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 an instructor years ago. A woman in her 40s said she wanted some practice driving on the freeway. She was driving well in the city. As we headed to the freeway, no red flags as I went over the basics of freeway driving. We got up to speed and merged well. I asked her to signal and change to the next lane over. At 100kmh, she turned the wheel as if attempting to make a sharp turn.
Luckily, I grabbed the wheel before we lost complete control and had to steer the car to the next exit. At least it was more exciting than teaching people to parallel park for hours on end. I think her fear of driving on the freeway was so great that the extra adrenaline shorted out her brain. She was like a deer caught in headlights. I am pretty sure I told her after that she would be better off just sticking with city streets."
"My driving instructor friend told me about the time he took out a 16-year-old kid on his first lesson. About 10 minutes, in he was driving along and there was a pigeon in the middle of the road.
'Should I swerve?' the kid asked.
He told him not to worry and that the bird would fly out of the way. Unfortunately, this was not the quickest pigeon and the kid ended up hitting and killing the bird. Long story short, the kid was a vegan and freaked out, screaming at my friend, telling him it was his fault and he was going to swerve and he told him not too. The kid was so worked up, he had to pull over and have the guy drive him home while he was crying about the bird. Not a great first time driving a car."
"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."
"I asked my mom what her experiences have been as a driving instructor. She had someone turn a hard right onto a roundabout... a clockwise roundabout.
She also had a young guy driving down a motorway for the first time. When his phone started ringing, he promptly took it out of his pocket and answered the call. She had to tell him to put his phone away.
Also, one girl crashed into a fence."
"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."
"I train people to get their commercial driver's licenses for a bus company. Once, I had a trainee who was trying to turn right onto a major road. He started inching forward but there was a car coming, so I said, 'Wait.'
He then pulled out, completely cutting off the car that was going 50 miles per hour.
'Dude, what the heck are you doing?' I said. 'You almost caused a horrible accident.'
'I thought you said, "Wave!"' he replied.
He thought I was telling him to take his giant bus, cut off the driver, and then just give em the old 'Hehehe, sorry' wave. It was scary at the time, but now I just laugh."
"This is not my personal story, but my cool science teacher's.
The kid was named after Clint Eastwood, except his first name was Flynt. His parents were very influential in the town they lived in. It was his first time out on a drive and they were coming up to a four way intersection. The teacher, whom I will call 'Mr. H,' told Flynt to turn left at the intersection. As they were coming up to intersection, Flynt had not gotten into turn lane. Mr. H firmly reminded him to turn left.
Flynt, as they were coming up right on the intersection, finally decided to turn left, but panicked and stepped on the brake, too. The car skidded into the middle of intersection. Mr. H grabbed the wheel to steer out of intersection, but Flynt put the pedal to the metal, so to speak. They did several donuts in the intersection before Flynt applied the brake and they eventually get out of the intersection. There were also two girls in the back seat, screaming, the entire time."
"In my Drivers Ed car, we were on some back roads and had a girl go through three consecutive stop signs. My instructor, turned to her after the first one and said, 'Did you not see that stop sign?' She said she panicked.
He had a brake and accelerator on his side. He would hit the brake each time, but she would still manage to go past the stop bar by a significant amount where an oncoming car would definitely have hit us. At the last stop sign, I could feel him tapping the brake and she would step on the accelerator. We went about halfway past the stop bar and then he told her to pull over.
'I was in Vietnam and this has been the scariest day of my life,' he said to her.
She immediately started crying.
This instructor was also not the most politically correct guy on the planet. He taught us what Donkey Punches, Rusty Trombones, Angry Dragons, and Strawberry Shortcakes were. One time we were driving behind a mini van going over a bridge. The van was going super slow, so he turned to the kid driving, who was Korean, and said, 'I bet there's a freaking Asian driving that van.'
The kid didn't flinch. I don't think he heard him because he was freaking out that we were going over a bridge. We passed the van and, I'll be darned, it was an entire Asian family. He also made us stop at random houses and he would give us cookies and donuts from his trunk while he went inside for 20 minutes."
"My high school had a driving instructor who had, sort of, stopped caring. He would pile three kids in a car and basically just tell them to drive. He had this bad habit of falling asleep during these drives, so the kids would have to wake him up.
One day, the kids decided to have a little fun. The instructor fell asleep and they hit the highway and just kept driving. An hour later, they arrived at a ferry terminal. The instructor woke up on the ferry, completely confused.
I hear he never napped during a drive after that."
"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 got a million stories. This one sticks out.
I once took an old Vietnamese guy out on the road and he just STOPPED in the middle of a major road. I pleaded with him and made hand gestures indicating to continue driving. I did what I normally never do and raised my voice and started shouting, only because it was such a scary situation. Eventually, I had to get out out of the car, in the middle of a huge, multi-lane road. Then, I had to coax him out of the driver's seat so I could take us back to the school."
"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 took this guy out for one lesson and he did really well. He was very calm, very collected. It was obvious that he had spent a lot of time behind the wheel. A couple days later, I took him for his test so he could use our car. Maybe his parents knew something we didn't? He seemed pretty relaxed. We filled out the paperwork, hopped in the car with the instructor (who wasn't very nice, by the way), and they take off.
I was waiting outside, just messing around on my phone until they got back, when one of the DMV workers came out.
'Hey, are you the instructor?' he asked.
'Yeah,' I said.
'You need to come with me. He hit a boulder.'
I stared at him for at least ten seconds with no expression, just waiting for the punchline. Nope. We hopped in his car and headed about two blocks away. It seems that instead of putting the car in reverse, he put it in drive while making a two point turn. He then hopped a low cement curb and crashed into a large boulder. Ironically, the boulders had been installed because the city had gotten tired of the fence behind it getting knocked down by cars. It worked like a charm. He failed."
"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."