We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Special requests make an instructor’s day

of unusual parts of town.  Photograph by: wikipedia

of unusual parts of town. Photograph by: wikipedia

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, December 18th

Whenever I am teaching a student driver there is a time reserved for those activities specifically requested and suggested by the learner. Every time this exercise is done, I am surprised by the variety of situations that arise. Here are some of the most interesting and entertaining self-directed drives.

A teen boy wanted to go to a popular “drive-thru” fast-food outlet. I asked him why this particular kind of location was so important to him. He confessed that he had been a passenger in a friend’s vehicle when his buddy had a very unfortunate “accident.” His friend was trying to impress others with an approach to the drive-thru window when he ended up too far from it to reach his food order. He jumped out of the car and forgot to put the vehicle in park, leaving it in drive. As he grabbed his food tray and noticed his car leaving the scene, the food and beverage order flew through the air. He dove back into the vehicle much to the entertainment of everyone who witnessed the show. My student wanted to make sure he could negotiate the same window without incident.

A teen girl was very insistent upon going all the way across town to a neighbourhood with which she was obviously unfamiliar. She knew the street she wanted to go to, but had no idea how to get there. After several dead-end street experiences and a few unintended detours, I finally asked the obvious question: Why did she want to go so far out of the way to this confusing street network? Was this where the boyfriend lived that her mother did not know about? Bingo!

A 50-something novice driver wanted to know how to get to her best friends’ homes. She had just passed her driver’s test and had asked for extra lessons in order to be able to chauffeur her girlfriends around town. I thought we had done quite well with the identification of several arterial streets that would serve as simple to-and-from route selections. It was only then that the lady disclosed the hidden agenda destination — the casino. I obliged and even won a few dollars in the process.

One young driver confessed to me that he did not know how to drive a standard-transmission vehicle. I did not see the problem. It would only take me about an hour or so to get him going on such a car. There was a problem. He had to report to work on Monday morning and drive a one-ton truck. He had slightly embellished his resumé in order to get the job. It took all weekend to get him comfortable with the manual transmission of such a large vehicle, but it all worked out in the end.

Another of my novice drivers had an equally odd conundrum. He was allowed to use his father’s Jaguar during the day, when dad was at work. It was parked in a very difficult-to-reach section of the parkade. In fact, one of the teen’s friends had destroyed a vehicle in that very parking garage, just weeks before. He was determined to not fall victim to the same fate. After a few hours of practice, he became master of that domain.

It is a good idea for every driving teacher to ask every student what they want to do in a lesson. As instructors, we often have a set agenda for each practice drive. It is a good idea to have such a lesson plan. But from time to time, it is a better idea to listen to our customers’ specific requests. After all, they are paying the freight.


Steve Wallace is the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Central Interior of B.C. He is the former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas and a registered B.C. teacher.



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