Monthly Archives: May 2016

Greenery restricting vision at junctions

This time of year, greenery at the sides of roads is growing like crazy, this blog demonstrates how this fact affects us as drivers, and how to be extra careful to keep safe on the roads.

This is an example where a good driver always needs to be prepared to adapt to changing situations and identify a critical hazard when it arises.

Take a look at this junction, this is from the drivers position, looking right into the major road.  The vision into the road is restricted due to the greenery growing.



This is hazardous enough as it is, if we can’t see other vehicles they can’t see us.  And the new road has a national speed limit on it, so vehicles can be coming towards us at up to 60mph.  This means that vehicles coming from the right (as we are looking) will take 73 metres to come to a stop if you were to make a mistake and emerge when something is coming.  The distance up the road that you can physically see in the image above is just over 20 metres.  This poses a problem to drivers wanting to emerge.  Make sure you realise where the problem is here, if a driver emerges into the path of traffic already in the major road, and if it results in an accident, it will be the driver who emerged into the road who takes the responsibility for the consequences.

This image here will show you literally now high the greenery is, about 5 foot:


From the seated position in the drivers seat, you literally cannot see vehicles coming from the right.


What to do?

One option would be to very carefully nudge the nose of the vehicle out, at a foot at a time, so as not to distress any drivers already in the major road, and slowly do this until your vision does improve and you are 100% certain that it is safe to emerge.

An alternative is to apply handbrake, switch off engine, check right side mirror, check right blindspot, open the drivers door and literally stand outside the car and see if your view is improved to be able to see that there is nothing coming.  Be very careful with this though, things change quickly in “national speed limit” roads, if it takes you say 20 seconds to get back in the car, apply seat belt, start engine, in that time, things may have changed to the right, so take care.

It is a nightmare scenario.  The junction that you see here is in Bourne, Lincolnshire, but on a mock test in Grantham recently, this exact scenario presented itself again.  It is extremely hazardous.  Although the root cause for this situation lays with Local Authorities and the Highways Agency not maintaining the height of the verges to assist road safety, this situation is cropping up all over Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire.

This image shows you the view of the junction from the right:



Almost impossible to spot the junction.  The only clue that a non-local driver would have that there is a junction to the left is the white sign on the right, can you see it?  Many drivers would miss that.

What this means is that there is great potential for drivers in the major road approaching this junction not appreciating that there is POTENTIALLY a hazard up ahead of traffic emerging from the junction.  A bit of a double whammy as far as hazards go.

Without wanting to unnecessarily overstate or dramatize the situation, this kind of scenario is the making of fatal accidents, where vehicles travelling in the direction as shown in this image above, end up driving into the drivers door of the vehicle emerging.



 BIG TOM Driving School  Intensive Driving Courses in Peterborough, Spalding, Stamford, Grantham. Boston, Lincoln and Bourne  Call NOW 0800 689 4174

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Stress Free Driving Training


One of the key differences with the BIG TOM 5 Day Intensive Driving Courses compared to others is the ability to provide a stress free learning environment.  This blog explains how…..

Take a look at what previous customers say about how they benefitted from learning with BIG TOM


I had very little driving experience when I started, and passed my test within 9 days, and I put that down to the way I was taught.
Andy Graham

We were very impressed with how completely at ease he felt with you which I am sure contributed to being able to learn so quickly.
Alison Bishell

Tom is a very calm person and was able to help me stay calm, when I didn’t do things correctly. He never got frustrated with me and kept a calm manner.
Summer Sleight

Then I found Tom , the only instructor who’s managed to calm me down enough to get out of 2nd gear.
Rhiannon Kirby

You put me at ease on the very first lesson with you and you were always so calm even when I made mistakes.
Liam Watkinson

You were really helpful and a calm Instructor, easy to talk to and always made me feel comfortable. You were a very understanding Instructor and were there to help every step of the way.
Darran Carroll

Calm attitude to teaching, reassuring for beginners and willing to go at the learners’ pace
Sophie Pick


BIG TOM Driving School puts the pupil at the core of the training sessions. Only by placing the priority with the pupil can the sessions be organised in a manner that will ensure the learning environment is safe, enjoyable and progress takes place.   Chris Jubb who is an approved Driving Instructor to provide the BIG TOM 5 Day Intensive Driving Course gives the following advice:

“Can you imagine anything worse than being sat in a driving school car and directed to drive somewhere that you don’t want to, in a method that has no thought for the pupil’s strengths and weaknesses, and not even making any progress? Here we do ‘calm, not cram’ – cramming in as much as possible regardless of how the pupil feels would just make people upset.”

Whatever the starting point is on your driving course, at BIG TOM, there is not an expectation to reach a pre-defined outcome by the end of the course – the reason why that has proved to be so important is that it allows the training that takes place within the course to be good quality, naturally progressive and effective. Treating all customers the same and expecting the same outcomes after 5 days training would inevitably lead to forcing pressure on to the pupil due to having no regard of an individual’s progress. Parents get frustrated because they have invested in a course that has made their son/daughter thoroughly miserable, very stressed and to cap it all, progress has been limited.


Tom Ingram who is the owner of BIG TOM Driving School warns people:

“Be very careful. Despite the impression that some might give, it is impossible, unrealistic and actually quite insulting to suggest to anyone that a certain level of driving ability can be “GUARANTEED” after a standard period of time. I’m afraid there is a lot of nonsense spoken about “unlimited free driving lessons” being given to pupils if they fail a driving test – my advice to everyone is read the small print very carefully. I would very much like to distance my driving school as a provider of quality intensive driving courses, away from organisations that make these ‘spectacular’ claims”.

Learn from the experiences of previous BIG TOM customers, come over to a professional driving school that does not bombard you with talk about celebrities, but instead talks about YOU, YOUR driving needs and how best to make progress in a manner that makes YOUR learning experience enjoyable.

For more information about how BIG TOM can help you, please take a minute to tell us your story of what you are needing from us




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Nick Passes Driving Test Just in the nick of Time

Nick Dobie seen here made full use of the BIG TOM 5 Day Intensive Driving Course to get his full driving licence in quick smart time.

Nick travelled up to Peterborough on the train from Oakham to take his intensive course this week with Tom from BIG TOM Driving School who specialise in getting driving licences for their customers much quicker than the traditional method.

He started his course on Monday making use of an automatic £30 saving on the course price due to his age, and passed his test first time with just 2 driving faults on the Friday, 5 days later.  Call NOW on 0800 689 4174 to book your course.

Nick is the owner of a successful private equity business in London who specialize in green and recycling investments so having his full driving licence will be handy for his busy worklife, but the reason he was needing quick results was that he has another young one joining his family, due to come into the world in just 3 weeks time! Being able to drive to assist with the newborn is a huge benefit to him and his family, and one of the key reasons why he wanted to use a trusted and reliable intensive course provider like BIG TOM Driving School.

This is what he said about his experience with BIG TOM:

“I found the BIG TOM 5 day intensive course a huge help, very flexible and happy to fit in and around a hectic work schedule, unlike most driving instructors who aren’t as willing to accommodate.  The week itself was really insightful and allowed me to build my confidence, ability and knowledge to the point where by I not only passed my test but feel able to drive in any situation. I would happily recommend big Tom to absolutely everyone massive thanks it was great.”

BIG TOM Driving School has such a reputation for great service that busy professional people are prepared to travel to get maximum benefit of the popular BIG TOM Intensive Driving Course.  These courses run in Peterborough, Grantham, Lincoln, Stamford, Spalding and Boston.  To see how much you can save on the course fee click here

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Top 10 Tips For Your Driving Test

What are the “do’s & don’ts” for your driving test, what is good advice, what should you NOT do? Here is a helpful guide freely offered to you, based on the observations of several dozens of driving tests by the author, Tom Ingram of BIG TOM Driving School.


  1. Don’t Drive Outside Your Comfort Zone: To maximise your chances of successful outcomes you need to be driving WITHIN your capabilities. If you are under the impression that you need to be doing things on your driving test DIFFERENTLY to how you normally drive, then you very likely are not quite ready for the driving test yet.   Examples of this include, driving faster than you would like to, emerging on to junctions sooner than you would choose to, having to resist the natural urge to pause at roundabouts, doing manoeuvres quicker than you would like. Listen to your heart and your brain, your body will tell you if this is the right time to be taking driving tests.
  2. Look after yourself: Breathe deeply, stretch your neck, shoulders and lower leg muscles prior to your test. When we get anxieties, we tend to breathe short, shallow breaths and starve our muscles of oxygen. This in turn makes us tense, which inhibits free movement. Keep hydrated to avoid headaches, but avoid drinking to excess because that might make you want to go to the loo!
  3. Drive safely: Almost sounding ridiculous in its simplicity but at its core this is a good mindset to adopt. If you are not 100% certain whether you have sufficient time and space to go on the roundabout or emerge at the junction then quite simply don’t. An Examiner is wanting to see a driver that errs on the side of caution, not one that is prepared to take risks on their driving test.
  4. Don’t be influenced by other road users: It might feel natural to keep pace with vehicles in front, but think independently, because that vehicle in front may be speeding. When you see 5 cars in front of you taking a certain position on a roundabout, you might feel inclined to copy them, but if they are straying between lanes on the roundabout, you may affect other drivers around you by following their path. Other drivers, pedestrians, cyclists may well gesture to you to “go” but think for yourself, is it safe to go before you blindly follow their instruction?
  5. Take advice from your Driving Instructor: They will understand that you want to get your driving licence as quickly as possible, but repeatedly failing driving tests does not achieve that goal. The evidence of national pass rates year after year indicates that people are taking driving tests too soon. Forcing the gear lever in first gear when travelling at speed, driving too slowly on dual carriageways, not knowing when is the correct time to emerge or turn, rolling backwards on hills, getting into wrong lanes on roundabouts, not spotting pedestrians crossing in front or behind you, driving through amber traffic lights, forgetting to check mirrors at correct times – these are all symptoms of driving faults that simply mean you will not pass a driving test…. no amount of ignoring these driving faults will change that fact.
  6. Drive to a “system”: As irritating as this might appear, it is absolutely what Driving Examiners want to see on your driving test because it is the advice contained within their DVSA Driving Standard.  Learning to drive is all about a combination of actions that ultimately stem from the brain. Whether referring to actions of the eyes, hands or feet, HOW they do them, and crucially in WHAT ORDER is vitally important in order for the brain to absorb that information, process it and make effective decisions to maintain road safety. It is common to think that the physical act of driving is all that is needed, but in fact, the brain is at the core of a good driver in order to instigate key skills such as assessment of correct speeds for given hazards, identify critical incidents that WILL require driving actions from you to accommodate the situation, interpreting key data to assist in planning how to negotiate a given hazard eg road signs, information from your vehicle, other traffic, road markings, weather conditions, your mental state of mind. Driving faults are commonly an indication that there is a disconnect between the key phases of a recognised systematic driving technique. Think of this in terms of a well rehearsed routine that you repeatedly perform in your day to day living eg your early morning routine, exercise programme, work schedule, preparation of an evening meal – think what effect mixing up key tasks within that routine would have on the overall experience, it will likely affect the efficiency, the quality, the enjoyment and ultimately, the outcome. It is no different with observing the routines that a good driver performs – but don’t forget, just because you can’t SEE what the brain is doing, never underestimate how much thinking is going on!
  7. Find your coping mechanisms: Very few people are able to fulfil their chosen learning activity without the need for identifying strategies to help achieve the goal. They tend to be very personal and not necessarily transferrable to all other people but some examples when learning to drive include creating pauses between certain actions so as to assist the efficiency, visualising a certain action prior to performing it, pausing and breathing deeply in order to prompt a certain action, speaking out loud actions before performing them, using visual prompters to develop habits, identifying controlling actions to manage critical situations.
  8. Ignore others: One of the reasons why it is often unwise to pay too much attention to the accounts of others when giving you “advice” about how they passed their driving test is that often it can have been so long ago that driving techniques have since developed, as has technology, as have the driving tests and how they are assessed. In addition, the stress of the driving test is often to such an extent that the ability of people to accurately recall what happened is restricted; as such, the accounts given are often not strictly accurate or balanced.
  9. Don’t attempt to impress the Examiner: There can be a tendency to think that you have to drive in a manner that you think will impress the Examiner. This is flawed for a couple of reasons. Firstly, nothing will impress an Examiner more than when a driving test passes by with no incidents or situations worthy of note….. this is the true mark of a good driver, as they were able to accommodate all that was going on around them with “apparent” ease. (The outward appearance of calmness does not trivialise the work rate and effort that is going on inside the head). Secondly, the Examiner is not actually looking for opportunities to mark UP the driving on a driving test, this is not a dance routine score, or an ice skating technical score. Instead, go in to a driving test with the mindset of, “Here I am, this is my current driving ability, I know I will continue to learn, but I believe I am competent and safe”. If you set your expectations on providing an error free demonstration of precision driving for 38 minutes, you are putting a great deal of unnecessary pressure on yourself.
  10. Put things in context: There are limitations to all systematic assessment criteria, the driving test is no exception. There will naturally be a range of people who pass the driving test with quite different driving abilities, try not to dwell too much on the flaws of the process and don’t let that fact cloud your judgement of your own personal standard of driving that you want to achieve for driving with confidence after passing your test. Remember that the Driving Examiners are highly trained, professional people in the industry, who have great experience in observing fine details and accurately assessing outcomes. Put to one side any thoughts of judging how well they do their job, and just make sure that you are as well prepared to achieve a successful result in your driving test as is possible.

Like this? Check out our very popular VIDEO on what to do if you fail the driving test.

Tom Ingram is the Owner of BIG TOM Driving School (0800 689 4174) who specialise in providing 5 Day Intensive Driving Courses in Lincoln, Peterborough, Spalding, Boston, Stamford, Grantham and Bourne.


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Is practising with friends and family a good idea when learning to drive?

On the face of it, practising driving with a friend or member of your family seems like a good idea; you know them well, you like them, it wont cost you a penny, so it’s a no brainer? This blog will give you essential practical advice that you can print off and share with your helper. They will thank you!

At BIG TOM Driving School, you are positively encouraged to get as much good quality driving experience as possible when you are learning to drive. Our 5 Day Intensive Driving Courses are designed around the concept that you “Drive more, to experience more, to learn more”, and we can provide that service as we use top quality, DVSA registered driving instructors who are trained to help you learn whilst managing risk.

The first important point to recognise when considering private practise sessions, is the role of the supervisor. Legally, that is what they are you know? Not everyone is entitled to supervise a learner, there are strict rules about who is allowed to supervise a learner.

From a legal point of view, there are expectations placed on a supervisor to ensure that when they take a Learner out to practise, the session has been thought out so as to minimise and control the likelihood of having an accident that will cause damage or even worse injury.

Crucially, do not fall in to the trap of expecting a supervisor to actually train you how to drive. The idea is to practise the things that you have been working on with your driving instructor, building up your confidence and ability. It is NOT a good idea to try doing new things that you have not even done with your driving instructor. A friend or member of your family is not necessarily trained to a high standard of driving ability, they may not have the verbal skills to either enable you to learn effectively or control the safety of a given situation.  As such, it is always sensible, to be clear on what goal you are attempting to achieve between you both, BEFORE the engine is turned on. Make sure you are only practising what you have previously covered with your driving instructor, and give some thought as to where you will practise.

A common mistake to make is that a Learner will naturally want to impress the member of family or friend who is supervising them. Perfectly natural to feel that way, but this really must be controlled, to ensure safety is maintained. If the route you take or location of your session is not carefully planned, before you know it, you can both be found in situations that go far beyond what you have previously covered, and that makes both of you very anxious. Not only can that situation knock your own confidence, but it can also seriously affect the supervisor too – these incidents can put off supervisors from coming out to help you again, remember, they do not have dual controls like a driving instructor has in their driving school car.


Practise….. Don’t Learn

This is fundamentally the key message to give you in this blog. You should only be driving in situations that you have previously covered with your driving instructor. The moment that you start going beyond that point, you are putting much stress on the supervisor, and risk is no longer being managed. The consequence of this, can be very serious indeed.

Chris Jubb has been a driving instructor for 14 years and provides first class driving training for BIG TOM customers on the intensive driving courses. He offers the following advice to parents and friends based on his years of experience:

“Try not to expect your learner driver to do too much. You wouldn’t put a young member of your family into a deep pool and expect them to swim or sink, and it’s the same with learning to drive. You do actually play an important part in any case, learners will watch you drive, they will observe how you respond to other drivers, they will sense what your attitude is to speeding, tailgating and the like. The best advice I can offer you is to leave any learning to us, we are in the best position to provide driving training in a safe environment, but do go out and see your learner practise, it can be very enjoyable to both of you, and very motivating for the learner as they generally like to make you feel proud of what they can achieve”.

Chris does make an important point here about the influence friends and family can and do have on learner drivers. It is recognised that some of these influences are positive and others negative so here are our top 5 tips for supervisors:

  1. Acknowledge the responsibility that comes with supervising a learner, make sure that you have done all you can in preparation for the sessions eg check the car insurance cover, check the car is road worthy, find out what the learner has been working on recently and where.
  2. Come up with a goal for the session. Be specific. Ensure that your learner is doing what s/he is wanting to do, talk about how you both share the responsibility for safety and how you can manage it between you.
  3. Make sure that the time is right. Even when these practise sessions have been pre-planned it can turn out to be not ideal timing. We are all human with everything that brings, we suffer with tiredness, feeling low, illness or frustrations. The weather might turn really bad, or the timing might mean it will be really busy on the roads. Always be prepared to postpone a session.
  4. Keep it safe. You should not expect the learner to be able to appreciate when things are getting dangerous. Just because there was a near miss that actually resulted in nothing dangerous happening, do not ignore these moments. Go and find somewhere less demanding, work on the basis that good practise has good outcomes, not risky outcomes.
  5. Keep things interesting. Asking a learner to repeatedly drive round familiar roads, doing the same journeys time and time again is not that beneficial. The idea is to practise the skillsets that the learner is currently working on, and practising them in areas that are new, unfamiliar, but still well within their current ability. So take care to make sure the locations are not too demanding, but do try to make the practise sessions involve the pupil using the skillsets they are currently working on.

BIG TOM Driving School provides 5 Day Intensive Driving Courses in Peterborough, Spalding, Stamford, Bourne, Lincoln, Grantham and Boston 0800 689 4174


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Drive Dead Slow Near Horses

The British Horse Society has launched a campaign called “Dead Slow”, aimed at appealing for drivers to dramatically reduce their speed when driving near horses.  The consequences of frightening a horse can be tragic.  But there are often factors involved in trying to control a horse that drivers may never have appreciated previously.

This image here is of an experienced rider Tracey Handley with her horse Harry, and here she describes what can actually happen riding a horse:

“As a horse rider , who has to use main roads to access By ways and Bridleways. It is so important drivers realise just how vulnerable it feels to be riding a horse amongst traffic. And the importance that they slow down to an acceptable speed (15mph), and also give at least a car width (minimum) when they pass. My horse is fine with lorries etc , just as long as they pass wide and slow but all it takes is a bird to flap out of a tree , or a stray bag or even a crisp packet to suddenly appear and a horse will act in a way that can be very unpredictable. Horses are a ‘Flight’ animal so situations can cause them to flee from a situation that they see as danger.

I come across drivers who don’t even acknowledge that you’re there, which is so frustrating.  When drivers slow down I always thank them , either by nodding, smiling or raising my hand . It’s not always possible to take a hand off the rein , as the horse may be young or you’re not comfortable by doing this .

I personally have had near misses , where the wing mirror of a car has nearly clipped my horse or leg, and the consequences would be devastating.

I am currently looking to move my horse to another yard as there are hardly any main roads to ride on safely. Drivers are forcing us off the roads and yet the lack of Bridleways and housing developments force us to use roads.

I always ride out in hi-viz clothes and accessories.

Thank you for taking the time to read the above.

Tracey and Harry”

On your 5 Day Intensive Driving Course with BIG TOM Driving School you will get the opportunity to drive dozens of miles on rural roads, the experience of driving on diverse driving conditions is what our course is known for.  There is every possibility that horses may be encountered on your journeys, and you will be provided with full guidance on how best to navigate safely around them.  However, for more information, check out this handy leaflet from GEM.

A big thank you goes to our guest writer Tracey and we wish her many years of road safety along with Harry.


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How Quickly Can I Learn to Drive?

This has to be one of the most common questions that learner drivers have in their mind practically ALL the time. Why? This blog will explore what is actually behind this question. The answer will be more revealing than you might have imagined. If you want to get in the right mindset for knowing how quickly you can learn to drive, read on…

This is probably the number 1 question on the mind of all learner drivers. Is it to do with money, and how much it will cost to learn to drive? Or perhaps time, and knowing how long you have to commit to this? But is it possible that you are surrounded by people who are telling you how “easy” it is to learn to drive, how few driving lessons they took, and with big sighs, rolling of eyes, raised eyebrows, you get the “how long have you been taking driving lessons now?” question. How does that make you feel?

Answer the Question!

Let me answer the question directly. How quickly can a person learn to drive? Being “able to drive” means different things to different people. Driving on a single carriageway road in 4th gear at 45mph with the foot slightly pressing on the gas pedal to maintain that speed is “driving”, of that there is no doubt. But contrast that kind of “driving” with negotiating a complex multi-laned roundabout, or merging on to a busy dual-carraigeway, or emerging from a side road on to a busy, fast moving main road. That is undoubtedly “driving” too. The problem with the question of “How quickly can I learn to drive” is what you actually mean by “driving”. For many people reading this blog, my response there is not going to be ‘answering the question directly’ to their satisfaction. Some people want a straight answer to a straight question, and for you readers, let me offer the answer of approximately 5-8 hours. For an absolute beginner, within 5-8 hours of driving on the BIG TOM Intensive Driving Course, most pupils will be able to navigate safely around residential areas, turning and emerging in to junctions on 30 mph roads. The amount of assistance required by the driving instructor will vary, some will need more verbal instructions to prompt driving actions than others, but an average pupil will begin to identify with a sense of “being able to drive” after this amount of time. Do be careful with averages though, in my experience of 1:1 learning environments, having pre-conceived ideas of what “average” outcomes should be when learning to drive can be very demoralising, frustrating and also quite limiting – it means the pupil is aiming for an “average” outcome.

Let me expand a little on the phases that absolute beginner Learners go through when learning to drive. You might be surprised to read what actually is going on when a pupil goes through this process.

Car Control and What That Means To You

Initially, a pupil will want to gain some confidence in knowing how a car works. What all the buttons, pedals, mirrors, safety features are there for, how they are used and why they are important. Once there has been a raising of the awareness of what does what, there is a phase where the pupil begins to understand why those controls benefit them when driving. These are far reaching benefits that include how adjusting the drivers seat position affects controls of the pedals and vision out the car, how the steering wheel position adjustment aids control of the position of the car in the road, how mirror adjustments affect safety by allowing a driver to see what is around… and on it goes. This phase is crucial because it is connecting an important link between the sheer ecstasy of beginning to actually drive, with the responsibility of appreciating the need to drive safely by making sure the car is set up to enable the pupil to drive well. For some pupils, this realisation of recognising that the guidance being offered is personal to them, unique to their learning experience comes at different levels of time. The previous experiences pupils have of learning environments, particularly 1:1, will provide a great advantage to some pupils as they will instinctively recognise the advantage of maximising their learning experience by developing an open, honest and respectful relationship between pupil and driving instructor. Pupils in this phase tend to be rather restricted in their awareness of activity outside the car, their brains are working hard trying to make sense of all these new in-car stimuli.

Driving with Consistency – to a Routine

Even at this stage of driving round housing estates on 30 mph roads, some pupils will be more willing than others to recognise and attempt to pre-empt a ‘system’ to the driving that ensures driving actions are methodical, timely and controlled. How much assistance a pupil needs to encourage them to take on the responsibility of proactively driving to these routines is very personal, and cannot be pre-judged by a driving instructor. At BIG TOM Driving School we go to great efforts to raise the awareness of our pupils for the need to embrace this fact, and some pupils will welcome this concept more than others…. it is quite individual. Without doubt one of the biggest learning points at this phase is an appreciation of how crucial TIME is when driving. There are so many driving actions to do, involving co-ordination of the hands and feet and effective observations, that appreciating the benefit of buying time is key. Careful consideration is given to the location at this phase, as the wrong locations can knock confidence and be very demoralising. Emphasis is placed on accuracy of the position of the car on the road, and developing slow, methodical and accurate driving actions. There are no bonus points for rushed driving actions that lead to unhelpful consequences.

Modes of Driving

There are different “modes” of driving, and briefly they can be categorised into: town driving, rural road driving, ‘fast road’ driving (dual-carraigeways and motorways), and reversing. What happens next is that pupils are encouraged to experience these different modes of driving with great care being taken to ensure the learning environment is safe and that layers of learning and confidence are developed by the pupil that are based around positive outcomes. This is a key and enlightening phase to go through, as the pupil begins to appreciate what effect driving at higher speeds or in the other direction has on how they think and feel, and likewise how it affects their ability to control the car. How much a pupil wants to participate in managing this learning experience again is quite personal. Some pupils will happily embrace the responsibility of adapting the learning process to their particular needs, whilst others will not welcome that approach at all. The goal is for the pupil to get confident in driving in these different modes, on unfamiliar roads, in all driving conditions, and with time, that will be achieved with very little input, if any at all from the driving instructor.

Are there any other considerations as to how quickly I can learn to drive?

There are a few key ingredients in the ‘effective learning’ pot, this is not to say that the following MUST be present for someone to learn to drive, just that these are recognised to be very favourable in assisting successful outcomes.

Benefits of Feedback

Whilst this training is occurring, there is a subtle combination of feedback occurring between driving instructor and pupil which can have quite profound effects on the learning experience. Some pupils ability to be conscious of their thoughts and feelings is more advanced than others, equally so for levels of self-awareness (having an appreciation of how well aspects of learning to drive are going). Any previous experience of learning environments at school/college/work can have an influence on this point. How much experience a pupil has of “looking inwardly” at their ability and confidence varies greatly. The quality, quantity and timing of feedback to a pupil can be crucial – driving instructors who pay no attention to this point, show little regard for the satisfaction levels of their pupils, not to mention the effect on learning curves.

Outside Influences

There are a great deal of outside influences that have a direct impact on the learning process which a driving instructor may have little influence over. Examples of this are role-models in the life of the pupil and their attitudes to driving, how peers can affect the mind of the pupil, to what driving standard the pupil is attempting to be competent, the frequency/duration of sessions and the ability of the pupil to forward plan driving training sessions taking into account budget and time constraints, and even any previous traumatic driving related experiences. The physical number of hours spent sitting in a driving school car can have little relevance on learning if any of the above influencers are affecting the mindset of the pupil.

Pupil v Trainer Relationship

I say “Trainer” here because there are different modes of teaching, and the role the trainer takes in the relationship eg coach, mentor, instructor. In the UK there are no restrictions about who can train a pupil, or how much time it takes, the methodology, or even the syllabus. The DVSA have produced Driving Standards on the subject of learning to drive, but when a pupil applies to take the driving test, it is not accepted conditionally on how the pupil has been taught to drive. Parents can teach their young ones how to drive, with no reference to any DVSA controlled resources at all. At BIG TOM Driving School, our experience shows us that using highly qualified, professional driving instructors who are “pupil-led” in their teaching methodology rather than “instructor-led” is extremely important. Having a two-way honest and open relationship within a 1:1 learning environment will assist in maximising the rate of learning.  Wasted time and money can be consumed within a learning environment when the relationship between pupil and trainer is not effective, and rather than a stimulating, enjoyable, limitless learning environment, the learning is stifled, restrictive, unpleasant and frustrating.  One reason for this can be related to “special needs” that a pupil may or may not be aware of.

Quite some answer to what is on the face of it, a very simple question! When you start taking into account that some pupils have more ‘natural ability’ to multi-task their hands and feet, or that some are more able to anticipate what other road users may do, or that some can visualise and forward plan easier than others, you begin to realise that actually, the question is a little silly to try to answer in any general terms. The fact of the matter is that all learner drivers are different, they enter into the process coming from different backgrounds of learning experiences, with differing learning preferences, having been exposed to driving practises of family members for several years, and with expectations that differ wildly.

Tom Ingram is the owner of BIG TOM Driving School who specialise in providing 5 Day Intensive Driving Courses in Lincoln, Peterborough, Boston, Spalding, Stamford, Bourne and Grantham (0800 689 4174)



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Driving Test Fail

Feeling angry, disappointed, bitter, resentful or confused about your driving test? According to Department for Transport statistics, in recent years in the UK, there has consistently been a staggering 700,000 driving test fails per year, costing Learners about £43,000,000 (43 million) in driving test fees. Whilst the majority of these “test fails” will be agreed by the candidate, there will undoubtedly be a fair number where the candidate feels aggrieved at what happened. This blog will help explain what can sometimes go wrong and offer some guidance to reduce frustrations you might have.


One of the main reasons why there can be difficulties interpreting what happens on a driving test is due to there being many variables to it. Unlike a school/college exam where the structure of the test is very controlled, on a driving test there are a few things that can happen which may differ greatly between driving tests; this is one of the reasons why many people have a ‘story’ to tell about their driving test.

The variables on a driving test include:

  • You – how you cope with the test, it is after all a stressful experience
  • Examiner – whilst the DVSA (Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency) go to great lengths when training examiners to ensure consistency of how the test is conducted and marked, nevertheless, they are only human like all of us, and humans make mistakes
  • Others – cyclists, pedestrians, road workers, drivers of buses, vans, taxis, emergency vehicles… the list goes on and you are not in control of how any of them act/behave. People can do strange things at times.
  • The vehicle – most people ensure that they take their driving test in a vehicle that they have had plenty of practise driving, but occasionally, for a variety of reasons a Learner may take a driving test in a vehicle that they have had little experience of driving. Cars differ in how they drive, the vision, the noises etc.
  • The highways – signage, white paint on roads and road design differ between Local Authorities.   The range of complexity this causes a candidate on test can be enormous and can make the route that is selected for a given driving test to have a direct and probable impact on likely outcomes.

Some examples of how the above can affect a driving test can be quite surprising. The following are some real examples taken from the 100+ driving tests that I have observed from the back seat on driving tests at BIG TOM Driving School.

A couple learnt to drive with me in Peterborough, both starting at the same time with wildly differing attitudes to the driving test. The male was confident, he drove with assertiveness, a calm and assured driver who was sure he would pass the driving test first time. His wife was about as far the opposite as you can imagine, she would often drive too slowly, was hesitant, frightened of speed and big lorries, and absolutely feared the driving test. The male failed his first attempt as he could not stop his left leg from wobbling which meant he had poor clutch control.   His wife managed to pass first time.

The aura of examiners when on the driving test can differ greatly. They are duty bound to express sentences and directions in the same structure, but the manner in which they conduct the driving test can have profound effects on the candidate taking the test. The lilt of the verbal instructions, their timing, the body language adopted, whether additional words are offered to provide a more relaxing environment – all of these characteristics are extremely difficult to legislate for in terms of how an examiner MUST conduct a driving test, and yet, they can significantly affect how a candidate drives. Think about behavioural styles of teachers, doctors, police officers, interviewing personnel, dentists, bosses and often you will be able to recollect ‘good’ and ‘bad’ examples for each. Driving examiners are no different.

If everyone behaved on the streets as you would expect them to, life would be a lot easier right? But they don’t. Emergency service drivers will intimidate drivers in front of them, pedestrians will walk out on to a road unexpectedly or hold back inappropriately on crossings, drivers of vehicles around you will speed, weave in and out of lanes, not signal when they should, and drive too close behind you.

The quality of white paint on roads can have a marked effect on driving test outcomes eg being able to physically see lanes, how close white arrows are to junctions, inclusion (or not) of destinations/road names on lanes. Inevitably there are a few highly complex junctions/road designs within a given area that will attract driving test fails purely down to the obscure nature, or what appears to be “design shortcomings” that affect the vast majority of drivers, not just candidates on the driving test. If you were to observe how drivers navigate their way round these particular complex areas you would notice that if the same ‘rules’ were being applied to everyone, as are being applied to candidates on the driving test, then the natural consequence would be that a significant percentage of drivers would theoretically fail to pass a driving test. In other words, candidates on their driving test, are being expected to drive to a higher standard than the majority of other drivers AT THESE SPECIFIC LOCATIONS.

There will be other factors that affect pass rates across test centres, but different ‘test routes’ being used by a Test Centre can have greatly differing pass rates associated with them – this is a statistic that is missing from DVSA publicised figures.   The unfortunate side effect of this fact is that it can encourage driving schools to focus on test routes, in particular test routes that include these highly complex areas, so the pupils are becoming trained in handling certain locations as opposed to trained in developing identification, assessment and forward planning skillsets.

DVSA Test Centre Managers monitor and to differing degrees ‘control’ the impact of specific examiners and test routes on Test Centre pass rates. The probability of passing a driving test is not intended to be dependent on postcodes, but there are many candidates who choose to take their driving test in a particular Test Centre for these very reasons, just as there are many trainee Driving Instructors who will also take their qualifying tests in particular Test Centres for the same reasons.

If you consider that a driving test result was unfair then you can appeal against the decision through the courts, there is a specific court and timescale dependent on your location, this LINK has more details. However, you do have another option available to you which I consider to be far more effective. You are given the option at the start of your test to have it observed. At BIG TOM Driving School, we positively encourage our customers to allow their BIG TOM Driving Instructor to observe the test from the back seat. In our experience, this has proved of benefit on several occasions. The stress of the driving test is sometimes so great that candidates literally cannot recall precise details of what happens. By having an observer, especially a professional driving instructor, they will be able to offer guidance as to literally what happened, when, and why the driving fault was marked by the examiner in the manner it was.

As the writer of this blog, and seeing how it could be construed as being contentious, I would like to declare that whilst I am in no doubt that the variables outlined in this blog exist to greater and lesser degrees in differing locations in the UK, in 7 years of observing driving tests, the occasions when I have felt there was grounds to make an appeal against a decision by an examiner have been zero. That is not to say that anyone reading this will not have a legitimate case, every case must be judged on the specific circumstances, but only to provide some reassurance to readers that in the numerous driving tests I have observed, I have never felt the need to disagree with the outcome provided by the examiner.

The writer is Tom Ingram, Owner of BIG TOM Driving School providing 5 Day Intensive Driving Courses at Lincoln, Peterborough, Bourne, Grantham, Boston, Spalding and Stamford (0800 689 4174)


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