As an ADI instructor I have had many provisional licence holders come to me admiting that they have been driving a car on the road in the UK unsupervised, so it is nothing surprising to me, however yesterday I saw something that I never expected from a professional.
I was in a supermarket car park practising the reverse bay parking exercise, when I noticed someone (who later turned out to be the driving instructor) get out of car of a well known national driving school and walk into the supermarket. Not too long after this, the car started to move (there was definately only one person in the car) and continued to carry out the bay parking exercise.
Now I know that the supermarket car park is private land, and therefore not covered by the Road Traffic Act, but there are 2 potential issues.
Insurance: If the learner driver unsupervised is involved in an accident with a 3rd party while the instructor is not present, the insurance would be void, and the driver could face damages running into thousands of pounds. Remember it is your responsibility as the driver of a vehicle (learner or not) to make sure you are insured and abide by the law.
Are you actually learning?: If your driving instructor is allowing you to practise an exercise alone or leaving you to drive around town while he/she is on the phone or busy reading text messages, you as a learner might be thinking that it is because you have reached a good driving test standard and are trusted, but the truth is that they are not doing their job properly and you are being short changed.
It only takes one driving error for you to fail a test, therefore everytime you are in the car, the instructor must be making sure that every move you make is according to the DSA standard and the only way this is possible is if they are paying attention to what you are doing. One common driver error a lot of my learners make (especially during independent driving) is not checking the left mirror when exiting a multi-lane roundabout after turning right, other faults include inadequate observtions during a manuever or looking but not seeing. If you are driving unsupervised how will you know you are making these mistakes? It is easy to pass the driving test if you have the right habits, but you can't be the judge of that for 2 reasons. First of all you might not be completely honest with yourself about your skills level, but secondly and more importantly you do not know what the examiner is looking for!
I have no problem with a student demonstrating that they are now independent, but a driving instructor or whoever is supervising you needs to keep an eye on what you are doing, so going shopping while you do parallel parking exercises or arranging driving lessons with other clients on the mobile phone is not good for you and could be illegal and dangerous.
Driving School Video - Meeting Traffic
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