Governing Committee member Charles Moffat has kindly written the following piece for us.
We all know that the current crisis involving COVID 19 has presented unprecedented challenges for the Government, the National Health Service (NHS) and almost all businesses and their customers.
The only real measure to reduce the spread of the virus and many thousands of deaths is to prevent its transmission between individuals. Although it can be contracted by touching contaminated surfaces, by far the highest method of transmission is by the inhalation of droplets coughed, sneezed or exhaled by an infected person. That is why the ‘Lockdown’ was imposed.
In an ideal world I am sure that the medical and scientific advice would be for us all to remain indoors at home and have food, medication and other necessities ‘teleported’ in. However, that is not possible, and the economy needs to at least ‘tick over’. Therefore, the Government had to keep Key Workers working, not just in the NHS but also in vital infrastructure such as some manufacturing, distribution, certain shops, finance and communication. I am sure that on occasions some of the people have been encouraged to work and exposed to a higher risk of infection albeit, mitigating actions were taken to reduce this such as the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
In England, the Government passed legislation restricting people to remain at home except in specific circumstances and directed a list of businesses to close. There are differences in other parts of the United Kingdom.
Driving Instructors were not on the list of businesses directed to close, but out of recognition of duties under Health and Safety Legislation to both customers and to the driving instructors, and to common sense industry leaders concluded that in the close confinement of a car, it clearly was not safe to continue with lessons even when mitigating measures were implemented.
That said, the Government recognised that many Key Workers need to drive either to get to or to perform their work. So, the DVSA published their Standard Operating Procedures for their examiners for the key workers when taking test and directed that it also be used for ADIs. This restricted driving examiners and therefore ADI’s to the delivery of test and lessons solely to Key Workers with a booked emergency test. There was an increased risk to those involved, but mitigating measures reduced it as best as possible. Individual driving instructors have to consider their own clinical vulnerability and that of their customers to determine if it is safe for them to undertake such lessons.
All theory tests and routine driving tests were suspended.
The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has published data about the risk to ADI’s of contracting generic disease (not specifically COVID 19). This placed them as high risk in terms of proximity but relatively low in terms of frequency. In other words, it may not be encountered that frequently, but it is highly likely to be infected if it is.
As the Government has gradually announced an easing of restrictions some driving instructors have interpreted them as a ‘green light’ to resume normal lessons. They have chosen to regard there to be
• No restriction because everyone who cannot work from home and not listed to close can resume
• Permission to resume because ADI’s are part of those working in vehicles Government Guidance Vehicles 11th May updated 25th May
• Permission to resume because ADI’s are part of other retail Government Guidance Shops & Branches 25th May
Truthfully, none of these fit the sector exactly and so greater clarity is needed. Not all ADIs hold these views and the whichever sector of business we may be in, to resume driving lessons will require a careful risk assessment and the implementation of various mitigating actions to minimise risk to a level considered acceptable to the Health & Safety Executive, customers and the ADIs. This is where the biggest differences in opinion lie between ADIs.
In every case the work environment must be assessed to be safe for all concerned. This is the primary requirement.
The ADINJC has sought and considered advice on numerous mitigating actions that could be taken from PPE to screens. The conclusion of the ADINJC is that this cannot currently be achieved due to the proximity to and duration of time with our clients, no matter what PPE or cleaning regime are used.
The ADINJC has considered seeking expert legal or scientific advice on the strict position in law and the epidemiological risks but this is considered to be extremely costly, likely to provide more than one opinion and not prompt.
The organisations representing driving instructors, including the ADINJC and NASP have been lobbying the Government and DVSA strongly for clarity whether any of the Guidance issued on returning to work and the use of mitigating actions to reduce risk applies to our industry sector. Two recent statements by the DVSA outlined their position:
• We advise driving instructors to limit instruction to key workers preparing for an essential driving test. We are keeping this under review and will provide further information as soon as we can.
• Using the latest Government guidance, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is working closely with the Approved Driving Instructors National Association Strategic Partnership (NASP) to develop appropriate plans and control measures. The DVSA will keep the situation under review and provide further information over the next few weeks.
The majority of ADIs are self-employed businesses and must make their own decisions (in consultation with franchises where applicable), but our advice is not to resume general lessons at present.
The Government passed legislation restricting movement and guidance about when it is acceptable for people to leave home.
People identified as being high risk include the clinically extremely vulnerable who have been advised to shield together with the clinically vulnerable (over 70 or with pre-existing conditions) were advised to and should continue to follow existing guidance and remain at home where possible.
Others should still ensure that they stay at home as much as possible and keep two metres apart from anyone outside of the house.
It is permissible to leave home for
• Shopping (extended to include garden centres and no doubt on 1st and 15th June the relevant businesses newly listed)
• Exercise (including travel and meeting one person in the open air in a public place)
• Caring for others
• Medical Needs
• Work and family
(A really full and good explanation of these terms can be found at Leaving Home and Essential Travel).
So, leaving home for a driving lessons (unless a key worker with a test booked) is not permissible. It may be permissible for any learner to practice if supervised privately and on route to one of the purposes deemed to be allowable, but not if the primary purpose is the driving practice.
This remains the case even though recent announcements will no doubt lead to an extension of the permitted reasons to leave home.
A driving lesson is neither essential nor permissible. The decision to breach the legislation or guidance will be a matter for the customer, but we are aware that the Police have been stopping some ADIs who they think may be teaching.
If you would like to join the ADINJC there is more information on our website.
Whilst our newsflashes are normally a benefit of membership of the ADINJC, during this national emergency we want to share information as widely as possible, so please feel free to pass this on. We are stronger together.
The NJC continues to be dedicated to help you in these challenging times and we hope you and your loved ones stay safe and healthy. Please feel free to contact us for help and support.
ADINJC’s helpline is 0800 8202 444
The Secretary’s number is 07855 453414
HMRC Helpline: 0800 0159 559
Citizens Advice Bureau – https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/health/coronavirus-what-it-means-for-you/
You can sign up to receive Government updates on Coronavirus relating to driving tests here.
The ADINJC is a national association run by ADIs on a not-for-profit basis. We work tirelessly to inform, represent and support our members, and to promote the interests of our profession.