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