So, the summer of 1977. The UK was celebrating The Queen’s Silver Jubilee, Donna Summer was ‘feeling love’ at the top of the charts, and news of the death of Elvis Presley hit the nation in mid-August. But what was Dave Foster up to…?
Do you remember when you first wanted to learn to drive?
What would have stopped you? I remember for me back in the summer of 1977, I was eagerly waiting and nothing was going to get in my way. I was, however, worried about the price of petrol as it was around 90p a gallon and I wanted to learn before it got to £1 a gallon. Those were the days eh!
I remember my wages were about £18 a week and driving lessons were £5 an hour and the driving test a whole £6. All my friends wanted to learn to drive too and although driving lessons amounted to about a quarter of our weekly wage, we still wanted them. Learning to drive and getting my first car was what it was about.
So, I took my first driving lesson. I still remember being taken to a very quiet road down by the Avenue in Southampton. It was almost a private road where you could do plenty of moving off and stopping. If I remember correctly, at the end was a little roundabout with a tree in the middle and my first lesson included going around this tree and coming back up again.
Having passed my test, I got my first car, an Austin 1100, smoke billowed out the rear as I drove it. It wasn’t very fast and it had skinny tyres on, so you had to take corners slowly, but for me it was the world. My first car, mine and I would lavishly look after it. I set about re-painting it in gloss paint. Not a respray, no I hand painted it blue with a yellow Starkey and Hutch style stripe. Don’t ask me why but I thought it looked great. It gave me independence and I enjoyed looking after it.
This story is replicated many 1000’s of times up and down the country and for that matter across the world. People everywhere just want to learn to drive. There are approaching 900,000 provisional driving licence applications each year in the UK alone and 1,718,519 driving tests were taken in the 2017-2018 period. Wow, what a market.
It’s a growing market, too because not only is there a need for driving instructors to teach learners, but there is the fleet market. The fleet market is coaching qualified drivers in, for example, a company. For some time now, companies have been made aware that if they have employees who have to drive, and not just van drivers or company reps, but even if you send someone down the shops to get tea bags, then you have a duty of care to ensure they are properly trained. This is a growing market and can be quite lucrative. Only yesterday I was talking to a colleague who has secured himself a small contract for £900 for a couple of days work a month. Some companies are even taking on in-house trainers for large fleets.
The industry has also seen a drop in the number of driving instructors recently. Many driving instructors were trained using an old method of rote (by repetition) teaching by what was called a ‘Pre-set-test.’ This was where a test was pre-selected from ten and you were taught these ten tests and an examiner chose one at random. Today, these instructors must do the new standards test every four years and some are just giving up. The new tests were introduced to ensure pupils received proper and more rounded driving tuition. So, learners would also think for themselves and not just complete a driving test over a pre-rehearsed route.
The future of driving instruction looks rosy and I think it always will. Even with the concept of self-driving cars, it’s going to be a long time until anybody will fully trust them and definitely not in my lifetime. I also wonder who actually wants self-driving cars? I certainly don’t, but then I am a bit of a petrol-head. Wold you trust a self-driving car? When they do crash, who’s at fault?
I’m not sure we have to worry about that yet. What is interesting though is that in the UK, 40% of all new cars sold are automatic. We see a huge demand that can’t be kept up with in the request for automatic driving lessons. Many of the new electric or hybrid cars are automatic too. If I was delivering driving lessons today, I would certainly go automatic. I’m sure there will be some call for manual drivers to have a refresher lesson in an automatic too.
So, there we have it. From my initial aspirations to drive to the future. I am sure you can associate with when you first wanted to learn to drive. It was exciting and fun, and no amount of money was going to stop me. We can offer this to new learners, so they have exciting and fun but also educational driving lessons for many years to come.
Do you have any stories about learning to drive? Comment below!
Dave Foster MA, Dip.DI (or Driving School Dave) is the most qualified driving school owner in the country, after completing his Master’s Degree in Driver Training Education in 2011 at Middlesex University. He also holds a diploma in Driving Instruction and is a Cert Ed. qualified teacher. Dave is the founder and Managing Director of 1st 4 Driving Ltd, and also looks after over 15 driving schools across the country on a consultancy basis.