My Story

Hello, my name is Leah, I am a newly qualified Approved Driving Instructor (ADI), operating in my home town of Cockermouth.  The main question I am asked by friends and family is why I have chosen to do this.  Many couldn’t think of anything worse than having to take their driving test again.  So I thought I would write about my change of career.

Prior to becoming a driving instructor I was employed in Marketing for over 20 years and before that in the hospitality industry.  I enjoy working with people and when I was made redundant I had time to reflect and work out options open to me.  Whilst cycling one day in the beautiful Lake District, I saw a Driving Instructor, and thought ‘I could do that’.  I like people, I enjoy driving and am friendly and patient; I also have two children who will need to learn to drive in the near future…. OK then, so what do I do next?

I looked into the different training options and signed up with a company called Smart Driving.  The training was in three parts, Theory and Hazard Perception test, much like a learner, but potential instructors have to answer more questions and get a higher score in the Hazard Perception part.  I completed this test in Carlisle.  Then it was on to my own driving test, yes although I have been driving for over 25 years it is a nerve wracking thing, I had to iron out all my bad habits that had developed over the years and be scrutinised on something that had become second nature to me.  George Cairns, an ADI and Chair of the Advanced Driving group IAM in Carlisle & West Cumbria, very kindly mentored me through this very difficult process.  I cannot thank him enough for all that he did for me.  I had to take my driving test in Newcastle and I have to report that I didn’t pass first time, I did not know the roads in Newcastle, I was nervous and I missed an important road sign, consequently I failed for speeding. I was not going to be deterred and put in for my test again as soon as I could.  I was delighted to pass on the second attempt.  When training to become a Driving Instructor you can only have three attempts, then you have to have a cooling off period of two years and start the process again.

Two parts down, one more to go, and this is arguably the most difficult part where you are assessed on your skills as an instructor.  The Examiner pretends to be a pupil, 30 minutes as an absolute beginner and 30 minutes as partly trained.  There are pre- set tests and you have to pass both sections to qualify.  I embarked on my training for this section in Glasgow with a trainer called Mirza Taufiq Baig from iPassingsmiles Driving School, a Smart Driving trainer.  Lisa Ryan was being trained at the same time and we became good friends.  Her husband has ‘On Fire for Driving’ school in Irvine and she is aiming to join his team of instructors, once qualified. After a week of intensive instruction, I came away full of knowledge and a pounding head.  In order to practice my skills, I had a student called Arran Hutchman, as I was not qualified at this stage I could not take any money for my instruction.  So Arran and I embarked on a learning process together.  I met a wonderful fellow instructor called Louise Forster of Focused Driver Training and she gave her time freely and helped me with best places to train in Workington and did a mock test with Arran.  I am very pleased to report that Arran passed his test first time.

The day arrived for my part three test, in Preston this time. Sadly I did not pass first time. I needed to improve my coaching and explanation skills.  I went to Birmingham for some rescue training with Anita Turner of ASM Driver Training.  She works with Smart Driving and trains drivers to become instructors.  She was great and helped me to improve my skills, with a little bit more hard work and a helping of Driver Instructor TV I finally managed to pass my instructor test in Preston on my second attempt.

The road to becoming a fully qualified Approved Driving Instructor has been long and challenging, but rewarding and I have met so many wonderful people along the way, everyone willing to help in different ways, it really has been a life affirming experience.  Thank you to everyone who has helped me so far and I am looking forward to meeting and helping students to become the best drivers that they can be.