Keeping traffic moving is key for teachers
By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, June 30th 2016
A “student driver” sign must be clearly visible at the back of every driving-school vehicle when lessons are being conducted, to warn the public of the learner ahead.
One of my driving-school colleagues wanted me to write about how well other drivers react to student drivers in traffic. In short, they are extremely courteous and allow extra time and space for the learning driver.
That may be because many of us remember learning to drive. We all remember our driving-test day – on of those events that stay with us for life. Most drivers probably have a degree of sympathy for others learning to drive because they remember their first time behind the wheel.
One of the reasons driving instructors and their students get the benefit of the doubt during the typical driving lesson is the adherence to a progressive lesson schedule. Students are asked to do the tasks they can reasonably perform proficiently without inconveniencing other travelers. In a perfect world, few problems result when a profession driving instructor is teaching a student.
We try to keep the traffic moving when students are doing skill-related times. The dreaded parallel park should only be done when other traffic has ample space to get around the learner. Drivers must yield to the parallel parker. It is frustrating for the public to be held up unnecessarily.
Driving instructors will often use the right lane of a multi-lane road to teach speed control, so other drivers can pass if the learner is a little slower than expected.
It’s always a judgement call when it comes to just how much new material should be introduced in a lesson. Rest assured that the learner should be without blame when the lesson does not go exactly as planned. Instructors have the responsibility to control every situation when teaching a student. We have several extra mirrors, a second brake on our side of the car and techniques of steering, if necessary.
Despite these tools of the trade, things do not always go as planned. One of my lessons once went sideways, literally. We were pulled over during the lesson by a police cruiser with lights flashing and a short siren sound. The police officer approached the passenger side of the vehicle, instead of the driver side. He wanted to talk to the instructor, not the driver.
As it happened, two of us were team-teaching that day and taking turns doing a ride check of the consistency of our instruction, with a rookie learner. The police officer asked if were were teaching a “live one.” He had received two complaints. The first was a call to 911 about a possible stolen driving-school vehicle. The second was a complaint about a possible drunk driver, or drunk instructor, or both.
We had missed a turn in the process of the lesson and ended up on a narrow road with now opportunity to pull over. We were holding traffic back. Those following were probably and rightly frustrated. The police officer recalled his first drive, in his younger days, and admitted it was not perfect, either. We made our way to a multi-lane road to continue the lesson, and resolved to do better in our preparation.
Driving schools everywhere are aware of the need to keep traffic moving. The patience of experienced drivers is appreciated by learners and instructors alike. It is even more appreciated by parents and co-pilots of new drivers who are practicing between lessons for an upcoming provincial road test. We are all grateful for the consideration.