Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Myth of the ‘International Driving Licence’

I am sure many driving instructors have had calls form prospective clients who say that they have been driving (legally without L plates) on an ‘International Driving Licence’ and now need to obtain a full British car licence to comply with residency conditions? The caller often adds that they are an experienced driver and only need a few lessons to prepare for the test.

Now I don’t pretend to be an expert in the area of driving licence regulations, so this article this article is more about seeking clarification rather than giving advice.

The first thing to say of course, is that there is no such thing as an ‘International Driving Licence’ and what the client is usually referring to is an  International Driving Permit which, as far as I am aware is available for the equivalent of a few pounds and production of a few documents such as a full licence from whatever country it was issued. It is essentially a multiple language translation of the holders existing driving licence. In other words, not an indication of the permit holders driving standard.

The Direct.Gov website does give some useful advice for driving in Great Britain as a visitor or new resident  . However, this only gives basic guidance from the licence holder’s point of view. From the ADI’s point of view it throws up more questions than it answers.

At this stage, I should point out that I have no problems with the worldwide agreements for visitors to foreign countries being able to drive using their full licence. I myself have, over the years, enjoyed the freedom to drive in various European countries.

The main problems seem to centre on drivers who fall into the DVLA’s category of full licence holders from all other countries (those outside the EEC, Northern Ireland etc.) and especially the question of ‘Residency’. Here it states: ‘Provided your full licence remains valid, you can drive any category of small vehicle shown on your licence for up to 12 months from the time you became resident. To ensure continuous driving entitlement a provisional GB licence must be obtained and a driving test past before the 12-month period elapses. If you obtain a provisional licence during this period you are not subject to provisional licence conditions.’

As ADI’s can often be the first port of call for clients in this category looking for advice, it would be useful if DVLA could issue a guide to help us.

How do we establish the validity of foreign licences without a legally authorised translation which includes explanation of any endorsements etc?

Should an international driving permit be taken as verification that the full licence is valid and legal?

Is it easily established when residency starts?

If a client takes a driving test during the 12 months and fails it, can he still legally drive on his full foreign licence until the 12 months expires?

If we assess one of these clients as a danger to other road users who is not fit to drive unaccompanied, apart from advising the client, what procedures should we follow?

One answer for ADI’s is of course to only accept clients with a valid GB provisional driving licence who, whilst they are with us, comply with provisional licence conditions. However, this does not address the underlying problems of allowing a minority of unsafe drivers onto Britain’s roads.

 Could it be an idea that as part of a person’s residency application, a driving assessment is required (which could be carried out by an ADI) to establish minimum safety standards for driving without L-plates until a full GB licence is obtained?

EEC licences, on the face of it, seem much more straightforward. However, this now includes 25 countries and more applying join. Oh, and we mustn’t forget EEA (European Economic Area) countries which includes Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. As ADI’s sometimes get calls from clients who want a few lessons to get used to the finer points of driving on the left, how are we supposed to check these foreign licences in foreign languages are valid and what any endorsements mean etc? Then there is the more worrying call from parents who are going to let the new Au Pair use their 4x4 to pick up the children from school and could we just assess their driving standard?

Another area, which seems confusing, comes under the heading of ‘Students from a Non-Community Country’. Here it states, in the DVLA’s guidance, that students who hold a non-community licence or an international driving permit may drive here for up to 12 months. Surely that should read and an international driving permit.

Confused yet?  Surely, this is a prime subject for inclusion as module for the DSA’s new continuing professional development programme.

In conclusion, this article boils down to the following main points:
  • To make it clear to driving instructors that there is no such thing as an 'international driving licence'
  • Ask the question about how ADI's are supposed to check the validity of foreign licences?
  • Highlight what seems to be a very big loophole in the law surrounding residency and the 12-month rule for obtaining a full licence. If a candidate fails a British driving test, say after six months of becoming resident, can it be legal to continue driving without provisional licence conditions for another six months when the DSA may have recorded, in some cases, that this is a dangerous driver?
Lastly, let us spare a thought for the poor examiners who are expected to test drivers, driving legally on foreign licences, where in some cases there is no guarantee of even the basic minimum standards and if they are driving their own cars, no dual controls either! I am sure a lot of ADI’s will have stories, whilst waiting to see if their pupil has passed the test, of seeing an unaccompanied driver who has obviously failed, remove their L-plates and drive off. How do we explain this to our pupils?

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Are you ready to meet the pupil from hell?

 The national pass rate for the part 3 test of instructional ability to become and approved driving instructor is historically very low. One of the main reasons for this is that candidates are just not prepared for what actually happens during the examination.

Although teaching real pupils will give you valuable experience and confidence, it does not always prepare you for what will happen in the examination. Some of the main differences between teaching a real pupil and the ‘role play’ pupil played by the examiner can be summed up as follows:
  • A real pupil will always try to get things right during a lesson so will often not highlight weaknesses in your instruction. The examiner is not trying to get things right as he/she needs to assess your ability to correct driving errors.
  • With a real pupil a lesson usually lasts one hour and it may take several lessons before real progress on a chosen subject can be measured. In the instructional ability test each phase or lesson only lasts 30 minutes, but you should aim to see a noticeable improvement during that short amount of time.

The examiner tests examination candidates by role playing a pupil who continually makes mistakes. One way to describe the sort of ‘role play’ pupil you can expect to meet in the examination is to take all the worst bits of all the pupils you may have taught and to put them together to produce ‘the pupil from hell!’ If you can control this pupil, then you have nothing to fear. So what is the secret of success?

Well first of all you need ‘The Knowledge’. Some of this would have been gained by passing the part 1 test of Theory and Hazard Perception. The task now is to be able to apply this in a practical way and my book The What, Why & How of Instructional Technique for Driving Instructors www.instructordoctors.co.uk/material.htm teaches you how.

For this article, I will concentrate on the phase 1 part of the examination.

Phase 1: The Beginner or Partly Trained Pupil

Recap and Briefing

During the phase 1 part of the examination candidates are required to teach a new subject to a pupil who is either classed as a beginner or partly trained pupil. It is customary to start the lesson with a few Recap questions and then give a short briefing. My top tips are for a successful briefing are:
  • Don’t try to give a theory lesson but talk from a drivers point of view
  • Be practical - tell the pupil what he/she has to do, how and why in a way that they will understand
  • Make a briefing plan to ensure you include all the ‘key points’ listed on the left hand side of the relevant marking sheet. For example, for Pedestrian Crossings and Use of Signals the key points are: MSM, Speed on approach, Stop when necessary, Inviting pedestrians to cross, Overtaking on approach, Signals by indicator, Signals by arm, Signals – timing and Unnecessary signals.
  • Include any relevant reference points etc. and apart from the Controls lesson, make sure the briefing does not exceed 10 minutes.

Talkthrough – Prompting – Independence

After the briefing comes the practical part. If you take off the time needed for the recap, briefing and cockpit drill, then this part will only last between 15 – 20 minutes. During this short amount of time the pupil needs to be controlled until they have learned how to do the chosen subject and, if time allows, can try to perform this independently. To do this it is customary to use a talkthrough and examples for all the main examination subjects are included in my book. A talkthrough is basically:
  • a series of commands that controls the pupil. A “do this, do that” approach which I guess in the military would be called a drill.
  • It is not a sort of briefing on the move and it is not a commentary.
  • You are verbally driving the car from the passenger seat and thus controlling the pupil’s body to do it, although the pupil is largely unaware of this.

The talkthrough routines need to be learned and practiced until they can be given confidently and accurately from memory and will need to be adapted to whatever road situation is happening at the time. While you are giving the talkthrough the examiner will disrupt this by making faults (more on this later) which will test your control.

Next comes the prompting phase. Basically various commands from the talkthrough are now changed into carefully timed questions to encourage more independence. This will confirm that some progress has been made. If this is achieved and if there is any time left towards the end of the phase then the pupil should be encouraged to try the exercise independently. Yes, all this in 20 minutes!

The Core Competencies

Throughout the phase, the examiner will be making faults and how the candidate deals with these will ultimately decide success or failure. For each fault committed the examiner will expect an identification, analysis and remedy – these are called the core competencies. My book gives numerous practical examples of how this should be done and also has a dedicated section on fault assessment. My top tips are:
  • Watch the pupil closely – if you are looking the faults are usually obvious.
  • Identify each fault the moment it happens with a simple statement of what is wrong.
  • Analyse and remedy the fault as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • Keep your fault assessment short and to the point.
  • Learn the key points on the left hand side of the part 3 marking sheets as the examiner will base his faults around these.
  • Use the key points as a ‘mental checklist’ of faults you have dealt with and faults you are still looking for.

Your overall grading is usually based on the lowest core competency mark, so if you were given a 4 for identification, 3 for analysis and 4 for remedial action, your grade would be 3. For this reason it is vital to give all three parts for each fault committed. You must score a minimum of grade 4 in both phases to qualify.

The What, Why and How of Instructional Technique for Driving Instructors is available to order online at www.instructordoctors.co.uk
Price £27.00 plus £2.00 (postage and packing)