The recent Intelligent Instructor Awards had one clear winner when it came to the best driving instructor. While the awards used a completely independent judging panel, when it came to voting for driving instructors, it was done solely on pupil votes through FirstCar magazines which they all receive during and after learning to drive. Christian Borchardt was also the South West regional winner: “I am so grateful to everyone for thinking I am worthy. It means the world to me.” He spent his childhood in the South West in Bristol. Despite a career that took him all around the world, including living in Miami for several years, he finally returned home.
While still at school at 17… one of the youngest in my year, working three jobs I saved up to buy my first car, a tiny Mini.
My mum initially got me started behind the wheel… I learnt to drive in Clifton, Bristol. Once up and running, I relied on being the designated driver with school friends who’d already, but only just, passed, sitting beside me. A practice no longer allowed, but it helped me gain essential road exposure to enhance years of road experience after my cycling proficiency test at school, several cycle camping holidays (including some long trips from Bristol to Plymouth) and followed by a year of moped riding, which proved a great introduction to clutch control. I had a few professional lessons to prepare and polish ready for my driving test near to the Clifton Suspension Bridge, an icon of Bristol. It was a rainy day with a hill start on the very steep ‘Constitution Hill’ followed by an emergency stop right outside Clifton College! The beginning of my driving adventure.
Ironically, joining the navy added to my driving experience… working all over the world as Chief Photographer, it led me to drive internationally, experiencing different systems, styles and standards of driving. This continued when I left the navy and lived in Miami, where I studied to be a Commercial Pilot and Flight Instructor before returning to Bristol where I combined my experience and qualifications to set up an aerial survey business, utilising my photography and flying skills. To help sustain the quiet periods, I also worked as an agency lorry driver.
My instructing work began early… as a young boy I was a Head Chorister, involved in training fellow choir boys in their duties. In the navy I was also responsible for training new photographers on ships worldwide. With this, and my training in flight instruction, I found it a natural transition leading to this wonderfully fulfilling career of driver training.
We face a constantly changing world… nowhere is this more evident than in the area of driver training, making an already incredibly responsible position even more important with greater traffic levels, faster and larger cars, an increasing number of vulnerable road users, not least those swapping motoring for cycling on shared roads. All this increases the risk and danger to one another, and we have to work harder to help protect everyone on the road.
Our first responsibility is to ensure the high standard of our own driving… we have all seen poor use of the roads, low driving standards, aggressive driving, lazy techniques, lack of knowledge and blatant lack of care. We must do what we can to reduce this and lead by example when behind the wheel. Perhaps the testing system could be improved to increase standards and lower test waiting times. Should an ADI’s pass rate and driver fault records form part of the ongoing ADI assessment process to this end?
Compulsory mock tests… this could increase the control of candidate quality arriving for test and lower waiting times for tests by stopping that huge number of students who simply want to ‘have a go’. When it comes to flying, a candidate must be ‘signed off’ by an instructor as competent before they can take the qualifying test.
Young drivers get bad press… the question arises as to whether their bad driving is in part due to poor instruction, and ineffective guidance on the reasons why we should do things a certain way and the potential consequences if we don’t.
What about older drivers… some are fantastic, utilising years of experience and high skill levels. Some could do with help to ensure they are safe, so perhaps a compulsory lesson with a qualified ADI every 10 years at licence renewal with a required sign-off could be a great way to increase confidence in drivers and other road users. Not a pass/fail, but an opportunity to ensure they have questions answered and difficulties rectified, improving their safety and confidence. This is a standard methodology within the aviation industry worldwide, yet driving is statistically far more dangerous than flying but doesn’t have this!
The new rules have tried to embrace a changing world… motorway lessons and pulling up on the right may be controversial, but they do try to reflect driving in today’s world. However, it is a real shame that manoeuvres, such as the turn-in-road/3 point turn and left reverse/reverse around a corner, have been removed as a test requirement, despite being important elements of the learning to drive syllabus.
The Intelligent Instructor Awards… my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the awards evening. It was a great opportunity to network with fellow instructors with a similar passion for our vocation, and celebrate the great work we all do. ‘UK Driving Instructor of the Year 2019’ and ‘South West ADI of the Year’ mean the world to me, especially knowing so many felt I deserved this accolade… it still hasn’t sunk in yet! They will only push me to improve my skills further, on a constant drive to be the best that I can. I am also hopeful these prestigious awards will motivate new instructors and students to join our successful and popular team at A2B Driving School here in Bristol.