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Driver Types

“Driving Instructor would be perfect job – without the students”, I like to joke. Dealing with people all day is very demanding. The constant flow of different personalities, moody, quiet and rigid one lesson, outgoing, noisy and talkative the next ,is very draining.

Why is it that some pupils answer the door, then go back inside to put their shoes on? Others are waiting on the footpath, even in drizzling rain, eagerly anticipating their driving lesson. One student says ‘sorry every time they make a mistake, while others questions everything to the point of arguing.

The following article looks at the four basic personality types and what to expect from each during a driving lesson.

The Thinker (Melancholic type)

Before meeting William you knew he had a melancholic personality because he had booked five double lessons in the first week. He tells you he wants to learn properly, which means he expects perfection. At the posh school William attended they showed car-crashes as part of their driver education. The graphics affected William to the point that he took five years to find the courage to enrol for driving lessons.

Teach him to apply the handbrake firmly and you will have trouble releasing it, when you drive away to your next lesson. A thinker type does not waste many words. To lighten the conversation you ask if he plays sport. After a long silence, as if you had asked him about the meaning of life, his answer consists of one word only – tennis.

Being a logical thinker, it is best to explain things methodically to William. His exact mind will love pull-push steering, the System of Car Control or the Moving-off procedure. His parallel parking is spot on. Traffic situations, which involve judgment, lane changing, turning onto a busy road etc, take longer to learn. Judgment cannot be learned with a formula. Forever analyzing and striving to get it right hinders Williams decision making and slows his progress. Because melancholic personalities are quiet and give the appearance of being upset, instructors often try to cheer them up, quiet unnecessarily.

Despite his apparent lack of feedback William’s computer brain has stored the information learned. He will turn out a good-no-nonsense driver. A lesson with William seems to drag on. The instructor may get tired hearing his/her own voice. Don’t let this stress you. Our next pupil, Jane, has some fun in store.

The Actress (Sanguine type)

Jane’s easy-going, talkative personality has gained her many friends. She had plenty of driving experience with them and wont’ usually need many lessons. She grasps concepts quickly, but cant’ be bothered with detail. During a lesson she might spot a friend, driving or walking on the footpath. This gets her all excited. She will try to get their attention. Sanguine personalities love people and being on stage. A bus stop of waiting passengers or motorists, stopped at traffic lights provide ready audience. Suddenly the windscreen wipers start operating in bright sunshine, indicators flash right, then left, then right again. (“How do I turn them off?”) The accidental tap on the horn gets heads turning in our direction.

These are just acts in the screenplay. What fun we are having! Jane just brushes it all off in her happy-go-lucky style, while the instructor feels like tearing his hair out, if there are any left to do so. (Depends, how many Janes he has survived!). Don’t stress! Just join the laughter. The lecture about a dry windscreen ruining the wiper blades can come later. Why spoil Jane’s fun?

When the show is over Jane will charm him with praise for the expert tuition, given so patiently. (How we love to hear it!) Lessons with the Janes of this world are seldom boring and time goes fast. She will be one of those surprising you with a little kiss on the cheek, after passing her test.

The Goer (Choleric type)

Jim’s focused, confident approach is a real challenge to the instructor, who may have trouble keeping up with Jim’s pace. Before the instructor has time to outline the lesson, Jim has already completed the cabdrill and is asking: Where do you want me to go?” This confidence can be misinterpreted as cockiness. Jim in his quest for knowledge asks lots of questions. He may even argue on some points. The instructor wonders, who is teaching who?

It is best to keep the goer on the go. Jim hates just driving around and gets bored easily. Rather invent challenges such as: “See if you can get four out of six turns to licence test standard” or, “try and park correctly twice in a row “or, “see it you would pass your test with this three point turn.”

His competitive nature makes him excel. There is a tendency to pick on the slightest fault to counteract Jim’s overconfidence. Deep down you will find he is rather touchy and may get discourage with too much criticism. Driving too fast is one flaw in his confident driving. Jim is goal-oriented and tends to take risks. These attributes make him a top achiever in sport or at school, but on the road he has to learn to keep his ambitions under control. An instructor has to be patient with Jim’s impatience. The focus should stay on Jim’s good points. In time Jim will slow down and form a more realistic view of his abilities or lack thereof.

Our last customer, Clare, will bring us back to a slower pace.

The Peacemaker (Phlegmatic type)

As a child Clare was very quiet, causing no trouble. She is still eager to please others, including her instructor. Her gently, peace loving nature hates being under any kind of pressure. She has a controlled, even temper and even if the instructor raisers his or her voice,
Clare seems to not even notice. Ask her if she finds it hard to make decisions, she’ll reply:” “Yes and no.” Clare is content by being led by her instructor, who must be careful not to stay equally content to just tell her what do and when to do it. This may avoid stress in both, but progress will be very slow.

Where Jim, the goer, had to learn that the accelerator can get him into big trouble, Clare needs to experience that speed can also get her out of trouble. Staying calm, when a truck behind only avoided a crash by braking sharply, is dangerous ignorant bliss. Waiting behind a bus, stopped at a bus stop, may show great patience. But what if the bus driver is having his lunch? It is a delicate balancing act between pushing Jane to progress or letting her learn in her own way, ever so slowly. Any ambition an instructor has to teach a learner in record time, should not attempt it with a phlegmatic type student. It may turn them off driving completely.

Clare will never become a racing driver. Yet, her steadfast, dependable nature should keep her from causing car crashes. any mishaps would be more likely caused by her lack of awareness of the world around her.


Very few people are pure Williams, Janes Jims or Clares. Most of us have a mixture of two or three personalities. Other factors, which influence our behaviour, must be considered: self-image, upbringing, environment etc. To assume that a learner, who operates the windscreen wipers accidentally is an actor-type, may be wrong. (They may have been driving in the family BMW or Merc?). But equal folly would be to treat a thinker-type like an actor or try to push a peacemaker beyond their comfort zone.

A skilful instructor knows his own personality and that oh his pupil and applies his/her teaching around it.

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