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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Mindfulness and how it can help you and your pupils

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Driving instructors, Driving test, Resources for instructors


We know that 1 in 10 people who fail their driving test say the main reason was because they were nervous on the day. A third of people who have passed their test say that they still feel nervous while driving.

In this blog post, San Harper will explain how a mindfulness-based approach can help you in your work as an approved driving instructor (ADI) and about how it can support your pupils with managing their nerves.

San is an ADI of 18 years from Gloucester. She’s also an accredited mindfulness teacher, and she’s brought the 2 disciplines together with great results.

What is mindfulness?

Over the last 5 years, mindfulness has become more mainstream. It’s estimated that 5,000 trained teachers in England have delivered mindfulness training with their pupils in schools. It supports the pupils with their mental health and wellbeing and helping prepare for exams .

Recent research stated, “studies have found that drivers who tend to be naturally more mindful tend to have lower engagement with distracting activities while driving, reduced driving anger, lower risk, and increased safety behaviours”.

Mindfulness is defined as an awareness that arises through paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally. It’s about being an observer and ‘turning towards’ what is happening.

Mindfulness helps develop listening skills, increases ability to stay calm and understand emotions, develop a deeper sense of kindness and compassion for ourselves and others, and manage physical and psychological difficulties.

I found learning mindfulness to be so transformative my personal life that I began to integrate it into my work as an ADI and went on to set up the Guild of Mindfulness Trainers.

How mindfulness works in driving lessons

One of the main mindfulness techniques in my driving lessons is the ‘grounding practice’ which I begin my lessons with when appropriate.

One of the first things I do is just give my pupil a moment to settle and then get them to focus on their breath to bring awareness to all of their senses. Our breath is the only thing we can do in the moment. We can’t breathe yesterday. We can’t breathe tomorrow.

The grounding practice brings them into the present moment.

If the pupil gets stressed later on or something challenging happens during the lesson, we can pull over and repeat the grounding practice.

The grounding practice is also a great exercise to do with pupils on the day of their driving test.

San Harper, with a quote that says "Mindfulness has made me a more compassionate ADI"

Mindfulness helps with test nerves

Mindfulness practise is absolutely making a difference with my pupils, especially with nerves which are one of the biggest factors in not passing. Nerves are when you go into a fear response your brain just goes offline. It affects your memory and your cognitive function.

Mindfulness has helped my pupils in many ways, including:

  • managing their nerves
  • overcoming repeated difficulties with particular elements of operating the car
  • dealing with other motorist’s road rage
  • processing anger about not learning at a pace they expected

One pupil told me that she’s even used the techniques she’d learned in her driving lessons with me, to help her deal with a difficult interaction at work.

Mindfulness can help you cope with the hard parts of the job

Learning mindfulness helps you to manage better and cope with the difficult parts of the job. It can help with stress, managing chronic pain, diary management, organisation, and relationships with pupils, road users and other people.

If you bring your own stress and anxiety into the car and that lesson, on a subconscious level you’re sharing that with that pupil. You might not even be aware of it, but it will impact them. Mindfulness helps with that.

It’s also good for business

In analysis of positive customer reviews for ADIs, the attributes learners deemed most effective within training were ADIs who were:

  • patient / calming
  • confident
  • communicative
  • reassuring / supportive
  • respectful

These attributes overlap completely with the definitions of mindfulness qualities.

As more and more young people are learning mindfulness at school, many of them will already be aware of what it is and how it can help when they come to start learning to drive and choosing an ADI.

Find out more about mindfulness

Mindfulness is a practice, you can’t learn it quickly or cognitively. There is a difference between having the knowledge and having the practice, but there is still a benefit in learning about what it is.

If you want to learn more about how mindfulness can help you, your business and your pupils there are plenty of resources you can check out:

There is more help on managing emotions, anxiety and stress in The Official DVSA Guide to Better Driving (use our campaign discount code ‘TT25’ and save 25% when you order the guide online)

Please share your thoughts, ideas and comments on this subject in the comments.

And remember, any research you do about mindfulness counts as continuing professional development. So keep a record of what you do.

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  1. Comment by posted on

    You would be better of making sure ever signal student has a minimum 45 tuition rather than this nonsense.

  2. Comment by Jay posted on

    This reading opens up a lot of doors i.e. The tools used can help you with other situations in life.

  3. Comment by James Hutton posted on

    I've been practicing mindfulness now for about 5 years and, like my colleague, find it very beneficial. I tend to use it to help a pupil think in a more positive way. For example if I see a pupil waiting nervously at a Set of lights I might say to them. "I bet your thinking you are going to stall". I then suggest they think about the process of setting off, set gas, find biting point etc. This mental shift almost always works. what we think we become!

  4. Comment by Hamid Ghadamian posted on

    Very interesting, have always looked for ways to refocus students after a SF or calm them before a test.
    Definitely going to read more.

  5. Comment by Zakaria posted on

    Intresting subject,
    I always tell my students to take deep breath and relux then they can focus on their driving

  6. Comment by Gordon Clark posted on

    IMO If the instructor is calm during a lesson then, the student will be calm. All too often I hear students say, my previous instructor shouted at me, called me stupid, totally destroying the students confidence. If mindfulness works then it is well worth it for both parties.

  7. Comment by adrian wheelan posted on

    But the BBC say mindfulness does not work for teenagers, who are about 90% of my pupils.