Research by a leading newspaper has revealed that the number of claims of sexual harassment levelled at driving instructors by their students has tripled in just four years.
In a recent Sunday Telegraph article, findings suggested that reported conduct breaches included unnecessary physical contact, the use of sexualised language and inappropriate text messaging. The worrying findings have meant that some instructors are calling for in-vehicle video recording to be made mandatory in order to protect both learner drivers and ADIs alike.
Between April 2018 and March 2019, over 240 complaints of sexual harassment were brought to the attention of the Drive and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). This represents a significant increase in just a few short years. In comparison, just 75 reports were made between 2015-2016. However, that number has since been on the rise, with 109 reports being made in 2016-2017, and 150 in 2017-2018.
Following complaints last year, the DVSA took action against several instructors. Of these:
• 10 were banned from instructing.
• 23 were issued with warnings.
A further 130 cases are still under investigation.
Calls for regulation
Some instructors and students feel that the DVSA isn’t doing enough to help combat inappropriate behaviour, with many calling for measures to be introduced to help reverse the trend. Conservative MP Richard Graham has called for the following legislative measures to implemented:
• Mandatory recording of lessons – this would involve the fitting of all learner vehicles with in-car cameras, to protect both parties and to provide evidence of any inappropriateness.
• Banning instructor/student relationships – this would involve instructors to be classified in the same way as teachers in other educational settings, meaning that any sexual relationship between a student and instructor would become a criminal offence. At present, the DVSA already takes a stance that any form of intimate relationship between students and instructors is “unprofessional”, however there are currently no laws against this.
Carly Brookfield, the CEO of the Driving Instructors Association, has also called for mandatory safeguarding training to be issued to instructors. In a recent statement, Brookfield highlighted how this would help instructors to educate learner drivers without “compromising” on professionalism.
Learners might be unaware of what instructors are allowed to legally do during a lesson. According to the DVSA, instructors should avoid the following:
• Inappropriate physical touching/contact.
• Inappropriate language.
• Discussion of personal relationships.
• The creation of circumstances which could be perceived to be inappropriate.
While the news of a rise in complaints against instructors is concerning, it is perhaps worth noting that there are over 40,000 driving instructors in the UK. Those accused of misconduct make up a tiny fraction of British instructors, while the overwhelming majority of ADIs conduct themselves responsibly.