Teach­ing from the pas­sen­ger’s seat

Morne de Lange’s job in­volves putting his life in the hands of learner driv­ers. Re­porter Elesha Ed­monds talks to the driv­ing in­struc­tor about what it’s like teach­ing from the pas­sen­ger’s seat.

Central Leader - - NEWS -

Ner­vous driv­ers, near misses, un­in­tended ac­cel­er­a­tion and the dreaded par­al­lel park.

It’s easy to see how train­ing learner driv­ers can be a night­mare for some par­ents.

Yet for Morne de Lange, 33, teach­ing oth­ers how to drive is a pas­sion he has turned into a ca­reer.

The Hills­bor­ough res­i­dent has been an in­struc­tor for A1 Driv­ing School for six years.

De Lange cred­its his per­son­al­ity for help­ing him to stay calm when teach­ing out on the road.

‘‘Be­ing pa­tient re­ally helps, I guess,’’ he says. ‘‘One of the guys said: ‘ What does it take to get you an­gry? Be­cause I’ve been try­ing all this time’. If some­one keeps yelling at you then you are not go­ing to be learn­ing.’’

De Lange ad­mits his pa­tience has been tested, par­tic­u­larly by his part­ner whom he says is his most dif­fi­cult stu­dent.

‘‘I got her through to her re­stricted and she’s still on that.

‘‘We got to the point that I said: ‘If you want to go for your full li­cence then let me know and I’ll put you in touch with some­one be­cause we will end up split­ting up’.’’

Be­fore be­com­ing

a

driv­ing Be­ing pa­tient re­ally helps, I guess in­struc­tor, De Lange was in the UK for four years as a sup­port worker for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

His favourite mem­ory of the job was tak­ing some of his pa­tients to watch car rac­ing and then or­gan­is­ing to be driven around the track.

‘‘They got a cou­ple of laps around the tracks. Th­ese guys are wheel­chair bound and can’t move with­out you so they loved that.’’

De Lange, who is orig­i­nally from South Africa, also helps run train­ing cour­ses for taxi driv­ers who deal with cus­tomers in wheel­chairs.

Help­ing peo­ple is what he finds most re­ward­ing about his work.

‘‘When some­one passes a test you can al­ways think back to the first time they sat in the car and were so wor­ried and ner­vous.’’

The fa­ther-of-two re­alised the value of his work af­ter teach­ing a young man to drive who had lost friends in a drink-driv­ing ac­ci­dent.

‘‘The his­tory that some­one has is im­por­tant for how you teach them to drive be­cause he was ner­vous and jumpy,’’ he says.

‘‘I trained him through to pass­ing his re­stricted test and now he is the per­son who has been on TV and has been re­spon­si­ble for ad­vo­cat­ing the breathal­yser in­ter­locks in the cars.’’

De Lange also works as a vol­un­teer at the In­sti­tute of Ad­vanced Mo­torists, which is a char­ity that pro­motes road safety through ad­vanced driver train­ing.

He’s the chief ex­am­iner of cars in New Zealand and is re­spon­si­ble for mak­ing sure the stan­dard for ad­vanced driv­ing tests and ex­am­in­ers are kept up to scratch.

De­spite spend­ing his days in the pas­sen­ger seat, De Lange says he usu­ally tries to avoid driv­ing.

‘‘We cover 1000 kilo­me­tres a week so if I don’t have to drive I’ll let some­one else drive.’’

He doesn’t plan to stop teach­ing any time soon.

‘‘The thing with be­ing an in­struc­tor is it’s pretty much like be­ing a chef. Ev­ery­one’s got to eat, like ev­ery­one’s got to drive.’’

Photo: ELESHA ED­MONDS / FAIR­FAX NZ

Morne De Lange, 33, has worked as a driv­ing in­struc­tor in Auck­land for six years.

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