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Harry King – Testimonial

Before I came to Homer’s Driving School, I had had a rough time learning how to drive. It was difficult for me to find an instructor that could put me at ease long enough for me to learn how to control the car, what to look out for on the road and what I needed to do for each unique scenario.

You can imagine my unexpected joy then, when after just 3 lessons with Mark Gough, I was already bold enough to drive myself back home!


Let’s take a step back to my first few lessons.

On my first lesson my instructor, Mark Gough, made a point of establishing what my previous experience of driving was, as well as how many lessons on average it took to be able to pass the test. It was a small gesture, but immediately it helped put some of my worries to rest. I knew what time frame I could comfortably achieve what I wanted, and we had a rapport going.

Having mentioned time frames, it’s worth noting that in my first few lessons, going over basic concepts of controlling the car and manoeuvring, I did not once feel rushed.
Usually a driving instructor will try to cram every point you need to know into the space of an hour, trusting you to take it all in or learn it on the road. Not so with Mark. Every important note was broken down with helpful diagrams and step-by-step instructions, and Mark did not mind going over concepts for as long as it took to drill them into my mind. And I can tell you, it took a good deal of time for me!

Another characteristic of Mark’s lessons was a mentality of ‘absorb what is useful, disregard what is not’; emphasising points that would help you learn to control your car, and getting rid of needlessly elaborate techniques from your mind. One example of the latter was, due to my previous experience of driving, I had it in my head that I should steer using the ‘pull-push-slide’ method of steering, never letting my hands cross and only turning the wheel with as much effort as needed. Needless to say, I had a difficult time utilising it while concentrating on my other driving responsibilities.

Mark’s response when I brought up this method in class?

“Well as long as you’ve got control of the car, it doesn’t matter how you steer.”

It goes without saying, but I have not since looked back at that particular piece of knowledge, and have been all the more confident for it!

It’s not just this sense of informality which was beneficial to my learning; it was also the willingness to move away from this approach to giving specific, detailed instruction when needed. From learning to turn, to learning how to parallel park, it’s very likely that Mark will be able to give you some kind of reference to help you quickly get to grips with the manoeuvre. For example, when learning to parallel park, Mark had taken the liberty of laying out a selection of stickers on the car, which I could use to line myself up with the car I intended to manoeuver around.
This mingling of audial, visual and kinaesthetic learning makes lessons a breeze!

Having moved away from the quiet suburbs where my lessons started, I was driven towards getting hands on with the busier roads around town and on the carriageways of the West Midlands. Admittedly, I had been dreading this since I had first experienced driving. Having to take into consideration such busy surrounding while at the same time making sure to maintain my own speed, check my mirrors and talk to the person riding with me was a challenge I was not looking for.

Once again, I was pleasantly surprised!

It’s very easy for a beginner driver to be swamped down by the feeling of responsibility that comes from driving a tonne or so of metal vehicle which can travel at a hundred or so miles per hour. You can get the impression that you have to reach a near-omniscient level of awareness in order for you not to cause an accident, an impression only exacerbated by being new to the rules of the road.
Thanks to Mark’s tuition though, I managed to get it through my head very quickly how surprisingly little my worries held water.
The way Mark put it, you are indeed in a vehicle which weighs more than a tonne, but so are most other people on the road, with some being even heavier than that. They feel the same responsibility to keep their vehicles under control as you, the learner driver, so they are striving just as hard to stick to the rules of the road.
Combining this piece of knowledge with what I learned about the rules of the road from him was a major load off my mind. Realising things such as what give way lines do to ameliorate the risk of cars pulling out in front of you, and also pointing out where to actually look for traffic risks, made driving much more enjoyable than it would have been had I stuck with my previous teacher. It made driving feel more like a cooperative experience with fellow road users, when originally it had felt like an assault course of potential hazards keeping me from getting from point A to point B.

It wasn’t just the flow of the roads that Mark made sure I learned. He also made sure I had a thorough feel for how the car handled in various situations. What better way to do this then, than by putting the car (and driver) to the test on as many different and difficult roads as possible. You won’t simply be going down the same lanes and streets when you learn with Mark. His near-encyclopaedic knowledge of the Dudley area made sure that each lesson was varied and put me through new and interesting challenges. Learning with him means dealing with quiet suburbs, long carriageways, winding farm lanes and ludicrously steep slopes. If you can handle the routes that Mark suggests, you can handle anything.

This isn’t to say that everything flowed smoothly for me on the road. As is the case with any learner driver, I found myself getting into multiple close calls, such as understeering around a turn and nearly crashing into the cars on the wrong side of the road, and one incident on a crossroads where I nearly pulled out in front of a lorry.
This was also where Mark’s competence as a driving instructor really shone through, with just how calmly he would deal with these situations. Even several tonnes of lorry bearing down on us didn’t seem to faze him, as he simply brought us to an emergency stopped, gave me a breakdown of what to do next time, and we drove away, calm and collected. Considering his experience with testing the limits of various new cars for multiple different companies, I’m willing to guess he’s well accustomed to hairy situations like this.

In spite of all this praise, one thing to bear in mind with Mark’s tuition is that the theory aspect of learning how to drive is left very much up to you, the student. His primary concern is making sure you know how to handle your car on the road, things like learning road markings, stopping distances and penalties will need to be dealt with by you. It’s easy to understand why he’d go with such an approach, considering that learning to actually drive a vehicle is a demanding task in and of itself, but it can catch a student off-guard when preparing for their driving test.

This may have something to do with how laid-back Mark’s lessons are. As he got to know me, most of each lesson was spent more on talking about life and cracking jokes (some dark, some cheesy). While he does make sure to go through the important aspects of each situation you face as you are driving, his more independent style of teaching may not suit a student looking for more detailed, intensive instruction.

The only other criticism I would have of Mark’s tuition is that, when initially setting up lessons with him, it was a challenge getting a hold of him. Since Homer’s Driving School is only a small school, most bookings take a little while to get through, whether by telephone or e-mail.

Once you do get a hold of Mark though, you will find your lessons are engaging, productive and most of all, fun! If you’re a beginner who lacks confidence behind the wheel, if you’re worried about what you need to know or what to be aware of, Mark can help you restore your confidence, and quickly make you an independent, natural driver.

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