At SaddlersDrive, we have trained many driving instructors both in the qualifying examinations and for continual professional development. Here we've listed some questions instructors ask, to help you understand where you may be finding difficulties when learning to drive.


“Steve (my pupil) keeps stalling the car at junctions, but if I ask him to move away from the side of the road he can do it perfectly every time and never stalls.”

Analysis: This is a simple matter of focus. When Steve moves away from the kerb he's focussed on what his feet are doing, but at junctions he's suddenly distracted by the other traffic.

The Solution: Try to stay focussed on your feet while you prepare the car, then think about whether its safe to pull away. Rushing because there's a car behind will just lead you to stall, then panic sets in, so just take your time and focus on those feet.

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Tommy (my pupil) keeps forgetting to check his blind spots before moving away from the kerb, I keep telling him what to do over and over but he still forgets,”

Analysis: This could again be a matter of focus, maybe Tommy is worried about something else such as stalling the car. Alternatively he may be forgetting because he doesn't fully appreciate the importance of the blind spot checks and thinks they are a waste of time. He clearly needs to get into a routine of checking every time.

The Solution:  Stay focussed on the Prepare - Observe - Move routine, so that you can do it automatically every time you move away. Remember the blind spot checks (including your left shoulder check) & ensuring its safe to move away, are a vital part of the moving off routine, both before and after passing your driving test.
Get your driving instructor to ask you to "Move away when it's safe" when giving you instruction, rather than the old "Move off when you're ready," which will remind you to focus on safety particularly at the early stages.

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"Diane (my pupil) keeps forgetting her Mirror-signal-manoeuvre routine approaching road junctions. She'll remember one part like the mirrors but forget others like the signal and positioning."

Analysis:  That's not surprising, it's an awful lot to remember for a new driver !! Diane is probably focussing entirely on other things like getting her speed correct and which gear to use.

The Solution: Instead of trying to remember the entire procedure by heart, try splitting the approach into a simpler three phases.
(1) The mirrors and signal - - - - - - - - - always the first thing you need to do.
(2) The preparation for the junction - - the position, speed and gear part.
(3) The observation part.

This will make it easier for Diane to remember and understand.
Remember new drivers will tend to focus on one individual part of the process, this inevitably leads to the student forgetting other parts, try to get Diane to see the whole mirror-preparation- observation process rather than focussing on individual parts.

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"Chris (my pupil) keeps chopping lanes at roundabouts. He approaches in the correct lane but suddenly chops into another as he enters the roundabout."

Analysis:  This is probably a planning issue. Chris is almost certainly trying to decide what to do when he's half way around the roundabout. He's driving *reactively rather than proactively.

The Solution:   It's important to decide what you're going to do well before you get to any hazard, junction or roundabout. You should already know which lane, signal, speed and gear etc. you're going to use well before you try to enter the roundabout. Trying to decide what to do mid-way around is a recipe for disaster.
Also ensure you look at the direction sign approaching the roundabout, this is a 'map' of which exit you're going to take, this will ensure you are certain which road you are taking.

* For the page 'Proactive v Reactive' on this website click here 

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"Mary (my pupil) cannot reverse around a corner, she understands what to do in theory but it keeps going wrong, We've tried everything."

Analysis;  This sounds like a classic example of Mary thinking *Reactively instead of Proactively.

The Solution;  Mary is waiting for it to go wrong then trying to rescue the manoeuvre. She should instead be anticipating what is about to happen and taking action to keep the situation under control this is called being Proactive. Get Mary to tell you where the car's going and what she needs to do to prevent a loss of position and control, rather than just waiting for it to go wrong then telling her about it.

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"I'm a driving instructor and I'm confused. I sat in on two driving tests, both times the pupil approached a bit too fast and pulled out unsafely at junctions, but one examiner marked 'proper observation before emerging' while the other examiner marked 'approach speed."

Analysis;  Several driving instructors have asked me about this, some instructor's interpret this as 'inconsistent marking' but there is a genuine reason why this situation occurs.

The Solution;  Driving examiners are trained to assess faults using the 'cause and effect' system, this means the examiner will not only look at the 'effect' (what happened) but also the "cause' (what fault originally caused it to happen.)  The examiner then marks whichever is greater, the cause or the effect. This is why one time it may be marked 'observation,' another it might be 'speed on approach.'  This can apply to any marking in a wide variety of situations.

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"I'm a driving instructor, I've got a new pupil and this pupil is awful, he's had seven hours and he can't do anything, can't move away without stalling 3 times, no coordination, unpredictable actions, can't steer !!!  I'm thinking of telling him not to bother."

Analysis;  Hold on a minute, let's not assume because you can't teach him he's incapable of learning !!! Quite often a new pupil's issues are caused by influences that are less than obvious to the instructor.
Some examples I have come across are;

                                          Underlying fear caused by a previous experience
                                          Lack of confidence due to childhood issues, bullying etc.
                                          A basic fear of getting it wrong, this is probably the most common reason.
                                          An underlying fear of driving, possibly caused by a childhood accident
                                          Autism issues the instructor may be unaware of.

The Solution;  I've come across all of these issues and each time the pupil was initially struggling severely but went on to pass the driving test with flying colours. 
Your job as the instructor isn't to tell them not to bother, your job is to get to the root cause of the issues and formulate a plan to help your pupil overcome them.

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