Cycling has become a passion for this Leicester boy, one of eight children born into a working-class family during post war austerity. He recently cycled to the battlefields of the Somme to raise money for charity and is looking to pedal to the D-Day landing sites next year too
Perhaps being one of eight children has meant that sharing has always been an intrinsic part of his philosophy. Being part of a big family also led him to join the Army until he left to set up his own driving school back in his hometown 44 years ago, while also studying and completing two degrees and a Masters in business management, marketing and administration. “Seeing a countless number of novice drivers achieve their full licence is my greatest achievement, the satisfaction of seeing the face of someone who has found the process of learning to drive difficult achieve their goal.” It is perhaps not surprising that his family motto reads: By aim and by effort.
In 1972, I learnt to drive whilst in the Army… a ‘long wheel base’ canvas backed Land Rover. I did a six-week driver training course, two weeks of which were classroom based. I passed all my tests first time with the exception of my LGV1, which I passed second attempt, so I know the disappointment some pupils feel. I also hold a motorcycle licence. Trying to compare the test with today’s is impossible; they are totally different, as is the standard required to pass.
I qualified as an ADI whilst still in the army… having learnt to drive in the Army, as well as what was HGV 3 and 2, I found the whole process interesting and it triggered my interest. I didn’t see myself working for an employer on leaving the service, so driving tuition was a good fit. On leaving the Army I set up Classic School of Motoring in Leicester (1984). I have also been involved in driver assessments for local transport companies, LGV training and instructor training. I was part of the then DSA Modernising Driver Training group, as well as being involved in the writing of the National Occupational Standards for driving instructors and part of the CCL (client centred learning) trials. I’m also on the Executive Committee of two national ADI associations.
Not everyone agrees that the driving test is fit for purpose… until something better comes along we have to work with what we’ve got. It’s evolved and is so different, and candidates are much better prepared than I was when I passed. But saying that, the amount of traffic has increased dramatically, and road layouts changed. All the changes over recent years make it difficult to know what has worked and what hasn’t; before one change has been fully researched, another change has happened. Some would say tinkering for the sake of it.
Young drivers get a bad press… statistics regularly state the percentage of crashes involving young drivers, but never state whether or not the young driver was at fault. And what about the older novice drivers?
ADIs have never had the recognition they deserve… the UK has some of the safest roads in the world and much of this is down to the outstanding work of ADIs.
We need a stronger voice… the Government and their Agencies consult only because they are required to by law, and they don’t always listen, which is a shame. The vast majority of ADIs know more about training drivers than the DVSA, whose expertise is testing to a standard.
We were regulated directly from the DfT… having a separate agency dedicated to driver testing was a good idea. It allowed the gathering together of the best people, while the merger with VOSA has seen many of the ‘experts’ leave, and the expertise built up over a couple of decades lost.
Improving driving standards… Graduated Driving Licence would be good, but quite complicated to get the balance right on a small island with a 24-hour economy. Making road safety part of the national school curriculum would be a more sensible start. Without a doubt, the earlier road safety is taught, the more effective the message is.
Starting out today as a driving instructor… market yourself and diversify. The more strings to your bow you have, the more successful you will be.
11th November is the centenary of the end of WWI… my cousin June Sorenson rode to the Somme battlefield in September as part of a charity ride of more than 50 cyclists, all arranged by SSAFA. I wanted to support them, plus we did it to honour the memory of our great uncle who was killed in action on 27th September 1918 and is buried at Havrincourt. I am considering undertaking the SSAFA ride in 2019. This covers a similar distance (230 miles) and takes in the D-Day landing sites. 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
The government is not always correct on going to war… but we should always recognise the sacrifice of the serving personnel (and their families), many returning with physical and mental issues. The SSAFA continue to do outstanding work helping the survivors. This year’s cycle is expected to raise over £60k.
Please help, support my cycling efforts by donating to the charity no matter how small; www.justgiving.com/fundraising/david-hickenbotham