Woman Driving Instructors
could make the difference
Alison runs a Sinclair Automatic from her home in Wallington and has been a driving instructor for more than 30 years.
It's a foul, rainy day when I meet her - hardly the best conditions for going for a spin - and I have no idea what to expect.
I have never been in a car with a female instructor before, and friends have told me horror stories about male instructors who yelled at them on a lesson, reducing them to a gibbering wreak behind the wheel.
Even I have my licence now, instructors fill me with dread - I hated the experience of learning to drive. But Alison immediately puts me at ease.
She's soft spoken, chatty and friendly, and she doesn't look as if she'd lose her patience with anyone.
As we take a short drive to her home it's clear that she loves her job and gets a real buzz from helping people to pass their test.
In fact the only thing that seems to annoy Alison is some people's attitude to learner drivers on the road.
"When I've got the L plates on I often find drivers try more to overtake me and are in more of a hurry to get past. Putting pressure on learners only makes them more nervous and slower to get going."
More women than ever are taking their driving test, with five woman learning to drive for every three men.
But female driving instructors are still a rare breed, and in majority of cases learners are taught by a man.
As we chat over a cup of coffee, Alison tells me that this may be due to the stress of the job and the fact that driving instructors often have to work unsociable hours.
"It involves a lot of organisation - I'm a single parent with a young son so I try to work as much as I can during the day while he's at school."
Alison made the decision to become an instructor simply because she wanted a change.
She had always enjoyed driving, and fancied something completely different after 13 years of working in an office. After passing the rigorous tests needed to become an instructor, Alison successfully set up her own driving school, which employed both male and female instructors, before continuing on her own a year ago.
Most of her students are female, although she does have one man on her books.
"I like woman's company and a lot of female learners prefer to be taught by woman because it often puts them more at ease. All drivers are different, but women tend to be over-cautious, while men are usually more reckless and drive faster. Most men have no problem being taught by a woman, but occasionally they think they know more than I do.I sort that one out by showing them where they'd fail if they took a test."
Although Alison admits that she's taught a few Maureens along the way, she says she's grateful to the star of the BBC TV's Driving School docu-soap for boosting her business
She said:"I haven't had anyone quite as bad as Maureen, but it has made some women feel that if she can do it,they can. I teach on a automatic car, and there has been a lot of requests for them, especially since Maureen passed by learning with one."
Alison would like to encourage other woman to take up the challenge and become a driving instructor.
"Woman are in demand - they should give it a go."
More information about becoming a Driving Instructor