Confessions of a driving instructor: 'I'm quite used to accidents'
Over the last 30 years, Mr John Goh has got into at least three road accidents per year.
The 50-year-old says: "I'm quite used to accidents."
But Mr Goh is not a terrible driver by any stretch of the imagination.
Quite the opposite.
His job as a private driving instructor makes him responsible for the safe driving habits of more than 2,000 drivers, who were his students.
"I am always on alert whenever I sit beside a new learner," says Mr Goh, adding that he has to show confidence in his student's driving abilities so that they would, in turn, be confident enough to drive.
But there are times when that confidence is a mere facade. Deep inside, Mr Goh is already "mentally prepared for an accident".
In his 30 years of teaching experience, he has seen all sorts of students including the nervous, the slow and the downright silly. Also common are street racer-types who think they know it all.
Mr Goh admits that there is always fear in his job - at least when instructors meet their students for the first time.
Last week, his Toyota Vios was rear-ended by another car while his student was at the wheel.
The veteran instructor quickly checked for injuries, snapped pictures of the damage and negotiated a settlement between both parties. He also ensures that the student stays calm.
"A good instructor must also be encouraging. Some road users are quick to blame new learners but they forget that they are still new to the roads. I have to protect them."
Mr Goh charges $45 for each 90-minute lesson and each student typically undergoes around 20 lessons.
"A stern instructor who is not encouraging or constructive cannot be a good teacher. If all you do is scold and point out mistakes, no one will want to recommend you to other learners.
"In this line, our reputation as teachers matters," says Mr Goh.
Most of his students seek his services through word-of-mouth. Many also find him through his agency, Le Driving Instructors, a service which matches students to instructors for free.
Every news story about road accidents upsets him, especially when bad driving habits are blamed.
"I cannot help but feel responsible. My job is to make sure students drive safely, but after they get their licence, it's beyond our control."
He believes the problem lies in the mentality behind driving instruction here.
"It's a fact that all learners want from us is the quickest and surest way to pass the driving test on their first attempt," he says.
Mr Goh reveals that this has caused many driving instructors to concentrate on helping students to pass rather than drive properly.
The result is that after drivers pass the test, they grow complacent and start driving by "instinct" rather than what they should have been taught.
Mr Goh says: "Instructors should put students through more structured learning.
"Unfortunately, that's not what students want as it means more lessons, more time needed and higher fees."
Mr Goh hopes that driving schools can continue to raise the standard of teaching, though he believes it is difficult.
He says: "Many instructors are in it just because there is good money to be made. Their heart's not in it."
SECRETS OF THE TRADE
1 Assess the student drivers’ abilities and nerves before they take the wheel. Carry on with the lesson only when they are in the right state of mind to drive.
2 To avoid being accused of molestation, always carry a laser pointer as a teaching aid, especially when instructing a female student.
3 Mistakes are inevitable but they can also be the greatest lesson for the student. Do not make that experience negative by assigning blame.