with them – and just be open about it: they don’t mind talking about their religion (it’s people who think they do who have the problems). I’ve had several pupils in the past who were suffering during fasting, and in several cases we postponed lessons until it was over. A few years ago, I had a small pupil who was very nervous and jumpy in the car, and we were both worried Ramadan might affect her (she raised the topic herself). So we agreed to do her lessons later in the evening (that was my idea), and although I will admit I thought sunset was a little earlier than it actually was when I agreed to it, we did lessons at 9.30pm once a week for a month so she could keep driving.

Whether it is for Ramadan or any other reason, not eating could affect your concentration on both lessons and driving tests. And you might not realise.

Advice I’d give to anyone fasting during Ramadan is to take lessons or tests in the morning or late evening (if your instructor will do it), and to eat properly when not fasting the night before. Alternatively, just put your lessons on hold until Ramadan is over.

As for the question about whether you should be driving or not,you need to be realistic. I’d say that 99% of white, non-Muslim UK drivers drive when they’re not feeling 100%, and Ramadan hardly turns most participants into hospital cases. So there is no automatic reason why people who are fasting for Ramadan shouldn’t drive. Just use common sense.

Can I take my test during Ramadan?

Of course you can. However, you should consider how fasting affects you and your concentration. It might be better to plan ahead and avoid booking a test during Ramadan altogether. Alternatively, try to book an early test at a time just after you have eaten – or rather, before you start to get hungry.

Fasting during Ramadan affects my driving to work

Someone found the blog on that search term! The answer is simple.

If you are having problems, either don’t drive or don’t fast. There is no Magic Pill that makes it everything OK – if you’re fasting, and it affects your concentration, don’t drive. And that also applies whether you’re ill, drunk, menstruating, or anything else. It’s just common sense.

Driving Tests and Lessons In Snow

Originally posted in 2009. Updated annually, so here’s the 2023 version. It’s the start of March and wintry showers have started (heavier snow in some places). The papers are full of dire warnings about the coldest winter since 10,000 BC (the last Ice Age). Same as every year. The original article follows.

Further to a post about cancelled lessons due to weather, I noticed on one forum a couple of years ago someone getting all excited about how there might be a market for specialised snow lessons at premium prices. As of October 2018 (and it hasn’t got even close to snowing yet), some instructors are already going on about not doing lessons.Snow on road scene 1

Let’s have a reality check here.

Until February 2009, it hadn’t snowed to any appreciable extent in the UK for around 26 years! We had two bad winters, but since then they have been relatively mild ones with almost no snow. Even when we get a little of the white stuff it is usually gone inside a week or two at most. Snow – and especially in the UK – is usually extremely localised. The media talks it up so it sounds like the whole country is blanketed in a metre of the stuff, especially if a few wet flakes fall in London. This  is enough to have people cutting down each others trees for their wood-fired stoves, and panic buying Evian at the local Waitrose. It can keep the BBC news bulletins going for days at a time.

Every year, incompetence and bureaucracy at local councils typically means that every time there is any bad weather, it’s like they’ve never experienced it before. This – and the media hyping it to death – makes things seem a lot worse than they really are. Having a ‘specialised snow Instructor’ in the UK (especially in England) would be like having a fleet of icebreakers sailing the Mediterranean: bloody stupid! Back here on Planet Earth, I will carry on doing things the way I always have done: use whatever weather comes to hand as a teaching opportunity if it is appropriate, and charging normal lesson rates for it.

One bit of advice. Make sure you have the right mixture in your wash bottle, and a scraper for removing any frost or snow. A further bit of advice. Never, ever, ever be tempted to buy a metal-bladed ice scraper. Always plastic. Trust me, I’ve tested metal ones for you, and you are welcome. Don’t use metal.

Will my driving lessons be cancelled due to snow?

It depends on how much of it there is, how far advanced you are with your training, and your instructor’s attitude to teaching in snow. There is no rule that says you mustn’t have lessons in snow. In fact, it makes a lot of sense to do them if you can to get valuable experience. But beginners perhaps shouldn’t because it’s just too dangerous for them. It’s your instructor’s decision, even if you want to do it.Snow on road scene 2

Do driving lessons get cancelled when there is snow?

Yes. It depends on how much snow and how advanced you are as a learner driver. If your instructor cancels then you should not get charged. If you are, find another instructor quickly.

If the police are advising people not to travel unless it’s essential, having a driving lesson in those conditions is a bad idea. That’s when they’re likely to be cancelled.

Also bear in mind that it doesn’t matter if you’re learning with the AA, BSM, Bill Plant, or any other driving school. The decision is down to your instructor based on the weather in your area.

Will my instructor tell me if my lesson is cancelled?

Yes. If he or she doesn’t (or just doesn’t turn up without telling you), find another. But why take the chance? Just call or text him and ask.

My instructor says he isn’t insured for icy weather

Someone found the blog on that search term (February 2018). I’m telling you in the most absolute terms possible that this is utter nonsense. I have never heard of insurance which says you can’t drive in certain weather, and especially not driving instructor insurance. If anyone tells you this, find another instructor quickly.

Do [driving school name] cancel lessons due to bad weather?

Cancelling lessons due to bad weather is down to the instructor and not the driving school they represent. So it doesn’t matter which school you are with. But yes, lessons can be cancelled for bad weather.

Any decent instructor might cancel lessons due to too much snow – either falling, or on the ground – making driving dangerous. They might also cancel due to thick fog, strong winds, and heavy rain/flooding. The decision lies solely with the instructor. If you disagree with their decision, find another one.

Will I have to pay for my lesson if it’s cancelled due to snow?

There is no specific law which says your instructor can’t charge you, but if he or she does it goes against all the principles of Common Decency. You should not be charged for bad weather cancellations initiated by your instructor. If you are, find another instructor as soon as possible.

However, if it’s you who wants to cancel, but your instructor wants to go ahead with the lesson, it’s a little more tricky. You being nervous is not the same as it being genuinely too dangerous. I had someone once who would try to cancel for light rain, bright sun, mist, and wind when she didn’t feel like driving. You’ll need to sort this out yourself, but as in all other cases, if you’re not happy just find a different instructor – being aware that if the problem is you, the issues won’t go away.

I want to do the lesson, but my instructor said no

You need to be realistic about the conditions. Just because your test is coming up, for example, and you don’t want to have to move it doesn’t alter the fact that the weather might just be too dangerous to drive in on the day of the lesson. When I cancel lessons in snow it’s usually with my newer pupils who I know can panic and brake too hard. On the other hand, if the police are advising against travel, or if the roads are at a standstill, I will cancel a lesson no matter who it is.Snow on road scene 3

As an example, one day in 2016 it began snowing heavily about 30 minutes before I was due to pick someone up late one morning. The roads quickly got covered and traffic began to slow down. His house was on a slope, and it was clearly becoming difficult to drive without slipping. I made a choice there and then to cancel the lesson. The snow lasted for about as long as his lesson would have, but was gone by the afternoon. Cancelling was the right decision.

Do lessons in snow cost more?

No. If you’re charged extra for normal driving lessons in snow, find another instructor immediately.

I’m worried about driving lessons in snow

Don’t be. You’re going to have to do it when you’ve passed, and it makes sense to learn how to do it now while you have the chance. A lot of people never see snow until they’ve passed their tests, then they don’t know what to do and end up crashing, like the red car in the picture above.

You should never drive in snow

That’s total rubbish. Unless the advice is ‘not to travel unless it is absolutely necessary’, doing lessons on snow or ice is extremely useful for when you pass. Partially melted snow is ideal for doing ‘snow lessons’ if you have the right instructor. The one thing you do need is to make sure you are suitably equipped in case you get caught out. A scraper, de-icer, the right liquid in your wash bottle – and perhaps a pair of snow socks.

But irrespective of that, no matter how much snow experience you have, your test could easily be cancelled if there is snow at the time. Just accept it.

Do YOU do lessons in snow?

Generally speaking, yes – as long as I feel it is safe to do so, and unless the advice is ‘not to travel unless it is absolutely necessary’. I do not do lessons in snow because I am desperate for the money – I will happily cancel if I believe it is too dangerous. And sometimes it is. For example, in this 2021 update, I cancelled two late afternoon lessons on the day it began snowing hard (after finishing the one I was on while it was coming down), because the first is trigger-happy with his foot at the best of times, and the other would have been after the slush froze (and it froze bloody hard). And I didn’t know how long it would snow for, or how much we’d get.

Why do YOU do lessons in snow?

A while back, not long after I became an instructor, we had two winters where it snowed properly for the first time in around 26 years. I had not experienced it as an instructor before, and I cancelled a lot of lessons. After several weeks I realised I was being over-cautious. It was one of those head-slapping moments, and I recognised that I could actually use the snow as a teaching aid. Not with the beginners or nervous ones, but the more advanced ones definitely.

Snow - bad enough to cancel or not?Basically, if the snow is melting and main roads are clear, there’s no reason not to do lessons. We can dip into some quiet roads and look at how easy it is to skid. If the snow is still falling and main roads are affected by lying snow, then doing lessons carries a much greater risk. A bit of common sense tells you what you can and can’t get away with.

I can state with absolute certainty that every single pupil has benefitted from driving lessons on snow if the chance has arisen for them.

Will my driving test be cancelled due to snow?

It is very likely. You need to phone up the test centre on the day using the number on your email confirmation and check. Otherwise, you must turn up – even if they cancel it at the last minute. If you don’t, you’ll probably lose your test fee – or end up having a drawn-out argument over it. Make life simple and follow the guidelines.

At one time, tests wouldn’t go out if there was any snow at all in Nottingham. In February 2018 during the visitation by ‘The Beast from the East’ (aka the ‘Kitten in Britain’), I had an early morning test go out with substantial snow on the side roads, repeated snow showers, and a temperature of -4°C showing on my car display. My wiper blade rubbers were solid, and making that horrible sound when they bounce instead of glide. I was amazed (but the pupil passed anyway). You can never be certain, but be prepared.

If my test is cancelled, will I have to pay for another?

No. They will send you a new date within a few days (or you can phone them or look it up online). And it will not count as one of your ‘lives’ for moving your test.

Can I claim for out of pocket expenses if my test is cancelled?

Snow on road scene 4

No. Neither you, nor your instructor, can claim any money back. And you shouldn’t be charged for your lesson or car hire that day if your instructor is in any way reputable.

It’s happened to me several times on pupils’ test days. If a test is cancelled due to the weather, I do not charge them. I can’t really see any reason why yours should, either. If they do, you need to start asking yourself serious questions about them.

Will snow stop a driving test?

YES. Snow can easily stop a test, or prevent it from going ahead. It doesn’t matter how you phrase the question, or who you ask, if there is snow then the test could easily be affected. They tell you all this when you book it.

Driving tests cancelled due to snow [insert year here]…

It doesn’t matter if it’s 1821, 1921, 2021, or any other date. If there is snow on the roads and/or it is icy then your test may well be cancelled. It doesn’t matter what you, your instructor, or your mum or dad says, or – in 2021, 2022, or 2023 (and counting) – that there’s a long waiting list for test dates due to COVID. It is up to the test centre to decide.

Why was my driving test cancelled because it snowed?

Driving in snow is dangerous even for experienced drivers. The side streets will likely be covered in sheet ice and compacted snow and you will skid if you even drive carefully on them. You could easily lose control. That’s why there are so many accidents in snow and icy conditions. You are a new driver and you probably haven’t driven on snow before. DVSA cannot take the risk, and you have to accept it.


In the past, I have had 8.10am tests booked in the middle of winter and sometimes I know for a fact that when I pick the pupil up at 6.30am the conditions are so bad the test is going to be cancelled. Even heavy frost or mist/fog is enough to cause a cancellation, and in winter those things are frequent. But until the examiners get in just before 8am there is no way of checking. That’s why I advise against my pupils booking early tests in winter – cancellations are far more likely when it is cold and icy, and it is more likely to be cold and icy (and foggy) first thing in the morning before the sun has come up properly.

The only advice I’d give is not to book very early tests in winter months, because the risk of a postponement is much higher.

When Should I Take my Pupil on the Main Road?

I originally wrote this in 2016, but it’s had a run of hits so I have updated it.

Someone found the blog on that search term today. There’s no single, definitive answer – it depends on both the ADI and the pupil.

When I take on a new pupil who has never driven before, in some cases I will take them out on a main road on the first lesson, even if it’s just for a few moments. Quite often, they’re good enough for us to be able to go to a few different places to look at different things. I’ve had a fair number who have taken to driving so quickly that we’ve even been able to take fairly long trips along dual carriageways and country lanes on that first lesson. Of course, I only do it if I think they can handle it.

At the other end of the scale, I’ve only ever had one pupil who didn’t drive home at the end of the first lesson (in fact, I had to drive her to and from a quiet area for at least the first six). All the others only get driven by me once – at the start of that first lesson. I don’t believe in ‘nursery routes’ – I hate the term, though for some ADIs collecting nursery routes is almost as important as collecting acronyms and clever sayings. What I consider to be a suitable teaching location might well be a ‘main road’ to other ADIs.

Many of my pupils will have a go with at least one of the manoeuvres on the first lesson – and it isn’t always a bay park. If someone expresses concern about being able to reverse park – usually because of what they’ve heard from friends – then we’ll probably have a go at a parallel park, where they get to see how easy it is (I remember one girl who was smug because she could do it and her mum and dad couldn’t, and her mum actually asked me to show HER how to do it). On quite a few occasions I’ve had someone who has virtually perfected ALL of the manoeuvres on that very first lesson.

If I do one of these types of lesson, I make a point of explaining that they have now experienced everything the test and routine driving is likely to throw at them, and what we have to do now is polish it up so they can do it without my help, and be able to deal with unusual situations. Whenever we’re out on ‘main roads’ I will not let them drive slowly if there’s no need – we are not going to hold people up, or have them overtaking and sounding their horns, by driving at half the speed limit.

They absolutely love the fact that they have done so much in such a short time, which is probably why teaching this way gets me a lot of referrals when pupils relate what they’re doing to their friends. If I am to believe even a fraction of what I am told by these referrals, some of them have not driven to or from their house even after six or more lessons, and yet they are clearly able to do so. Others have never travelled more than a half a mile from their house on ANY lesson, no matter how well they can drive. It’s a bit of an eye-opener for them when they see one particular route of mine – which involves a 25 mile circuit of Nottinghamshire, taking in single track roads and the A46 (as close to a motorway as you can get without actually being on one).

Of course, not all learners can do this – but I still push them, rather than hold them back. I have NEVER lost a pupil because I am teaching them ‘too much’ (and my first-time pass rate is still very high among those I have taught from scratch). However, I have taken on a lot through referrals who claim that they didn’t think they were getting anywhere…

Pupils can be nervous about going on ‘main roads’, but except in some extreme cases that is no reason for them not to. However, I also believe that some ADIs are actually frightened themselves, which is why they potter about on the industrial estates and empty car parks for so long (I’ve NEVER done an entire lesson in a car park – the only time I use one is to do a steering exercise or a manoeuvre, and I don’t want any other traffic around). It is also why, when those other ADIs eventually DO venture on to a busy road, they allow their pupils to drive at 20mph or less everywhere – even on NSL stretches.

So, when SHOULD I take my pupil on the main road?

It’s up to you. If they can handle it – and if YOU can handle it –  you shouldn’t hold off. A pupil who is capable of reaching test standard in maybe 20-30 hours shouldn’t end up having to take 30-40 hours just because you’re afraid to take them on to busy roads, and if you keep doing it to them, it will come back and bite you on the backside sooner or later.

Steering… The Right Way

This article was originally written in 2010. It was due an update.

Some time ago, a magazine printed an article which implied that driving examiners had been failing people for crossing their hands when steering. It seems that this came about because the then latest update to DT1 (16/03/2010) – a DSA (DVSA) internal guidance document – had added the following:

To ensure uniformity, when conducting car or vocational tests and ADI qualifying examinations, only assess the candidate’s ability to control the vehicle and do not consider it as a fault if, for example, they do not hold the steering wheel at ten to two or quarter to three or if they cross their hands when turning the steering wheel. The assessment should be based on whether the steering is smooth, safe and under control.

It is worth considering what the previous version (dated 28/04/2009) said on the same subject. I’d paste it, but I can’t – because nowhere in that document does it say anything about the method of steering!

I think what had become clear to DVSA is that a few examiners had been failing people for crossing their hands, not holding the wheel at ten to two, and so on, and there had been complaints made. DT1 now clarifies the issue. The paragraph quoted above pretty much states that this is what had been happening, so now there is uniformity.

I think the magazine should have clarified the situation, but in actual fact it gave the usual group of ADIs more anti-DVSA material. However, ‘crossing hands’ is something many ADIs just don’t understand, and I suspect this applies to the magazine editors too.

When someone who has never driven before starts to steer, almost invariably they keep a firm grip on the wheel when turning. Their hands might start at ten to two or a quarter to three (using the clock face to describe hand position), but by the time they have turned the wheel half a revolution or so one way or the other their arms are crossed, and they can’t go any further. Most turns at junctions require at least ¾ of a revolution of the steering wheel, so the pupil ends up going wide and panicking. Crossing hands in this way – with a fixed grip on the wheel – is obviously not ‘under control’, and it is why it is important to get them into a good steering routine right from the start.

That good routine usually begins with the ‘pull-push’ method – or as I often word it when prompting someone ‘shuffle those hands!’

‘Hand over hand’ steering is not the same thing as ‘crossing hands’, and it never has been. It is perfectly safe and correct for pupils to reach over past one hand when turning if they are in control. It is a natural extension of ‘pull-push’ in order to get faster movement. No one has ever said that hands must remain on either side of the steering wheel.

It’s a tricky and delicate issue. Many examiners were once ADIs, and it is obvious that misunderstandings will be carried over. That’s what DVSA addressed with the changes to DT1.

I mention this simply because I was reading a forum where someone made the comment:

I’ve noticed the xmnrs are a bit more relaxed with steering these days and the crossing of hands seems to be allowed providing car control has not been affected.

As I have explained, ‘crossing hands’ was never actually an issue. It was made into one by ADIs like this, and it is typical of how the magazine article was interpreted by a lot of instructors – even though nothing had actually changed. Any previous problems with test fails due to ‘crossing hands’ or not holding the wheel at ten to two was down to individual examiners not knowing what they were doing. It wasn’t a change in DVSA policy.

I must stress that all the examiners I know are perfectly capable. I respect them, and I have no issues with them at all. And if they record a problem with steering, then I am pretty certain there was something genuinely wrong and they weren’t just misinterpreting their own guidelines.

Why shouldn’t I turn the wheel when the car isn’t moving?

Moving the wheel when the car is stationary is called ‘dry steering’. The examiners do not mark you on it, so it doesn’t matter if you do it or not during your test.

Doing it unnecessarily is bad practice for various reasons:

  • it can damage your tyres
  • it can damage your steering mechanism
  • it can rip up the road if the surface is hot

However, doing it occasionally isn’t going to cause any serious harm.

Normally, your tyres are rolling as you turn the steering wheel and when you dry steer, they are scrunched over whatever they’re sitting on top of instead. You can feel the extra resistance.

Dry steering needlessly is something to avoid, but there is absolutely no way your car is going to spontaneously fall apart if you use it when you need to. It is perfectly OK to use it when you are doing the manoeuvres on your test. And if you’re ever boxed in when you’re parked somewhere, you’re simply going to have to do it.

Do you teach dry steering?

These days – for manoeuvres – yes. And I have no shame over it.

When I first qualified, I had many of the same pigeon-holed ideas that other newly qualified ADIs have. I purposely taught people not to dry steer, and back then I would have defended that.

Even so, teaching people to do the manoeuvres, with fine clutch control, continuous slow vehicle movement, and getting one turn or full lock on was sometimes problematic and led to variations in the finishing positions. But that came to a head one time with one particular pupil – Ida.

She simply could not get the reverse bay park right, because she couldn’t coordinate her hands and feet. We’d been trying it for weeks, and I had an idea which initially I intended just for her – dry steering. It worked, and she could now do it (notwithstanding her other problem of knowing which way to steer).

Over the next few months, I drifted into using it for everyone, and I have never looked back. But only for manoeuvres – I don’t like them practicing steering when we are stationary (I deal with that by taking control of the pedals in an empty car park and getting them just to focus on steering as I move the car slowly).

Is dry steering a driving fault?


Can dry steering damage my car?

If you were doing it all day, potentially, yes. But in real life driving you are going to have to do it whether you like it or not sometimes.

Phrases (and Methods) an ADI Uses When Teaching

This article was originally published in early 2012 and was based on an even earlier article in which I talked about the most common phrases I seem to use when I’m conducting lessons. That earlier article was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but my stats tell me that – from time to time – buzzword bingo becomes an important topic for many ADIs out there. We seem to be in one such phase again at the moment.

One of the biggest problems faced by many instructors is their educational background – and getting confused with what is actually required to teach people to drive. I remember when I was doing my Part 3 training, with many lessons of a 2 to 1 nature, hearing ex-miners and labourers trying to talk like Prince Charles (now King Charles, of course) when they were delivering their briefings. They obviously didn’t understand what they were saying – they just thought it needed to sound ‘posh’. It would literally be a case of the blind leading the blind if they tried to teach real pupils.

In spite of all that, people with such backgrounds often become ADIs.

A driving instructor’s job is to teach people to drive to a standard which is good enough to get them through their driving test, and start them off on a lifelong learning curve as they start driving on their own, gaining experience along the way. Nowhere is it written that the training has to be delivered according to Debrett’s.

In a similar vein, if you listened to the Coaching and Lifestyle hawkers out there, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you can’t be an ADI unless you utilise homeopathy, aromatherapy, and psychotherapy in your lessons. It’s all a lot of bollocks, of course, and these people are just scammers after your money (or in some cases, idiots who actually believe the nonsense they peddle). She wasn’t around long, but there was an ADI advertising on the internet about seven years ago who genuinely provided aromatherapy as part of her pink-themed lessons!

Just Say What You Mean

The key to effective communication is to say what you mean and not to worry too much about how you say it. For example, don’t keep using the word “observations” if it is alien to you – and especially don’t use it if it is alien to your pupil. Just say “look all round”, or something that fits in with the local lingo (or a lingo the pupil understands). Use the occasional fancy word by all means, but make sure you define it first. A lot of pupils have a nasty habit of not telling you when they don’t understand something, and that means your message never gets across – even though you might plough ahead thinking it has.

Communication has to lead to understanding, and when it doesn’t the implications can be frightening. Take the Show Me/Tell Me question about testing your brakes. Just imagine what might happen if a pupil passes their test without understanding what ‘spongy or slack’ actually means (and many don’t). It’s far better that they use more familiar words like sloppy, soft, loose, floppy, and so on – the examiner isn’t going to mark them down for it.

Proper communication isn’t just about reading a lesson plan out loud using a flowery dialect you or your pupils are unfamiliar with. Your perceived eloquence has to be as well received as it is delivered.

And Understand What You Say

For God’s sake, don’t say something if you don’t understand it! Keep it simple enough for your pupil – and yourself.

Give Me An A

Some ADIs collect acronyms and sayings as if their lives depended on it. Periodically, one of the forums will light up after someone decides to harvest some new ones and asks for contributions. It’s usually a new ADI who does it, but it is clear that many people absolutely live for the damned things. Unfortunately, most haven’t stopped to consider the effect this has on their pupils. Many learners have enough trouble remembering to put the clutch down when they stop without having to decipher SCALP or whatever brilliant acronym their instructor has pulled from their tickler file for the occasion.

Rigid systems are not the best way to produce safe drivers – all they do is produce people who can follow a rigid pattern under set circumstances. However, if circumstances change they often have no Plan B, and that kind of of driver is probably the most dangerous type on our roads. Acronyms might allow someone to remember what something is – but they do absolutely nothing for understanding.

Personally, I explain MSM-PSL-LADA to my pupils at some point simply because it (the MSM part) is in the Highway Code several times. But not at the beginning of their lessons – only when they’re already doing it later on. The only other times any acronym or silly saying gets discussed is when one of them brings it up, having heard it from a previous instructor or one of their friends. My favourite is the tyres-and-tarmac (TAT) one – which invariably results in at least a 5m gap between us and the car in front (which is far too much), and which inevitably leads to one or two fewer vehicles getting through that annoyingly brisk set of lights during the evening rush hour!

If a Picture Paints a Thousand Words…

…then don’t assume people will want a song and dance, too! I am aware of at least one ADI who considers his singing ability – which isn’t shared by those who have heard it – is worthy of using on driving lessons.

I am an introvert, and if someone performs in front of me – and especially if they try to involve me, or if they are not as good as they think they are – then I usually want to curl up and die. I am intelligent enough to know that at least half of my pupils would be equally uncomfortable having this forced on them. Christ, many of them are uncomfortable even being asked a question! In other words, know how far you can go – don’t go as far as you can, because you (think you) can.

Take The Next Turn…

It’s easy to overlook the importance of clear and unambiguous directions to pupils during lessons (and on their tests). Not doing so is a mistake that all of us will have made at one time or another.

Years ago, not long after I qualified, I was doing a roundabouts session with a pupil. As we sat at traffic lights just before this one particular multi-lane roundabout I was emphasising that she should stay in lane and follow it around to the second exit. She queried it, and I naively said ‘just follow that car in front’. She did, and we negotiated the roundabout perfectly. Yes, I know what could have happened, because half a mile further on it did. She unexpectedly turned off into a side road. When I asked why she’d done it, she replied ‘you said to follow that car’. Rule #1: make sure you cancel an instruction when it is no longer valid – even if you think a later instruction has superseded it. And don’t ask them to follow other cars – they’ll do that often enough without any encouragement.

Much more recently, I had a pupil with an irritating habit of asking where we were going before we got anywhere near a junction. On this particular day I’d asked him to stop it because it was causing confusion. Anyway, we were driving back to his school and, as we got near it, we sailed past the normal turn-off (he’d been routinely driving this route unaided on lessons). I thought he may be taking an alternative route and didn’t say anything, but a little further on – when I realised how far out of our way we were heading – something dawned on me, and I asked: ‘did you deliberately go straight ahead back there because I told you not to keep trying to guess where we’re going?’ He replied: ‘yes’. I wasn’t pleased. Rule #2: pupils can be stupid and childish – don’t make it easier for them to do it.

Some learners are so highly strung that they’re like firecrackers next to an open fire. The slightest spark – even just saying something – can be enough to make them go off with a bang. A few years ago, I had a guy who had social and personal issues. On one lesson we were accelerating on a 40mph road, and I said calmly: ‘now put it into 3rd gear’. I’m not exaggerating, but his hand spread out like a trawling net, and he went first for the handbrake, then the radio, brushed the gear stick, and then attempted to pull something non-existent under the dashboard just to the left of the steering column. Rule #3: pupils can be very unpredictable – be ready for anything.

Allowing for these types of behaviour, the ADI has to be really careful not to make matters worse. Even the best pupils can begin to act on a direction before you’ve finished giving it. Therefore, directions such as ‘turn right at the end of the road’ could quite literally lead you up someone’s garden path (or into a canal). A much better structure is ‘at the end of the road, turn right’. That way, there’s nothing they can act on until you get it all out. For this reason, it makes sense to sit in on a few tests and listen to the way the examiner gives instructions. Also, look up the terminology in the examiners’ SOP (DT1).

Hear, Hear

Most pupils can hear their mobile phone in their handbag when it receives a text message over the sound of the engine, wind, rain, and a full-on rock concert. Indeed, most can hear it vibrate even when it’s switched to silent. But if you say something like: ‘at the roundabout, we’re going straight ahead 2nd exit. Follow the A52 markings towards Nottingham. Stay in the left-hand lane’, what they actually hear is more like: “blahblahblah blahblahblahblah blah blahblahblah blahblahblah blah LEFT blahblah blahblahblah”. Be prepared for the possibility of a James Bond style left turn on two wheels. This gets better over time for most of them, but it is a genuine issue that the ADI needs to be aware of.

On a related note, most pupils – especially the girls – can see a squirrel in a tree three quarters of a mile away and are more than happy to execute an emergency stop to avoid any possibility of harming it. They’re not quite as good when it comes to seeing pedestrians on a crossing just in front of them.

Cut To The Chase

To summarise, you don’t need a whole encyclopaedia of clever sayings and phrases. In all honesty, if that’s what you consider makes someone a good instructor then you’re not going to be around for very long. A good instructor cuts through the crap and gets his or her message across clearly and concisely, and in a way the particular pupil understands (so concentrate more on finding out what vocabulary they have) – and so gets on with the important business of teaching people to drive.

ADI Annual Mileage

This article was written over ten years ago! But it’s had a run of hits, so I’ve updated and expanded it.

Someone found the blog (during the last recession) on the search term “adi drive miles per year”. I was surprised that anyone should think that there is somehow a fixed figure, and that any sort of definite answer could be provided.

At one time, I would cover as many as almost 50,000 miles year on lessons (including travelling between them). During Covid, of course, it was close to zero. Your mileage is a combination of where you live, how wide an area you cover, and what you do on your lessons. For example, yesterday I took someone (qualified Ukrainian refugee) down the M1 to Leicester, back up the M1 and through Loughborough, then down some single-track roads and country lanes. Two hours of solid driving, and we covered about 60 miles. Other times, if we are simply brushing up on manoeuvres near someone’s test, we might only cover 5 miles. On average, though, I tend to do about 10-20 miles on lessons.

I knew for a fact – certainly when I wrote the original article – that some ADIs do a lot less than that all the time. I was also aware of some (far fewer) who did more. Using my figures, above, if every lesson was like yesterday, I’d rack up around 45,000 miles in a typical year. However, if I averaged 15 miles a lesson, it would be more like 22,000 miles.

As both an aside and an example, one of mine passed her test first time recently. She’d been referred to me by her friend, who is also one of my pupils. Both of them had been having issues with their previous instructor, and they felt ‘something was missing’.

The first thing wrong was that neither of them had driven in any of the areas the driving test could cover, and had simply remained very local in each case. Both had tests booked in the short term, and both had done at least 30 hours of lessons. They also had other issues – the one who passed was accustomed to finding the bite with the foot brake on, not using gas to move off, and checking her mirrors far too often.

After the second lesson, when I had to grab the wheel to avoid oncoming vehicles on a bend as she did the head-waggling routine across all three mirrors without actually seeing anything, I questioned her. She’d been told to check all her mirrors every three seconds! I pointed out she was looking in the mirrors almost as much as she was looking ahead, and if your eyes can’t see something in front of you, your brain isn’t going to tell you to avoid it. I explained that checking the mirrors according to an artificial and arbitrary schedule is a stupid thing to teach people, and you simply need to check your mirrors periodically (to remain aware) or when you want to genuinely see what is around you before you do something. Otherwise you mainly concentrate on what is happening in front of you. She agreed after seeing what had nearly happened.

I made it clear before the first lesson that if I didn’t think she could pass the test by the booked time we’d change it, which she also agreed to. Ironically, both she and her friend had chosen their original instructor because she was female (they are both Muslim). I made it clear to both of them I am Muslim-friendly, and that since Ramadan was approaching, if they had any issues with fasting and concentration then I was happy to arrange lessons accordingly.

She did about ten hours with me, and at least seven of those involved 15-20 mile journeys to experience some of the trickier features likely on the Colwick test (Marshall Hill, West Bridgford town centre, Stoke Bardolph and Burton Joyce, the City Centre, and so on), with occasional stops to fix the various issues (the bite/foot brake thing was due to being previously taught in a diesel, whereas mine is a petrol car and easily stalls if you find too much bite with the brake on, as do most petrol cars).

OK. End of digression.

A typical driving test covers between 8-20 miles based on accurate measurements I have taken. It follows that at least some driving lessons should cover that much – and more, particularly if you are covering motorways.

The bottom line is that the annual number of miles covered by ADIs is based on location, lesson quality and instructor competence, part time or full time, areas covered (or prepared to be covered), the current economic climate, and so on.

There is no set answer to this question. You do what is necessary for the pupil, and not what saves you the most money.

Turning Right at Crossroads

Originally published in 2011, but updated periodically.

There seems to be a lot of confusion over how to turn right at crossroads when another vehicle is turning right from the opposite direction.

Driving: The Essential Skills (TES) – that’s the official DVSA guide to driving – says the following:

Turning right when an oncoming vehicle is also turning right

When two vehicles approaching from opposite directions both want to turn right, there are two methods that can be used. Either method is acceptable, but will usually be determined by

  • the layout of the crossroads
  • what course the other driver decides to take
  • road markings

Turning offside to offside

The advantage of this method is that both can see oncoming traffic.

In congested traffic conditions, leave a space for approaching traffic to turn right.

Turning nearside to nearside

This method is less safe because the view of oncoming vehicles isn’t clear. Watch out for oncoming traffic hidden by larger vehicles. Motorcyclists and cyclists are particularly vulnerable, as they would be hidden by any type of vehicle.

Be ready to stop for oncoming vehicles.

Police control or road markings sometimes make this method compulsory.

Defensive driving

Try to make eye contact with the driver of the approaching vehicle to determine which course is best. Your speed should allow you to stop if the other driver pulls out across your path.

The Essential Skills

What’s the difference between nearside to nearside and offside to offside turning? Well, the nearside of the car is the one nearest the kerb, and the offside is the one farthest away from the it (the driver’s side). If you were turning offside-to-offside, this is what you’d be doing.

Offside-to-offside turning

Note how each vehicle goes around the rear of the other, and so each has a completely clear view of the road ahead.

However, many road junctions are laid out so that offside-to-offside is impractical, or there might be a lot of traffic turning from the opposite side. This is where it would be necessary to use nearside-to-nearside instead. The positioning looks like this.

Nearside-to-nearside turning

Here, the cars pass in front of each other, but that means there is a large blind spot created by the other vehicle(s), so you should always exercise caution if you are doing it this way. Only turn if you know it is clear, because cyclists and motorcyclists can still get past even on quite narrow roads.

As TES says, either method is perfectly acceptable, though one carries more risk.

Remember that every junction is different, and what works in one place will likely be different at another.

If you’re turning right from a side road at crossroads, and someone is doing the same on the other side, who has right of way? Officially, no one does. So, how do you deal with it at a junction where there are no marked turning areas?

The advice is to make eye contact with the other driver, but no one tells you how that translates into a solution. Fortunately, the other driver will do one of two things that effectively solve the problem for you. They will either pull out to try and ‘beat’ you (just let them get on with it), or they will flash their lights to tell you you can go first.

You ought to know that flashing headlights officially only means ‘I am here’, and nothing else. The problem is that if the other driver flashes you, other people will also see it and could assume it is directed at them. Don’t ignore it, but if you are absolutely sure it is directed at you, make certain there is nothing coming, don’t take risks, and take advantage of the opportunity. On your test, if you flash your lights at someone like this, you would probably get a serious fault for it. But if you respond correctly to someone flashing at you, you won’t be marked for it, because you’re not doing anything wrong.

An unwritten rule is that whoever got to the junction first takes priority, but you can’t assume everyone else will see it that way. Audi and BMW drivers certainly won’t.

Remember that the Highway Code says you shouldn’t beckon other drivers and road users. It doesn’t say you can’t communicate with them. Just don’t wave them forward – let them make their own decisions.

What happens when both cars are turning right at crossroads?

Neither car has priority. The options available to you are to turn nearside-to-nearside or offside-to-offside, as explained above.

When you reach the junction, make eye contact with the other driver. It isn’t a contest for you, so be prepared to give way if they treat it as though it is. You won’t lose anything by waiting for a few seconds while he gets out of the way. Obviously, if he gives way to you then you should check that it’s safe and proceed.

Can you flash your headlights?

Don’t flash your headlights at anyone on your test unless it is to alert them to your presence.

Many other drivers will flash their headlights to tell you they are giving way to you. It’s your responsibility to check that it is safe to go, and if you’re sure the flash was directed at you, just take advantage of it.

When you’ve passed your test, you probably will use your headlights for this occasionally. Just don’t get carried away and do it all the time.

Can you wave people through?

No. Never wave people through. It is dangerous.

But should you do these things on your test?

No. Don’t flash your headlights or gesture at people on your test. However, it is possible that a situation could arise where the only sensible thing to do is to flash your headlights or gesture to someone – even to beckon them.

Many years ago I had a pupil on test. He turned into a narrow road, and further down it was blocked by a bin lorry making bin collections, and the road wasn’t wide enough for two cars with all the parked vehicles along one side. He stopped. After a pause, he said to the examiner ‘I can’t get past’. The examiner replied ‘well, what would you do if you were here on your own?’ The pupil replied ‘well, I’d probably go up on the pavement to get past that way’. The examiner said ‘well, off you go’. He made sure it was safe to do it, and went by the lorry. And he passed.

You have to assess, be confident… and be safe.

Pupils don’t understand what offside and nearside mean.

Then educate them! It’s what they’re paying you for.

Offside to offside turning is stupid – people don’t do it.

No it isn’t, and yes they do. This ridiculous statement comes from poor quality instructor training. Sometimes it is road marked that you should do it. As TES says: either method is acceptable.

Marked crossroads are invariably nearside-to-nearside anyway.

No they aren’t! Just because you’ve never seen the other kind doesn’t mean they don’t exist. There are quite a few in Nottingham which are included in test routes.

This comment was picked up from a forum which was visiting this article when it was originally published, and it is simply untrue. As I’ve made clear, either method is acceptable and which one you use depends on:

  • the junction involved
  • road markings
  • road layout (i.e. is it symmetrical or slightly skewed/staggered?)
  • the time of day (i.e. how busy is it?)
  • what other road users are doing (rightly or wrongly)

Offside to offside is unquestionably the safest method wherever it is possible to use it. Blindly trying to do nearside to nearside without understanding what you’re doing often means cutting corners, forcing others to stop or slow down, and taking needless risks. It points to ignorance of road rules and poor attitude.

Why should you check your mirrors when turning right?

One word: cyclists!

You ought to do a quick shoulder check, as well, just to be on the safe side. Trust me, not that long ago I saw a cyclist race up to a car which was turning right into Netherfield near the Colwick test centre, and turn right on his offside just as the car moved off. I’ve also seen them go round the nearside and do it.

To be fair, it isn’t just cyclists (though it is mainly them who are the problem). Motorcyclists (especially mopeds, which are just powered bicycles when you consider the idiots who usually ride them) will do it, and I’ve even had a van overtake (on the offside) when turning into a side road (I reported him to the police).

Who has priority at unmarked crossroads?

The short answer is no one does. Even at marked ones you can never be completely certain what others are going to do.

However, as a general rule for yourself, assume that if you are going to cross the path of anyone else, then you don’t have any sort of ‘priority’. In other words, if you are turning right at a crossroads, and someone on the opposite side wants to turn to their left or go straight ahead (and they might not be signalling even if they’re going left or right), don’t take any risks and just let them get on with it.

Make eye contact with the other driver. They may indicate with a gesture that they are allowing you to have priority – priority can be given, but never taken or assumed.

Driving: The Essential Skills (TES) says:

  • if you’re turning right and the other vehicle is going ahead or turning left, you should normally wait for the other vehicle to clear the junction before you make your turn. Otherwise, you’d be cutting across their path

People come up with all sorts of ‘what if’ scenarios for this situation, but the simple answer is not to take risks, and not to assume other people are good drivers. For the sake of a few seconds, it is a minor inconvenience at most. Just give them priority (or let them assume they have it). That way, you are driving defensively even if they aren’t.

Positioning on Roundabouts

The blog article about How to do Roundabouts remains popular (and, judging from feedback I receive, very useful to many). One question which crops up again and again is to do with positioning on roundabouts. At the time I wrote this original article, it was being fuelled by nonsense from IAM, and and readily picked up by ADIs who have ideas above their station.The Highway Code roundabouts image

The Highway Code shows this picture (above) and the accompanying text says:

Rule 186

Signals and position. When taking the first exit to the left, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise

  • signal left and approach in the left-hand lane
  • keep to the left on the roundabout and continue signalling left to leave.When taking an exit to the right or going full circle, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise
  • signal right and approach in the right-hand lane
  • keep to the right on the roundabout until you need to change lanes to exit the roundabout
  • signal left after you have passed the exit before the one you want.When taking any intermediate exit, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise
  • select the appropriate lane on approach to and on the roundabout
  • you should not normally need to signal on approach
  • stay in this lane until you need to alter course to exit the roundabout
  • signal left after you have passed the exit before the one you want.When there are more than three lanes at the entrance to a roundabout, use the most appropriate lane on approach and through it.

The underlining is mine, for emphasis. The Highway Code – both image and text – is crystal clear about staying in lane on roundabouts. It says nothing about ‘straight-lining’ or advanced (imagined or otherwise) police pursuit techniques. That’s because 99.9% of drivers shouldn’t be trying those things on normal British roads (and I include every single member of IAM in that 99.9%).

Then we come to Driving: The Essential Skills (TES, latest edition). This is effectively the syllabus that all driving instructors should be teaching in accordance with, with no exceptions that I can immediately think of. It says:

Procedure when entering/leaving a roundabout

Adopt the following procedure unless road signs or markings indicate otherwise.

Going left

  • Indicate left as you approach.
  • Approach in the left-hand lane.
  • Keep to that lane on the roundabout.
  • Maintain a left turn signal through the roundabout.

Going ahead

  • No signal necessary on approach.
  • Approach in the left-hand lane. If you can’t use the left-hand lane (because, for example, it’s blocked), use the lane next to it.
  • Keep to the selected lane on the roundabout.
  • Check your mirrors, especially the nearside exterior mirror.
  • Indicate left after you’ve passed the exit just before the one you intend to take.

Going right or full-circle

  • Indicate right as you approach.
  • Approach in the right-hand lane
  • Keep to that lane and maintain the signal on the roundabout.
  • Check your mirrors, especially the nearside exterior mirror.
  • Indicate left after you’ve passed the exit just before the one you intend to take.

Again, the underlining is mine, for emphasis. TES is also crystal clear about what is expected of drivers using roundabouts. It also uses the same image found in the Highway Code.

Even if you open a copy of ‘Roadcraft – The Police Driver’s Handbook’ you will not find any explicit recommendation that this procedure is to be ignored and replaced by ‘straight-lining’. It’s only when you start searching various ‘advanced driving’ forums (where people have names like ‘Super Scooby’ as tribute to the fact that they drive a Subaru pratmobile) that the concept of ‘straight-lining’ roundabouts rears its head. The general attitude of the average piston head-cum-IAM-member is basically this (my translation):

Straight-lining is not recommended by any authority, and you will not find it written down anywhere. The police recommend using lane discipline at all times except when on an emergency call. HOWEVER… because we class ourselves as advanced drivers, if WE feel it is safe to straight-line a roundabout then that’s perfectly OK.

Seriously, that is exactly what it boils down to. At the time I first wrote this, IAM was simply up to one of its periodic self-promotion exercises. Is it OK to straight-line a roundabout?

If there are marked lanes, you should use the marked lanes! You have absolutely no reason to do it any other way, since following the lanes will be the safest line through – that’s why they’re there. You have no need whatsoever to gain a fraction of a second advantage by ‘straight-lining’ as opposed to following the lanes. At best, you will manage to overtake a couple of other drivers who will then laugh at you when they catch up at the next set of lights. And the set after. And so on.

If the roundabout itself is unmarked, then you should use implied lane markings as suggested in the Highway Code diagram shown above. For example, if you have a two-lane dual carriageway feeding a roundabout – and there are no lane markings suggesting otherwise – then that implies that the roundabout also has two lanes. Implied markings extend to most roundabouts where two cars can proceed on to them at the same time, even if there is only a single marked lane on approach. It also applies to most of those which are wide enough to accommodate two cars side by side. The implied markings are governed by the widest feed road (i.e. it doesn’t matter if you’re entering from a single-track road, if the roundabout also has a six-lane dual carriageway feeding it, then it will have six lanes at some point!)

Will I fail my test if I straight-line a roundabout?

If it is clearly marked with lanes and you go careering across several or them and then back over again, yes. If a lane is clearly marked A60, for example, and another A52, if you attempt to take either the A60 or the A52 using the wrong lane you will be nailed for it. And you deserve to be.

If the lanes are implied then examiners often use a little common sense. Remember that learners and new drivers are, by definition, not experienced. For some, even driving in a straight line and checking their mirrors at the same time can be a major challenge, and although most learners are not quite that bad (though they do exist), they are far from being perfect drivers and their awareness skills are not fully formed. Therefore, if a learner on test doesn’t stay in lane – whether marked or implied – on a roundabout, almost without exception it is because they didn’t realise they were doing it and it is a serious error. This is especially true if there’s another road user there, and the examiners will mark it accordingly.

I have listened in on several test debriefs where someone has failed for doing precisely this, and the explanation has gone roughly as follows:

You approached the [implied markings] roundabout in the left-hand lane [of a two-lane dual carriageway]. As you moved on to it, you moved across towards the centre – which is OK – but you didn’t check your mirror to see if there was anyone coming up behind or in your blind spot. So that’s why I’ve had to fail you.

Personally, I hate this explanation, because it implies that the driver did it on purpose and just didn’t check. But I know they didn’t have a clue what he was talking about (I had to show one of them the dashcam footage on at least one occasion so they understood both where and what had happened). It was lazy positioning and no road markings – not intentional ‘straight-lining’.

It would be far simpler (and safer) just to learn to bloody stay in lane and keep out of harm’s way.

One final point. You might get away with lazy positioning once or twice if you’re lucky. Keep doing it and you will be marked down, because it is a fault.

Where can I read up on straight-lining?

You can’t – not unless you just want inaccurate and unofficial nonsense from middle-aged boy racers. The whole concept of ‘straight-lining’ is completely absent from any authoritative published material. DVSA expects good lane discipline on roundabouts.

I was taught to straight-line in the police/military

The only real purpose for ‘straight-lining’ is to gain advantage – either getting past someone, or saving fractions of a second. For the police on a call, that makes sense. I’m not convinced on the reasons for the military teaching it unless it, too, was for pursuit or reasons of timing (or possibly so the cargo doesn’t tip over). There is absolutely no reason for a normal driver (even if they are an ADI) doing it except to show off or be different.

I teach my pupils to straight-line if it’s safe

Then you’re not teaching them properly, because it isn’t what DVSA is expecting you to do. You are expected to teach them lane discipline, not some smart-arsed ideas from an online driving group that thinks it is ‘advanced’.

Learners (and new drivers) do not have the experience to be able to reliably check that it is safe to ‘straight-line’ and deal with everything else that might be going on. If they get it wrong when they’re out on their own it would be a disaster. Many of them can’t follow lanes because they don’t even know the lanes are there, and they should be taught how to do it properly first. When they’ve passed, it’s then up to them whether or not they turn into smart-arse know-it-alls, but they shouldn’t be taught to be smart-arse know-it-alls when they don’t even know the basics.

Straight-lining is an advanced driving skill that it is useful for learners to know

No it isn’t. It’s only an ‘advanced skill’ to a small number of anoraks, and apart from making the statement ‘look what a prat I am’ it serves absolutely no useful purpose for normal drivers. It is used to overtake where you shouldn’t, or to gain pointless milliseconds that are lost at the next set of traffic lights.

On a larger roundabout, your road position is likely to be misleading if you’re ‘straight-lining’, and that means others could enter it as you swerve back over. The police get away with it because they have a siren and flashing blue lights – and even they occasionally have accidents because of it.

Learners should be taught to slow down and check properly at roundabouts, not to take risks.

How would the examiner view straight-lining?

It depends on the examiner. In the example I gave above, they often seem to assume it was deliberate but without the mirror checks. However, I know full well that it was because they hadn’t got a clue that there were lane positions to follow. On the other hand, I am pretty certain that if the roundabout had clearly marked and signed lanes, attempting to ‘straight-line’ one of those is not going to be seen as a positive unless you got very, very lucky. In most cases, even if the pupil managed to get into the correct lane eventually, it would go down as a ‘road signs/road markings’ fault for not choosing the correct lane. But add ‘observations’ on top when they do it and a serious fault is almost guaranteed.

Just don’t do it.

Teaching pupils to stay in lane isn’t teaching them safe driving for life

I’m afraid that it is. Learners are not experienced – experience is something they have to gain for themselves after they pass their tests. They need to have the safest basic skills on which to build that experience, and learning how to stay in lane and avoid conflicts is one of the best examples of that. New drivers who ‘straight-line’ nearly always do so because they either don’t know how to stay in lane, or simply want to go faster than everyone else. Those who ‘straight-line’ are usually also speeding.

I am a ‘safe driver’. I’ve been driving my whole adult life. And I use good lane discipline. The only time I usually have to take any sort of evasive action is when other people don’t use good lane discipline.

The 4 Es of Road Safety

All the Es

This article was originally published in 2011, but I’ve updated it a couple of times since, and again in 2018 following a run of hits. It’s been popular on and off since, and has suddenly been swamped again in mid-2021.

The original article came about after watching an argument flare up on a forum concerning the 4Es. Basically, no one knew what they were, but they’d all done a quick search and were arguing their own interpretations of the first hit they’d come across on Google. It’s funny watching people trying to put each other down when none of them have a clue.

As an aside, I notice that some organisations have turned the 4Es into the 5Es. At least I guess it means they can have more meetings, do more flipcharts, and offer more consultation opportunities instead of getting on with some bloody work. I’ve even seen the 3Es out there somewhere. Talk about confusion!

One of the big problems trying to get to the bottom of what the 4Es are all about is that even the people apparently implementing them obfuscate things so much that they don’t have a clue, either. The best place to go for a serious explanation is America, and a public safety site for Nevada is probably the best I’ve seen.

Nevada gives them as:

  • engineering
  • enforcement
  • education
  • emergency response

The Wikipedia entry explains:

Accident prevention and improvement of traffic safety

This comprises education and information, above all following the “4 Es”: enforcement, education, engineering, encouragement/economy. The main goal is promoting safety by influencing and modifying behavior using legal, educational, vehicle- and road-specific measures; driver training, driving-instructor education, information on traffic issues, campaign design and marketing, effective enforcement.

You will note the slight difference with the fourth one, though if you think about it, Nevada has it covered with their version – and bear in mind that they actually use it.

“Engineering” means things like road design, lane markings, footpaths, and so on (design things with safety in mind). “Enforcement” means publicity, policing, and so on (remind people, and pull them up if they don’t comply). “Education” means giving out information, conducting campaigns, and so on for all users (pedestrians and drivers). “Emergency response” refers to maintaining a “first responder” system.

India has been looking into it, and they refer to:

…included engineering of safe roads, provision of emergency care, enforcement of traffic rules and regulations, the use of ITS for improving road safety, and the creation of an educational and awareness campaign for changing road user behaviour to improve road safety.

The same headings as Nevada. And the ITE – an international organisation – says:

Within the 4 E’s of transportation safety, “engineering” and “education” are two of the more traditional focuses for transportation engineers and planners. However, the importance of “enforcement” and “emergency responses” should not be understated, and both are critical elements of a successful roadway safety management program.

From a driving instructor’s point of view, the education part is the one they are going to be dealing with, though perhaps with a little enforcement thrown in.

Remember, though, that it is the dog which wags the tail – not the other way round – and decent instructors (or anyone else acting responsibly) are covering their part automatically without having to worry about acronyms and the inevitable flipcharts and Powerpoint sessions. In the rat race, though, it all has to be documented and filed, so it is a much bigger – and more costly – job.

DL25 – The Driving Test Marking Sheet

DVSA LogoThis is an old article which was updated several times over the years to maintain a link to an up to date DL25 – which was the name of the form used to record the result of a driving test. However, since November 2019, DVSA has switched to using an electronic version of the DL25 via iPads during the test. There is no longer a paper record created at the end of the test. And I have since discovered that as of April 2021 (and apologies if the link has been broken longer than that), DVSA no longer provides the DL25 for download. I guess it makes sense that they don’t, since it is now obsolete and would not reflect any changes to the test going forward.

What happens now is that the candidate is told whether they passed or failed, a debrief is given the same way it always has been (referring to the faults displayed on the iPad), and a copy of this same results list is emailed to the address given when the test was booked.

It’s a straightforward exercise getting the pupil to email or text you a copy if you really need it. Quite frankly, in most cases you don’t – you can refer to the pupil’s copy the next time you see them, and you’ll already be aware of what they failed for by listening to the debrief.

However, right now having a copy of the old DL25 is useful when conducting lessons – especially for new instructors. The test is still marked pretty much the same as it ever was (at the moment), it’s just reported differently. And the test report (explanations of what is expected) is useful to anyone learning to drive.

Here is a PDF file of the last DL25 form that I had. Note that some of the pages were for examiners’ internal use, and are not relevant to pupils.

The test report is explained in detail in this article (and note that DVSA has recently updated its own guidance on the test result/report as of May 2021, and this supersedes any articles concerning the DL25 in paper form).

Can instructors use an iPad when doing mock tests?

The short – and correct – answer is no, they cannot. There’s no point arguing about it: you can’t.

When a candidate is on their test, they are not classed as a learner driver. Therefore, the examiner is not the supervising driver. That is why the examiner is not breaking the Law by filling in an iPad form.

However, when they are on lessons, pupils are still learners, and that means the instructor is the supervising driver. It is illegal for whoever is in overall control of the car to use a handheld device while the car is moving (or if the engine is on, even if you’re stationary, if you’re going by the letter of the Law),

Personally, I have never understood the fascination many ADIs have with ‘mock tests’. The only test that matters is the real one – because it is conducted by someone who is specifically trained and authorised to administer them. Anything else is just play-acting and the outcome is pointless. This is even more true when the test conductor insists on dressing up in hi-vis jackets and farting about with a clip board. In these situations, they’re not examiners – they are still the supervising driver. And the pupil knows it is you, and not an examiner, so the perceived benefit of generating ‘the test situation’ is moot.

Having seen many paperless tests in action (i.e. no big deal at all), I can assure you that filling in a DL25 by hand on your mock-test pantomime sessions instead of on an iPad is not going to ruin the impression anyone has of you.

Where can I get the 2021 (or any later year) marking sheet?

There isn’t one. It is now marked electronically. However, the old DL25 is still completely relevant for developing lesson plans.