Advice for Parents

I am the owner of Surepass Driving School and on the 14 March 2009 my son reached the age of 17. Like thousands of other parents -I wanted to pay for his driving lessons. As the owner of Surepass, I saw it as an ideal opportunity to test our processes, our people and our new £100,000 pupil management system. You would think the son of  the owner of a driving school would sail through without any problems…. not a chance! Remember, we are dealing with a teenager!

Here is my story…

The month before his 17th Birthday he applied for his provisional licence online, this arrived a week later. So far so good.

Two weeks before his birthday, I put his details on our system and paid for a 30 hour crash course including theory test, theory test study material and driving test. He received his study material and 30 hours worth of driving lesson vouchers a couple of days later. He started studying for his theory test.

Why did I choose a 30 hour crash course?

I wanted to get his driving over and done with as quickly as possible. I did not fancy paying out over 12 months and letting things drag on for what seems like forever. I liked the fact that everything was in one package. You pay the bill, everything is done and dusted- problem solved. I could have chosen a 20 hour crash course, this of course would have been cheaper but for him to have a good chance of passing would mean I would have had to take him out myself  for some extra practice. He may have passed the test without the extra practice, but chances are it would have been just luck on the day. For me its not just about passing the test, its also about ensuring he is a safe, competent driver. I would not be able to live with myself  if he was to have a serious accident shortly after passing the driving test.

His 17 th birthday arrived. He had all the usual celebrations, during the day he contacted Surepass to arrange for his theory test to be booked. He gave some dates and times that were good for him. He received a telephone call from Surepass the following day to let him know the theory test details (this was booked for Wed 25 March 2009). I was impressed with this, his birthday was on the saturday and he was told on the sunday the date of the theory test. Most driving schools would not have even answered the phone on a saturday let alone book a theory test. Surepass are open 7 days a week.

He studied for his theory test, but 2 days before he was due to take it, he went out with his friends and lost his wallet. Inside his wallet was his driving licence – he could not take his theory test without it. He applied for another provisional licence, this arrived a week later and he booked himself a theory test. He paid for these himself. I felt an important lesson needed to be learned. He was keen to get things moving and managed to get a theory test 50 miles away within a couple of days.

He took his theory test on the 1 April and passed with flying colours. He contacted Surepass to arrange his driving test, he gave them some dates and times he was available. Surepass contacted him the following day to inform him of his test date and the details of his instructor. The driving test was booked for 15th April 2009 at 1:33 pm.  I was impressed, this was just a month and 1 day after his 17th birthday. He started his lessons 1 week before the test.

Everything went well, he was confident of passing and his instructor had told him he had a good chance of doing it first time.

He took the test and failed- he was devastated. He told me it was not his fault, the reasons he gave were something to do with not understanding one of the examiners instructions and someone pulling out in front of him. The reasons given went in one ear and out the other. Advice for parents– nearly everyone I know will tell you the reason for failing the driving test was not their fault. I would say 99.9% of the time it is. The only thing you can do in these circumstances is listen, make the right noises and get them back on the horse as soon as possible.

I booked him a 10 hour crash course. Within a couple of days he received 10 hours worth of vouchers and instructions to contact Surepass to arrange a driving test.

Why did I choose a 10 Hour Crash Course?

He could have gone in for it again without anymore training, but then you run the risk of failing again. Examiners are human, most of them are of the opinion that it takes months to learn to drive. Here was a young lad going in for his test within 32 days of reaching driving age. How can he possibly know how to drive in such a short space of time?! Examiners can use some discretion and you are allowed to make some mistakes, I reasoned, for my son to pass he would have to give a very good drive. Its also down to what do I want for my son. Do I want him to just pass the test or do I want him to be a very good driver?

He contacted Surepass to arrange another driving test, this was arranged for 5 May 2009 at 3:27 pm, he did the training over 2 days with the test on the second day.

He passed with flying colours. He made 2 minor mistakes, he says himself he felt he was a much better driver and the extra 10 hours made a huge difference to his driving. I don’t think I have ever seen him as happy as he was when he returned from the test centre.

This is when it gets expensive. I had been saying to him for a few years that when he passed his driving test I would sort him out with a car. I gave him one of our old driving school cars- he was over the moon. The car was a Vauxhall Corsa, 2 years old, 5 doors and loads of mod cons.

Am I pleased?

Yes I am. Danny got his full driving licence within 52 days of reaching the age of 17. This is despite losing his wallet, containing his licence and failing his driving test first time.

Any Regrets?

Not one. I am very proud, Danny is a safe confident driver. I let him drive me on the motorway after he passed his test, I was impressed with his driving ability.

He has driven around London and has no problems with just jumping in the car and driving anywhere in the country. A big thank you to his instructors Steve Jones and David Brandreth – you both did a fantastic job. Touch wood, he has not had an accident yet.

Why did I not organise Motor Way lessons or Pass Plus Lessons?

During the whole process of Danny learning to drive I did not get involved, except of course when I was getting my credit card out. Motorway lessons are very important and in particular the bad weather driving element of Pass Plus. I used to be a driving instructor myself  so I did the motorway lessons, my intention is to give him some bad weather driving when we get closer to winter.

Do I think my son got preferential treatment?

Probably.When people spoke to him they knew he was my son, but what I want for all of our customers is to be treated exactly the same way!

Why not save this page to your favourites? Soon I hope to have some help sheets for parents to download. They will give you advice about how to give your child practice in your car or advice on giving motorway lessons.

If you decide to go for a 20 hour course with the intention of giving plenty of private practice yourself- remember to do it. The number of hours your child spends supervised behind the wheel does make a massive difference. I think all too often we have the best intentions, but never seem to have enough time when it’s required, besides- who wants to risk their life by taking a hormonal teenager out in a car when you do not have dual controls:)

I hope you found this useful.

Peter Atkin

Managing Director

Surepass Ltd