Thursday, 17 July 2014
Managing Risk on Driving Lessons
I was going to write about the unit on teaching in groups but that stuff just isn't for me. I find it all a bit uncomfortable to be honest and wouldn't be in a position to comment. Much more appealing to me is unit 6.4.1. which is all about Managing the on-road environment to minimise risk. A subject dear to all our hearts or we wouldn't even be here.
In the performance standards column we find we must be able to take reasonable steps to make sure that the learner is fit to take the lesson and what to do if they aren't. You'd think that learners would not go out on Friday if they have a lesson on Saturday morning but with some this is not the case. You can tell as soon as they start moving the seat and setting up that something isn't right. I keep a close eye on things and usually it all becomes obvious very quickly. Recently I asked a pupil what time he'd been up drinking til and it was 4.00am. Lesson is at 8.30 so probably over the limit. Time to end the lesson there before we set off and get into trouble. Perhaps driving instructors should be able to legally breathalyse pupils if they suspect that they are under the influence of alcohol? Red eyes and wavy steering is probably cannabis as it was one Saturday morning. 3 hours of sleep and plenty of joints the night before is not good prep for a driving lesson. I always let them know they will have to pay for the lesson as I drive them home.
Making sure a learner understands how you will share responsibility for the safety of themselves, the instructor and other road users is a tricky one,. It all depends what stage they are at and the subject being taught. The level of responsibility shared with the learner could go up and down depending on the environment and experience of the subject. As the learner gains in competence they will take on a greater share until they eventually reach total responsibility upon passing the test. Too much responsibility too soon can be detrimental to the learning process whereas too little too late can lead to a sense of stagnation and boredom. Sometimes leading to the pupil finding another instructor.
Clear instructions and directions are the very basics of the job and I don't think many instructors would have difficulty with this. I like to become a bit less formal if I've got to know a pupil but I like to maintain clarity. Explaining when we may jump in with instructions or helping with the controls is good to explain just before the first move off. It goes a long way to helping the learner feel safe.
Staying one step ahead of the learner is paramount so we need to scan the environment for hazards and keep the other eye on what the pupil is doing and providing training inputs at the same time. No wonder it's a tiring day. This can all be done with ease after a few years of experience. Because we are so alert and on it we can take timely action when there is a hazard that the learner is not aware of. Simply bringing it to their attention should be enough. Physical intervention or talk through will be required when we encounter a hazard that the pupil does not know how to deal with.
We need to take a client-centred approach to all this so the pupil is better equipped to deal with the hazards independently should they crop up again. If the learner becomes unfit to drive then timely action is required. I ask the pupil if they are ok and invite them to end the lesson themselves if they feel they can't go on. It's not often this happens but the learner has always communicated a sense of relief knowing they can stop when they want. The requirement to record specific details of situations and the risks that arise occurs more in fleet training I find. The assessment form should record such details to present to the company and to help the driver to deal with the hazards safely in the future. More next time.