The Driving Instructors Association (DIA) chairman Graham Fryer and general manager Steve Garrod met with under-secretary of state for transport Mike Penning to outline current thinking among training professionals on developments that would, in particular, improve the general standard of driver education.
The first change that the DIA would like to see is the integration of the current Pass Plus scheme into the learning-to-drive syllabus. Motorway training should be part of that syllabus and ADIs should be allowed to teach pupils on motorways. Those applying for a driving test should only be allowed to do so once instructors are confident that candidates have sufficient experience of driving on all the types of road they will encounter when they have a full licence.
The DIA also feels that driving qualifications for qualified drivers need to be developed further. For example, drivers of company vehicles should have to achieve minimum national occupational standards for driving (currently there is no recognised syllabus for company drivers in category B vehicles). Qualifications should also have a shelf life to encourage refresher training.
Another issue that that the DIA feels needs addressing is that there is currently there is no formal training syllabus for potential Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs) to work to. The DIA's belief is that there should be a prescribed syllabus to prevent customers wasting their money. The minimum entry level to the industry should also be raised to include recognised teaching qualifications (e.g. Preparing to Teach in the Life-long Learning Sector).
The DIA also thinks that the trainee licence scheme should be abolished. The pass rate for the Part 3 examination - the passing of which is required to become a fully qualified ADI - currently lies at around 30%. This suggests that trainees are not being properly supervised. The DIA recommends that the current system should be replaced with a probationary scheme that includes supervision, in line with teacher training programmes.
The final change proposed is that all drivers should have their eyesight tested by an optometrist, not at the driving test centre, with drivers' eyesight checked at least every 10 years. Currently, the responsibility is with the driver to self-certify their eyesight has not deteriorated after the age of 70.
Steve Garrod said of the meeting: "The under-secretary of state seemed very open to the DIA's suggestions and appreciative of the association's desire to improve road safety through better driver training. We're especially heartened with the minister's belief that learner drivers need to be taught to drive rather than simply pass the test and his concerns over the trainee licence scheme."