How Our Driving Instructors Are Coping With The Coronavirus Pandemic

Cartoon of PassMeFast instructors under article title

To say that 2020 has turned out to be an unforgettable year would be an understatement. The pandemic has brought about a giant upheaval to our daily lives. From socialising to working, everything has changed. Though there’s no way of knowing when things will be “back to normal”, it’s at least reassuring to know that everyone seems to be in the same boat at the moment—as we’ve already shown with our spotlight on how PassMeFast staff have been handling the pandemic.

Now, we’ve decided to turn towards the people who are on the frontlines in this pandemic. Yes, we’re talking about our hardworking driving instructors. The ones who have been grafting away throughout the pandemic in order to help key workers and the general public get their full licence. After conducting interviews and carrying out surveys, we’ve got some pretty interesting responses to share with you! Enjoy!

Lockdown life as a driving instructor

For many people in the UK, lockdown life meant furlough, working from home, or trying to find ways to make the most out of being stuck indoors 24/7. For driving instructors, however, it was an entirely different story.

With the government deciding that key workers should still be able to complete their driving lessons and take the practical test, driving instructors had a major decision to make: should they continue teaching, or take a temporary break? With so much confusion surrounding coronavirus and the way it spreads, it’s not entirely surprising to find that 68.4% of the instructors we surveyed decided to take a break from teaching during lockdown.

Fortunately for the many key workers who came to us to help them get their full licence, however, we still had instructors on hand waiting to help.

Helping key workers

Trophy picture hanging from red lanyardFrom April all the way through to July, PassMeFast was there to help key workers book their emergency practical tests and complete their driving courses. We couldn’t have done this, of course, without our superhero ADIs!

Out of the instructors we surveyed, 31.6% continued to teach during lockdown. Their experiences with helping key workers varied quite a bit…

“Very successful, but challenging with safety.”

“I had only one key worker, it was fine, took extra precautions like masks and hand sanitizer.”

“Used PPE, asking about any family friends with any COVID symptoms, otherwise doing lessons on much quieter roads.”

Driving instructor Paul further elaborated on his passes during this time:  “I have had 3 test passes in 3 weeks despite COVID restrictions.” Instructor Mani went on to emphasise how impressive all passes were during lockdown: “all my passes are outstanding, especially after COVID pupils are under pressure because they know that if they fail there would be a long wait for another test.” How sweet!

If you’d like to know more about the key workers that we helped during the pandemic, and their incredible achievements, head on over to our Key Worker Hall of Fame!

Did you pass your test with PassMeFast during lockdown? Let us know in the comments!

Teaching after lockdown

Since lockdown was lifted, 100% of the instructors we surveyed have restarted teaching. Now, that’s not to say that they (like you) aren’t concerned about the safety issues involved with driving lessons. As you can see in the pie chart below, we got a mixed bag of responses when we asked them how safe they felt about teaching learners…

Pie chart with instructor responses to lesson safety

It’s due to safety concerns, however, that the way in which driving lessons (and tests) are conducted has had to change dramatically. All PassMeFast instructors have had to implement new safety measures during driving lessons—from wearing PPE to regularly cleaning their cars. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Here’s what some of our instructors are currently doing to keep themselves and their learners as safe as possible…

“Regular sanitising car controls and all touchable areas + wear face masks.” ??
“Temperature checks and hand gel, also wiping car down between lessons. Forward planning text to confirm still healthy to drive.” ?️?
“Wearing of face protection/hand sanitiser and keeping the controls and touchable surfaces cleaned down between lessons with anti-bacterial wipes.” ??
“Have had to fit weather shields to enable pupils to teach when raining due to the fact the vehicle must be kept ventilated.” ?️☂️

To highlight just how much work goes into keeping their cars safe, instructor Karen delved into exactly what needs doing after each driving lesson: “I wipe my car down after every lesson. It’s quite surprising how much you need to wipe down: seat adjustments, seat belt, steering wheel, hand brake, gearstick, mirror, sun visor, window controls, door handles, car key, wiper stalk, indicator stalk, headlight switch, headrest adjustment!

It’s certainly a relief to see that our driving instructors are taking every precaution possible to keep everyone safe. Of course, that’s not all that has had to change. Driving instructors have also had to alter the way in which they actually conduct and structure their lessons.

Additional changes include…

“More time between lessons.”

“Contacting students every week before their lessons to ask about COVID symptoms and leaving more time between lessons to carry out cleaning of controls etc.

“More breaks to get out [of] car and chat about the lesson so far.”

“More frequently stopping as face masks disrupt voices to understand what’s being said.”

The new test format

PassMeFast student taking a driving test wearing a face maskIn case you weren’t aware, the DVSA have had to change the way that driving tests are carried out at the moment. In order to minimise the amount of time that candidates and examiners spend in the car together, they have decided that tests will end immediately if a candidate fails—either by building up 16 minor faults, or by making a serious/dangerous fault.

Most of our instructors responded positively to these changes, commenting that “the measures taken are reasonable” and that they’re “OK with it”. Some also elaborated on the additional safety measures being taken: “examiners sanitize the seat and surrounding area before they start [the] test”.

Another change to the test is that instructors are no longer allowed to accompany their students. Whilst this has been bearable for the most part at the moment, instructor Andy has already started thinking about the horrors that winter will bring: “Locked out of test centre waiting rooms, standing around on your own. God help us in winter.

How the pandemic has changed driving

Bird's eye shot of question mark
Image source: Jules Bss (via Unsplash)

Given that our instructors are out and about on the roads, and have now started to adjust to the “new normal”, we decided to ask them a few questions about how the pandemic has changed driving in general.

Some instructors pointed out that “other drivers are more impatient” with learners and other road users, and have commented that we’re facing “quieter roads [due to] people working from home”. For those of you who hate change, however, the majority of our instructors noted that “driving hasn’t changed”, except for safety routines like “keeping [the] car and self sanitized and wearing masks on every lesson and insisting pupil[s] wear one”.

Now that the public have adjusted to the new norm, the majority of our instructors also believe that people’s willingness to take driving lessons “will not change“—some have noted that they’ve “never been so busy” with lessons! (A positive sign for instructors looking to bounce back.) Indeed, this rush of interest is to be expected, given that “many feel public transport is no longer safe“.

Advice for learners

With the trials and tribulations of lockdown life, and the fact that lessons only restarted for the general public in July, it’s no surprise to find that many learners have had their driving journeys affected by the pandemic. That’s why we turned to our instructors to see if they had any words of wisdom and encouragement to share. Here’s what they said:

⭐Be patient.⭐

⭐ Keep going.⭐

⭐Make sure you still stay as relaxed as possible, but keep in mind that COVID safety measures are kept to.⭐

⭐Take time to adjust yourself back to your routines.⭐

⭐Be patient and make sure you’re ready for your test as a failure would result in a long wait for another test.⭐

⭐Don’t give up, we’re here to help you pass. Don’t be worried about losing your driving skills learnt before lockdown. Driving a car is like riding a bike, you never forget!⭐

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves! As excited as you might be to get back on the road and pass your test, try to take heed of our instructors’ handy advice.

The handling of the situation…

DVSA entrance sign
Photo © David Hillas (cc-by-sa/2.0)

At the moment, there isn’t a topic that quite incites people’s strong opinions as much as the handling of the pandemic. Given that 57.9% of the instructors we surveyed said that they considered retiring or changing careers due to the challenges of the pandemic, we felt like they’d have a few things to say about how the DVSA and UK government have dealt with the situation. We certainly weren’t wrong!

As we anticipated, we received quite a few responses deriding the DVSA’s and government’s efforts: “[we were] poorly kept in the dark”, “Rubbish, totally disorganised, not prepared. They seem to be winging it”“DVSA total shambles”. Additional comments simply summed up the entire debacle as “not good”“awful”, and “terrible”.

We feel like this comment by instructor Michael, however, sums up the disappointment felt by many driving instructors across the UK: “I don’t think I could explain enough how strong[ly] we all feel let down”.

Instructor Monika offered her own advice about how the situation should have been handled instead: “I think that not enough restrictions have been put in place and that the lockdown should have been extended with stricter rules until the COVID-19 cases would drop significantly.

Not all instructors were so critical, however. Some said that the DVSA and government handled it “as best they can”, or “poorly, but they are humans and they learned as they got more familiar with the situation and are well now”. Instructor Karen even split her opinion: “I think the government have handled the situation well. The DVSA I feel needed to update instructors more.”

How do you think the DVSA and government handled the situation? Let us know in the comments!

We hope that you enjoyed our look at how PassMeFast instructors are coping with the pandemic. It’s certainly nice to see that though we’re living in turbulent and trying times, we’re still managing to power through it all together.

Want to know more about how PassMeFast is dealing with the ups and downs of the pandemic? Check out how our team are coping with the coronavirus pandemic. Keep your eyes peeled on the PassMeFast blog because we’ve got more coming!

By Bethany Hall

Whether you’re a learner or a pro driver, Bethany is here to help. From defensive driving to the Highway Code, she’ll tell you everything you need know about driving. If she’s not on the road, you’ll probably find Bethany with her head in a book or binge-watching the latest TV show.

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