Many driving instructors are highly professional and try to do a good job. Unfortunately some aren't very professional, they don't do a good job, and they don't care, so long as you pay them.
If you are happy with your instructor, you feel that you are learning and progressing, then feel free to skip this post. Many of you, however, will have that lingering doubt about the person you are sat in a car with.
If you have doubts and you're not happy it may be time to do something about it. It could cost you a lot of money and wasted time if you just decide to put up with it.
Which leads me on to reason you should look for a new instructor No. 1. Read on . . .
Your Instructor Uses The Dual Control Pedals To Help You
Yes, you read that right. Your instructor is such a nice person and so thoughtful that they use the dual control pedals to help, then someone as nasty as me says that you should never have another driving lesson with them and find another instructor.
Sounds awful, doesn't it?
A few years ago I had a call from a Police Officer who asked me to help his son with his driving test. He'd had 2 tests and failed both times. He'd had almost 50 hours of lessons and he was very experienced, or so I was told.
With such a situation, my task as the instructor is to assess first, then decide what needs to be done. I took this learner to a fairly quite area of Scunthorpe, I was driving initially, and we parked the car at the side of the road about 300 yards from a junction ahead of us where we'd emerge onto another not too busy road. If my memory serves me well, I don't think there was another car or road user anywhere near us.
I do remember that when the learner moved off from the side of the road he made no observations at all. I mean none. He didn't even check the mirrors until we'd moved about 20 feet, and even then I had the feeling that his mirror check was in a panic of self-preservation.
His clutch and pedal control was terrible and was having serious difficulty with coordination. He was nervous, he was not comfortable and something was seriously wrong. A damning assessment, considering he'd only been driving for a few seconds. Never the less, he would have failed his test 3 or 4 times over if I was an examiner, it really was that bad.
Just a few seconds later we were at the junction ready to emerge. We never got to the junction. He slowed down on the brakes and stared straight ahead through the windscreen, and as the car got slower and slower . . . We stalled. He had absolutely no idea what had happened, was clueless as to what to do about stalling and just looked at me for help.
It later transpired that this learners previous instructor (a lovely old bloke, I'd been told) had constantly, from the first lesson, helped the driver by using the dual control pedals. At every junction, on every hill start, at every roundabout, on every manoeuvre.
Now, to some learners that may sound like a dream come true!
I assure you, it turns into a nightmare when you're on your test.
The examiner will not, under any circumstance, help you by using the dual controls or by doing anything else at all. On your driving test, you need to operate all of the controls, you need to make all of the observations and you need to make all of the decisions to keep the car and its occupants safe.
Why Do We Have Dual Controls?
Most instructors cars are fitted with dual controls but they are there for safety and control reasons only. The truth Is that they should hardly ever be used, and when they are it's simply to prevent a dangerous situation, never to help you.
How on earth can you develop the coordination and skills of using the pedals if someone else is doing it for you?
You can't. You'll be relying on someone else and that’s no way to learn anything.
From your first lesson, no matter what the difficulty or however much you struggle, your instructor is doing you absolutely no favours by using the dual controls to help you. This should never, ever, happen. If you struggle on hill starts then you should be finding more and more hills to practice on. If you struggle when emerging from junctions then you should find more and more junctions to emerge from.
Getting you to do it yourself is the best way an instructor can help you, no matter how unpleasant you find it. Doing it for you is very lazy and frankly incompetent instruction and you need to look for another instructor as soon as possible.
Getting back to our learner above, he'd spent well over £1,000 on lessons and paid for two tests he failed. We didn’t completely have to start at the beginning because the experience he'd had did give him a jump start. Once he'd managed to develop clutch control at low speeds and we'd done junctions and moving off many, many times, he passed at his very next test.
Think this is just a made up tale with a happy ending?
It's not. About 3 months later he was arrested for drink driving, lost his job and ended up without a licence after all. Not all stories have a happy ending and I wasn't happy with this one. Yes, I was paid for my time with him, but I couldn't help feeling disappointed that a lot of time and effort to help him had gone to waste.
Can't win them all, I suppose.