Born and brought up in Birmingham, the DVSA’s Driver Training Policy Manager, John Sheridan, was always going to find it difficult to escape the roar of the crowd, in more ways than one. “Early in life, I had to make a very important choice, which was, Birmingham City or Aston Villa. To this day, I am not sure whether I made the correct choice.”
Perhaps these distractions didn’t help him concentrate on the more academic routes of youth, and possibly through his Catholic boys school education, he left a lot of it to faith. Unfortunately, it resulted in him leaving school at sixteen with just four ‘O’ Levels.
Looking for a sense of direction, he joined the RAF in 1975, completing nine years’ service with the Mechanical Transport Squadron. Part and parcel of this was obtaining both car and LGV (HGV back in the day) licences, and the core of his second career with the DSA and now the DVSA.
He’s a self-confessed “U2 addict”, adding that “I DJ’d for 20 plus years, so occasionally I will dust off my mic!”. That probably explains his other hobby, running. As he says: “Failing to plan is planning to fail! My motto – One love one life.”
‘Interesting’ would be a good word to describe my learning to drive experience…. we were marched to the driving school, where we were met by our not so ‘client centred’ trainer. In fact, there were no pleasantries or general chitchat at all. The car was a Morris Minor, and a challenge in itself to say the least.
I was so nervous… it wasn’t the test, but the Flight Sergeant conducting it. He was certainly ‘Mr Grumpy’, which is why I believe I failed. Don’t reach for a Kleenex (other brands of tissue also available), I eventually passed on April Fool’s Day, say no more.
Testing is so much better now… I am so proud to be part of the DVSA team. We are all passionate about road safety and providing excellent customer service, and there’s just no comparison between my test experiences and those today. Examiners today work hard to get the best from candidates by being human and making polite conversation at appropriate times. The test is more representative of real-life driving, whilst being based on a practical demonstration of the competencies laid out in the National Driver and Rider Training Standards.
ADIs do an excellent job… however, they are often put under pressure from parents and pupils to book the test early, which is why we are promoting the benefits of carrying out mock tests to help to make sure that candidates aren’t presented for test too early, and poorly prepared.
DVSA’s five-year strategy is all about raising standards… one example is utilising Eco Safe Driving and the key principles of how to reduce emissions and save fuel play a key role in this. Forward planning and early recognition of hazards contributes positively to a lifetime of safe driving, while also contributing to cleaner and lower user fuel costs.
My then girlfriend saw an advert in the local paper for a Driving Examiner… she suggested I apply. I wasn’t enthusiastic. I applied and was subsequently invited to do a ‘competition drive’ with a Supervising Examiner named Bill Hall. At the end of my drive I tentatively asked: “How did I do Mr Hall?” He replied: “It’s your birthday today isn’t it Mr Sheridan?” I said with a smile, “Yes, it is.” He replied: “Well, I don’t want to spoil your birthday.” At which point he vacated the car and left. Deflated or what?! About three weeks later I was invited to attend an interview and, 35 years later, I am still here. Best job in the world.
Young drivers have a tough time… astronomical insurance premiums, having to keep up with their mates and have a nice car. But, sadly, road collisions are the biggest killer of young people and account for more than a quarter of all deaths amongst 15- to 19-year olds in this country. The majority of young drivers are very good, but they can become risk takers. It is so important that all drivers, regardless of experience, enjoy driving but it is more important that they appreciate the benefits of being safe and responsible.
Our ‘target’ is nil KSIs… it’s what we in the driver training industry and DVSA are aiming for and we will continue to do so. Statistics help assess how well we’ve all preformed, or not, as the case may be.
DVSA doesn’t want to impose burdens… we’d rather encourage people. Learning should be lifelong and not just one moment in time. As professional road safety ambassadors, shouldn’t we all consider what is working well? What is not? In addition, what could we do better/differently? Therefore, for me, CPD must be voluntary and encouraged rather than imposed. It can be fun too.
ADIs don’t get enough credit… I have the privilege of attending many ADI association meetings up and down the country and meet so many true professionals who certainly contribute so much to road safety. However, it would be fantastic if those who are not members of a local or national association joined, because they’d also be taking part in CPD and getting some acknowledgement for their contribution.
There’s always room for improvement… ADIs, ADI Trainers, examiners, me, pupils, everyone should self-reflect on how we are performing and consider appropriate CPD to improve.
I’m 60 this month, with 35 years in this business… without a doubt, my greatest achievement is becoming a dad to two lovely lads, now young men.