For Parents /Myth Busters
With the waiting times for Practical Driving Tests being as long as they are at the minute, more people are getting their own cars and practising with friends and family. Personally, I think this can only be a good thing. Driving is a practised art and the more practise you get the more experience you aquire, which in turn can help your confidence on test day. However, many things have changed in the last 20-30 years and I want to try to help answer questions that I regularly get asked by pupils and parents.
Why does it take so long?
One of the most regular things I hear is, "My dad is wondering why it's taking so long. It only took him 10 hours". It would appear that in the 90's everyone took 10 hours to pass, myself included.
There are many answers to this question. I shall list a few -
1. When I took my test in 1991 the Driving Test was only 30 minutes long, and that was from meeting the examiner. In that 30 minutes, you had to answer a handful of Theory questions from the Highway Code book before going out for a drive that would last about 20 minutes. Today, the test includes a 40 minute drive, which is twice as long as what your parents took.
2. Cars had no frills, even a basic car today is kitted out better than a good car back then. There are so many gadgets on my car it's like getting your head around a new computer.
3. Mini roundabouts where hardly a thing when I took my test and there were none that I knew of in my area. Now they are everywhere.
4. The independant drive that has been introduced now has the candidate following a Satnav for up to half of their test. We didn't even know what the internet was in 1991, let alone a Satnav!
There are many, many more reasons why it takes longer now. I know it's a financial burden, but once you have that licence it is yours for life (if you look after it)! I'm sure any parent would want their child as safe as possible whilst out on the roads by themselves.
Why does it cost so much!
Why do I charge the amount that I charge?
"I'd sooner wait 4-5 months for DelBoy's driving school, they only charge £23."
Driving schools can use lots of 'gimmicks' to lure prospective pupils in: the temping introductory rate, guaranteed pass, etc. But if their ongoing rate is low, ask yourself why? It might well be that their running costs are kept low by keeping an older car, or that they are retired and they don't teach for a living wage. But it might also be because they're not very good. The best way for a driving school to grow is by reccommendations. If you can't get many recommendations due to poor results then you'd keep the price low and drag out the lessons!
The pass rate for the practical driving test is currently 47.4% -- that's a lot of people failing their test first time!
I am an A-graded instructor. I spend a lot of time and money on Continuous Professional Development, making sure I keep up with the best teaching methods that will, in turn, help to get you through your test first time while needing fewer lessons.
are things still the same?
Here I will try to answer/correct some of the methods parents were taught that might not be relevant today.
1. "Stop crossing your hands over. You will fail". This one pops up with almost every pupil that practises with a parent. Although adopting a 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock hand position, and a push/pull technique is best practice, you most certainly wouldn't fail your test if you crossed your hands. You can turn the wheel and cross your hands as long as the turn is good and the examiner wouldn't even mention it.
2. "You should put your handbrake/electronic parking brake on when you stop".
You might have heard your friends say that their instructor says things like, "when a pause becomes a wait, apply the handbrake". There is nothing wrong with that and if you're going to be sat at a big junction for a while why not have a rest for a bit? It can also help you out on a hill start. However, at no point do you HAVE to put your handbrake or electronic parking brake on, as long as the car is under control and doesn't roll there's no fault to mark. The only time when it has to be applied is when you park up or finish.
3. "You have to indicate to go around every parked vehicle."
This was something that was drilled into me when I was learning to drive. Quite often an indicator to overtake a parked vehicle can be very confusing, especially if there's a junction nearby, a shop entrance, etc. Question yourself if the indicator is actually needed: could the position of your car make it clear to others what you intend to do? Can the vehicle behind see that you're about to go around something? Think about your driving and what your actions mean to others.
"Drive slowly on your test so the examiner will think you're a careful driver".
Sadly, I've had a couple of people over the years fail their test because of listening to the advice of their friends and not driving as they normally would on their lessons! You've paid me a lot of money for my professional advice and experience, and I wouldn't even think about putting you in for a test unless I thought that your driving was good enough as it was . So to change what you normally do just for test day because a friend said so is crazy.
5. "You'll never check your mirrors once you've passed."
This statement is not helpful to anyone, yet I hear pupils quoting it regularly! I also believe that it is actually incorrect for the majority of people. When you have been driving for a while the majority of people are more aware of their surroundings and pick up on movement in the rearview mirror and side mirrors with a quick glance or in their peripheral vision. A quick glance doesn't always register, but yet you have checked.
If someone is getting ready to take their test, please think about what you tell them. Give them the best chance possible.
1. "They can only pass so many each day."
This myth comes up quite regularly and is linked to the other myth that nobody ever passes on a Friday as examiners have supposedly filled their quota of people they can pass for that week. Of course, this is not true. It is commonly used as an excuse by people who fail, but nobody who passes ever mentions quotas.
2. "Learners can’t be punished for speeding as you don’t yet have a driving licence."
Surely you can’t get in trouble for speeding? Where are the points going to go? Well, onto your provisional licence and then carried over onto your full licence. The law states that the driver of any vehicle is liable for breaking traffic laws. It doesn’t matter if you are a learner driver or in a dual-controlled car, so as well as failing your test you could end up with a fine, three points or having to take a speed awareness course if you speed during your driving test.
3. “The theory test is easy, don’t worry about it.”
We’ve all got friends that claim this, but you need a decent knowledge of the Highway Code and the ability to spot hazards quickly to pass. Even then, it’s not a walk in the park. In 2015/16 the theory test pass rate was 49.3%, with just 28% of tests resulting in a first-time pass. That means more people fail than pass the theory test, so it’s highly advisable you swot up beforehand.
4. "Stalling results in instant failure."
There are many things falsely believed to lead to instant driving test failure, stalling being a common one. You do not fail automatically for stalling, unless you do so repeatedly or when pulling out on to a major junction where it is deemed unsafe. If you happen to stall, don't panic as that tends to lead to another stall. Instead, gather yourself, make sure your surroundings are safe (no one about to go round you) and move off slowly and surely.