When you first start driving you can choose to be supervised by a relative or friend, as long as they have an Australian unrestricted Class C driver’s licence or higher. However, everyone develops bad driving habits over time and not everyone can teach. You don’t want the formative stages of your driving spoiled by someone who inadvertently teaches you dangerous habits, doesn’t have patience, or destroys your confidence.
A licenced driving instructor in NSW will be at least 21 years old, hold a current driving licence for the relevant type of vehicle, have held their licence for at least three years continuously in the last four years prior to applying (with no cancellations or suspensions), will have passed national police and traffic checks, and will be medically fit (i.e. passed an appropriate medical exam). These conditions must be met before they can be authorised to undertake an approved driving instruction course. They must then pass the course.
Questions to ask when choosing a driving instructor
Is the driving instructor licenced?
The Driving Instructors Act 1992 and Driving Instructors Regulation 2003 requires that any person who teaches another person to drive in exchange for money or reward must hold an instructor’s licence.
Are they a member of an Association with a Code of Practice?
If so, you can check with the Association as to what checks, measures and guarantees they have in place. Does the code of practice suit your requirements, and how are they held accountable to it.
Do they offer a choice of vehicle?
Driving instructors will usually have a vehicle with dual controls so that they can take control in an emergency. You will need to find out whether they have manual or automatic vehicles, depending on which one you want to sit your test in. See our article on choosing a car for a new driver.
What is the educational material like?
Instructors should have course guidelines and supporting educational materials. They should design each lesson to fit with what you need to accomplish, and if you have a supervising driver such as a parent they should take this into consideration.
They should teach safe (low-risk) driving and preferably have attended a ‘Beyond Test Routes’ workshop.
An instructor will tend to want to give a longer lesson, for example two hours. This minimises their wasted time driving between students. However, if you feel that two hours is too long for you to be driving, especially when you first start, let them know.
Is the lesson one-on-one?
Some instructors will want to pick up another driver just before you finish your lesson so that they don’t waste any time travelling between students. This helps them keep their costs down. However, if you don’t like it, then you can request that it is one-on-one so that you are not intimidated or distracted by having another passenger in the car.
What reporting is there?
The instructor should also have a system for reporting progress. At the end of each lesson they must complete a Driving Instructor Structured Lesson Planner.
The gender of the instructor will not affect his or her ability to teach you, but it is your preference as to whether you prefer to be taught by a female or male driver.
Is there a connection?
You should meet with the instructor before committing to lessons. This will allow you to build rapport and connection with the instructor. If you simply do not like the instructor you are not under any obligation to hire him or her. There is no point in having lessons with someone who you don’t like as you will not look forwards to it.
What is their availability and flexibility?
Bear in mind that there will be busy times for driving instructors, particularly during school lunch breaks and right after school. You may need to be a little flexible with the instructor. The instructor should also be flexible with you, and should be reliable and punctual.
If you can stick to a regular time slot this will make it much easier for you to get tuition and it makes it easier for the instructor to commit to you. Check where you will meet the instructor – whether this is at your house, or whether they will meet you after school, or after another activity you do, or at a separate location. Be sure to notify the instructor if this changes.
What is the price and cancellation policy
When you book a lesson you enter into an agreement that means the instructor will turn up at the designated place, give you a lesson and you will pay him or her. If you cancel the lesson you need to know what the cancellation policy is. It is quite fair for an instructor to insist on full payment for lessons cancelled with very little warning. Ask the instructor what the latest time is that you can cancel a lesson and whether there are exceptions for extenuating circumstances such as illness or injury.
Don’t pick your driving instructor on price, choose by recommendation. A cheap driving instructor may be cheap because of a bad reputation therefore finds it difficult to get work, or because of bad teaching habits and efficiency, and therefore it takes more lessons which will end up costing you more in the long run.
Finding a driving instructor
Ask people who have just passed their test. Look online for reviews, and ask for testimonials from the driving school or the instructor. Searching online will only find instructors that have a website. You can look in your local newspaper or directory, or ask at your school or college.
You can use an independent driving instructor or a driving school that might have several instructors for you to choose from. It is your preference.
If English isn’t your first language you may be able to find an instructor who can speak in your native language.