The Eyes Have It!

Eyes looking down

The eyes are vital in driving so do not ignore your learners' eyes!

The Dile is all about helping you to develop your skills further so you can offer the very best training to your clients. I am sure you remind your pupils, after they have passed their tests, that their learning now begins!  And I reckon most, if not all of you, believe drivers should receive regular retraining (not testing), to help keep up and improve their driving skills. Am I right? So why, then, do so many driving instructors believe there is no need for them to do any CPD or further training courses once they have achieved their ADI badge? Just like the driving licence, the ADI licence is just the beginning!

Recently I was asked by a PDI to help her sister with her driving. Turns out this girl had, according to her instructor, reached driving test standard, there was nothing more she could teach her, so she booked the test for her. The pupil herself, however, cancelled this test as she felt nowhere near ready. So much so that the thought of driving filled her with dread and, on our first 3 lessons, she cried before and during the lessons. She was terrified, and just hated it!  On the 4th lesson, bank holiday Monday, she cried before but not during, and went home with a smile on her face! This was the turning point lesson. Being bank holiday, when I don't usually work, I asked her to think of somewhere she would drive to in her own car if she had her driving licence now. She chose the small market town where her sister lives, a suitable distance away, and she also chose the most appropriate, rather than the more direct route, which involves quite a dangerous rural road. In the market town itself she had to deal with quite a few 'meeting' situations, as well as other drivers driving less well than she was doing! We then stopped at the old station, now a lovely cafe with a gifts area, and a pine furniture and knick-knacks store in the former sidings sheds. She'd never been there before so we had an enjoyable time. The drive back went smoothly and I left a very happy pupil back home.

So what had really been the problem in the first place? Well, you may well have guessed it was something to do with the eyes. She was looking down all the time, seeing no further than the vehicle ahead of her, but due to a fear of holding up vehicles behind her, she was driving too fast up to all hazards then braking hard!  Her instructor interpreted this as 'over-confidence' and just kept telling her every time it occurred that she needed to slow down!  She failed to notice the girl was looking far too short!  She also failed to notice that when her pupil was turning right, she was looking down at the white line or kerb of the central reservation, such as at traffic lights junctions, which added to the pupil's fear when something unexpected then happened!  Also, when crossing traffic to turn, she would be keeping her vision fixated on the vehicles coming towards her, thereby turning 'blind' into the junction. 

The instructor, who had taught everything else to her really well, created a very nervous driver who hated driving and went through agony with every lesson!  Now she is happy, beginning to enjoy the experience, and making her own decisions about what she needs to improve. This still centres around driving up to hazards too fast, but now she recognises it's because it's become a habit she has to break (and there's still some concern lingering about the drivers behind, but she's working on that too).

In 2006 I passed the DIA's Diploma in Driving Instruction, to gain the letters DIP.DI after my name. This has now been updated and carries the initials Dip.DE as 'instruction' has been changed to 'education'. I urge you to do this diploma if you don't already have it. You will learn a lot, as I did, things they don't teach you for your part 3.  And one of the most valuable things I learnt was about seeing and how to use the eyes. The following remains an integral part of all my driving lessons:

  • Aim the eyes high
  • Keep the eyes moving
  • Use peripheral vision
  • See and be seen
  • Consider the alternatives

To help you to develop this skill yourself, I highly recommend you get yourselves a copy of Chris Gilbert's DVD, Ultimate Driving Craft (1), which you will find at Amazon.  Chris is a former sergeant with the Met. Police Driving School, Hendon, and the driving instructor to Princes William and Harry!  In the meantime, watch your pupils' eyes more closely and assess exactly where they are looking, and never make assumptions with regards to driving faults! ASK your pupils what they  think. Ask them how they felt at the time and what they believe made them do whatever it was they did.  Involve them in the process of assessing their faults and in the process of deciding how to rectify the fault. This would have been the icing on the cake for my pupil's former instructor who, as I've already said, had taught her well, apart from the most important thing - the eyes! 


  1. Henry Sams

    Chris Gilbert talks a lot of sense. As a result of getting him to our Association Meeting a few years ago I no longer get my cients to 'aim your eyes high' but 'get your eyes on main beam'.

    People seem to understand the phrase – and if they don't, it doesn't take long to explain it.

  2. Henry Sams

    Chris Gilbert talks a lot of sense. As a result of getting him to our Association Meet a couple of years ago, I no longer say: "Aim your eyes high" but "Get your eyes on main beam".

    People seem to understand the phrase and if they don't – it doesn't take long to explain it.

  3. Jackie Willis

    Yes, I agree with you Henry, the 'headlights' metaphor really works. 'Ultimate Driving Craft' from Chris Gilbert (I just have the first one) is excellent and should be compulsory viewing for all ADI's!

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