My driving test is looming.
I am nervous but hopeful (perhaps foolishly so) of the outcome.
I have recently started driving at times separate from my official driving lessons, after I was insured on a friend’s car. This has allowed me to gain some additional training.
When you are in attendance at the most expensive driving school in the land (a fact that I only discovered recently) then the frequency of lessons might not be often enough for the knowledge to ‘stick’ easily – as it’s costly to take too many lessons.
Pass or fail next week however, I would say it is unlikely that I will be attending any more lessons with the Dublin based Airport Driving School.
This is the cautionary tale of my experience with said school.
Like any skill, driving is one that is easier to learn when younger. If you wait until the ripe old age of 40 before you ever sit behind the wheel of a car, then I suppose it shouldn’t come as a shock if one’s progress is slow. I didn’t mind – I had no deadline. I just wanted to experience this rite of passage and learn to drive.
The Airport Driving School was a regular presence on the radio boasting of its 96% test pass rate in their modern fleet of new cars. It simply forced me to believe them. I didn’t mind how expensive the lessons were – €100 for a 2 hour lesson. The minimum number of hours required with a qualified driving instructor in Ireland, to be allowed to sit the exam is twelve. I knew that I’d require more. Again I didn’t mind. I wanted to drive and was willing to pay.
So over the months I attended my lessons, and slowly improved, while remaining a bag of nerves.
I almost didn’t mind the lack of flexibility when it came to cancelling or postponing lessons. In order to do so, the Airport Driving School requires a minimum of ten days’ notice. Effectively, unless you are doing lessons lengthy times apart from each other, there is a no cancellation policy. They are upfront about this lack of flexibility.
Unfortunately however you are only usually guaranteed the same instructor with each lesson. My teacher was quite reliable – although on three separate occasions when he could not make our scheduled appointment, I was assigned a different instructor without any notice. Again this was not a big deal – a change is as good as a holiday as they say. I personally had no issue with this. Some people may prefer consistency.
I even didn’t mind the evening that the team lead for the driving instructors – an individual named Jason – sat in unannounced, on one of my lessons with my regular teacher. I did have to ask Jason to remain quiet however, as it was distracting and unsettling to have two people giving advice at the same time. I was paying for this lesson. Not to be stressed by an uninvited stranger, gate-crashing my class.
Eventually I applied for my test – or should I say that the Airport Driving School did so on my behalf. They had the necessary documentation to prove I had completed m compulsory twelve hours of lessons. I was given the standard six weeks’ notice for my exam.
I was advised by the school to take one its in-house mock tests. I took this a few weeks ago.
Unfortunately I was not informed by my instructor in advance that this mock test cost €150. I thought this was fairly pricey. I suppose the fact that it cost so much can’t be blamed on my instructor – he is an employee of the school, and the price is probably visible somewhere on their website.
Caveat emptor – let the buyer beware. He could have been more upfront about it I suppose?
After failing the mock, the recommendation was that I receive another eight hours’ worth of lessons and another mock test – a total cost of €550, in the final weeks before the test
I flinched at this price. But the Airport Driving School are meant to be teaching me how to drive. They regard my driving education as important. Don’t they?
If this was a once off, final expense to be counted among the 96% of successful Airport Driving School students who pass their test, then I’d absorb it.
Reluctantly I agreed.
In Ireland you are allowed to postpone your driving test (which costs €85 to sit) free of charge up to ten working days before your exam. I sat my second mock test on Saturday 28th October – eight working days before the test.
I had reached the point of no postponement unless I was happy to forfeit the price of the appointment.
Jason was my tester. After the test was complete – he went straight for the jugular in terms of the hard sell. According to himself, I would need another six hours of lessons and another fake test – €450 in total – before the Airport Driving School would even let me sit my test in one of its cars.
Suddenly it all made sense. The 96% pass rate for driving students, has absolutely nothing to do with merely taking lessons with the school.
If it is only the pupils that the school deems worthy of sitting the test are allowed to use its vehicles for the test, then of course the pass rate is so high. It’s a fairly meaningless statistic that won’t include the pupils refused access to the cars they have trained in.
Nor will it say what the average number of lessons required actually is, before you are allowed by one of the most expensive driving schools in the land to sit the test.
How much you have spent on lessons? Irrelevant.
Again there is nothing illegal about this.
The Airport Driving School is not obliged to state when you will be considered eligible to be part of that dubious figure of 96%.
Jason’s hard sell was deeply unpleasant. It wasn’t quite a full on scam. As it was not illegal. It felt like a proper shake-down though.
Surely it is responsible business practice to ensure that a final decision on a student’s suitability to sit a test, ought to come while it is still possible to reschedule the test free of charge?
I told him that I was not buying that many extra lessons, or another fake test.
Instead I booked one more lesson. Just to get some final feedback from my regular teacher, who I trusted.
On the appointed day a brand new instructor arrived. My regular teacher seems to have vanished – I sort of know him by this point, so maybe it’s easier to give strangers the task of informing pupils about the Airport Driving School’s legal (yet incredibly scuzzy) business practices when it comes to driving tests?
Keep it cold and impersonal.
At the end of my lesson I asked him whether I could sit my test in the car in which I have taken all my lessons. The car that I am most comfortable in?
He told me that he would let me know after another lesson. Was I free the following evening?
Sell, sell, sell!
I wonder will I be sitting my driving test in an Airport Driving School car?
My friend and her reliable motor are on standby.
It’s good to know reliable people.
Wish me luck next week.