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Scott Cooper, driving instructor
Photograph: Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re a driving instructor

James FitzGerald

…according to Scott Cooper, 45.

London drivers hate seeing L-plates

‘Every instructor will tell you that people are getting more and more impatient with learners, but the people who spend the most time on the roads tend to be the most complacent and take the most risks. Learners are much safer than people think. I’ve been crashed into three or four times, and it’s never been the pupil’s fault.’

If you can't pass your driving test, try a different test centre

‘That worked for a girl who came to us at Red. She’d failed four times at one test centre, but when we took her to a different one, she passed first time because she wasn’t distracted by thinking about where she’d failed before.’

Steep costs make for unsafe drivers

‘We recommend 50 hours of practice before taking a test, and it’s £25 on average for a lesson in London – so you do the maths. As a result I see lots of parents pushing their children to do tests before they’re ready. The worst-case scenario is not that they fail but that they pass before they should.’

Different students can need very different teaching methods

‘The hardest bit can be getting them to believe they can ever pass. One of my guys has no lower limbs – he has a hand-controlled car which I had to learn to use myself first. Another girl struggled with reading and writing, so I needed to explain things like the difference between “before” and “beyond” – crucial at a stop sign! But once she’d passed her theory test, she was flying.’

London roads offer infinite variety

‘It’s always good to vary it up. I teach around Romford but there are no roads in London I would dread taking a pupil. Even the maniacs, taxis and tuk-tuks by Leicester Square provide a valuable experience.’

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