Former coach driver turned driving instructor Amanda Aldridge reveals what she thinks about the current driving test – and why some examiners must be more respectful to learners.
Operating across the Leicester and Loughborough areas, Amanda is part of the Acclaim driving franchise, winning over students with her positive and empathetic approach to teaching. Here she explains to Theory Test Pro what she loves – and loathes – about the industry.
What did you do before becoming an instructor?
Many years ago, I was a fitness instructor and taught a lot of classes. It was during this time that I started to really enjoy teaching. I decided though I wanted a change and went into coach and bus driving in 2004 because I have always loved being on the open road.
What was the appeal of becoming a driving instructor?
I’d wanted to do it years ago but I never had the money to do it. For me, it brought together my love of driving and teaching. This was underlined to me when my friend was applying to be an ambulance driver. She couldn’t get through the 7.5-tonne test so I took her out, teaching her in my coach and showing her how to operate large vehicles.
She was actually the one who said I’d make a brilliant instructor – and the idea really took shape in my mind from then on! In 2016, I finally managed to save up the money I needed to put myself through an instructor course and I haven’t looked back since!
What kind of ADI are you?
I’m positive! I have had students come from other ADIs, saying that when they made mistakes during a lesson, the instructor has told them off. I don’t do that – depending on the mistake. If it is dangerous, we will of course pull over and have a talk about it – but if it is a small mistake, I allow the learner to make it because just like in life, you always learn from them. Whatever the case, I will never tell them off.
What is the favourite part for your job?
I like it when a student recommends me to someone else; that they think I’m great so their friend should learn with me! That’s really nice! I also love sitting in on the test and I do encourage my students to take me on their test if they feel comfortable with having me there.
It means whether it’s a pass or a fail, I can offer the student advice about moving forward. So let’s say they pass, I will still take a look at my student’s marking sheet so I can identify where they made a mistake. We then normally book a couple of extra lessons to go through the weak areas highlighted by the test. It helps make them better, safer drivers.
If the student has failed, then we will go through what went wrong. I try to make it more positive by turning the fail into a learning experience; that it’s something that can be built on. I want to make sure the student doesn’t give up – and instead keeps growing as a driver.
Finally, being an instructor who keeps her own hours means I can work around my family life. Yes, there are the times I’ll do an extra couple of hours here and there when people are coming up to their test but most of the time, I stay within my allocated hours so I am able to strike a good work-life balance.
What’s the worst part of your job?
It’s the driving examiners. There are many, many really nice ones but I’ve came across a handful who are really disrespectful and not very professional to students – even when I am sitting in on the test. I honestly don’t know how they can be in the job they are in.
One left a student in tears because of their attitude, another examiner was clearly bored during the test – and another I had to make an official complaint about; during the test, they had asked a student to turn left at a roundabout but she was in the wrong lane to do so. The examiner asked her again but in a harsh tone of voice and with a bad attitude.
My student thought she had no choice and crossed over two lanes to do as she was told. I was horribly shocked.
The rest of the test was ruined because my student was making more mistakes because she was upset, and the examiner was getting more and more peeved with her. The agency spoke to the examiner after I complained but said that everything had been fine – so the complaint ended up being a waste of time.
The problem is that when an examiner behaves badly in a test, it can really knock a learner’s confidence. This student had failed her test years ago and it had taken me a long time to build her confidence back up – but the examiner trashed it all within the first 15 minutes of the test. I think the best way to ensure things like this don’t happen is to have a dashcam that points into the car so if someone does complain, there will be a record of any incident.”
– ADI Amanda Aldridge on dealing with examiners who don’t make the grade.
What are your thoughts on the current driving test?
That is such a tough question! I see so many bad habits out on our roads and I see too many drivers who aren’t aware of the modern Highway Code and how roads are constantly changing. Part of me feels that everyone should have to take a re-test every 10 years.
The problem is that if you failed the re-test, you would no longer be able to drive to, say, work – and that has a knock-on effect; job loss, mortgage repayments missed, the impact on loved ones, and more besides.
So perhaps we need to find a solution that is more practical. For instance, the Speed Awareness and Careless Driving courses that are offered to drivers who break the law could be adapted and be an invaluable way of helping all drivers to identify any weaknesses in their driving. At least then they could go away and work on them.
Such assessments would refresh and update drivers about modern driving standards and remind us all of our responsibility to be safe and aware drivers.
Finally, how do you find Theory Test Pro?
Me and my students absolutely love it! It’s the one package that I recommend all the time and it was the one I used myself when I was training to become a driving instructor.
It has some great features such as the explanations if you don’t understand a particular question. It’s a really great piece of software.