Thursday, 15 August 2013

Complaint Letter to DSA

I wish to make a complaint about the gentleman above.

As a nervous novice driver I booked an intensive course through Nippers in the middle of May, I was assigned Steve as my instructor and my test was booked for the 4th June. The course was 40 hours in length but after failing my first test I had a further 16 hours with Steve and two further tests on the 26th June and the 9th July. I am wholly dissatisfied with the level of service I received from this instructor, for the reasons below:

That Nippers failed to show the care and skill you would expect from a reputable driving school in providing competent and appropriate instructors. I relied upon them to ensure that the driving instructor they recommended was able to help me reach an acceptable standard.  That they offered an intensive course , which with a complete novice requires a certain type of instructor to develop skills and confidence quickly and this was not provided.  Their failure to ensure this has caused me loss.

That my instructor Steve Eggleton was incompetent and repeatedly put me at risk. That he took payment for services that were not received and encouraged further expenditure of time and money on tests when I was not at the correct standard of ability to pass. That he showed no concern for my welfare or safety. That he was unprofessional, acted dangerously and illegally and used discriminatory language. That he failed to adhere to the majority of the recommendations in the Code of Practice for Approved Driving Instructors.

-       There was excessive repetition of routes and of inappropriate routes for competence, in particular a loop around the main Colchester roundabouts that we did for eight to ten hours of lessons. At least fifty percent of the test routes were never visited at all including Greenstead, Rowhedge, Wivenhoe, Abbey Fields, Highwoods, Prettygate etc, I never got above 40mph on this loop and I never tackled some of the roundabouts from other directions.
-       Excessive time was spent driving to other unneccessary locations. On my first lesson, after just twenty minutes in the car I was told to drive to Clacton and back. In addition Steve told me to drive to London after just 18 hours of lessons, on Saturday 1st June. The trip took 6 hours and during this time I was given no breaks to eat, drink or rest. My requests to stop were fobbed off with ‘in a minute’ and ‘you are doing so well, just a little further’ and I was too exhausted and confused to argue more forcefully. In this instance I consider myself very lucky that my concentration did not lapse on the A12.
-       Steve failed to teach me the basics from steering control to cockpit drill. When I got in the car he checked that I could use indicators and we set off. For the first forty hours I continuously drove with the mirrors set incorrectly, a fact I was unaware of until my husband began taking me out in our own car. My current instructor is still trying to help me to do the Mirror Signal Manoevre drill correctly as even after the third test I was not doing this consistently.
-       I was offered very little feedback or guidance after the first twenty hours when Steve declared me able to pass the test. My concerns were dismissed e.g. After my second test I repeatedly requested more manoevre practice and also more practice in pulling in and moving off but was told that I didn’t need it (I had failed the test on moving off). My mistakes went uncorrected, issues were not remedied despite my repeated requests. I entered all three tests completely unable to reliably bay park or parallel park. I felt like Steve was just going along for the ride and collecting the money and had no interest in developing my skills or competence. When I failed to understand something he did not try any other approaches or explanations. I spent a lot of the time on the internet, desperately trying to fill in the gaps in my knowledge myself.
-       I was unprepared for the tests and wasted time, money and confidence taking them. In addition for each test I paid for two hours with Steve. At least twenty to thirty minutes each time was spent sitting outside the test centre in the car, I received no actual tuition for my money on those days. By contrast my new instructor ensured that I did all four manoevres and an emergency stop before my most recent test.  I also had no idea how to meet oncoming traffic and who had right of way before I started with my new instructor, something my second examiner called ‘dangerous’. This was never addressed or rectified by Steve. I was never advised to cancel or postpone a test, but was encouraged to book the next one as soon as possible.
-       I was not encouraged to look at the road ahead or prompted to look for hazards/issues that might come up on the road ahead.  My knowledge of road signs was never tested. Steve provided all directions and there was no independent driving at all.
-       I was given unhelpful one size fits all ‘guidance’ e.g. left lane for anything before twelve ‘o’ clock, right lane for anything after. This caused me to make a serious fault on my third test coming past B&Q. I was also told if there were cars on both sides of the road I should go to 10mph, 20mph if cars were on my side of the road. I caused serious bunching and annoyance to other drivers on very wide roads with plenty of space for two lines of traffic and parked cars.
-       As well as the 6 hour London trip which had no rest breaks, on two further occasions I drove for longer than I consider safe. On the 29/05/13 I drove for 4.5 hours with just a five minute leg stretch outside the test centre and on the 2/06/13 I drove for 5.5 hours without getting out of the car. These long periods of driving have left me with some continuing damage in my right knee and ankle. Steve discouraged breaks, he told me he preferred to finish early and didn’t like hanging around with nothing to do. I had to mention the pain in my leg three times before I got five minutes outside the test centre to stretch my legs. I was obviously limping but was encouraged to get back into the car and drive on again. I was too timid and nervous to ask again.
-       On one occasion I asked to try a different direction at a roundabout, Steve agreed reluctantly but after a few minutes made it clear that he had no idea where we were or where we were going. I had to rely on my own limited knowledge of the area to get us back to an area that he recognized.
-       Basic safety and legal checks were neglected. My eyesight was not checked until I had driven for four hours. On at least four occasions I was driving whilst Steve was checking his phone and once he called my attention to a text message he had received when my attention should have been on the road ahead.
-       Two dangerous areas were left unexplained and undriven – a narrow bridge on a winding country road on a blind bend (on the test route to Layer) and a railway level crossing. In these two examples the smallest error can be incredibly serious, even when I had the hazard explained to me by a competent instructor I still came close to making a serious error. I count myself very lucky that neither of these two areas appeared on my three tests as I was completely unprepared for them.
-       Paperwork – I received no paperwork and no information about prices, cancellations, complaints, where my money was being held or progress that I was making. I received no booking card or appointment card.
-       Aggression- On several occasions Steve got verbally abusive and aggressive towards other drivers who he considered were driving badly, gesticulating and swearing loudly.  I found this very frightening and intimidating and I was nervous that I would be a target for Steve or one of the motorists he had sworn at.
-       On several occasions Steve referred to homosexuals (and a former pupil of his as such) as ‘poofs’, twice after I had informed him that my mother has a female partner.
-       Steve was regularly five minutes late, if not more. Lessons never finished late and often finished early, even including the debrief at the end.  For the first forty five hours Steve took a toilet break every one to two hours of up to ten minutes.  This time was never mentioned or made up at any point. I believe this amounts to approximately 2-3 hours of tuition over the 56 hours that I missed out on.
-       I was pressured to change my test to Clacton, a town Steve was obviously much more familiar with. I did so, but changed back as soon as I realized that I would be spending 80 minutes of my 120 minute lesson just driving there and back.
-       Not only was the car interior dirty, but Steve regularly appeared unkempt with food stains on his face and clothing.

I was told by Steve after the first lesson that there were no other automatic instructors available and with my test booked and childcare arranged that pushed me into making a decision I ultimately regret- to continue with Steve. As a very nervous and inexperienced driver, exhausted and confused, I allowed myself to be led by my instructor, having no prior or recent experience to compare it to.  I was continually being told what an excellent driver I was, how brilliantly I was driving and with the tests booked so close together I never seemed to have a second to gather my thoughts (I did four tests in two months). I had nothing to compare it to until I began talking to other students and instructors online and in person. It wasn’t until I found a new instructor that I truly realized just how little I had been taught and how substandard my instruction had been. I was also quite intimidated by Steve, he is a big man who I had seen being quite aggressive  and as he knew where I lived I was frightened to complain.

Ironically Steve actually had a check test whilst I was learning to drive with him, which makes a mockery of the whole checking process. He carefully selected the pupil that he would take on the test and in his words ‘pulled out all the stops’. In the meantime I was getting a substandard service and failed to reach test standard with him, something he failed to realize, recognize or rectify.

I have been told that I am not eligible for any sort of refund and am horrified that the DSA don’t have better methods for checking the quality of lessons that are being carried out by registered ADIs.

I have very serious concerns about this man’s competence and ability to help less confident or less experienced learners to pass the test. I don’t believe he has the skills to be offering intensive courses or courses in Colchester at all as he was clearly not familiar with a large part of the town. 

Sarah Drew

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