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5 Signs of a Bad Driving Instructor

Clipboard with a checklist

Whether you’re looking for a driving instructor, or struggling with the one you’ve already got, you want to make sure they are the best possible person for the job. And, unfortunately, there are some driving instructors you should avoid. To help you determine the ones to be wary of, we’ve put together a list of 5 top signs that may indicate that a driving instructor is ‘bad’.

Some of the qualities are objective and non-negotiable: any driving instructor with these faults is automatically bad news. Others are personality traits. Every instructor will fall somewhere on a sliding scale with these, and some of them may not indicate a bad instructor per se—just that they may be a bad fit for you.

Don’t be disheartened, though: this post should also reassure you that there are plenty of instructors out there who display good qualities, too!


① Illegal or illegitimate

One of the most serious signs of a bad driving instructor is if they’re not actually doing the job legally. All DVSA-approved instructors have had a certain amount of tuition on how to teach others to drive, and have had to pass various exams proving their competence as an instructor. Potential Driving Instructors (PDIs) are also allowed to teach people to drive, as they build up their experience to gain full Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) status, so long as they also hold a valid trainee badge. If someone is doing the job without having the correct qualifications, they haven’t proven their abilities to a professional body—and it’s actually illegal to pay them to teach you to drive.

There are a couple of ways to ensure that you’re not getting ripped off. You can see a list of most verified ADIs on the DVSA register, which contains a list of any legitimate instructor who has chosen to have their details  added to the database. Even if this draws a blank, you can still work out if your instructor is legal by checking that there is a valid card in their windscreen during lessons (it can be a pink triangle or green octagon, but it must be within date). If either of these conditions are met, you can be assured that they have proper professional recognition. If you’re struggling to confirm your instructor’s legitimacy, follow the steps laid out in our post on DVSA-approved instructors.


Impatient

A boy with his hands over his head looking exasperated

Driving is a skill that takes time and practice. Any driving instructor worth their salt will understand this and will be patient with you as you learn the ropes. Our tolerances and personalities are all different, so what works for one person may not work for another.

It may also take a short while for the two of you to ‘gel’. But if you’re not well suited, and you’re finding your instructor overly harsh or abrasive, you’ll soon know from your lack of driving progress.


③ Fails to pick up errors

Just as you don’t want an impatient driving instructor, you need to balance this with their ability to use instruction constructively. You’re never going to be able to learn if your instructor is too shy to tell you when you’re doing something wrong, or allows mistakes to slide.

Don’t misinterpret instruction for unwarranted criticism. Car accidents can prove fatal, so the instructor should have a certain degree of strictness: how they deliver their critique, and whether this is effective as a teaching method for you personally, may be another matter.


Unprofessional

The relationship between driving instructor and pupil is rather a strange one. You will (probably) start off as complete strangers, but will likely develop a more informal relationship quite quickly, particularly if you’ve chosen to undertake an intensive or semi-intensive driving course. Inevitable, really: you’re each putting your lives in the other’s hands.

While this often works to mutual advantage, you also need to remember that your instructor is providing a service for which you are paying. If informality crosses over into unprofessionalism, that is unacceptable, and can be one of the signs of a bad driving instructor.

One example of this is if your driving instructor arrives late. It may have been totally unavoidable: perhaps they were stuck in traffic, or there was some kind of emergency. However, they should always make up the time to you—either that lesson, or, by mutual arrangement, another time. 5 minutes missed might not seem like much, but a few minutes here and there can quickly add up—and you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your lessons. After all, you’re paying enough for them!

Turning up repeatedly late can also indicate poor time management on the part of your instructor: they may be trying to schedule lessons too closely together, and need to rethink their timetable. And, if it happens on lessons, who says they won’t turn up late for your driving test? If that’s the case, you risk getting turned away—and we all know how long it can take to get the perfect practical test slot.


⑤ Distracted

The front passenger is on their phone while being driven

One of the most dangerous things for any driver is distraction. This holds true for anyone responsible for a learner driver as well. As both a qualified supervising driver and an ADI or PDI, their insurance is only valid on the basis that they are ultimately responsible for what happens during your lessons.

They need to be aware at all times of potential hazards, your abilities and any limitations you have as a driver. That’s why most instructors choose to use dual-control cars: so that they can take charge if necessary. None of these things can happen if they are distracted, though, so you should be wary of any instructor who is focused on things other than your lessons: it’s among the most obvious signs of a bad driving instructor.

For instance, they should avoid using their mobile during lesson time. Using a handheld phone is prohibited for all drivers. You may already know that it can get you enough points to lose your licence immediately, if you are within the first 2 years of holding your pink licence. It’s no less serious for a driving instructor: in fact, instructors can lose their instructor licences for being on the phone during lessons—even if it’s ‘just a text’.

And while most driving instructors are willing to chat to you (often a great way to help you enjoy lessons, calm your driving nerves and prepare you for when you’ve passed your test and are taking family and friends in the car), they should not be concentrating on conversation to the detriment of your learning.


What to do if your instructor is displaying signs of a bad driving instructor

Never let your driving suffer because you’ve got a bad instructor. If you think they’re breaking the rules, or you simply aren’t clicking with them, here are 3 ways to transform your lessons into a more positive experience.

① Challenge them

The first recourse action is to talk to your driving instructor. By expressing your concerns, you will make sure your instructor knows you want things to change, and can do something about it.

Use specific examples to help illustrate your points, and try to keep things civil. If you are able to resolve the issues, you’ll want to maintain a good relationship with the instructor.

Talk to your driving school

If you’ve got a driving instructor through a driving school, you can always relay feedback and concerns to them. They will want to know if your instructor is posing a risk to your safety, or carrying out lessons in an unprofessional manner.

For instance, PassMeFast always welcomes feedback on instructors, positive or negative. It gives us a good indication of an instructor’s strengths and weaknesses, and helps us match instructors with specific pupils’ needs in the future.

Change instructor

Paper with 'bad' written on it discarded; paper with 'good' written on it chosen

Ultimately If you’ve raised concerns that haven’t been addressed, or you feel that the issues are beyond reparation, then your best course of action might be to cut your losses and dump them as your instructor. You don’t need to part on bad terms, but your time and money are too precious to waste on unproductive lessons.

Once you’ve opted to find a better instructor, make sure you don’t miss too much time in between lessons, as this can hinder progress. Onwards and upwards— and watch those gear changes on the hills!

By Katie Scott

Katie grew up in the middle of nowhere, so knows the true value of getting behind the wheel. From the rules of the road to handy hints and tips, she'll give you the lowdown on all things driving. Always on the move, when she's not in the car, you'll probably find Katie darting around the squash courts or out running in the rainy British countryside.

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