Questions To Ask When Selecting A Driving Instructor


If you’re considering learning to drive, then it’s important to try and find an instructor suitable to you and your personal needs. Whether you’re completely new to driving, a little bit rusty or simply need some refresher lessons, finding a compatible driving instructor is key. So if you’re wondering where to start, here are some questions that may help you make that decision.

1. Do I feel comfortable around them?

You need to find an instructor who makes you feel comfortable; someone you feel able to ask questions when you’re unsure, make minor mistakes without feeling put down or embarrassed and talk to them when you have a problem or issue. It’s no use having an instructor who makes you feel uneasy or awkward. Aim for someone you can build a professional relationship with.

Remember you’ll be spending an hour or so cooped up in a car with them every week.

2. What car do they have for you to learn in?

While most driving instructors offer lessons in smaller cars such as a Vauxhall Corsa or Ford Fiesta, if you know you’re likely to be driving something bigger, seek an instructor who has access to larger vehicles.

Equally, if you know that your parents have treated you to a Mini Cooper for your birthday, try to find an instructor who has that model, so you can get in extra practice in a familiar environment.

Alfie’s Driving School’s cars range from a Toyota Yaris to a Citroen Cactus and everything in between.

3. Are you bothered about gender?

You may have a particular preference in terms of gender. You may find that you get on better with someone of the same sex if you’re particularly shy or timid. Fear not, instructors won’t be insulted by that. Most driving schools have both male and female instructors.

If you have a preferable gender, then don’t be embarrassed, just ask! At Alfie’s Driving School we have a range of instructors, men and women, old and young, so we can try to match you to your ideal instructor.

4. How can I tell if an instructor is professional?

One of the first tell-tale signs is the cleanliness of the car. You might be thinking that this is something incredibly minor, but this is in fact a great way to check your potential driver’s professionalism. If it smells of smoke or is littered with chocolate wrappers, perhaps this instructor is more laidback than you’d like.

Equally, look out for punctuality. An instructor that arrives late is never a good sign, especially since on the day of your test you’ll need to be on time! Also consider how their lesson is planned. Are they using the pre-planned lessons from the DSA syllabus or does it seem as if they’re making it up as they go along?

You need structured lessons to ensure you learn efficiently and at the right pace. Our instructors are incredibly professional and very able teachers, making sure that you learn optimally in the right environment.

4 Top Tips To Help You Pass Your Driving Test

Pass Your Driving Test

It’s completely natural to feel nervous about taking your driving test. You won’t have your instructor by your side to guide you on the day and the very nature of the test will make you feel highly scrutinised at all times.

The pressure can often prove too much, which is why it’s not uncommon for people to fail their first, second, or even third test before finally passing!

However, passing first time isn’t impossible: it just requires preparation, focus and calm.

Each time you fail your test could set you back weeks, if not months. Tests can be tricky to book at a suitable date and time, and the lessons needed in-between will add further to the cost.

To prepare, here are four top tips to help you pass your driving test and secure your licence:

1. Don’t try to save time and money by taking fewer driving lessons

It can often be extremely tempting to just take a set number of driving lessons and then immediately apply for your driving test. However, this is an ill-advised plan that likely will end up costing you more time and money in the long run.

Learning to drive isn’t an overnight process. It takes investment, hard work and repetition for safe, confident driving to become second nature. How much time? Everyone is different, but on average approximately 50 hours of lessons will be a definite step in the right direction.

Of course, each lesson will cost money and they do add up. However, you’ll be glad you paid for them when you’re not continually paying to retake your test!

The added benefit of all those lessons is that you’ll also be more likely to pass first time and become a safe, responsible driver.

2. Learn the Highway Code properly

Before you can take your driving test, you must pass a driving theory test. There are a variety of books, DVDs and apps that will help you to prepare for this test and pass with flying colours.

However, you shouldn’t stop practising once you pass this test. It may be several months before you take your driving test and believe it or not, the Highway Code actually does matter!

Knowing it inside out will help you to read signs and the road more effectively, in turn making you a better driver during your test.

3. Make the right decision about your vision

Many people are caught off guard during their driving test by the simple vision test that occurs at the very beginning.

The examiner will point to a car approximately 20 metres away and ask you to read back the licence plate number to them. You’ll only get three attempts to get this right, otherwise you’ll receive an immediate fail.

However, you should be aware that if you wear glasses or contact lenses when taking this test, you’ll be required to wear them at all times when driving a vehicle.

Of course, if you need them at all times anyway this won’t be a problem. However, if you only have a very light prescription and don’t intend to always drive while wearing corrective lenses, make sure to take them off for the test – but only if your eyesight is good enough!

4. Practice, practice, practice

This is the simplest tip, but also the most important. You can be the greatest driver in the world and know your Highway Code off by heart, but without practice you’re guaranteed to make small mistakes that will add up during your driving test and could result in failure.

Remember to keep checking your mirrors, signal where necessary and manoeuvre safely at all times. Once you can observe the roads and traffic around you while avoiding such small mistakes, you’ll be truly ready to take – and pass – your driving test.

5 Tips For Driving At Night

Tips For Driving At Night

Driving at night can be dangerous, even for experienced drivers, so it’s especially critical for new drivers to be cautious when it goes dark. With reduced visibility, it’s easy for mistakes to be made, so follow these five tips to remain safe while driving during the nighttime hours:

1. Ensure Your Windscreen Is Clean And Clear

Make sure your front and rear windscreens are both clean and check that you have your screen wash topped up. Not only can a dirty windscreen further reduce your visibility, it can also result in glare from the lights of other passing drivers.

2. Don’t Dazzle Other Drivers

While we’re discussing glare… make sure you’re not dazzling other drivers. Sometimes while driving at night you will need to have your full beam headlights on. Be mindful that drivers travelling in the opposite direction will be hit by the full force of your beams and make sure you dip them as soon as possible to prevent causing an accident.

3. Dim Your Dashboard Lights

Many cars models have the functionality to dim the internal lights on dashboards and controls. Find out if yours does and if possible be sure to dim yours a little more than usual to help keep your focus on the lights outside and reduce distractions.

4. Reduce Speed (Set Off Earlier If Needed)

This one may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how many fail to reduce their speed when driving at night.

Allowing yourself an extra few moments to react can be the difference between life and death. Hazards can creep up on you a lot quicker at night and if you do have an accident, you’re less likely to damage yourself or your car.

5. Wear Your Glasses (And Get Regular Eye Checks)

You’re only as good as the quality of your eyes while driving and even if you think you can get away with not wearing your glasses, don’t risk it.

We would always advise that you wear your glasses while driving during the day, so it’s especially important that you wear them when driving at night.

Similarly, if you’ve noticed that your eyesight might be starting to fade, make sure you get an eye check up to ensure you’re fully safe to drive.

Driving at night is all about preparation and caution, but follow the tips in this post and you should be able to drive at night confidently and safely.

Driving Routes Around Dagenham To Help You With Your Driving Lessons

Driving Routes Around Dagenham

Dagenham offers several routes that can be incredibly useful for people learning to drive.

If you are just beginning, the relatively quiet intersection of Langley Cres and Stamford Rd gives you a solid starting place.

Driving east, you will find Gale St. By turning left, you can practise laps of the block to familiarise yourself with standard three- and four- path intersections.

Practising turning and giving way at various street junctions is a good way to put your understanding of theory into practice. Before even getting behind the wheel, make sure you are properly familiarised with all of the road rules, especially those that dictate who has right of way in certain situations.

Once you’re comfortable with these intersections and have done several laps, travel north up Gale St until you reach a five-path roundabout. There also exists a roundabout where Rainham Rd and Ballards Rd meets.

Once you reach the roundabout, turn right, ensuring that you keep an eye out for traffic and properly use your indicators.

Don’t be afraid to do one or more laps to get yourself completely comfortable with the mechanics of the roundabout.

Once you are fully familiarised with the flow of the roundabout, turn right into Hedgemans Rd and when you reach Heathway, turn left to get used to stop–start traffic.

After traversing Oxlow and Wood Lanes, followed by Aylmer Road, you’ll soon approach Valence Circus, which you can navigate as you please to familiarise yourself with the circular nature of a circus junction.

Once you’re comfortable with navigating Valence Circus, backtrack towards Wood Ln and proceed in a southerly direction back to where you started. It doesn’t have to be the intersection of Langley Cres and Stamford Rd; it could be where you first got into the car for your lesson.

Whatever the case, have your instructor call out directions as you drive from this point back to base; it will help you in a test scenario, where callouts are the norm.

Always be mindful of traffic conditions, weather, and – of course – be ever mindful of pedestrians, as kids can be especially erratic and hard to spot, and they don’t always follow the road rules.

Finally, ensure that you practise plenty of right-hand turns against traffic on your return journey.

How To Prevent The Car From Stalling On Hill Starts

Get Up To Speed On Hill Starts

Get Up To Speed On Hill Starts

Hill starts are the learner driver’s nemesis, so don’t worry if you can’t do it first time. It’s something that can take a while to master but this makes it particularly satisfying once you’ve got to grips with it. Practice makes perfect, but if you’d like to better understand the theory before you get going, here are our top tips:

The hand brake is your best friend

While it’s important that you have a feel for your clutch’s biting point and can control the car’s movement well with your foot brake, it’s best to tackle hills with your handbrake.

Make sure you leave the hand brake on while you find your biting point, only releasing it when you’re moving off.

This will mean your right foot is free to accelerate and you won’t fall back as you would if you were swapping from the foot brake to the accelerator.

Don’t be afraid to use more power when you start moving

The main reason you’ll stall on a hill start is because you haven’t given the engine enough revs to keep ticking over.

You’ll hear the engine struggling and spluttering, so this should be a reminder to hold your foot on the accelerator for a little longer until you’re over the hill.

Check your gear

Despite what you may have heard from your friends, attempting to pull away in third gear isn’t wise.

You’ll have a much bigger chance of stalling, so always check that you’re in first gear before you start moving.

On hills you might also need to stay in first gear for longer too – if you go up too quickly you may lose momentum and stall, so it’s better to be cautious with this when you’re learning.

Be confident and patient

As with all parts of the learner driver experience, getting in a flap won’t help at all with your execution. It’s important you take your time to make sure that you have your feet in the right position before you start going.

If you move off too quickly, you may catch up with the car in front of you and be forced to brake again on the hill.

This can be stressful if you’re not used to putting your handbrake on and off again, and could mean that you stall.

Your fellow drivers will prefer that you do things slowly and carefully rather than risking rolling back into their car.

Keep these things in mind and we’re sure you’ll be an expert in no time!

Roads To Practise Parallel Parking On In Ilford

Roads To Practise Parallel Parking On In Ilford

If the prospect of taking to London’s ruthless roads to parallel park is daunting to you, fear not; learning to drive is an ultimately rewarding experience and there are several roads in Ilford to perfect one of its tougher tasks.

The gridded road systems south of Ilford High Road provide countless opportunities to hone your skills.

The roads linking Richmond Road to Sunnyside Road – such as Albert Road, Grange Road, Windsor Road, Kingston Road and Hampton Road – are all easily accessed.

Most of these are purely residential streets, offering opportunities to parallel park behind stationary vehicles.

As with most things in life, timing is crucial. The last thing you need when practising a craft as fine as parallel parking is to feel rushed or under pressure, so notwithstanding the fact the area is a residential one, it’d still be prudent to conduct your practice outside of peak hours in most places.

There are other places north of the High Road if you’re looking for slightly wider roads.

The area around Valentines Park is also littered with chances to show off your progress and, if you’re lucky, you may get a pleasant view of the greenery to aid you in finding a sense of calm.

Further north, turning east off the A123, Balfour Road, Wellesley Road and Coventry Road and the interlinking streets are available to you. If you wish to be even closer to the park itself, you’ll find Valentines Road, Auckland Road and Brisbane Road all surrounding the greenery.

Although they’re actually closer to Gants Hill than Ilford, roads such as Holcombe Road, Bethell Avenue and Tillotson Road occupy the area north-west of the park and are quiet enough.

Alternatively, head up nearby Cranbrook Rise and see if its eastern offshoots of Fairholme Road, St Edmund’s Road and St Helen’s Road have the odd space you can aim for.

In the south-east of Ilford, there are the southern-heading roads off Green Lane and you may find the roads surrounding South Park of particular use for your purpose.

Golfe Road, Littlemoor Road and Cavenham Gardens are all on your list of possibles, as are Frimley Road and Esher Road the other side of the common.

In short, finding places in Ilford to practise your parallel parking shouldn’t be too difficult and it’ll largely be down to whatever nook or cranny you can locate on the day.

The positioning of the parked cars is what really matters, so keep a sharp eye out…