When it comes to driving instructors, I’ve seen them all. From the married man with a new baby who kept asking me out on a date (“I can’t help it, I’ve got a thing for your school uniform,” the creep told me) to the lady who would finish every session with a cigarette and serious admonishment. “You’re the only one of my students who has ever disappointed me like this, Dilvin.”
More than 25 years later, I’m still disappointing, but if there’s one thing I know, it’s that when it comes to finding the right driving instructor for your teen, research must first be undertaken with the diligence of a lauded scholar.
Here’s what to look out for…
Focus on reputation rather than cost
It’s easier to say if you’re not living on the breadline, I know, but where possible, try not to be led by the lowest price. Broke with a capital B at the time, I went for the cheapest driving school I could find, and look how well that turned out.
Rather, make your investigation all about their reputation. Ask social groups if they can suggest anyone they highly recommend and then Google their name, checking out any online reviews before also observing their presence on social media. People are brutally honest when leaving reviews on Facebook, for example, so pay attention.
Check all relevant qualifications
Ensure the driving instructor you have your eye on is fully qualified, insured, and preferably belongs to an association with a Code of Practice they must abide by. Keys2drive, an Australian Government-funded program providing learner drivers (and their parents) a free driving lesson with a Keys2drive accredited professional driving instructor, for example, has such a policy in place.
Before locking in a lesson, it’s a good idea to have a chat with the instructor, taking care to ask questions such as:
- Whether your child will have a choice of vehicles
- Whether they have supporting education materials to give students after their classes
- Whether the training will be one-on-one for the entire duration of lessons (some instructors have a habit of picking up other students during the lesson to save on time during swap over)
- What methods do they use? Are they using the ‘Beyond Test Routes’ program, for example, to teach low-risk driving?
It isn’t enough to only question the would-be instructor, you’ll also need to speak with your teen about what they feel comfortable with. If your teen is overly anxious, they may wish to have an instructor that’s patient and empathetic, while bolder ones might prefer an instructor who is lively and fun. Some may wish to have an instructor of the opposite gender or prefer to have you in the car for all lessons.
Introduce your teen to the instructor to see whether there’s a good connection and listen to your gut. If your teen doesn’t feel comfortable around him or her (or you don’t), keep up with the search. You are under no obligation to book an instructor you’ve met.
Something else you may wish to have a think about is the instructor’s flexibility in terms of timings (are they able to change meeting location if need be?) and what their cancellation policy is. Your instructor can rightly insist on full payment for lessons that are canceled last-minute, so be sure to ask what the latest time to cancel a lesson is and what exceptions they would make (if any).