4 questions to ask yourself when choosing a driving school

Every driving school will make the claim to being the best driving school, or having the best driving instructors, some even have great success stories on their websites or reviews and likes on their social media, but, remember these are just stories.

In today’s technological world, unfortunately, you can pay for likes and or reviews (one driving school recently claimed 2500 likes, the sad thing is they had paid for 1500 of those ‘likes’ through a business portal). They may even have reviews from previous driving instructors who are no longer part of the driving school team and driving the right culture.

Driving schools have even been known to bribe students with extra time in their log books if they ‘like’ their social media page, more if they give five stars on the review, more time if they write something nice on the review, often not having done the lesson time they claim.

Sadly there have been times when driving schools and instructors have given free time to students if they put bad reviews on other driving schools social media or asking friends to do this, so be aware and have an understanding.

Another great advertising trick is the “We have a 100% pass rate or a 99% pass rate”. Eventually, every student will pass, it may take six attempts, but they will pass, therefore achieving the 100% pass rate, or the 99% pass first go.

Think of the students who may have disabilities or need special requirements. Often the first or even second driving test is about learning strategies and having them feel comfortable with the process. It’s not about being successful, practise tests and roleplays do assist, but often the real scenario is the best. Therefore this would affect the driving schools test pass rate. It doesn’t mean they are a terrible school; they just understand the training process.

What about Driver Training Associations?

Driver training associations (e.g. ADTA, NRMA, Master Driver Trainer, etc.) should they be taken into consideration?

No, these are paid memberships.

There is no actual driver assessment to see if the trainer is good or great, they are just ‘tick and flicks’, do they have the paperwork or certificates? have they paid their fee?. Unfortunately, this is a sad truth, the associations are there to make money, not ensure the trainer is great at what they do, just like the heart foundation tick, as long as they meet the minimum requirement they get the tick, there is often better out there.

1. Does the learner require paid lessons?

My opinion is yes. Even as a driving instructor myself, I pay for another driving instructor to teach my children. I have five children, some who have even competed in racing events, they have been able to drive on their grandparent’s property in the yard ute’s and tractors from a young age. I have one more to go through the process, yay!

I often get asked, “why don’t you just teach them, especially with your background and experience?” The answer is quite simple, Teenagers!

We all have disagreements with our children, often causing unnecessary stress, which is not an environment to learn in. I’ve been told more than once how a parent has got out of a vehicle and walked off in frustration, or the student who refuses to drive with their parent/s anymore.

What about parents as teachers?

Parents want the best for their child often putting unrealistic pressure on them. Children want to impress their parents often putting more pressure and stress on themselves. A driving instructor should have a calm persona and bring this to the lesson. From my experience with teaching learners how to drive is that they respond better to even though they’re always nervous about meeting a stranger that’s an instructor, respond better to the instructors guiding of how to drive.

Parents often have bad driving habits without realising it, which they Unfortunately pass on to the student. Parents are often not quite up to date with road rules or have a misguided understanding of the road rules apply.

This is a very common discussion and the reason why driving transport authorities around the world have brochures that point out most misunderstood road rules. (Queensland Transports, ten most misunderstood road rules). Parents in general often have this notion that the learner should know this or know that, or lack the ability to communicate why something is important.

A good driving instructor knows to always coach from the start, the basics and then move at the learner drivers pace explaining and breaking down each step. Great driving instructors have a teaching plan in place, though always flexible to suit the student and their goals and outcomes, (check out the blog about lesson planning and where your learner should be at with their hours)

2. What is my budget?

What am I willing to invest in my learner’s driver training?

Investment is the key word here. Just like any education, this is investing in the future and your child’s driving future. Their decision-making ability will have an effect on their safety and others.

What is this worth?

Most driving schools will have payment plans to go with lesson packages and so forth to fit most budgets. Though as mentioned earlier any good education is an investment, you get what you pay for. Government transport departments even warn against cheap lessons.

I often hear of students who have done 15 – 20+ lessons and that their driving instructor has told them they need another 5 or 10 to be ready to drive with their parents or a supervisor. I have even heard of student who after 7 lessons with a driving school are still not being allowed to use the clutch on hill starts or through roundabouts, what the??

In my other blog I go into lesson planning and the level an average student should be progressing at, after a certain amount of lessons or hours. For example, the average learner starting out from no experience should be about five lessons.

I believe that what an experienced driving instructor can teach a student in five lessons other instructors will take ten lessons.
The five lesson instructor may be more expensive per lesson. However they end up being cheaper and better value for money.

10 lessons @ $40 per lesson = $400 v’s 5 lessons @ $70 = $350

Cheap driving schools will often try taking time parked on the side of the road explaining a technique and over emphasising the situation to make it sound harder than what it is. (e.g. Reverse Parallel Parking). This minimises travel to reduce costs. They are often not fully insured or insured at all (they will tell you they are), often skipping vehicle services.

When discussing the cost of driving lessons, ask yourself, what does it cost you to run your vehicle – fuel, services, insurance, etc., then add the cost of running a business. You don’t need this blog to tell you it’s not a cheap venture, so ask yourself, if it’s cheap what are they skimping on?.

In summary, often a professional driving instructor will coach your learner better and have them driving sooner; therefore costing less in the long term and the learner will be a better, safer driver.

3. Do I select a driving school with numerous instructors or a driving instructor with their own driving school business?

Large driving school businesses are made up of owner-operator driving instructors with their own business. As a driving instructor working under the banner of a large driving school, they still have their own business. They still have their ABN.
So for example XYZ driving school a large driving school doing driving lessons over the southeast QLD may have 100 operators, those 100 operators are their own business.

Therefore when you pay $x amount of dollars per lesson to XYZ, the operator is only getting a percentage and will also have a contractual obligation to decrease fees if they have a special or promotion.

The question often asked is why?

Well, for one they don’t have to answer calls or chase lessons. There is no administration to deal with. No website, advertising or the more involved insurances to pay for. Often due to the amount of advertising done by large driving schools, they receive more exposure. Another benefit for them is often that large driving schools pay for the association memberships (RACQ Driver Approved Tick) which come at a cost of $1500 per year, that’s a huge saving to the little business man and a huge advertising brand mark that he can slap on the side of their vehicle. So it can be an excellent draw card. Own and run a business within a business, with minimal operating costs. They don’t always have to be at their best, as there is always going to be someone calling to book in lessons. (Basic business 101, 20% of the people in any business will take up the slack of the 80% who do the minimum).

So there is no real big difference between a large driving school or a driving lesson with an owner operator, often owner-operators will have less flashy websites to cut costs, reduced advertising o keep things at a minimum and no associations etc.

With any driving school or driving instructor doing driving lessons it’s about their knowledge and experience.

4. What should I be looking for in my instructor?

When asked this question I am always reminded of an old trainer proverb – A trainer who says they have 21 years of experience, though does not look to upskill, educated or make better. Is only repeating what they learnt in the first year another 20 times, thus only really having 1 year of experience. This is important to think about.

How much experience does the instructor have?

You may have seen young instructors advertised, as they relate to the students better, however, any good instructor will relate to the student. It’s more about relating the teaching strategy to the student and understanding how they learn. If an instructor does this, they will relate to the student. Learner drivers want to learn how to drive, when you connect on the learning level and with how they learn (i.e.,. Visual, Physical, Aural, Verbal, Logical, Social, Solitary) you earn their respect, and they want to learn from you.

Also making it fun, means they enjoy being there, if they are having fun, they will be laughing, if they are laughing they are listening, if they are listening they are learning, another wonderful training proverb.

So how much experience is enough?

There is no correct answer, the driving school or the driving instructor you choose, needs to be honest. The truth is a lot of driving instructors only experience is the normal driving of the average person, in the average car and have only taught easy learners. More times than I like to count I have students who other trainers said they are too hard to teach, too difficult.

Beware the driving school instructor who is constantly on the second peddles not allowing the learner to make mistakes. When teaching driving instructors the first thing, I always say, if you are not prepared to wait for the learner to make the mistake and allow them to try to correct the mistake, then this is not the career for you. You have to stay calm under any circumstance, show confidence in your ability to control any situation the students is in and let them make the mistake so as to be able to coach them to a better decision next time and build their confidence.

How much knowledge does the potential instructor have?

Not just road rules but vehicle knowledge and not just their own. Do they know how different vehicles handle, road surfaces, what if the student is heading to Vanuatu for school holidays to see a parent can the driving instructor assist with road rules and road surfaces and educate on what to think about while driving there? Or maybe just heading south to a relative in the snowy mountains (a driving instructor had told a student its best not to drive in those snowy conditions too risky; again really?! What a chance to experience driving in different conditions, they should of being explaining how! (Though we now understand that the instructor had never driven outside the south-east region)

In summary; look for a trainer who has experience with different types of students (age, culture, language, dynamics) and situations, an instructor who is TAE LLN qualified is a benefit.

These will insure they are more likely to understand learning styles and how best to present to the learner driver.
Look for a driving instructor who has a calming nature to help keep the driving lesson relaxed.

Get in touch today if you would like to book a lesson RoadSafe Training and experience a lesson with an experienced instructor.

How our students on the Gold Coast learn to drive

When we begin to teach new students, we will go right back to basics. To create a good learning plan, we need to understand learning. This is the best way to learn to drive.

This blog is an overview of our Gold Coast Driving School plans lessons. It is based on the average trainer and the average student, with average learning capabilities and skill.

Male or female Driving Instructor?

This may not seem too important but when it comes to learning to drive, driving lessons, teaching strategies and lesson plans this is something that should be considered.

Females have great visual and peripheral vision awareness; males have good speed and spatial awareness. You might often hear dad say, “you could have gone, I could’ve driven a truck through there” when the daughter has taken too much time. Or your mum saying, “Stop! It’s too close we would never make it”.

We also need to consider age.

Both the age of the learner learning to drive and the age of the instructor. A young learner driver may be more rash from not understanding the risks. An older trainer may be over cautious not allowing the learner to learn from mistakes jumping on the brakes all the time to be over cautious.

Parents as Driving Instructors

The first thing I tell parents is to expect your vehicle to strike the kerb or hit that pot hole. You might get some rim damage, possibly even a minor scratch or dent. If your learner is learning a manual, they will over rev the engine and ride the clutch. Their steering at the beginning will be erratic, and their peddle control will be harsh. If they are learning in your pride and joy, or your only means of transport, I would recommend not using it till they are at a capable level. This will be approximately 15 to 20 hours (if they are receptive). (With an accredited Driver trainer they can allocate triple time for up to 10 hours of normal driving – 5 x 1-hour lessons = 15 hours)

The seven learning styles.

Visual (Spatial): You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
Aural (Auditory): You prefer using sound and music.
Verbal (Linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
Physical (Kinaesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
Logical (Mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning, and systems, Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
Solitary (Intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study. We need to understand which style our students use so we can develop a learning plan to suit.

This comes with experience and time, as any teacher or driving instructor will tell you. Learning and understanding learning styles is a skill that some trainers and or teachers may never get, but regardless it takes time and experience.

Personalities.

Now this is an interesting subject. Unfortunately, there are many teachers and trainers who feel this has nothing to do with learning. In my opinion and experience, it has a great deal to with learning. Have you ever sat through a boring lecture as the instructor talks in a monotone voice detailing every minor detail that’s irrelevant to the overall topic?

I’m not talking about personalities as in is the instructor funny or grumpy, I’m talking about what we call in the training industry, personality styles. Personality style has been defined as “an individual’s relatively consistent inclinations and preferences across contexts.”

Personality can be defined as a dynamic and organized set of personal traits and patterns of behaviour. They say there is about 16 personality types or traits.

When coaching or teaching, I use a personality profiler called D.I.S.C. Everyone has a little bit of all the D.I.S.C. characteristics though they will tend to be stronger in a certain area.

A “C” personality style is very precise and needs to know every detail, (For example, their CD collection would be perfect and in alphabetical order) this type of student wants to know every detail and why it happens and what if’s. As a trainer, they want to tell you every detail, and they often talk in a monotone speech as they don’t get excited about the facts as they are just facts.

An “I” personality will get bored very quickly with a “C” style instructor and shut off and a “C” style student will become frustrated with an “I” personality instructor, as an “I” personality is about just going over the tasks what needs to get done and move on forget about specific facts. You need to understand a student’s personality and match them. It can be difficult to change your personality style and teaching style and again takes time and experience.

Setting out a driving lesson and lesson plan.

Firstly we need to remember no matter what experience our learner may have we will always start with the basics. We then move forward at a pace that suits the learner driver.

What we want to produce are safe and reliable drivers.

The Teacher

At the start we are like a preschool teacher, writing out the letter A in dots and allowing the student to trace over, we even gently hold their hand and guide them if necessary. Encouraging and positive reinforcement. They will make mistakes, stay calm and let them know it’s okay, refresh and repeat the task until they can draw that letter A on their own.

The Lecturer

We then need to progress to the professor or lecturer, where we set a task and give guidance, answer questions and let them try on their own. Only assisting when required. We allow mistakes but advise what could have been done different or better, or how I would have done it.

The Coach.

Then we progress to the coaching stage. We practise what we want them to do, then they go out and do it. Just like a coach you can’t run on the field and do it yourself or give instructions half way through the play. I tell parents and instructors to write down any mistakes they make. You need to be quiet in the passenger seat and take in what they are doing. Unless necessary try not to intervene. They need to make the mistake and try to correct, remember they will be driving very shortly on their own. They need to learn. At the end of the drive, just like a coach ask the questions – how do they think they went? What could they have done better? You want them to be analysing their driving, the same when they are P platers.

A new driver’s risk of being harmed or involved in a crash increases to around 20 to 30 times from that moment they get their P’s and start driving on their own, usually in the first six months.

While on their L’s, they are in the safest category of road users; L platers are harmed less than any other group. In the time it takes to sit and pass a provisional licence test – about a 30-minute test – learner driver’s move from being statistically the safest drivers on the road to the most at risk.

So what we are looking to achieve in the coaching phase is for the learner to self-assess, self-instruct, self-supervise and self-correct themselves, so as to learn how to stay safe, to make the correct decisions.

The First Lesson.

I find some driving schools, instructors and parents often go all out in this lesson, trying to teach everything and over-whelming the learner driver. I will tell the students not to worry about indicators, or shoulder checking to start with; I want them to learn peddle control and steering (if manual; peddle control and gears then steering). That’s the goal for lesson 1.

To be able to have correct peddle control we need to be set up in the correct seating position and posture. I often find by the end of the hour of the 1st lesson the student will be able to take off without stalling, change gears, and in most cases be able to hill start on a slight incline. Their steering should also be coming along nicely as well. This lesson should be performed in quiet streets, if they are struggling with steering then maybe a carpark for some figure 8’s to assist. However, try to stick to clear open back streets when possible, not car parks.

The Second lesson.

Here we start to get onto roundabouts, introducing indicators, mirrors, and shoulder checks. We also want to start to drive on more open roads. We will go through traffic lights if they are feeling confident and changing up and down gears if manual.

The next group of lessons is all about the progression. Increasing traffic exposure, motorways, lane changes and merging. Bay parking (shopping centre parking forward and reverse) and other manoeuvres, below is a guide as to where a student should be by a certain point.

Student progression guide.

1 – 3 lessons

Seating position; Steering control; Clutch control, stopping and starting. Manual – Using all gears and hill starts. Checking mirrors, blind spots and cockpit drill. Using indicators. Left and right turns. Road position. Being aware of various speed zones, roundabouts and driveways.

3 -7 lessons

Using your mirrors. Merging on and off the motorway. At speed merging, lane changing, various speed zones, Bay Parking (forward and reverse), 3 point turns, reversing skills, U-turns and reverse Parallel parking.

7 – 10 lessons

Planning a drive to somewhere the Learner would like to go. Night Driving on the Motorway, country, and city. Busy traffic merging, country roads or other important situational driving. Navigational points, in-depth hill-starts, busy traffic drives. Overview of all manoeuvres and situational driving.

So If you are looking at this guide and do not feel that you or your learner driver are somewhere on track with this, unfortunately, you are being taken for a ride.
You are not getting value for money for your driving lessons.

This guide, if done with a driving school will add up to 30 hours in your logbook. This is where you need to start practising what you have learnt.

Now, if you’re thinking to do the first five lessons only and then completing more lessons later in the driving journey that’s great too.

Same deal, get in the vehicle and practice.

You will be at the 15 hours mark in your logbook. How you want to approach it is up to you, whether you chose to do five or 10 lessons at the start.

Longer – providing more hours behind the wheel
Wider – experiencing a greater variety of driving challenges, in all conditions
Deeper – gaining a greater understanding of the psychological, emotional and mental challenges involved, and the true responsibility that each driver holds.
This is explained in the Keys 2 Drive philosophy.

By about the third lesson your driving instructor should not be using their peddles this also includes manual to take control of the vehicle for any reason, but using the secondary controls with you to assist you if you get a little flustered,

By the fifth lesson, your instructor should have no contact with their peddles, except in a rare situation, such as support with a difficult manual hill start with a vehicle sitting very close behind you.

I have received feedback from students about other driving schools that even by the 7th lesson, the instructor would tell the student to put their feet flat on the floor while the instructor used clutch and gears and the student steered at roundabouts. They even used the peddles for the student at intersections. This is sad and does not assist the student but is the way to make more money from extending lessons for cheap affordable driving schools.

Be aware of the driving schools and driving instructor’s lessons that continually stop and explain at length basic manoeuvres or stay close to your home to save on petrol. This isn’t in your best interest.
If you’re ready to start learning to drive, you can book your lesson in here or get in touch.