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I need to ask you a question...

"He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever." – Chinese Proverb



This might be a Chinese proverb, but it's meaning is still valid today, and especially so when learning to drive, in my opinion.


A few years ago, I had a conversation with a pupil's grandfather. He rang to find out when I would be able to take his grandson on as student. During the conversation, he disclosed to me that his grandson (let's call him David), had already had a driving lesson with another local driving instructor, but that it hadn't gone well. In fact, it had gone SO badly that David couldn't face returning for another driving lesson!


Somewhat curious, it wasn't long before David's grandfather was explaining the reason why. At some point during his first lesson with this instructor, David had been told,


"Make sure you listen carefully, because I won't be repeating anything."


And that was enough to make David feel very uncomfortable, especially as David had been diagnosed with dyslexia at school. He felt he simply couldn't ask a question for fear of being labelled stupid. It also put him under a lot of pressure, which in turn made him very scared, made his brain freeze, and he struggled to function at all.


To be honest, I was very shocked and saddened to hear this. Learning to drive is a hugely complicated task for some students, and as a driving instructor, I feel we need to be able to create a comfortable learning environment.


For me, this means me being extremely patient, and encouraging students to ask as many questions as they need to, in order for them to understand what you're trying to get them to understand.


So, when you're deciding who to learn to drive with, make sure you feel you could ask as many questions as you need!




Normal road position...and some tips on how to develop it...


My thoughts on normal road position...and what you can do to help you be in the best road position. This is just a short video to help any of you that are currently learning to drive and finding it difficult to be in the correct road position.

Over the years, I have helped hundreds of learner drivers to achieve their goal of passing the driving test and gaining that all important freedom. Some students don't ever seem to have an issue with their road postion, and some do. One of the most common issues I've observed is that students like to either be really close to the broken separation white lines (that separate the two sides of the road), or be really close to the kerb.

Just click on the link below to view video...

Normal road position...some tips..

One important factor to consider is for you to remember that you may not "get" it right away. These things take time and practice, so I'd always advise that in the first few hours of your training, that you aren't too hard on yourself, be kind to yourself, allow yourself to make a few mistakes. The other tip I would give you, is to be honest with your driving instructor or accompanying driver. Tell them what your fears are, brcause they will probably come up with some useful information that will help you. However, they can't help you if you don't verbalise your anxietites.

Talk soon, take care out there!

Helen Adams ADI.

My YouTube Channel - Purple Driving

Show me tell me questions

Car "show me, tell me" vehicle safety questions.


Show me questions


I will have mentioned these at some point during your driver training with me. Previously I have asked students to Google these questions, but I thought it would be useful to write about them in a blog. Let's assume you know nothing about them...


Before you take your driving test, the examiner will ask you 2 vehicle safety questions. You may also know these as the ‘show me, tell me’ questions. One of the questions will usually involve you opening the bonnet of your vehicle, and the other will usually take place once you've got into your car...unless it's raining in which case both questions will be asked inside the car!


Your examiner will ask you one ‘show me’ question, where you’ll have to show them how you’d carry out a vehicle safety check, followed by one ‘tell me’ question, where you’ll have to explain to the examiner how you’d carry out the check.


If you get one question incorrect, no driver fault will be marked. If you get them both wrong, you will get one driver fault. That's why, in my opinion, its worth revising them all! It's important that you take some time to really understand the question and answer in your own words, rather than just repeat the answer parrot fashion.


1- Show me how you would check that the direction indicators are working.

A- There's two ways to check these. The best way is to turn the ignition on (under no circumstances must you switch the engine on), and then apply the indicators. An alternative way is to turn the hazard warning lights on. You would then explain you'd need to walk round the car to check that all the bulbs are functioning.


2- Show me how you would check the brake lights are working on this car.

A- There are two ways to do this. The first is to turn the ignition on (under no circumstances must you switch the engine on), apply the brakes and check the bulbs are working by seeing them in a reflective surface. The second way is to ask a friend to stand behind your car whilst you apply the brakes.



3- Show me, or explain how you would check that the power assisted steering is working before starting a journey.

A- Power steering is powered by the engine. That's why the steering wheel is difficult to move when the engine is off. It's simple to check. Place your thumb on the steering wheel and apply gentle downwards pressure (the wheel will hardly move), before you turn the engine on. As soon as you turn the engine on the wheel will move quickly downwards.


4- Show me how you would check the parking brake (handbrake) for excessive wear; make sure you keep safe control of the vehicle.

A- Apply the footbrake to secure the car. Apply the parking brake. It should secure itself and not be at the end of its working travel. In other words, it should stay on and not stay in too high a position.


5- Show me how you would check that the horn is working.

A- Press the horn!


6- Show me how you would clean the windscreen using the windscreen washer and wipers.

A- Turn ignition on and demonstrate that you can operate them.


7- Show me how you would switch on the rear fog light(s) and explain when you would use it/them.

A- Turn the ignition on and then turn the fog light on. Explain how you would know it's on by pointing out the red light on the instrument panel, and when and why you would use it to demonstrate that you understand the law. Please see extracts from Highway Code below for explanation.



You MUST NOT use front or rear fog lights unless visibility is seriously reduced (see Rule 226) as they dazzle other road users and can obscure your brake lights. You MUST switch them off when visibility improves. Law RVLR regs 25 & 27 Accessed online at,



You MUST use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced, generally when you cannot see for more than 100 metres (328 feet). You may also use front or rear fog lights but you MUST switch them off when visibility improves (see Rule 236). Law RVLR regs 25 & 27 Accessed online at,


8- Show me how you switch your headlight from dipped to main beam and explain how you would know the main beam is on.

A- Turn on the ignition, turn on the headlights and then demonstrate how you would put main beam on. Point out the blue switch on the instrument panel when main beam is on.


9- Show me how you would set the demister controls to clear all the windows effectively.

A- Set relevant controls including fan, temperature air direction / source and heated screen to clear windscreen and windows. You do not need to start the engine; the examiner just wants to know that you know how to do it!


10- Open the bonnet, identify where you would check the engine oil level and tell me how you would check that the engine has sufficient oil.

A- Its important that your driving instructor shows you how to open the bonnet and explains where the dipstick is and how you know if your car has sufficient oil. The examiner will ask you not to touch anything in the engine bay. So you will only be expected to point out where the dipstick is located. You'll have to explain how you know the oil is at the correct level and how you use the dipstick to check it. It's also important that you do this before driving so that the oil is cold. Your instructor will be able to explain this to you.



11- Open the bonnet, identify where you would check the engine coolant level and tell me how you would check that the engine has the correct level.

A- Show the examiner where the high/low level markings on header tank where fitted or radiator filler cap, and describe how to top up to correct level.


12- Open the bonnet, identify where the brake fluid reservoir is and tell me how you would check that you have a safe level of hydraulic brake fluid.

A- Show the examiner where the high/low level markings are located on the brake fluid reservoir.



Tell me questions


1- Tell me how you would check that the brakes are working before starting a journey.

A- Tell the examiner that the brakes shouldn't feel spongy or slack, and when you use them, the car shouldn't pull to one side. You should check this just after moving off.


2- Identify where the windscreen washer reservoir is and tell me how you would check the windscreen washer level.

A- I find it a bit strange that this is a "tell me" question, as it is more difficult to tell the examiner where it is than it is to show them! However, you would just explain that you'd need to open the bonnet to fill it up and that there aren't any minimum or maximum marks, so it's just a visual check to see where the level is. That's why the windscreen washer fluid is bright green!


3- Tell me where you would find the information for the recommended tyre pressures for this car and how tyre pressures should be checked.

A- You'll find this information either in the handbook or some cars have a sticker on the doorsill. Tyres should be checked before driving so that they are cold otherwise you wouldn't get a reliable reading, using a pressure gauge. Remember the spare tyre and be sure to replace the dust caps.


4- Tell me how you make sure your head restraint is correctly adjusted so it provides the best protection in the event of a crash.

A- Tell the examiner that the top of your ear should appear in the centre of the head restraint.


5- Tell me how you would check the tyres to ensure that they have sufficient tread depth and that their general condition is safe to use on the road.

A- Explain that the minimum tyre depth is 1.6mm across the centre 3/4 of the tread, and that you would check it with a tyre depth gauge. There should be no cuts or bulges visible either on the tread or the wall (side), of the tyre.


6- Tell me how you would check that the headlights and taillights are working.

A- Tell the examiner that you would need to switch the ignition on, turn the headlights to the on position, and that you'd then need to walk around the car to check that all the bulbs are on.


7- Tell me how you would know if there was a problem with your anti-lock braking system.

A- Explain that an amber warning light would come on on the instrument panel.

I hope you find this might save you searching the internet for them! It is important that you have at least a basic knowledge of the functioning of your vehicle, so it's useful to learn this, not just for the driving test!

Helen Adams ADI

What's the best way for my son or daughter to pass their driving test?



Pictured above, one very happy Hannah, who now has a full driving licence!


I am asked my opinion on this on a very regular basis, so I thought a blog post would be of benefit to you. Please note that these are my own personal observations and recommendations, and are intended to be taken only as such. You must work out and decide the best way forward for you and your child.

One of the first things to do is to get your son or daughter to apply for a provisional driving licence.


When can I apply for my provisional driving licence?


The following information was copied from the GOV.UK website at, You can apply for a provisional driving licence when you’re 15 years and 9 months old.

You can start driving when you’re:

17 - if you want to drive a car

16 - if you want to ride a moped or light quad bike

Your licence will say when you can start driving different vehicles.

You can drive a car when you are 16 if you get, or have applied for, the enhanced rate of the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Use the following link to apply for your provisional driving licence.


When can I start my driving lessons?


Your son or daughter can start their driving lessons as soon as they are in possession of their provisional driving licence. However (funny how there's always a "however" isn't it?!), I would strongly advise you to encourage your child to pass their theory test first!

Yes, you read that correctly! In my experience, my students aren't at all keen on studying for or taking the theory test at all! Therefore, if I had a child who was desperate to get driving, I would definitely "make" them pass this before taking any driving lessons!



Theory test - what you need to know.


One way to practice for your hazard perception and theory test at this "Safe Driving for Life" website as recommended by the DVSA.

You may also find the following links helpful.


This is a link to info on the DVSA app,

Official DVSA complete-theory-test-kit-iphone-app-app

DVSA complete digital learning pack

The DVSA Learning zone, DVSA Learning zone

This link is to a DVD that I would recommend, 2014/dp/1843265931/ref=sr_1_1?s=software&ie=UTF8&qid=1410862559&sr=1-1&keywords=focus+hazard+perception

In addition, this is to a book that I would also recommend. It has all the Theory questions in the back, and does go into a lot more detail about what I will be introducing on your driving lessons.

Learn to drive

The Official DVSA Guide to Driving 2015 - The Essential Skills Driving - The essential skills

The link below will take you to The Highway Code for an online version. This and Know your traffic signs are essential reading if you wish to become a safe and responsible driver.

Online Highway Code

Know your traffic signs, for a free download.

Know your traffic signs - free download!

Best/cheapest car insurance, Car insurance for young drivers

Please, please don't take your theory test unless you are confident that you will pass it. Most of the revision material that I have mentioned will let you take mock tests, and these are a brilliant way of finding out where your knowledge may be lacking.


How do I book my theory test?


The best place to book your theory test is via the following link, which will take you to the official Government website. At the time of writing, it costs £32. If you live in West Sussex, the nearest Theory Test Centres are based in Worthing and Portsmouth. See below for link.

Theory test centres - Find your nearest Theory test centre.

Book theory test -


Choosing a driving instructor


Personally, choosing the right driving instructor for your child is an important decision if you want to make their learning as efficient and enjoyable as possible. I don't think learning to drive needs to be stressful or difficult; you just need to find the best driving instructor...and the best one is the one that has the ability to unlock their student's full potential. Here are some important things that I think you should consider before you choose your driving instructor.

  • How did you hear about them? Personal recommendation is best if you're looking for professional services. If I were looking for a decent painter, I'd ask my friends and work colleagues. The same applies to driving instructors.
  • How soon can they start? This may seem an obvious question, but I think it's a good indicator of how good the instructor is. Those who can start the same week you call them might be convenient, but those who have a waiting list generally have a list because students are prepared to wait for them; and if they're prepared to wait for them there must be a reason.
  • What do others think about them? If you can't get any personal recommendations, have a look at their website review or testimonial page. Make sure there is a photo of the student included in the review. Even more important are the Google reviews, as students have to make an effort to leave a review on Google.
  • Have a conversation with them. You can tell a lot from a conversation. Are they actually listening to you, or are they too busy selling themselves? Make sure to make a list of things you want to discuss before you ring.


Private practice


Is it a good thing? You'll get conflicting views on this! I am a strong fan of students having private practice, as I believe it forces them to take responsibility for their own actions very early on in the learning process. Without a doubt, you will get something from it, and all my students have found it worked out cheaper in the end, as they didn't need as many driving lessons.




Another crucial point that is often overlooked is, how well are you progressing with your driving instructor? Can you measure that progress? Do you feel as though you're driving is improving? How are you measuring your progress? Have you done a mock test? This is a good way to find out exactly where you're at. Have you discussed your progress with your instructor? Have you been given advice as to when you'll be ready for your driving test?


Frequency of driving lessons


Does your son or daughter know how they learn best? I'm not only referring to their individual learning style (see diagram), but the frequency of lessons. Would they prefer to have one lesson per week...or more than that? Some students have said that they forget things after seven days, and that they learnt so much better when they did two or even three sessions per week because they didn't forget what they'd learnt on their last lesson.




In conclusion


Learning to drive can be fraught with difficulties but it doesn't need to be. Do some research. And, remember, if after all your hard work something still isn't working as it should and your child isn't enjoying their driving lessons and making progress, don't be afraid to make some changes.

Helen Adams ADI - Please remember, I am always happy to help if I can!

Instructing or coaching?

Instructing or coaching?

I'd like to introduce you to the concept of coaching and discuss the benefits of using coaching versus traditional driving instruction. The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) scrapped the Check Test early in 2014, and replaced it with the Standards Check. Shortly after, a couple of real buzz words started flying around the driving instruction world, namely coaching and client centred learning (CCL).

Before looking at the differences between coaching and instructor further, a brief word about CCL from the DVSA. They believe that,

"In the context of learning to drive or ride, the instructor brings to the learning process their hard- earned knowledge, understanding and experience. If they rely simply on telling the learner what they should do they will probably be able to teach them enough to pass their test. However, all the evidence suggests that learners in this sort of relationship do not really change the way they think and quickly forget what they have been taught. There is a better chance of a long-lasting change in understanding and behaviour if the instructor

  • presents their knowledge, understanding and experience clearly and effectively
  • listens to the learner’s reactions to that input
  • helps the learner to identify any obstacles to understanding and change
  • supports the learner to identify strategies for overcoming those obstacles for themselves

In this context the phrase ‘client-centred’ is taken to mean, broadly, the same thing as ‘student- centred’ or ‘learner-centred’.

Driving instructors can use coaching techniques as part of their "toolbox" when delivering client centred learning. I started discovering the benefits of coaching very early on in my career, and I would thoroughly recommend it because the results are amazing!


Google provides a definition of instruction as,

"Instruction is vital for education, as it is the transfer of learning from one person to another. Any time you are given directions or told how to do something you are receiving instruction."


"The noun instruction is related to the word structure; both share the Latin root structus, "built." The use of the word as we know it today appeared in the early 15th century from the Old French. Today it refers to the action of teaching and the job of a teacher. It can also be used to denote the directions themselves. Consider the word's connection with structure: effective instruction is presented in an orderly, structured manner."

Even though the DVSA are now singing the praises of client centred learning and the benefits of coaching, the qualifying process for becoming a driving instructor is still based around instruction.


One of the definitions that Google gives as a definition of coaching is, "Coaching in its truest sense is giving the responsibility to the learner to help them come up with their own answers." Vinci Lombardi, US NFL Coach.


Coaching techniques and learning to drive

When I first qualified as a driving instructor in 2005, teaching people to drive was accomplished mainly by using instruction, along with occasional demonstration. A lot has changed since then, and the DVSA now recognise the importance and effectiveness of coaching techniques.

In the ADI1, the DVSA state that, "Coaching is a powerful extension of the range of options. It is not an automatic replacement for any of the existing ones. There will be many times when it is useful to use a coaching technique. The principle that underpins coaching is that an engaged pupil is likely to achieve a higher level of understanding and that self-directed solutions will seem far more relevant."

The DVSA also comment on coaching in the National Standards for Driver And Rider Training, saying that coaching is, "...about engaging in a conversation with the learner to help them identify obstacles to learning and strategies for overcoming those obstacles."

Duncan Brodie of Goals and Achievements helps accountants and health professionals to become highly effective leaders and managers. He believes that there are eight key skills that are required for effective coaching. I believe they can easily applied and used in driving instruction. They are, 


He states that, "you need to learn to listen with real focus, suspending all of your judgements and opinions. 


You also need to be listening not just to the words but also to the non verbal signals such as body language."


Most of us can ask questions. 


When coaching, you need to be using powerful questions. These are questions that:

  • Are short, typically 7 words or less
  • Are open rather than closed
  • Deepen the learning of the person being coached

Examples include: What do you want?, What’s important?, What’s the first step?

Constructively Challenging

Challenging constructively is about not holding back but at the same time not destroying the relationship. Many people associate coaching with helping, which clearly it is. 


At the same time if the coaching never rocks the boat it just becomes another nice chat. Playing back contradictions is a great way of constructively challenging. For example:

"I hear that you want to get your MBA but at the same time you seem to be resisting making the time for for assignments."

Holding to account


Accountability is one of the most powerful aspects of coaching. It has been suggested that people have a 95% chance of achieving an objective when they have accountability in place. When someone gives a commitment to doing something and they know that they will be held to account, it drives them forward.

Seeing different perspectives

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where it feels like you are pinned into a corner and there is nowhere to go? If so, the chances are you were stuck in a perspective. When coaching, you need to be able to help your client to explore different perspectives, so that they can choose those that are most powerful.


Encouraging and supporting

Encouraging and supporting when coaching can be the difference between someone keeping going or giving up. Acknowledging another person is an incredibly powerful way of keeping them motivated.


Trusting and using intuition

We all have a hunch about something from time to time. The chances are that you have probably started to analyse it and make it logical or not. When coaching, your intuition is a powerful tool. Throw it out if it might be of benefit. The worst that can happen is that it is off the mark.

Keeping the focus on your client

When you are in the role of coach your focus needs to be 100% on your client and their agenda. What this means is putting all of the attention on the client and keeping your agenda out of the way.

Where do I go from here?

There are many courses and books on the subject of coaching available that are tailored towards driving instructors. If you're interested in developing your skills I can certainly recommend the value of coaching after attending a one day course a few years ago. Self development is crucial in my opinion, as you can pass on what you learn to your clients. Reading a book about coaching or attending a coaching course will also count as continuous professional development (CPD).


I find coaching an incredibly powerful tool that has definitely expedited learning in my pupils. It gets them to think for themselves, take charge of their learning, and take responsibly much earlier than when I used traditional instruction.

If you've not tried it or are a bit sceptical about the benefits of coaching, then I would thoroughly recommend that you research it so that you and your students can benefit. One more thing before I go. Have you ever thought about the benefits of using self reflection...for you and your student? 

Helen Adams ADI

Purple Driving

17 January 2015


Definition of instruction. Accessed 13 April 2013. Available online from,

Definition of coaching. Vinci Lombardi, US NFL Coach. Accessed 13 April 2013. Available online from,

Teaching and learning strategies. Accessed 17 January 2015. Available online from, page 86.

Coaching. Accessed 17 January 2015. Available online from, Page 16.

Client centred learning. Accessed 17 January 2015. Available online from, Page 9.

Duncan Brodie.

One of the proposed changes to the driving test.


Some of you may have heard about proposed changes to the driving test. One of the changes involves the examiner asking a "show me" safety question whilst you are actually driving. The driving examiner will ask the candidate to use a control when they think it’s safe to do so. The candidate then needs to do this when they think it’s safe. One of the questions you might be asked on the move is,

"Show me how you would de-mist the front and rear windows?"

The reason the DVSA are trialling this is because it's what you'd need to know and do once you've passed your test. It's safety critical on two counts; you cannot drive without a clear view, and you need to be familiar with where the controls are, you cannot be fumbling around for them otherwise you may lose control.

A ‘tell me’ safety question will still be asked at the start of the test before the candidate moves off. Please click HERE to view the video that the DVSA have produced on the subject. 

Driving Lessons and Dyslexia.

Driving lessons and dyslexia. Don't let your dyslexia stop you from learning to drive. Find yourself a driving instructor who has experience in this field so that you can progress through your training at a rate that suits you...

The British Dyslexia Association has some advice on learning to drive and what support is available for those with dyslexia. Please click HERE for more information.

In this video, you will meet Sam, on his 3rd lesson. Sam has dyslexia and short term memory loss. Please click on this link to view Sam's driving lesson. Sam - driving and dyslexia

Be on YouTube

Some of you may not be aware that I have a YouTube channel called Purple Driving. Many of you may be camera shy too, but I'd like you to take a moment to think about the benefits of having your driving lessons filmed. 

First of all, the camera is mounted behind you, so it doesn't get in your way at all. You will probably forget it's there! 

 Amy wasn't keen at all on being recorded initially, but, once I'd managed to persuade her, said she found it really helpful to be able to watch her lesson back in the comfort of her home whenever she wanted. 

Purple Driving - Manual Driver Training in & around Bognor Regis & Chichester, West Sussex