Big driving ambition now reality

Everyone who has ever got behind the steering wheel of a motor vehicle for the first time has had that same feeling of trepidation.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 16th March 2016, 9:00 am
Driving instructors Brian and Mary Reid of Reid's Driver Training.
Driving instructors Brian and Mary Reid of Reid's Driver Training.

Even renowned motoring enthusiasts like Jeremy Clarkson and his Top Gear successor Chris Evans must have suffered those butterflies – or in Clarkson’s case, prehistoric moths – fluttering around in the old tummy as they checked their mirrors, released the hand brake and signalled to pull out into real live traffic.

For one Carronshore couple, witnessing young – and older – learner drivers go through this ordeal is a daily occurrence.

Mary and Brian Reid, founders of the area’s biggest independent driving school Reid’s Driver Training, have spent the last 12 years helping fledgling drivers gain enough confidence, skill and knowledge to pass their test and begin their own motoring adventures.

Mary (63) said: “I used to work in factories for electronic firms and they kept shutting down. So we decided to become driving instructors. It was something Brian wanted to try for a long time but wouldn’t get off his backside and actually do.

“I worked in America for a time with one of the electronic firms and I was showing people how to drive during that time. Someone said I was good at it and should consider doing it as a job.

“We trained through in Glasgow for a year-and-a-half. Once we qualified the guy who had been training us said we should put an advert in our local paper.”

And that is exactly what they did – running a competition in The Falkirk Herald in 2004 offering the winner ten free driving lessons.

Mary said: “We got 25 pupils from that story alone, since The Falkirk Herald passed us the names and addresses of all those who entered. We gave the winner ten free lessons and everyone else one free lesson.

“That’s how we started. We hoped it would turn out okay and 12 years on it has.”

The business has grown from just Mary herself to include husband Brian (63) and five more instructors, including one of Brian’s former students and an ex-butcher.

“When I started Reid’s Driver Training Brian was still working with the company we trained as instructors with – now he was training new instructors. Things started getting busy so he left and helped me full time.

“Brian and I are not company directors, we’re instructors too. We’re all workmates – we’re like a family really. We always have Christmas dinner together where the instructors can bring their partners along.

“We supply the instructors with shirts with the logo on it. Everyone is very smartly dressed, that is one of the things we do require. They are also fully qualified driving instructors.”

Mary has helped scores of people pass their driving test and she gets just as much out of the experience as they do.

“I enjoy meeting people. They actually become your friends. We still keep in touch with a lot of our former students. We have had hundreds and hundreds of pupils over the years and we have a good success rate.

“We always put up a picture of our students who pass on our Facebook page to celebrate their achievement. It’s a mixed age range – I think the oldest person we’ve taught was a lady in her 60s.

“Her husband was a long distance lorry driver. She had a problem with her left leg pushing the clutch so we taught her in an automatic and she passed. She now says her social life is better than ever.

“The freedom people get after they pass – it’s like the world is their oyster. We’ve had parents learn to drive with us and then, because they’ve had a good experience with us, they get their children to have lessons with us too.

“We’ve had parents thanking us for giving them their life back because they no longer have to run their children around.”

However, for every 10 success stories there are always a couple of students who might be better off taking public transport and relying on lifts.

Mary said: “To be honest there are some occasions you have to tell people they just won’t be able to drive. We’re not here to take their money – we’re here to get them through their driving test.

“I learned a long time ago you’ve got to watch what you say to pupils – you have to word things very carefully. If you tell someone to go straight at the roundabout then that’s what they will do – drive right over the middle of a roundabout.

“You usually know after about five or six lessons if someone is just not going to get it. We’ve had our fair share of characters over the years and you have a lot of banter.

“We teach people how to drive properly and safely. You see some people out on the road just now who are horrible drivers. People don’t keep up with the Highway Code and they should because signs and laws are always changing.

“There’s not a week that goes by that we don’t have someone cut us up on that Earls Gate Roundabout in Grangemouth.”