What is the scariest thing about growing up? If you ask us, other than paying taxes, learning to drive outweighs most of life's heart racing challenges. Being put in control of a moving piece machinery that travels among the public can keep any inexperienced driver up at night.
On the other hand, how do you think the person in the passenger seat feels? If there is anything scarier than learning how to drive, it is teaching it. Driving instructors who survived a lesson or two that they feared could have been their last shared the experience on Reddit. These are the stories of their worst students.
"I had a student run three red lights in a row.
'I thought I could make it through the yellow in time,' she would say.
THREE TIMES. We had a discussion about unnecessary risk.
I had a another student get into a road rage situation with the driver of a large pickup. He actually rolled down the window and started screaming at the guy in the lane next to us. The pickup guy ran him off the road into a ditch. The student had trouble understanding why I ended the lesson early.
Another student asked if I had any pot or if I could buy adult beverages for him.
"I was a driving instructor while in college. It was interesting since I wasn't that much older than the students. One day, I was on a lesson with a young lady. We were only driving for a little while when she asked to go home because she felt sick. I asked her if she wanted me to drive. She said no. Not one minute later, she puked what looked like SpaghettiOs all over the dash, steering wheel, her, and the seat.
I rolled down my window and rode Ace Ventura style, trying to get fresh air. I yelled (because my head was outside the car) for her to pull over. Once pulled over, I jumped out and look around in the trunk for paper towels. Nothing! I got back in and asked her if she could drive back home. She really had no choice, so she drove back covered in puke with me gagging the whole time. Before we got to her house, she rips off her puke covered sweatshirt and is then driving with just a sports bra on. As soon as we got into her driveway, she starts crying and ran inside.
What the heck? Crying teenage girl. Sports bra. Puke. OMG.
Her mom came out and asked what the heck was going on. I showed her the car and she just said, 'Ewww.' I asked the mom for some cleanup assistance. The mom went inside and returned with a couple trash bags. She told me to put them on the seat. I then proceeded to drive back to the driving school in a puke covered car. I called the owner and told him the car needed a good detailing. He didn't listen. The next time I went to pick up the car, it was still dirty. I called the owner again. He said he sprayed Febreeze inside so it should have been all set."
"My instructor told me about a kid who came up to a roundabout. They had to go off the exit directly across it, so instructor said, 'Go straight over.'
Well, they went straight over. Needless to say, he doesn't use that phrase anymore."
"For my Drivers Ed, we had to do 12 hours of lessons and 12 hours of observation. You would get picked up at your house, the student would move to the back, and you would take the driver's seat and drive them home toward the end of the lesson.
One time, I was driving and we went to pick up this boy. We got there and I moved to the backseat. He lived in a dead end neighborhood. It was one of his first lessons, but not his first. This kid could not even figure out how to back out of the driveway. He tried to back out and turn onto the road for a good 15 minutes with the instructor directing him. After the 15 minutes, he asked if he practiced with his mom and he said no. The instructor cancels his lesson and told him he needed to practice in the neighborhood or an empty parking lot before he could take him out on the road. The instructor drove me home, but signed off in my observation, even though I didn't actually do it.
A few weeks later, we picked the same boy up again. He managed to get out of the driveway with only a little trouble. We eventually turned into a neighborhood full of huge, beautiful Victorian houses. This kid took the widest right turn I have ever seen. By some witchcraft, he went over the side walk, into the yard, and came about six inches from hitting this rich person's house. We were going under 20 mph.
The instructor went up to the house and had a conversation with the owner who, as far as I knew, wasn't too upset. He got back into the car, made the boy get into the back seat, and said that he would drive me home and sign off my observation again because it just wasn't safe."
"My driving instructor told me about her worst student. Apparently, his car was absolutely filthy, with used tissues and all sorts things everywhere. He claimed he just needed one or two lessons to ready him for the test, but mounted the curb immediately when trying to drive off. He spent most of the lesson ranting about his ex-girlfriend, who seemed to have been two separate people, somehow.
After the lesson, he told her he had something to show her. At that point, she was seriously on edge and had already decided he would not get any further lessons from her. He walked around to the boot of the car. She literally expected a dead body or something. Instead, he handed her about 50 religious pamphlets and asked her if she had ever met Jesus.
She legged it out of there and made her sister call him to tell him she would not be able to offer him more lessons."
"My driving instructor told me about girl who got confused between the brake and the gas. She slammed the gas, thinking it was the break, in the parking lot and they took off into a classroom trailer. Despite the instructor hitting his brake, the car was totaled, as was the classroom. They walked away without a scratch and he left his career as a driving instructor."
"When I was relatively new to the job, I had a student who did not know she had to slow down when approaching a turn and took turns at around 30 mph and didn't look at where she was turning before she began the turn.
This resulted in us turning left at about 25 mph, but she hadn't realized that there was a median dividing the lane we should have turned into and oncoming traffic's lanes. We turned so fast, I didn't realize what was happening until we turned into oncoming traffic with a car coming right at us head on. I hit my brake and yanked the steering wheel. We ended up parked halfway up on the center median, fortunately avoiding hitting anyone or anything.
She was obviously terrified and we spent the whole next lesson in a large empty parking lot talking about how to safely make a turn."
"I instruct for an exotic car company that does weekend track days in their supercars. One day, this guy showed up, boasting about how he was an amazing driver and how he had won all these races. So, we hopped in his rental, which was a McLaren 12c. The dude immediately hammered the gas in the pit lane. I yelled at him that we were in the pit lane and to slow down.
'It's OK,' he said. 'I know what I'm doing.'
Second, he drove balls to the wall with one hand on the wheel trying to look cool for the 21-year-old driving instructor (me). I kept telling him, 'Both hands on the wheel.' Finally, we come around a curve and the dude almost slides the car into the wall at 120 mph. The car handles amazingly and, if he had made the proper race line, we could have made it fine. Luckily, I pulled the wheel and counter steered for him and pulled the car straight.
I yelled at him to stop the car and told him his track day was over. We swapped seats, I drove him back to the pits, and told my boss what he did. My boss talked to the guy and he told him that I was a bad instructor, that I probably didn't know how to drive, and how he was such a 'great race car driver.' Well, my boss offered him a hot lap with me driving. He jumped in the car and said, 'This'll be good.'
I cruised out of the pit and I was on it, hitting the perfect lines, hitting 175 on the straights, and driving on the edge of traction. When we pulled back in, the dude hopped out looking like he was about to throw up. He immediately left without talking to anyone."
"My uncle taught driving school. He said that the worst day of teaching driving happened when he was teaching a girl how to pump gas. She pulled the pump out, but still had the handle squeezed. She sprayed my uncle head-to-toe with gasoline."
"I am a driving instructor for an amateur racing and track day organization. This was, by no means, the most dangerous situation I have been in with a student, but it was perhaps the most horrifying.
We were coming into the first corner after the safety lap. As we approached the student braking zone, I casually instructed him to let off the gas and start to slow down to prep for the corner. He sort of hesitated for a couple of seconds, which is totally normal for someone new to track days, which is why we use a large margin of error when instructing where to brake, turn, and apply throttle.
But then, instead of braking, he floored the gas again, quickly approaching the actual minimum braking zone. I quickly started my, 'Brake, Brake, Brake! Brake!! BRAKE!!' routine that you will hear in most student/instructor track day videos, and he finally started applying the brake. But, it came far too late and with nowhere near the amount of pressure he needed to make the corner.
At that point we, were flying at 90 mph into a 30 mph corner. I firmly told him to 'put both feet in!' (brake and clutch) and not to death grip the wheel, in case we clipped another car or hit a wall. When one of the front wheels hits an immovable or hard object, it yanks the steering-wheel out of your hand. If you grip it too tight, it will break both of your wrists. He did neither, and continued to drive right off the pavement into the gravel pit after the corner.
Thank God this track had reasonable run off areas on most of its corners because we had a good 10 feet of gravel between us and the tire wall before we finally came to a complete stop. With the car only stalled and the tires about eight inches deep in loose gravel, it honestly wasn't the worst accident I have been in with a student, but closer than anyone likes to get to a wall.
I was trying to understand what his thought process was, since he drove to the track and, obviously, he made it there without careening off the road.
'So what do you think went wrong there?' I simply asked him with a calm tone.
Often, the students realize their basic mistakes as they are making them and getting them to say it out loud and acknowledge it helps with our communication by keeping everything out in the open and not being embarrassed or nervous about messing up. But, instead of admitting he hesitated and panicked, I kid you not, he just said, with a big half grin on his face, 'I was just trying to scare you.'
I was taken aback, unable to tell if he was joking or not, but it became apparent that he truly did not believe he did anything wrong, even belittling me for being a 'pansy.' After we got towed back to the paddock, I went to the event director, explained the situation, and asked to have a different student. I didn't see him the rest of the weekend and haven't since.
My own and everyone else's safety on the track should not be taken lightly and his failure to admit any mistake was extremely concerning. Trying to show off or do something dangerous on purpose is the fastest way to get banned from a track event, since the act of driving a car near its limits already has it's dangers without someone trying to cause an accident. It is one thing to make a mistake, learn, and grow. In fact, people lose control pretty frequently at track days and it is not usually a big deal and people rarely get seriously injured. But, if someone is not willing to learn or at least accept fault and try to correct it, then they are a danger to themselves and everyone else.
I now inform all of my new students that intentionally losing control of the vehicle for any reason is grounds for expulsion from the event and possible denial from any future events. So far, I haven't had anyone attempt murder-suicide since. Safety comes first guys."