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29th May 2024

Accurately identifying why driving mistakes happen

“Was the pupil encouraged to analyse problems and take responsibility for their learning?”

One of the skills of an effective driving instructor that is not assessed by the DVSA is their ability to determine the root-cause reason for a driving mistake. It is likely not assessed because it is by no means obvious on all occasions.  

If a pupil approaches junctions too quickly, just think about all the errors that may crop up as a result. There could be positional problems on the road, there may be a lack of observations, perhaps gear errors, possibly judgement is affected, maybe MSPSL is momentarily forgotten about, there could be an unexpected and potential safety critical incident brought on by sharp braking or erratic steering. 

A newly qualified driving instructor could spend a great deal of time, addressing each of these driving errors as they arise but when you peel back the layers, the root cause is the speed on the approach. This naturally begs the question, why is the pupil approaching higher-risk situations such as junctions, too fast? Why are they not sharing the responsibility for keeping practice safe?

The answer to these questions may not be obvious. 

The pupil may be able to identify the root cause problem independently, but, perhaps they won’t. Perhaps the pupil lacks the ability to detect the over-riding theme of speed – they may not have any other life experiences such as riding a bike or skiing or sports-related activity to be able to transfer previous learning. 

Even when the driving instructor raises their awareness relating to the speed, perhaps the pupil won’t agree. Maybe the pupil can hear the feedback of the instructor but seems unable to correct it because of thoughts or feelings that strongly affect behaviours; the pupil may be aware of these thoughts, but not necessarily.

It may be the case that even though the instructor has fedback the root cause reason for the driving error(s), the pupil habitually reintroduces the aggravating factor, even when the instructor is actively prompting them. The driving instructor might start to wonder what is going on.

It is possible that the pupil is experiencing cognitive difficulties that results in random, unconnected driving behaviours. It may be that the manner in which the instructor is explaining the issue is difficult for the pupil to comprehend – there is a lack of meaning, comprehension and understanding. 

The root cause reason for a driving error can be deep, hidden within many layers of ‘red-herring’ symptoms and so it is little surprise that this driving instructor skill that is supremely beneficial to possess within a learning environment is just not able to be assessed by the DVSA.