Driving instructors ‘forgotten about’

A LETTERKENNY based driving instructor has said their profession has been “totally forgotten about” by the government as they have not received any guidelines about how they can safely resume lessons.
The Road Safety Authority (RSA) issued a statement to instructors on Monday but the information provided guidance at test centres rather than lessons. Instructors have been told they are “independent commercial entities” and that the “ultimate responsibility for safe resumption of driver tuition and education” lies with each instructor. Tests for motorcyles, trucks, and buses are expected to resume on a phased basis from June 29 but no date has been set for car tests. The RSA said the resumption of car testing is more of a challenge as the driver and student cannot maintain physical distancing and lessons are longer than 15 minutes.
Angela of Angela Ward School of Motoring said: “We have still received no guidelines from Government, every other profession has. There are a lot of grey areas. We have been totally forgotten about. There are going to be changes at the test centre, we’re not going to be allowed in. It will be nerve-racking for students. The pre-test lesson is all about building their confidence up and settling nerves. Normally we would sit with them in the test centre but now we will not be allowed to.”
Driver testers and candidates will be required to wear facemasks unless they are unable to do so due to health reasons. Testers will also have to carry hand sanitiser and wipes in the vehicle and instructors must remove any personal items from the driving school car. In terms of installing perspex panels between instructors and their students the RSA has urged instructors to make sure this does not effect their insurance or the deployment of airbags. However Angela does not think the use of perspex panels is feasible given they need to be able to react to emergency situations.
“If you have a very nervous beginner sometimes you have to use the handbreak, gear stick or may even have to lean over to the steering wheel, to bring the car back in control,” she said.
She also has concerns about how facemasks will impact visibility if they are not the correct size and said visors could affect peripheral vision.
“I think it is the most difficult profession of them all. As far as I am concerned there won’t be any car testing until August or September. We’re going to need lead in time to get the students ready. We would need two to four weeks lead in before the date of their test.”
Instructors will have to reduce the number of students they take on and will have to leave at least 15 minutes for cleaning the vehicle after every lesson. Angela, who provides lessons in both the Letterkenny and Donegal Town areas,  believes driving instructors should receive financial support from the government while they are getting back on their feet to help offset the losses, similar to other professions. A meeting of driving instructors from Donegal Town will take place on today to make sure they are “singing off the same hymn sheet”.
Ninety per cent of instructors are not in a rush to get back if it is not a safe environment for everyone, she said. With 1,500 people waiting for a driving test in Donegal, lessons will no doubt be in huge demand when they resume.
“Before Covid-19 we were extremely busy and to go from that to nothing was a shock. People are crying out for lessons to come back,” added Angela. “We have to be patient. I know I’m in no hurry to get back, as the safety of customers is priority. We have to minimise the risk,” she said.

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