Calls for Driving Lessons to Be Recorded After Instructor Misconduct Claims Triple

by Brady Myles - 4 Min Read

Research by the Sunday Telegraph has revealed that sexual harassment claims by learner drivers against their instructors have tripled over the past four years.

Some of the conduct reported in the past includes sexualised language, unnecessary physical contact and the inappropriate texting of messages or images. 

Because of these worrying findings, some are calling for lessons to to be video recorded to protect both students and ADIs along with a range of other measures.

Such calls have been made after 247 complaints about sexual harassment were received by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) between April 2018 and March 2019.

It represents a significant increase over the past few years – for instance, between 2015 and 2016, 75 reports were made; between 2016 and 2017, 109 were made; and between 2017-2018, 150 were made.

Taking action
The complaints led to the DVSA taking action against 42 instructors in 2018 with 10 banned from teaching, 23 instructors issued with warnings due to insufficient evidence, and 130 cases still under investigation.

Some say though that the DVSA isn’t going far enough and wish to see several measures introduced that will help reverse the trend. For instance:

Recording lessons
Conservative MP Richard Graham states that instructor cars should be fitted with in-car cameras so all lessons are recorded. He believes that “it would provide proof if anything inappropriate occurred, as well as protect those instructors who have done nothing wrong from false accusations.”

Banning relationships
The MP also echoed an existing call for all instructors to be classified like teachers; it would mean that any sexual relationship with a student would become a criminal offence. As it stands, the DVSA has already made it clear that any kind of intimate relations is unprofessional.

“While it’s not unlawful to have a consensual sexual relationship with someone over the age of consent,” wrote the DVSA’s Registrar Jacqui Turland in a blog post , “I see this as exploiting the position of trust the instructor is in – particularly if the pupil is vulnerable… I won’t hesitate to remove any instructor I consider to be a risk to learners.”

Safeguard training
CEO of the Driving Instructors Association (DIA), Carly Brookfield, believes that safeguarding training and knowledge should be introduced into the industry as well. She is calling for such education to be made part of the the approved driving instructor qualification process and instructor CPD.

I passionately believe that instructors can actually – with appropriate training and guidance – play a powerful role in spotting, reporting and helping to stop safeguarding issues occurring – rather than us just focusing on the tiny minority as perpetrators.

Trainers get to know pupils well over the course of learning to drive, and our members have shared with us that they have had pupils disclose that they being bullied or abused in some manner by third parties (such as partners and family members) and they want to know how they can help such students without compromising their professionalism.”
– Carly Brookfield, CEO, Driving Instructors Association.

In proportion
While the news of an increase in complaints is deeply concerning, it is worth highlighting that there are 40,000 driving instructors operating across England, Wales and Scotland, and those accused of serious misconduct make up only a fraction of Britain’s instructors.

As DIA’s Carly Brookfield points out, “the overwhelming majority of trainers conduct themselves in a safe and responsible manner (246 complaints equates to only 0.6% of trainers on the register).

“However, considering the latest stats,” she continues, “we cannot pretend as an industry that there are zero issues with instructor conduct. The rising number of complaints of this nature is a concern and it’s crucial we look at why we’re seeing this increase, and work on how we tackle these issues.”

Knowledge is power
Learners may be unaware of what an instructor is and isn’t allowed to do during their lesson – crucially, when a line may have been crossed. According to the DVSA’s code of conduct, an instructor should:

• Avoid inappropriate physical contact

• Avoid the use of inappropriate language

• Not initiate inappropriate discussions about their own personal relationships and take care to avoid becoming involved in your personal affairs or discussions about your personal relationships, unless safeguarding concerns are raised

• Avoid circumstances and situations which are or could be perceived to be of an inappropriate nature.

DVSA takes the safety of learner drivers extremely seriously and will thoroughly investigate any complaints, involving the police when necessary. We do not tolerate any abuse. Driving instructors found to be threatening the safety of learners will be removed from the Approved Driving Instructor register and stopped from teaching. To help tackle the problem we have encouraged learner drivers to report any incidents.”
– DVSA official response to the Sunday Telegraph report.

Help or hindrance?
ADIs, how do you feel about the recommendations being made to help deal with the sexual harassment issue – are you already implementing them on a voluntary basis such as videoing your lessons or do you feel such solutions are not practical? Let us know in the comments below.

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6 Comments

  1. Brian A Thomson

    Really difficult for ADIs who have built up trust and a rapport with students only to now have to change the way that is done in case it’s seen by the DVSA as inappropriate; I do McDonald’s runs, late evening dark drives and even get students to drive the car for a service 40 miles away for free. A camera would only be helpful if a complaint came in before it was overridden (like dashcam) or we’re going to require a very sophisticated system.

    • Keith Graham

      Yes. In car cameras should be there to protect ADI and pupil. I’ve had mine for many years. Good point about camera overwriting but save video files to computer before card is full. Good to have old files, too, as defence against potential driving offence.

  2. Graham carroll

    I wish the media would concentrate on the individual rather than the individuals profession, these people are suspect in whatever profession they would work in, the fact that some of them work as adi’s is irrelevant.
    Im pretty sure that 0.6 percent of any profession will have its wrong doers, STOP labelling!!!!

  3. Chris

    Whilst I do not have an issue with having cameras in the car recording my lessons, it is worth remembering that the DVSA do not allow such recordings during test.

    This will also put every instructor into even more GDPR issues as if bed I e extra data that requires safeguarding. There will undoubtedly be an increase in down time in order to preserve this data and that and the costs of installing and any maintenance of the system will only go to drive prices higher.

    It is unlikely that the DVSA will relinquish their refusal of recording inside cars on test. The ADI will ha e to switch the system on and off, which is in theory not a huge problem.

    However, with some instructors already claiming that Examiners are unplugging dash cams, and in some instances causing damage to the systems, there is a question of liability of damage to the Instructors equipment, should an examiner interfere with it, as this is already being claimed by some instructors.

    It’s a worthy mention thatvtbe 246 complaints may be less than the 0.6% of instructors as it is possible that an Instructor may have more than one complaint against them.

    I dearly want the Industry I work in to be rid of these monsters that prey on the general public, and I do agree that the Industry is not doing enough. The DBS checks carried out only prove that a person is of good character at that time, essentially meaning, they just haven’tbeen caught yet. Whilstit keeps known unpleasant characters out, the unknown ones are welcomed with open arms.

    I

  4. The office Manager

    How on earth are you going to keep years and years of recordings? You would need a Hard drive system as the pupil could complain 1 or 2 years down the line and how long do you have to keep recordings for? It would have to come under the CCTV act and it gets very complicated then and of course voice recordings are NOT allowed on test.

    I am not sure all my pupils want their lessons recorded and it is a very very very small minority of ADI’s who cause a problem only 7 removed last year.

    The recordings would NOT have made any difference as 4 were removed for sending offensive texts and I think one for emails not offences in the car.

    The DVSA are there to protect the public and they do a great job – Some will slip through the net and the best option is to educate those in Schools and Colleges about what to do and who to complain to.

    A much more serious problem is the amount of ADI’s who are currently marked as a “fail” on the Standards check in December 2018 there were 1,300 this must be addressed as these ADI’s are not meeting the minimum standard required to teach.

  5. Tharka Sen

    Not good news for Hard working honest ADI that happy to record what ever it is, start to finish which I have been doing since 15 years but problems is how long you can keep up records? I suggest do not trust any one when time is right but if some thing goes wrong, every thing comes up together.every people are really thinking about them self rather then, some one else

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