What Driving Instructors Think About Improving Training

At this stage, we’re still awaiting the Green Paper that may pave the way for radical changes to the way young people learn to drive and gain their driving licences.

No one is more keen to see a drop in the number of deaths and serious injuries on Britain’s roads than 4 Young Drivers; the insurance industry is wholeheartedly behind such a plan, not least because a significant drop in accident rates could mean cheaper insurance premiums for young drivers in the longer term.

A group with a valid voice in a discussion about driver training

There’s another group of people with a voice to be heard and that’s driving instructors. In their hands currently lies the safety, not only of the people they train, but of any road user a young driver is likely to come into contact with when he finds himself on the road for the first time.

At the sharp end

Driving instructors are at the sharp end of the business. In the short-term, their reputations may rest on the pass rate of their students. In the longer term, it could be argued that the way in which newly qualified young drivers put their skills into practice reflects largely on their early training.

The proposed changes expected in the Green Paper would change some of that. With a recommendation that young drivers rack up a minimum 12 month learning period, 100 hours of supervised daytime practice and 20 hours of night-time practice, the responsibility for a driver’s training will expand beyond the scope of a single instructor, with parents, family menbers and other qualified drivers likely to become involved in logging ongoing supervision. The lengthened time span involved in a driver’s training increases the chances that good habits will be adopted.

Instructors opinions

So what do driving instructors think of the new ideas? 4 Young Drivers asked them for their opinions; we received mixed responses, with some support expressed for some of the Green Paper’s suggestions, while other proposals were thought to be unworkable.

Stephen Lewis, a driving instructor at Driving Zone in Milton Keynes, says,

“Some ideas are sensible, such as motorway training and taking a year to learn. Others, such as an age limit on passengers and being supervised after passing are just plain stupid.”

Stephen feels that politics are playing a part in the decision-making.

“Almost a quarter of collisions involve a driver under 24," he says. “So what proposals are being drawn up to tackle the other 75%? None, as they would affect politicians.” 

Oliver Smith, who runs Totally Driving in Teddington agrees with Stephen that motorway driving practice is a good idea but says,

“Most of the ideas are completely unworkable. 100 hours of lessons doesn't mean a pupil will be any better at driving. It just means you will have a very broke family member paying for it and a slightly resentful and bored pupil.”

Oliver has other ideas that he thinks would be useful.

“If we were to do more hours, off-road training such as skid-pan driving and car handing/defensive driving would be helpful.”  

But he has his doubts as to how workable such ideas would be in practice.

He adds,

“It's a very difficult issue to master. I think the government has to start on a number of fronts. I still feel that young drivers don't understand the danger of driving. I've noticed most of the countries that have much lower death rates on roads have very hard-hitting adverts. We don't have them anymore.

“Another front is pedestrians – a large number of the near misses and crashes I see with my 40 hours of driving a week are caused by people just stepping in front of cars. I don't remember the last time I saw any information aimed at pedestrians, for example the Green Cross Code. I would be interested to see how any incidents are indirectly caused in this way.”

Such mixed opinions from the very people who will be called upon to help put a new system into practice means there is still a long way to go. Whilst everyone can agree that road safety is paramount, the methods used to create better drivers are still, it seems, very much open to debate.

Released On 14th Jan 2014

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