Monday, 3 November 2008

How To Choose A Driving Instructor

Lots of professional organisations (including the DSA!) often pass on what they think is "helpful advice" to those trying to find a driving instructor. Unfortunately, although well meaning, the advice they offer can sometimes be misleading and/or irrelevant.

I asked Peter Cary, Director of The ADI Federation and a fully qualified and very experienced driving instructor who specialises in teaching the disabled, nervous and those with learning difficulties to drive, what advice he would give to customers seeking a good driving instructor. Here's what he said;

"I believe that customers should be equipped with the "right questions" to ask.

The "right questions DO NOT include;

"What is your pass rate".

"What is your grade"

BUT should be....

1) Are you a fully qualified ADI? (Approved Driving Instructor)

It is possible to be taught by a PDI (Potential Driving Instructor) and to be honest some are very good, but unfortunately the vast majority never qualify as driving instructors.

29,000 people tried to become ADIs last year with just over 4,000 actually qualifying.

In fact in the case of one of the largest schools in the UK, almost half of their instructors are PDIs, easily recognised by a large red triangle being displayed on their ADI Licence displayed on the windscreen as apposed to the green octagon shown by a fully qualified ADI

2) How long have you been qualified?

A recently qualified ADI should be up to date with latest thinking, but may not have so much experience in teaching people to drive with various different techniques in helping clients to accomplish the task of driving.

3) Do you belong to a professional body?

Paying membership to one of the several bodies representing ADIs means they have the back up of a large organisation who can give them advice with problems they or their pupils may have with motoring law or the DSA.

4) Do you belong to any other road safety bodies?

A few instructors are members of bodies such as AIRSO (Association of Industrial Road Safety Officers) again demonstrating a strong commitment to improving driving for everybody.

5) Do you have any specialisms?

If the instructor teaches the more "challenging" members of society, the elderly, learning difficulties and disabled, they probably will have more patience than some who don't.

6) Do you have any extra qualifications?

You may not need some of the qualifications but the fact the ADI has gone out of his way to widen their knowledge shows that they have a commitment to their students

Some of the extra Qualifications they might have.

IAM/RoSPA membership
To belong to these organisations one has to pass a high standard of practical driving test.

Dip Di
This is a written exam in 5 parts that throughly tests the ADI knowledge in management of a driving school,car mechanics, motoring law, teaching techniques and of course driving theory, skills and procedures.

Banstead/ QEFH trained
This is a three day course devoted to teaching the disabled to drive, learning about "problems" the disabled may have and what aids are available to help overcome them.

City and Guilds 7307
This an adult teaching certificate that some colleges require before you can teach on the premises, but shows they have communication skills to impart their knowledge to others

Fleet Trainer
This is a voluntary register run by the DSA for ADIs to train FLH (Full Licence Holders) requiring an ADI to pass at a much higher standard than the basic ADI is required.

NDIS (National Driving Improvement Scheme)
This is as the name suggests a national scheme where drivers make an error of judgment, the police can offer a training course to improve their driving rather than taking the driver to court to be only fined and have points added to their licence, there are very few instructors selected to do this work.

SAFED (Safe And Fuel Efficient Driving)
This a government incentive to improve the driving of white van man there are approximately 320 ADIs out of a total of 42,000 ADIs doing this work.

There are more qualifications, but this should cover most of them.

You will be able to gauge what sort of instructor you are dealing with by the response you get to these questions, as most people don't know what to ask.

The DSA propose to make public the pass rate and grade of an instructor, which at first reading seems very useful information to make a subjective choice, however if you follow the thinking through you might not feel it's so useful.

There are lies, damned lies and statistics...

A) Grades
ADIs are graded 1 through to 6, six is the best grade, the vast majority of ADIs are grade 4.

With grades 3 and below the DSA will be taking action to remove them from the register if they do not improve very quickly.

However ADIs are graded by an examiner who sits in on ONE lesson and sees how they perform according to the DSA method of marking, we can all have a bad day, the examiner may have missed a key point in the lesson, it has happened that there has been personality clashes between ADI and examiner.

I know of many grade 4's that give wonderful training, make it fun for their clients and lots pass first time with them, I also know grade six instructors who shout and have a very short fuse with some of their students.

B) Pass Rates
The DSA used to send all ADIs their pass rates, but they gave up because no ADI ever agreed with the figures given by the DSA, there were instances of instructors who had been dead for over a year still getting pupils through the test - now thats what I call dedication!

Some instructors publish their pass rates, how are they working out their pass rate? Are they taking every customer on or are they "cherry picking"?

There is a recently formed driving school aiming at the top end of the public school market Eton, Harrow, etc and they are expecting their clients to have 4 times the average amount of lessons combined with plenty of private practice, I would be very disappointed if their pass rate was below 99.9%.

I believe if the pass rates are published it will hurt the more disadvantaged members of society as they will be turned away as "difficult" to teach and drag the pass rates of instructors down, or maybe even worse some instructors may take them on but have no intention of ever presenting them for a test.

Even though I specialise in this sector of the market and my pass rate is above the national average, if I thought it would effect potential clients considering me as an instructor, I would have to seriously consider if I would continue to accept them onto my books.

Raw statistics don't tell the whole story.

If you had a serious heart condition who would you prefer to treat you a surgeon whose patients had 20% survival rate or a surgeon with 99.9%?

The answer may seem obvious until you dig deeper, maybe the first surgeon specialises in the cases where the condition has progressed so far that no other person will attempt the operation, whilst the other specialises in "Ingrowing Toenails"!

As you can see there are lots of things to be considered when choosing an ADI.

Unfortunately most people think an ADI is an ADI and can be chosen on price alone, all the extra training I've listed above entails more cost and loss of earnings to an ADI so a more qualified ADI will normally be more expensive per lesson, but hopefully with a higher standard to training you should be better equipped to drive safely for life on the road.

The last question you should ask is
"When can you fit me in?" :) "

If you would like to find out more about Peter Cary, please see his website -
Peter Cary, Driving Instructor - Specialising For Those With Disabilities Or Anxieties About Driving

For more information about The ADI Federation, please see their website -
The ADI Federation

This interview was originally published on my webpage -
How To Choose A Driving Instructor