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2. Provide timely and appropriate physical intervention

Physical intervention, generally speaking, should be used as a last resort. If the pupil has failed to respond to leading questions and command questions or to the agreed level of support you have provided, and the situation is now one where it is unsafe to continue in this course, you must intervene by way of talking physical control over the safety of the vehicle, using the most appropriate method. Where possible gently steer away from the danger or if necessary by using dual controls.

Physical intervention should, generally, only be used as a first resort to manage risk, where the situation doesn’t allow time for any verbal intervention. For example, the car rolling back on a hill, with vehicles close behind or a situation where an immediate impact has to be avoided, which couldn’t have been anticipated in advance.

It must be remembered that we are talking here about managing risk, not achieving a goal, where perhaps an agreed physical demonstration of the skills could enhance your client’s learning. The use of physical intervention as a first resort, on a regular basis, throughout the drive can undermine the pupil’s confidence and reinforce the ADI as the person who is in sole control of the lesson. Thus, weakening your client’s ability to take control over internal and external hazards as a driver.

The issue of control is discussed here in The Hermes Project (2007-2010):


If the learner feels the instructor is in control of the training, he will be encouraged to take a passive role in the training process. This feeling implies a hierarchy can also create anxiety in the learner because he feels he is constantly being judged. This anxiety can lead to defensiveness and other forms of resistance to learning. If the instructor presents himself as an equal and someone with whom the training can be tackled in partnership, the learner is likely to be more relaxed and more inclined to share his concerns and views with the instructor. This transition from a hierarchy to an equal relationship is recognised to be an important challenge for the HERMES project. Both are of the same value although the competencies of the coach and the coachee will vary. The attraction of telling (i.e imposing a hierarchy) is that, besides being quick and easy, it provides the instructor with the feeling of being in control. And being in control can be one of the most attractive aspects of the role of a driving instructor.

Use the agreed division of responsibility for risk to help guide you as to when it may be necessary to intervene. Wherever possible use verbal interventions such as leading questions, to keep the responsibility with the learner for managing risk or embedded commands if the leading questions fail to elicit an appropriate response. As a last resort intervene physically because either the pupil didn’t respond appropriately or because time does not permit the safety of the verbal intervention.

Whenever you intervene verbally or physically, then ensure you give sufficient feedback to your client so that they both understand the risks and the reason for intervention, whilst also helping them to consider any internal motivations that may have led to their actions and also the potential consequences of repeating this behaviour.

The DVSA ADI 1 outlines its competencies as follows:

Indications that all the elements of competence are in place include: 

  • intervening in a way that actively supports the pupil’s learning process and safety during the session

  • allowing the pupil to deal with situations appropriately

  • taking control of a situation where the pupil is out of their depth

Indications of lack of competence include:

  • ignoring a developing situation and leaving the pupil to flounder

  • Taking control of a situation the pupil is clearly dealing with appropriately

  • constantly intervening when unnecessary

  • intervening inappropriately and creating distractions

  • undermining the pupil’s confidence

  • reinforcing the ADI as the person who is in sole control of the lesson

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