Common Instructor Errors

In the last edition of The Accelerator, we explored how what we say – and how we say it – is important to effective teaching and learning. This time, we’ll identify more words and phrases that instructors may or not be using correctly and clearly in the course of their classroom and in-car teaching.


As we discussed last time, our words are our tools. Using correct tools for any job is important. Simply because it might be possible to remove a nut from a bolt with a hammer doesn’t mean a hammer should be used. A wrench would be preferable – much more effective, and maximally professional.


The American Driver & Traffic Safety Education Association (ADTSEA) determined many years ago that people learning to drive perform best when instructors orally provide information in a certain manner. Novice drivers must use the same part of their brain to operate the car as they use to hear and process information we give them. For this reason, instructors should be thoughtful and deliberate when communicating with behind-the-wheel students.


ADTSEA best in-car teaching practice directs us to first state LOCATION, followed by DESIRED ACTION. For example, “At the next intersection, turn right.” Where, then what.


Here are other opportunities for us instructors to add polish and professionalism to our teaching:


  • To the greatest extent possible, use executable driver actions as their own verbs. Rather than “At the next intersection, ‘make’ a right turn.”, “At the next intersection, turn right.” Instead of, “When it’s safe, ‘make a’ lane change.”, “When it’s safe, change lanes.”
  • Rather than to say to students, “Keep (on) going straight”, consider “Continue ahead until I give you further instruction.”
  • It’s common, in casual conversation, to say and hear “stop light.” The preferred term in our industry is “traffic signal.”
  • Some words sound alike, although they mean different things:
    • “Lane” and “line”
    • Median – some instructors say “medium”
    • “Curb” and “curve”


There is no instructional advantage to cluttering our language with “hand” as we refer to turning and changing lanes. Sloppy: “Make a right-hand turn up here at the next road.” Professional: “At the next intersection, turn right.” Amateurish: “Make a left-hand lane change when it’s safe.” Polished: “When you think it’s clear, move one lane left.” In driving, we truly do not “make” or “take” anything. We stop, move, brake, steer, etc.


Some instructors struggle mightily with pronouncing “peripheral” correctly; it comes out as “per-if-EE-uhl.” A simple, easy-to-say and understand replacement for “peripheral” is “side.”


Maybe we use “turn” and “curve” interchangeably. Do they mean the same things, or no?

  • “Slow down – there’s a ‘bad turn’ up ahead.” By “bad turn”, we probably mean “sharp curve”, don’t we?
  • We almost certainly don’t mean a sharp “curb”, though, correct? How tricky the English language can be.


In the next installment of The Accelerator, the final in the series of ways practitioners can streamline and polish instruction through the words we use.