Instructor Q&A - delivering the Honest Truth during lockdown

Neil Wightman has been a driving instructor and driver trainer for 12 years. We heard that he'd been delivering Honest Truth to his students online during the various lockdowns and were keen to find out more. Using an interview-style Q&A, we take a closer look to find out more. 

Q - How long have you been an Honest Truth Partner ADI?

A - I been involved with the Honest Truth for around three years now. Having been a retained firefighter for 17 years, I have a big passion for road safety. I believe that many of the incidents I attended could have been avoided had the drivers and passengers made better decisions. I know that I won't change the world, but I will have achieved my purpose if I make even a small difference.

Q - How have you adapted to the COVID situation by working with your students online?

A - When COVID struck, we entered into a new era. I could have just sat around and enjoyed the time off. Still, I readdressed my business opportunities with passion and decided to offer online theory training and soon began to trial the delivery of Honest Truth messages online. Bringing the students together in groups seemed more effective than 1-2-1 because you can provoke discussion around shared experiences. 

Q - What has the take-up been like from students?

A - During the first lockdown the take up was good, and we've run the online presentations ever since. It's been harder to motivate learners in this latest lockdown, but we've got 10 consistently joining the sessions. But we've now expanded the offering to another driving school where I'm a regional manager, Caledonian LDC. 

Q - Which of the THT materials/resources (if any) did you use in the sessions?

A - We use all ten presentations and videos and have added the Learn2Live videos from the emergency services. We also use the Truth Cards to track progress and discuss the MyCarMyRules cards too. It would be great to have a digital version of the Truth Cards for situations where we don't see the learners - one for the ideas box!

Q - How did the group-session format work?

A - The group sessions are hosted through Zoom. We create an event on our Y2 Learn Driver training Facebook group with the link to the session. Sessions are planned for an hour each, but with a half-hour buffer on each side in case we overrun. We invite all our students to the sessions, and they can pick and choose which they want to attend. This means we don't always get the same students at the same time, which I really like because learners are then able to work and sharing experiences with the different groups. 

Q - Did students open up about their attitudes and behaviours about the Truths?

A - We have found that the students are quiet at the start, but as we get into the session, they open up more and are willing to share their experiences and beliefs. Learners do make connections with the animal heads and pick out the negative traits associated with each behaviour. Discussion around attitudes tends to open up when we talk about the case study for each Truth.

Q - You mentioned that learners talk about their "beliefs". How did you accomplish this, and how do you feel it helped the discussion?

A - I believe that a lot of resistance to positive behaviours is rooted in flawed beliefs, but these can be changed. For example, beliefs around speed or seatbelt wearing start forming in childhood, sat in the back of a motor vehicle and watching what parents and family members do when they drive. If they speed or don't wear their seatbelt, that doesn't necessarily mean the child will grow up to repeat these mistakes, but these early experiences could still have an impact on their attitude toward the risks. 

Rather than getting into everyone's personal childhood experiences, I find it more useful to look objectively at an Honest Truth case study. This keeps the discussion neutral, whilst drawing on personal experiences, such as how the learner views role models' behaviour in relation to road risk.

Q - Were there any Truths you focused on, or which worked particularly well in the online sessions?

A - All the Truths have worked well, some resonate with learners better than others but the information is always taken in. The ones that I found worked best are mobile phones, speed, drink driving, drug driving, vulnerable road users, showing off and fatigue. I personally feel that when something resonates with someone, they are much more likely to pay close attention to and become more involved with discussions.

For efficiency, I've grouped the Truths together into these following sessions:

- Mobile Phones / Drink Driving

- Speed / Drug Driving

- Showing off / Seatbelts / Driving without insurance

- Vulnerable road users / Fatigue / Distractions

Q - When ADIs return to work following the current lockdown, there will be a large backlog of learners all wanting to get through lessons as quickly as possible. Do you feel THT is still a priority for learners or may this additional education be bypassed for the sake of expediency?

A  - We all need to make a living. After these periods of extended lockdown, it's hard to blame ADIs for wanting to be out on the road delivering as many lessons as possible. However, we also have a responsibility to keep learners safe in the long term, not just get them through their tests. Myself and Ross (one of my ADIs) continued delivering these online sessions, even when we were between lockdowns. They are really valuable, and learners seemed to get a lot out of them. We've both noticed that many of our learners ask whether it's normal to do these Honest Truth sessions, as their friends hadn't been offered them. So, we've now started inviting learners to bring a friend along too!

Ultimately, we'll get back to delivering Honest Truth as part of the driving lessons when things return to normal. Still, we've found engaging with students online during lockdown to have been a great success. It's good for us, it's good for them, and it's great for road safety.

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