During 2020, many aspects of life have been transformed by the coronavirus pandemic: driving tuition more so than most.
Let’s take a look at what’s changed since the start of the year, when we last published guidance for new driver, and what learners should now expect before, during and after their lessons.
Driving lessons can be anxiety-inducing for new learners, even at the best of times. However, there’s now a whole host of new guidelines for them to take into consideration – as well as a range of new regulations for instructors to abide – in order to keep everyone all parties safe from Covid-19. As we are approching the new year – a busy time for lessons, when many people each year are normally thinking about starting learning or the first time, made busier by the return to lessons post-lockdown and the ongoing backlog of pupils whose learning was interrupted before they managed to take their practical test – we though now would be a good time to revisit the (updated) impacts of Covid on lessons for new (and continuing) pupils.
In July, driving lessons resumed for learners England, after previously being on hold for four months over the lockdown period. After this point, all participants were asked to now wear face masks and use hand sanitiser before getting into the car. DVSA guidelines also provide detailed advice on how instructors should contact their pupils ahead of each lesson and the correct way santhey should sanitise their car.
One positive of the pandemic, in terms of driving lessons, is that roads have obviously been much quieter than usual, which generally helps ease learners’ nerves. However, the hiatus, where instructors were unable to offer any lessons at all, has meant that a huge backolog of new learners, as well as learners who were in the middle of their tuition, all of whom are keen to get behind the wheel, has developed. Demand for lessons is likely to remain high, with many instructors oversubscribed. The extra precautions mandated may furthermore mean that some instructors aren’t able to teach as many pupils each day as before, exacerbating this supply issue.
In addition to this, around 2500 of the UK’s 40,000 driving instructors are thought to have opted to leave the profession due to the pandemic.
Some instructors have pointed to a lack of clear and timely information from the DVSA around how and when they would be able to return to work, which has encouraged some instructors to close their driving schools. Trainee driving instructor licences last only six months, and instructors are required to give lessons during that time: something they were unable to do during lockdown.
Before your lesson
When preparing for their lesson, learners will have to pay more attention than previously to the clothing they wear. You will be expected to wear clothes that cover your arms and legs. You may also want to wear an extra layer or two – as all lessons will be taken with the cars windows open in order to maximise airflow into and out of the vehicle.
Prior to each lesson you should expect a call or text from your instructor, who will check whether you have experienced any Covid symptoms or may have come into contact with anyone who has. If either of these are the case, they will postpone your lesson – and the instructor should waive the standard short-notice cancellation fee.
When your instructor arrives to pick you up, they will no longer come to knock on your door as they may have done in the past. The first thing they should do on arrival is wipe down all surfaces in and around their car which are frequently touched, such as the door handles, seatbelts, indicators, steering wheel, gear lever, and the adjusters for the door mirrors and rear view mirror.
Once complete, the instructor will then meet you outside the car. As an additonal precaution they may ask to take your temperature. You are both then expected to put on disposable gloves and a face mask before getting into the vehicle. Your instructor should also have an alcohol-based sanitiser spray with which to sanitise your gloves.
During your lesson
Prior to driving lessons resuming, there was much debate over the summer around whether or not measures such as plastic screens should be fitted between the two front seats within instructor vehicles. However, serious concerns were voiced about the potential for these being dangerous in the event of an accident: especially if, for example, the vehicle’s airbags deployed. Their presence could also prevent instructors from taking sudden control of the car if necessary. In addition, there were concerns around the potential insurance implications, since such screens could arguably be classed as a ‘modification’ to the vehicle.
At the same time, there was debate around the issue of PPE. For example, facial visors were discussed as an option for both instructors and learners (though this type of PPE has not generally been adopted by driving schools across the UK). Instead of face shields or visors, the learner and instructor are both advised to look straight ahead throughout the lesson, rather than at each other, as much as possible but especially when speaking.
At the end of your lesson
Instead of giving you verbal feedback on your lesson progress and advice around on the driving skills/issues that you need to work on further before the next lesson whilse still seated in the car, the instructor should now do this whilst the two of you are stood outside the vehicle after the lesson (at a safe distance from each other).
Because neither instructor or pupil should be handling objects such as pens or notebooks that will then be shared with another person, it is less likely that your instructor will sit with you and make notes in a traditional physical paper ‘logbook’ at the end of each lesson. Instead they may show you materials on, for example, a tablet or have pre-written comments and diagrams to hand, and ask you to take a photo of them with your phone to look through later. They may addiotnally, or insteadm send you feedback, tips or other materials at a later time via email or message.
How WeDrive can help you at this time
In addition to our leading-edge WeDrive Theory practise/testing app, WeDrive is a groundbreaking platform designed to bring instructors and learners closer together, across the entire learn-to-drive journey, than ever before: via our WeDrive Instructor and WeDrive Learner apps. Designed as complete toolkits for todays instructor and learners respectively, they offer particular unique advantages as we enter this post-COVID era. You can learn about the apps’ full range of functionality via our website or find them in your app store.
However, one particular benefit to mention with regard to the above issues is that our platform is designed to allow you (and you instructor) to do everything you need to accomplish your driving tuition objectives via a single app: all in the palm of your hand, all in one place, all in-app.
Our misison is to not only to help you succesfully pass first time, but to do so efficiently, safely, conveniently, with confidence, and as enjoyably as possible.
One particular feature relevant to the above COVID-related issues is the smart inbuilt communications systems within the Learner App and corresponding Instructor App. It allows both parties to handle all correspondence (messages, queries, reminders etc) within one app, and even pass on learning materials. No more pen and paper needed – and no more asking for/jotting down teleophone numbers, voicemail, or email/WhatsApp messgae chains either. This means that advice and tips can be exchanged directly in-app, with notifications and reminders meaning that no information or important message is missed, and both parties can respond at their own convenience. Even learning materials can be shared. Full, detailed pupil/instructor notes are stored and synced via cloud technology, automatically saved to your profile, meaning reminders and notes from your instructor are always just a click away.
Detailed skill/progression tracking means you are always up to speed with exactly how far along your learning pathway you are and can feel confident about which skills you need to focus on now and next, between your lessons.
But WeDrive is about connecting more than just individual learners woth their instructor: we want to allow learners and instructors nationwide to conenct. Our new Community function means you can browse advice/tips from learners and instructors across the whole WeDrive platform 24/7. Can’t find the information you’re looking for? Just post your query and others will be able to answer it instantly.
With WeDrive you’re never alone on your learn-to-drive journey. Even (especially!) during lockdown.