One ‘L’ of a problem for Leeds driving instructor

Driving instructor Sandy Wilson.
Driving instructor Sandy Wilson.
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Driving instructor Sandy Wilson is unimpressed by motorists’ lack of patience with learners.The 66-year-old, from Yeadon takes us through a day of road rage.

“You may have noticed cars bearing a square white sign with a bold red L. These are almost certainly driven by novice drivers under instruction at various stages of competence. Now, I accept many instructors drive around in vehicles plastered with more signs and ridiculous offers than a Mr Whippy ice cream van, making it difficult to distinguish the red L. But I don’t. My car is plain white and I always have a prominent sign on the roof in the hope other motorists might give my pupils some consideration and patience.

“Some disregard this ‘L’ clue and here are some examples. I bring you ‘Mr Impatient’ and ‘Mr Close Up and Personal’. Typically senior citizens with little to do or young executives with a lot. The older drivers can’t remember what it was like to learn to drive. The young drivers remember, but lack any empathy.

“At traffic lights my pupil was slow to move away as the lights turned to green. Within seconds, ‘Mr Impatient’, the driver behind, was leaning on his horn. My learner, spooked by the cacophony behind him, stalled.

I calmly coached him to restart the engine but before we can move away the lights change to red. This prompts more horn blowing. I prepare my pupil to move away. He stalls again. We are trapped in a Groundhog Day scenario. “In my mirror the red faced driver with a flat cap behind is so close I think he is sat in the back seat of my car. It turns out that ‘Mr Impatient’ is also ‘Mr Close Up and Personal’.

He has left insufficient space to drive around us and move on. His is a common mistake many supposedly qualified and experienced drivers make. They ignore the fact the driver in front is a learner and stop three inches from the car rear bumper.

“Roundabouts present another challenge. Here, I often come across ‘Mr Don’t Diss Me’. Usually drivers in their twenties with self esteem issues. My pupil is nervously waiting to move into a roundabout thick with traffic with at least half of the drivers failing to signal where they are going. I spot a gap developing and I coax my learner to start to move. I am aware ‘Mr Don’t Diss Me’ has arrived at the road entering the roundabout on our right. He has worked out that technically he has right of way.

He wants to exercise this right, come what may. But sadly for ‘Mr Don’t Diss Me’ my learner is beyond the point of no return. ‘Mr Don’t Diss Me ‘is beside himself with rage and accelerates at high speed towards us. He feels this will frighten us, and just to make sure, he gives the mandatory long blast on his horn.

“I turn and give him a smile to show I don’t care. I know that he will only have to slam his brakes on and doesn’t want his bright T-Cut polished Beemer with exhaust pipes I could stick my forearm up, damaged. With a little patience and consideration it all could have been avoided. Some of you may recognise some of these traits in your day to day driving. They should remember what it was like to learn to drive, all the more difficult on today’s complex and busy roads. They may even think self critically of their own driving skills. Ask themselves if they know how to signal on roundabouts, know what a bus lane is or know that the horn should not be used to harass other drivers.”