The driving test is tough enough without turning up to your big day in a motor you’ve just ‘borrowed without permission’.
For one man in Birmingham, his big day turned into a self-inflicted disaster. First, he took a white Mistubishi Outlander ‘without the owner’s consent’.
The learner then drove it unsupervised to his local test centre, ‘failing’ to ‘remember’ you must be accompanied by someone over the age of 21 who has a full driving licence whenever you are behind the wheel.
The learner then took his test – which he failed. For the tenth time.
To round off his truly miserable morning, the learner was then arrested for car theft.
Adding justified insult to injury, the learner then became the subject of online mockery when West Midlands Police posted about his arrest:
“Welcome to the world of stupid,” it snipes. “Male turns up at the driving test centre for his driving test. Having driven himself there unsupervised. Then fails his test for the 10th time. Male arrested by D unit Newtown for TWOC [taking without the owner’s consent] offence.”
‘World of pain’ may be more suitable though as if he is found guilty, the not-so-smart learner could end up being locked up for six months plus be subject to an unlimited fine.
History repeats itself
Only two days later and another learner driver turns up for his driving test at the very same centre, both unsupervised and uninsured.
He went on to fail his test for the ninth time (after unsuccessfully arguing with the examiner that he really, really should have been passed). At least the learner didn’t turn up in a stolen car – but the BMW he arrived in was seized by the police.
Pity the police
While you may not feel sorry for the two learner drivers – and why would you? – you might want to take a moment to consider the tough lot in life the West Midlands Police has.
From a motorist being done for drug driving after overtaking three cars illegally outside a police station to the plonker who drove to his probation meeting in a nicked car, no wonder the police are getting so frustrated that they are resorting to calling some drivers ‘stupid’ publicly.
• Get ready for your big day properly by reading our full guide on what you will need when you turn up for your practical driving test.
Now in its sixth year, the Big Learner Relay continues to grow from strength to strength, raising over £400,00 for Children in Need (CIN) to date.
Supported by Theory Test Pro, the Big Learner Relay sees driving instructors and their pupils carry a CIN-branded top box from one driving lesson to the next across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. This year’s event covers a whopping 3,000 miles over 17 days with a 190 lessons.
While the relay has already visited Jersey and will touch down in Northern Ireland on the 29th October, it kicks off aproper on the 1st November with the epic relay visiting a mass of locations from Land’s End and Bristol through to Inverness and Swansea with driving instructors assigned for each of the 190 legs.
This year’s event ends on Children in Need night on November 15th with a trip to the moon! Well, the National Space Centre in Leicester, marking the 50th anniversary of the moon landing as well as celebrating the end of the Big Learner Relay with a slap-up three-course dinner.
Driven by diversity
The brainchild of ADI Louise Walsh, the Big Learner Relay has been hugely successful since it started back in 2014, bringing together a diverse range of instructors (and their pupils) from across the country including:
• independent schools
• franchises (both national and local)
• instructor trainers
• instructors teaching in diesel, petrol and electric cars
• instructors who specialise in teaching people with disabilities.
How you can get involved
While the route itself has now been finalised and lead instructors for each leg of the relay assigned (other than a handful of locations – check them out here and sign up!), instructors and their pupils can still get involved. For example:
• View the Big Learner Relay official route, which features the assembly points for each of the 190 legs with dates and times. You can head along with your pupils and join the relay for that leg of the route – or as many as you like! Because of traffic and weather, do check for time updates on the official page or Facebook.
• Plaster your car with Big Relay spots! You can buy packs of spots from here (each includes two official Pudsey logos, the official mascot of CIN) and get a spot sponsored to raise money for the charity. Instructors have managed to get spots sponsored by all manner of folk – from friends and family through to football teams and MPs.
• Can’t make the relay itself? Don’t worry, you can still fundraise by holding your own event. Instructors up and down the country have come up with some brilliant fundraising ideas including fancy dress lessons, sponsored lessons and PJs for Pudsey. Whatever event you create, don’t forget to let the Big Learner Relay know about it via its official Facebook page here – and do let your local press know too to help spread the word.
The days of the driving test marking sheet, the dreaded ‘DL25’, being paper-based are numbered as it is replaced by a tablet-based app – here’s why it will help learners too.
While the all-new app is designed to make the marking process easier for driving examiners and reduce back office paperwork, there are also several advantages for students before, during and after the test too:
Before the practical driving test
• On the old DL25 sheet, you have to sign insurance and residency declarations in a very small box (and this can be pain for learners whose nerves mean slightly shaky hands!).
• With the new app, both the signature box and the text that details what you’re signing are much bigger. You can also re-sign if you’re not happy with your signature.
During the practical driving test
• This is not a new feature per say but more of a clarification about what the examiner is actually doing when marking you during the test.
• Remember, the examiner making a note doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve just been ‘faulted’.
• Instead they could be simply marking that a manoeuvre has been carried out – so relax. It actually means you’re one manoeuvre closer to finishing your test!
After the practical driving test
• This is where the major changes have been made. First, a digital test summary report is sent immediately after your test debrief to the email address you designated at the test booking stage.
• This can then be forwarded to your instructor and any accompanying drivers.
• If it was your instructor who booked the test, you can change the email address to your own before the test starts and forward the report on to your instructor yourself via email, WhatsApp, etc.
• Faults are now also listed in order of severity with the dangerous or severe mistakes now placed above driving faults, all within a layout that is much easier to understand.
• While the paper-based DL25 lists fault definitions on the back, research shows that hardly any of you ever actually look at them.
• To help, the digital version features links to gov.co.uk so can you see what the faults mean with definitions now rewritten so they’re easier to understand.
• If you have failed (or just want to improve your skills as an independent driver after passing your test), the digital report allows you to start analysing what went wrong with your instructor straight away.
A new survey by Marmalade Insurance reveals learners are being subjected to so much road rage from other road users that one in ten have quit learning altogether because they are too scared to continue.
According to the survey of over 600 driving instructors, learners are having to put up with abuse from other motorists during driving lessons. From tailgating and dangerous overtaking to verbal abuse including being screamed at, learners are realising that once those L-plates are on, they become fair game for other drivers’ road rage outbursts.
The research reveals:
• 77% of UK driving instructors regularly experience abuse and intimidation from other road users when teaching students with 31% experiencing it on a daily basis
• 91% of learners have been subjected to overtaking and 90% witness tailgating
• Two-thirds of learners have been subject to abusive hand gestures
• Half have experienced verbal abuse when out on the road.
Impact of road rage on learner drivers
Being on the receiving end of such abuse is causing serious issues for many learners. For instance, 85% of students become more nervous and make more mistakes with 22% bursting into tears and over 30% having to pull over to compose themselves.
Shockingly, nearly 10% of learners have actually quit learning to drive because they become too intimidated. Most worryingly of all, it is estimated that road rage abuse has directly led to 1.5% of learners being involved in an accident.
L-plates – red rag to a bull
While you might believe the issues is being caused by drivers becoming frustrated with learners making, say, slow progress or stalling at a junction, the research reveals such abusive behaviour actually has nothing to do with the learner’s skill levels.
Instead, 98% of driving instructors say it’s down to L-plates themselves. Instructors state that when they are personally driving without L-plates on their car, they don’t have any problems – but when they put L-plates on and get back behind the wheel, they are treated differently by other road users – even though instructors are among the best drivers in the UK. In other words, as soon as drivers see those L-plates, they start seeing red.
While instructors may sadly be used to such abusive behaviour, the impact on learners can be profound:
What I would say to the people that are causing these issues is to PLEASE be patient. We all must start out somewhere and one comment you make that you will forget will stick with learner drivers for a long time. We are just trying to make the most of our driving experiences and wish people would just be more kind!” – Anonymous learner driver in her blog, which can be viewed here.
Take action against abuse
To combat this growing problem, Marmalade wants to see tougher action taken against drivers who are abusive towards learners and have set up a petition here. Add your voice to the call for parliament to introduce a law that penalises learner abuse. It could help you and future learners be treated with the respect and patience you deserve when out on the road, learning to be better, safer drivers.
Autumn’s here and torrential storms and rain are sweeping the country – so make sure you know how to keep yourself safe when behind the wheel.
If you need proof of how poor driving and wet weather can lead to serious accidents then look no further than the pic posted by North West Motorway Police last week – it shows a mangled car that had smashed into a motorway barrier on the M62 during heavy rain. While the driver thankfully survived, the police are asking drivers to take extra care when travelling in wet weather.
To help you stay safe on the road, here are our six top tips for driving in the rain:
1. Check tyre treads
As well as basic vehicle maintenance, always keep an eye on your tyre treads – it’s essential they are inflated to the correct levels (check the owner’s manual) plus have enough tread to give you grip in adverse conditions.
Do make sure you’re not one of the 65% who say they don’t know that the legal tyre depth is 1.6mm across the tyre’s central three quarters; 27% who have failed to check their tyres in the past three months; or even one of the 13% who knowingly drive round with bald tyres.
If you’re unsure how to check your tyres, then watch this:
2. Remember stopping distances
Rain means extended stopping distances. Stopping in the dry takes 12 metres when braking from 20mph but that figure doubles in the rain. So if you’re doing 70 on, say, a dual carriageway, you’ll need to leave a space of 200 metres between you and the vehicle in front to give you enough time to brake in an emergency. To get your head round stopping distances, check out our guide to the lifesaving two-second rule here.
3. Watch out water
Rain can cause chaos on our road networks. On town roads, it can mean the risk of spraying pedestrians or cyclists – and a fine of up to £5,000. Out on faster moving roads, the risks of aquaplaning are greatly increased. This is where all four tyres lose traction, leading to a potentially catastrophic loss of control. To ensure you don’t fall victim to aquaplaning, slow right down and avoid driving through standing/moving water if at all possible.
Request a lesson with your driving instructor when it’s forecast to rain. They can give excellent advice and guidance for staying safe plus if it’s your first time driving in the wet stuff, you will have a seasoned expert sat right alongside you.
5. Use common sense
To stay safe, check your wipers are fit for the job, put on your dimmers, keep your windscreen demisted, and most important, if the rain becomes too heavy, pull up to the side of the road and wait for the deluge to subside.
6. Oh, and keep your windscreen clean
That might sound confusing – the rain and wipers are keeping it clear, right? But when the rain stops, crud often gets thrown up on to your windscreen by cars overtaking you or traveling in front of you, obscuring your view.
Yes, you’re all good if you’ve been keeping an eye on your washer levels. However, if you haven’t and are driving round with mud and grit all over your windscreen, side and back windows, you could find yourself on the receiving end of up to nine points on your licence and a fine of up to £5,000.
Comments Off on New AI-Powered Cameras Catch Drivers on their Mobiles
A six-month pilot programme in Australia has seen a whopping 8.5 million drivers checked by new AI-powered cameras to see if they are using mobiles behind the wheel.
The cameras take a picture of the driver and the front passenger seat with artificial intelligence (AI) then reviewing the image to analyse whether the driver is using their phone. If it finds someone who is, the pic is forwarded to human officials to confirm the motorist has been caught red-handed.
With 100,000 motorists caught using their mobiles during the pilot, Aussie authorities in New South Wales are now planning to roll out the camera across the state. The plan is to conduct 135 million checks by 2023 and prevent 100 fatalities/serious accidents every year.
And there’s no reason why this ambitious target can’t be hit: the cameras are robust, able to operate in any weather conditions, and work 24 hours a day. Controversially though, the cameras will be deployed in fixed positions as well as on trailer-mounted mobile units – but with no warning signs so motorists won’t have time to stash their phones.
We have to unfortunately use the element of surprise to get people to think ‘well, I could get caught at any time’. I want behaviour to change and I want it changed immediately. It’s not about revenue – it’s about saving lives.”
– Andrew Constance, Road Minister, New South Wales, Australia in an interview with ABC.
Too close, too personal?
There have been concerns raised about privacy and where any images are actually stored once taken. Transport for New South Wales has said though that nearly all the images are erased within 48 hours.
Critically, while the AI itself might see what’s going on in the front seats, human personnel will only ever view images that contain incidents of law breaking as identified by the computer.
Because the cameras are proving so successful in Australia, UK drivers should expect to see similar technology being piloted here at some point in the future.
After all, there are still too many motorists using their mobiles in Britain – with those aged between 17-29 twice as likely to use their phones when driving than any other age group.
Comments Off on Calls for Parents to Monitor Young Drivers Remotely
A new report says that young drivers’ cars should be fitted with dashcams that send back footage to parents to assess, in turn helping to drive down accident rates.
The question is though – would you let your folks remotely watch you drive? Your first reaction will most likely be “d’uh, no” at the idea of a parent or guardian monitoring your every move behind the wheel.
After all, the whole idea of driving for many new drivers is independence; an opportunity to start living your own life without adult supervision.
But as we highlighted last week, there are serious problems with new drivers. For instance, 33 are being banned every single day and more worryingly, 25% of people killed or seriously injured on our roads involve motorists between the ages of 17 and 24 – despite the 17-24 age group only representing seven percent of all licence holders.
This would also deal with the difficult ‘catch-22’ situation many young drivers find themselves in; wanting to head out on to the road to get more experience but conversely, putting themselves at an increased risk because they don’t yet have enough experience.
This risk is increased further as young drivers are more prone to be distracted by their mobile phones – answering calls or responding to texts while on the move – and from young passengers. This is combined with other substantial risks including:
Curbing the risk
The RAC Foundation believes installing cameras inside cars would reduce risk: “Whilst teenagers may baulk at the idea of mum and dad effectively supervising their every trip,” says the RAC’s Steve Gooding, “a constant parental presence, delivered through technology, has been shown to moderate risky behaviour behind the wheel.”
To make the tech work, the UK could adopt the techniques of US schemes where the camera (in combination with telematics – see below) constantly records the driver but only stores and sends footage of an actual incident (and the lead up to it) to the parents for assessment.
“[Our] report doesn’t suggest that dash cam footage replaces Strictly or The Voice as regular Saturday night family viewing, but it does argue that greater parental appreciation of what their children get up behind the wheel can be beneficial.”
– Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation.
The RAC’s Gooding also highlights the benefits of using such a camera in conjunction with telematics – a ‘black box’ typically provided by the driver’s insurer that monitors the motorist’s driving. This records whenever risky behaviour is detected such as sharp braking.
Another benefit of telematics is that it can help drive down the huge cost of young driver insurance premiums as well: the average cost of annual cover for a 17-year-old is £2,047 and £2,154 for 18-year-olds. Using telematics though can reduce this figure by up to £500.
The RAC’s Gooding points out: “Every parent of a young driver wants their child to drive safely without having to be in the car themselves, but through ‘black box’ telematics and dash cam technology, virtual supervision can have a big impact.”
Call for Graduated Licensing
The RAC Foundation though doesn’t want to stop there, instead believing that technology is only part of the answer. It also argues that the introduction of Graduated Driving Licensing (GDL) should now be supported and rolled out. It’s an issue we highlighted this summer when the government revealed it was reassessing the GDL’s potential after previously rejecting it.
Such a scheme could introduce various restrictions including a ban on driving at night and giving young passengers a lift because of the distractions they can cause – and even the introduction of a second test after a two-year probation period.
Boxed in by big brother?
When you combine all these proposals – cameras, black boxes, GDLs – it may seem as if you could end up ‘under siege’ from adults virtually monitoring and assessing your every driving move. But there is a bigger issue at play here – your life and the lives of other road users.
Bottom line is that existing accident figures won’t come down until further action is taken to ensure you, the next generation of drivers, are safer on Britain’s roads.
New research shows that 33 drivers are having their licence revoked every day with those aged between 17-24 making up two thirds of that shocking figure.
A Freedom of Information request made by the road safety charity, Brake, has uncovered that 11,953 new drivers had their licences taken off them in 2018 under the New Drivers Act 2018.
The Act states that any driver who attains six or more points within two years of passing their test will have their licence binned. The (now former) driver will then have to go through the entire training process again – from getting a new provisional licence through to passing the theory and practical tests.
According to Brake, there is an even bigger problem with the startling figures though – 62% of the new drivers who have been banned are aged between 17-24, something that is of huge concern to the charity who says the age group is more at risk when on our roads compared to many other age groups; while the 17-24 year olds only make up 7% of all licence holders, they represent a fifth of all drivers who are either seriously injured or killed on the UK’s roads.
Call for Graduated Driver Licensing
This has led to Brake reiterating its call for a Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) system to be introduced as soon as possible. While the government is currently considering GDL, Brake wants to see a raft of tough measures introduced as soon as possible that include:
• A minimum of 12 months spent learning to drive before tests can be taken
• A two-year ‘novice period’ once the learner has qualified to drive
• Restrictions on what they are allowed to do when behind the wheel during this period including a late-night driving curfew
• An instant ban if the driver commits any driving offences during the two-year period.
That may sound tough – and some have argued impractical – but Brake’s director of campaigns, Joshua Harris, believes it is “shocking that so many new drivers are racking up enough penalty points to have their licences revoked so soon after passing their test.
“It clearly demonstrates that we need to make our licensing system more robust so that when a driver passes their test, they have all the necessary tools and knowledge to drive safely on all roads and in all conditions.”
The Bottom Line
The data retrieved by Brake through its FOI request reveals a definitive and worrying trend for those aged between 17-24. For instance, in 2018, the number of new drivers banned were:
Perhaps more concerning is that the number of new drivers being banned overall has grown over the past three years:
Year / Total No.
2016 – 9,367
2017 – 10,719
2018 – 11,953.
Whether you agree with Brake’s call for GDL or not, it is clear that something needs to change to reverse the trend – and ensure new drivers are better, safer drivers once they have torn up their L plates.
Comments Off on Too Close for Comfort: How Two Seconds Could Save Your Life
A new study by MOVE_UK and telematics company The Floow reveals that we are in the middle of a new epidemic in the UK.
After analysing over 8,500 hours and 100,000 miles of driving – that’s about the same as 60-year’s of driving – the new report reveals that British drivers are far worse at keeping their distance when out on the road than previously believed. They are creating dangerous conditions by failing to maintain a proper distance between their car and the ones in front and behind them as well as when changing lanes/cutting in. Combined, this dramatically increases the chances of having an accident.
Remember the code
Rule 126 of the Highway Code states you should:
• leave enough space between you and the vehicle in front so that you can pull up safely if it suddenly slows down or stops. The safe rule is never to get closer than the overall stopping distance (see Typical Stopping Distances diagram below).
• allow at least a two-second gap between you and the vehicle in front on roads carrying faster-moving traffic and in tunnels where visibility is reduced. The gap should be at least doubled on wet roads and increased still further on icy roads.
Getting it deadly wrong
The report reveals that drivers are paying lip service to the code though and, in particular, that all-important two-second rule. For instance:
of drivers cut in between cars, leaving less than a second between them and the car in front; this means other drivers – especially the person behind – have less reaction time.
is the typical time being left by drivers traveling at 25mph or more; that’s not enough.
more braking distance is required in icy or snowy conditions compared to dry conditions. According to the study, most drivers are ignoring this; the research shows motorists typically only increase their distance by two metres. Again, that’s nowhere near enough to match the recommended two extra seconds of distance.
And the sting in the tail? For those drivers who do leave a safe distance between themselves and the car in front, they are having their code-adhering driving ‘penalised’ by dangerous drivers who believe they can cut in because there is such a large space between the two cars.
What it means for you
According to Dr Sam Chapman, Chief Innovation Officer of The Floow, “because cutting in dangerously close to the car in front is rarely enforced as an offence, many drivers have developed some very bad habits.
“Though UK accident statistics are not available for this behaviour as a specific cause of collisions, the MOVE_UK findings would suggest that dangerous manoeuvres and tailgating has reached epidemic proportions in the UK. And without time to brake safely, accidents will happen.”
How to make sure you stay safe
Remember, the faster you’re travelling, the longer it takes for your car – and you – to stop. It’s not just about stopping the car either but your reaction time as well.
To help stick to stopping distances, always adhere to the two-second rule to help judge the distance between you and the car in front (and adjust it depending on weather conditions). If you’re struggling to count, use a roadside object; when the car in front passes the object, check if there is two seconds between them passing it and you passing it.
If you are considering changing lanes and moving in between two cars when on a dual carriageway or a motorway, always consider the gap you’re moving into – is it big enough that the car behind won’t have to apply their brakes to avoid a collision with you?
“Drivers need to start taking control and adhering to the rules that have been in place since the 1970s,” says Dr Chapman. “You’d fail your driving test if you cut in without leaving a safe gap. Our research demonstrates that drivers need to respect safe distances throughout their driving years – not just when they’re taking their test.”
Based in Fife, 49-year-old David Chalmers has been a driving instructor for nearly 15 years, covering the Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy test centre areas.
Here he talks about the highs and lows of being a driving instructor, why students need to talk up during lessons, and why becoming a driving instructor proved such a challenge for him.
Why did you make the move into instructing?
I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after leaving school; I’d been a butcher, a mature student and worked in a telecommunications factory. It was only in 2004 when I started helping the factory’s training department that I discovered I loved working one-to-one with people.
Being a driving instructor should have been the obvious choice as my dad was one for over 30 years. Honestly though, I hadn’t really given it much thought and was put off a bit by the fact it wasn’t unusual for my dad to do 55 lessons a week. Also, I wasn’t really into driving or cars but I did love the idea of working closely with pupils.
So after a chat with my dad and some research, I decided to give it a go and did my training in between my factory shifts. Heading over to Edinburgh to do two hours of training after a nightshift was very hard – I gave up a few times in my head – but stuck at it and passed my part 3 on the first attempt in 2005.
What kind of ADI are you?
A few years ago, I would have said I had a fairly modern approach, keeping a tight reign until the pupil gained control before allowing them to rely on their own judgment. Over the last few years, I’ve tried slanting my approach so it’s about getting the pupils more involved, getting them talking about their worries about driving, what they find easy, what they find challenging, and so on, right from the first lesson. Overall I’d say I am patient and don’t get grumpy or awkward with my pupils. I like a calm car and building up a great rapport with the pupil is a key skill of mine.
What is your teaching style?
I’d say I keep things very simple. In the early years, my throat would go with all the talking I was doing, showing the pupil how intelligent I was using my big driving instructor terms and phrases! Now I just let them tell me what they need to know.
For example, my intro controls lesson would usually take 45 minutes. It now takes half that time and the pupil does most of the talking. So I’d say I mix the modern and the traditional styles of teaching, creating my own!
I love the freedom the job brings – if I need a weekend off, I can have it. I can cut my hours in the summer and do extra in the winter. It’s just so flexible. Meeting new people every hour is also great. As for my least fave part of the job, I hate cleaning the car – but I’ve bought a new pressure washer so hopefully that’ll take the edge off!” – David on the favourite and least favourite parts of his job.
What advice would you give to students to ensure they get the most out of their lessons?
They need to engage in the process fully – some students can sit and just wait to be talked at! They also need to think about driving through out the week, watching family and friends drive, asking about other folks’ lessons, and so on. The ones who are interested and keen are usually the most receptive and do well.
You are a member of an ADI group that meets up a lot – why?
I’ve recently started attending our local group, but I also have a few local instructors who I’m friends with. It can be a lonely job so meeting up with other instructors to bounce ideas off or even just listen helps a lot.
If you want to create your own group, I’d say get a committee, have an agenda at each meeting and try and stick to it. It is really easy to go off track and cover the same ground multiple times. Also invite the local council roads department and driving examiners along – it becomes a better job if we can all work together.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be and why?
It has always baffled me that someone can learn to drive and pass a driving test without having ever driven at night or on motorways. Pupils should be attending their test with a logbook signed off by an instructor, saying they have done x hours at night, x hours on faster moving roads, x hours on country lanes, etc.
I like what the DVSA is trying to introduce at the moment by encouraging learners to get more practice. If the Pacenotes app takes off, that might help and I am currently trialling it. There are questions though – such as how do you facilitate a logbook? I don’t know the answer to that yet.
Finally, as a user of Theory Test Pro, how do you find the system helps your students?
Theory Test Pro gives me an edge in my lessons. I can help pupils by tracking their progress plus as soon as they know they are being watched, they improve 50%! It’s also a great marketing tool for attracting new business plus great value.