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Driver Training Restarted

Driver Training Restarted – 2 Weeks In

Driver Training restarted in England on Monday 12th April 2021, so we’re just over 2 weeks in at the time of writing this blog. Right from the off, it was great to get back on the road and see other driving schools back out there delivering Covid safe driving lessons. My learners returned from Tuesday 13th April. Restarting driving lessons after another 4 month break was going to be difficult, so my learners were given access to a refresher area of my website. In the weeks leading up to the restart, they were encouraged to visit the website and watch some refresher videos on the the areas of their driving they had already covered or areas they needed to refresh on. The videos are accompanied by a series of refresher quizzes to cement their understanding and knowledge ready to return to practical driving lessons. It was going to be challenging getting back into it, so the aim was to calm their nerves as much as possible. Of those learners that made use of the refresher training, I received good feedback and they felt it helped them somewhat.

During the lockdown, I made the time to refresh my own training and skills doing some much needed Continued Professional Development. I looked at ways in which I could improve the training environment for my learners, spending some time to improved my client centred approach to the way I teach people to drive. Hopefully, since returning to lessons, my learners can see an improvement in their driving lessons.

It’s All Go!

Chloe Weston

Since the country opened up a little more on the 12th April, its great being out on the road seeing businesses such as pubs, restaurants and hairdressers back in business. Those businesses seem to be doing well with queues of people waiting for a much needed haircut or that refreshing pint with their friends in the sunshine. Hopefully we’ll have a nice hot summer and we can continue to enjoy sunshine out doors while we enjoy a nice meal and a drink. I wish ever business the success they need over the coming summer months and hope that there isn’t another lockdown.

The roads are equally as busy. There’s been an increased level of traffic since 12th April, with ‘rush hour’ around the city and major routes becoming gridlocked again! There has been a lot of people returning to work following the easing of the lockdown.

It would be great for learners to have eased their way back into the traffic but that hasn’t happened. It’s been full on straight away. What it does do though, is to challenge learners to deal with realistic levels of traffic right from the off.

Is there A Waiting List For Driving Lessons?

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Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, there have been the same amount of people as ever wanting to start learning to drive. Think about the amount of young people turning g17 between March 2020 and April 2021! That’s a lot of new people wanting to start learning.

Before the third lockdown in December 2020, I was already fully booked following the lockdowns that preceded the latest one. During that time I was taking on new learners and adding them to the start of a waiting list. During the lockdown between December 2020 and April 2020, I continued to add new learners to the waiting list but as the restart of lessons on 12th April 2021 approached, the amount of people enquiring about lessons became very overwhelming. As I spoke to other driving instructors around the region, it became apparent that there was going to be a staggering amount of people wanting to start learning to drive once lessons restarted. Every driving instructor is currently running a waiting list and unable to take on new learners until the current learners they have, pass their driving test. Our priority at this stage has to be those learners already with us and prepare them for their driving test. Remember, those learners hadn’t driven for 4 months and had interruptions to their lessons over the course of the last year. We need to spend the time with those learners and make sure they’re as prepared as possible to pass their test. If they don’t pass, they will add tho the already long backlog of driving tests and cause delays in new learners starting their lessons.

At the time of writing this blog, the waiting time to start driving lessons for a new learner could be as long as 10-12 weeks.

What About Tests?

Theory tests restarted in England on the same day driving lessons restarted on Monday 12th April 2021. At first there was little in the way of availability however, the DSVA put some steps in place to increase the level of availability such as providing pop up theory test centres and increasing opening times. At the beginning of April, there was a good amount of available tests in most test centres but as the country opened up those tests were snapped up by eager learners to get a theory test at least booked in to work towards. I encouraged this massively to my learners because the availability for practical driving tests is going to be tight for a while yet. The current wait time for a theory test is only around 2 weeks, so if you need to book one, I would suggest doing so as soon as possible before the availability disappears! Please remember that you should never pay more than £23 for a theory test. You can book your theory test on the Gov.UK website here.

If you are waiting to start your driving lessons, why not consider getting started studying for a theory test and have a test date booked? You don’t have to wait to start your driving lessons, to do a theory test. It can be done at any point whether that’s before or after you start driving lessons. But getting it done now while you wait to start your lessons will not only reduce the amount of time it takes to pass your driving test but will help the amount of training you will need in the long run because you will have gained some knowledge before you get behind the wheel.

Driving test restarted in England on Thursday 22nd April 2021. There has been a lot of press coverage in the last couple of weeks reporting on the wait time for a practical driving test. There are currently around 400,000 driving tests booked in the system and a wait time of around 15 weeks. That’s a long time to wait! At present, in most of the North East areas, there are no driving test appointments available. This will change week on week but if you were able to book a test now, it would be around beginning of October before you could take the test.

The DVSA are currently circulating some posts on social media and through emails, about the importance of only taking the driving test if you are ready and are likely to be successful to avoid failed tests adding to the current backlog. Their recent posts on social media published the current top 10 reasons for failing a driving test which you can read here. At the top of the list, the number one reason for failing a driving test is a lack of observations at a junction whether that be a T-Junction, Crossroads or a roundabout. This has been at the top of the list over a number of years.

The DVSA are also planning steps to try to reduce the backlog such as conducting driving tests on a Sunday, later in the day, recruiting new examiners, etc. They haven’t published their plans on this yet, but let’s keep our fingers crossed that they can do something to help the situation so that learners don’t have to wait too long. Please keep an eye on my social media channels for updates on this as and when the DVSA release their plans.

There are currently changes to how driving tests are conducted to comply which government guidance around keeping examiners, and customers safe from Covid-19. The main changes are;

  1. You MUST wear a face covering during your driving test unless you have a good reason not to. You must declare this when booking a test.
  2. You are not allowed to have your driving instructor in the back of the car during your test.
  3. If you make a serious or dangerous fault, the examiner will direct you back to the test centre and your test will end early.

You can read more about the changes here.

But I Could Spend A Fortune On Driving Lessons

The concern that a lot of people have with the limited availability of driving tests is that they could spend a lot of money on driving lessons if they have to wait a long time for a driving test. I get that! Driving lessons aren’t cheap but think of it this way. Everyone has their own reasons for learning to drive, whether is be for better job prospects, to save them getting on public transport during a pandemic or ease of getting around with their new born child. Whatever the reason, learning to drive is learning a skill which will enhance your way of life for the rest of your life. That needs investment. Just think of the money you’ll earn when you get that promotion at work because you can now drive or think about the time you’ll save not having to wait in the pouring rain for the bus to work!

Most learner drivers think that they just need to learn to drive a car around to pass a 40 minute driving test, but it’s so much more than that. Safety is the biggest aspect of all. Learning to drive over a longer period gives you the time to absorb the information and knowledge you’re gaining and allows you to experience more of the world on the road to better prepare you to deal with any situation safely and better prepare you for a lifetime of safe driving.

If you do have to wait a while for a driving test, consider continuing to receive professional driving tuition rather than stop lessons until closer to your driving test. If you were still at school or college, you wouldn’t stop attending lessons until closer to your exams. In fact, you would ramp up your training through study and revision. Why should learning to drive be any different?

Can I Practise Outside Of My Driving Lessons?

marmalade

Of course you can! I encourage every one of my learner drivers to do just that, if they have the opportunity. Getting practise with a family member or a friend, will help you enhance your ability to drive independently without the help of your driving instructor ready for your driving test and the rest of your driving career. You can read about the rules regarding private practise here. Please remember to follow any current government guidance regarding social distancing, car sharing ,etc.

If you are practising in your own car or a parents car, check out Marmalade to insure your car. They provide very competitive pricing and offer an all new Pay as You Go insurance where you just pay for the miles you do. Find out more here.

Looking Forward

I’m massively proud of my current learner drivers who have dived straight back into their lessons and proved that they still have it and are determined to build on their skills to become safe drivers. I look forward to the coming months to see those learners prove to driving examiners that they are in fact safe drivers and worthy of a full driving licence to drive on the roads on their own. Good luck to everyone.

I will start to contact new learners and get them started as soon as I possibly can. They may be delays but I’ll do all I can to speed up a start for new learners. In the meantime, consider the following options;

  1. Study and book a theory test.
  2. Use online tools to start studying for practical driving lessons.
  3. Get some private practise on the road with a family member or a friend.