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Tips For Picking The Perfect Driving Instructor
22nd Apr 2009

We\'ve all been there, the dreaded driving lesson.

We all know picking the perfect driving instructor can mean the difference between passing and failing, and wasting a lot of money at the same time.

Here we show you the 10 steps you need to take in order to pick the best driving instructor and get motoring.

1: Don\'t pick your partner (or your partners best mate)

Just because your nearest and dearest happens to possess a driving licence – doesn\'t mean they can get you through your test. It is important to have lessons with an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) – they have the experience and skills to teach you to stay safe on today\'s busy roads. Furthermore, the driving test has more requirements than in the past. For example, carrying out a reverse parking manoeuvre became compulsory in 1996, and the show me/tell me vehicle safety questions were added in 2003.

Lessons might seem expensive, but they\'re a worthwhile investment both for success in your test and for your long-term driving future. They\'re also worth it for the long-term future of your relationship. “It has the potential to be an emotional minefield,” said family therapist Denise Knowles. “The learner driver can feel patronised, while the partner or parent feels frustrated that their instructions aren\'t being taken on board.”

Practice with a partner or family member can work really well, but it\'s important to leave the actual teaching to the ADI and communicate with the instructor about the content of the practice sessions. It\'s important to always work below the level that the ADI is covering – so don\'t tackle busy roads until the learner has been doing them with their instructor for some time.

2: Green means go

It\'s vital to get a fully qualified instructor. Some driving schools will send out a Provisional Driving Instructor (PDI) who, although they can legally teach, has not yet completed all the parts of the training. They can be identified by their pink triangle badge, which they should display in the windscreen. Fully qualified ADIs have a green octagon. Confirm with the driving school that they will be providing you with an ADI before booking lessons and always check their licence when you first meet them.

3: Making the grade

Many people aren\'t aware there are \'gradings\' for ADIs. The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) carries out check-tests at regular intervals by sitting in on an instructor conducting a lesson with a pupil. The instructor is then graded: grade four is competent, grade five is good, grade six is very good. When you\'re having a preliminary chat over the phone with a potential instructor it can be worthwhile to ask about gradings, but the \'feel\' you get from the person is even more important. As Dr Peter Russell, Professor of Road Safety at the Driver Education Research unit, said: “grading is a \'snapshot\' of how an instructor performs on a particular lesson on a particular day.”

“And although it\'s a significant factor to consider, it\'s also important to consider whether you feel safe, confident and relaxed with your instructor. When there\'s a sense of rapport between instructor and pupil, learning is so much easier.”

4: A male of female instructor

Only 15% of the 30,000 driving instructors on the driving standards Agency database are female and the good ones are very much in demand. However, the gender of your instructor isn\'t as important as many people believe it to be. “Some learners feel that a female instructor will be more sympathetic,” says Steven Garrod, Head Of Training at the driving Instructors Association (DIA). “But there are plenty of sympathetic male instructors and strict female ones out there too – it\'s best to chat over the phone to a few potential instructors of both genders and choose the one whose personality you feel most comfortable with.”

5: I\'ll be there for you

Whether it\'s struggling to get the hang of parallel parking or facing the horrors of driving test nerves, it\'s important to feel that your driving instructor is on your side and will support you through all the ups and downs. If your driving instructor is overly critical, or if you feel they\'re always going on about football, holidays or their personal life rather than focusing on teaching you then it\'s time to consider changing.

There are plenty of good driving instructors out there – patient, capable, supportive, inspiring and basically great teachers. Get one of these and you\'re well on the way passing.

However the relationship between an ADI and pupil should remain strictly professional.

6: Avoid the short-changers

Some driving schools expect you to drive the previous pupil home during your lessons – but this isn\'t something you should put up with. It means that you\'re being used as a taxi service rather than practising the test routes. You\'re paying for your lessons, so the whole time should be focused on you and your needs. This is a school to avoid.

7: Does size matter?

Small schools offer a personal approach and the successful ones tend to get most of their business via recommendations from satisfied ex-pupils. However, the large schools such as the AA and BSM will be in a position to offer a replacement instructor if your own is ill or on holiday. It\'s a personal choice – and actually the rapport you have with your instructor is far more important whether they\'re from a large or small school.

8: Location, Location

If you live some way from your test centre, but your workplace is closer, then it would be a good idea to learn with a driving instructor based near work rather than one in your home town. That way you don\'t waste lesson time commuting in to practice the test routes.

9: Added extras

Some schools offer added extras such as computerised systems where you can practice for the theory test or videotapes of your lessons for you to revise with at home. Others have experience of teaching especially nervous pupils or those with disabilities. If there\'s any particular area of driving that you think you might have problems with then it\'s worth tracking down a school that can offer you extra support.

10: Moving on

“If it\'s not working out, then move on,” urges driving consultant Kathy Higgins.

“People often get stuck in with a rut with their instructor. They know they\'re not making the progress they should but either they\'ve become friendly with him or her and feel they would be letting them down by leaving. Or they\'re simply too embarrassed to go through the process of changing. However, the fact is that you\'re the paying customer and there are plenty of excellent instructors out there.\"

Biting the bullet and changing to someone who\'s more suited to you will ensure you get through your test more quickly and cheaply – and make you a better driver in the long term.

It\'s best to take a trial lesson with a couple of potential new instructors before making your choice-this time you want to get it right.

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