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.