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Driving instructors changing the way they prepare clients for lessons due to condition of Caithness roads

By Gordon Calder

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POT holes on Caithness roads are "causing a fair bit of hassle" for driving instructors and changing the way they prepare people for lessons.

That emerged this week after the Groat contacted two instructors – one in Wick and another in Thurso – for their views on the problem and any impact its has on their businesses.

Eric Gunn, who runs Eric Gunn Driver Training in Thurso, said he has to make learner drivers aware of the dangers of the pot holes and the dangers to the cars. "It makes it trickier", he said. Gary Sinclair, who runs Gary's Driving School in Wick, said pot holes are "causing a fair bit of hassle" and said the roads are the worst he has seen in five years as an instructor.

Pot holes are "causing a fair bit of hassle" for driving instructors
Pot holes are "causing a fair bit of hassle" for driving instructors

He said the number of pot holes is changing the way he prepares learner drivers. "Before you would tell them about the roads and if they were wet, dry or snowy and you still do that but now you have to include the state of the surfaces as well because of the pot holes," he said.

Mr Sinclair has to explain the added dangers and hazards on the roads and revealed that one learner driver was travelling at between 25 and 30mph on a road with a 60 mph limit but was told he was going too fast for the conditions. Mr Sinclair's car has sustained damage due to pot holes which create more problems for drivers in the dark months between October and March.

Asked if it is more difficult for people to pass a driving test because of the road conditions, Mr Sinclair, replied: "Not more difficult but something else to contend with."

He was at the driving test centre in Alness earlier this year when a learner hit a pot hole and had a blow out. "The person did not fail but did not pass as the test was abandoned due to mechanical failure," he added.

The condition of the roads is not putting people off learning to drive, though. "It is having no impact. Getting a driving licence can give people an opportunity, independence and the chance of a job so they will still be keen to pass their test."

Mr Gunn, who has been an instructor for 23 years, said: "You are planning ahead and looking for pot holes and making drivers aware of any dangers. It is an added hazard. The ultimate concern would be if they lost control of the car, "he said.

Areas around the Riverside Road, Provost Cormack Drive and Manson's Lane were "really bad" but have been re-tarred recently.

"The roads are the worst I have seen in my time as an instructor but the council is trying their best to get them fixed," he added.

New Thurso and northwest Caithness Highland councillor, Ron Gunn, said driving instructors told him they had to change the way they prepare drivers because of the road conditions.

They have to be aware of pot holes and hazards that they would not have encountered before because the roads were in better condition. They are telling clients to "keep an eye out for pot holes" and assessing how they react when confronted by them while out for a lesson.

The state of the roads impact on "everybody who uses them, including learner drivers and is another reason why they need to be sorted," he said.

The former chairman of Thurso Community Council pointed out there are no driving examiners in Caithness now and would like to see, at least, one back in the far north. He said people are having to go to Orkney, Alness and Inverness to sit tests – and that can lead to additional expenses and time for people.

"A new administration at Highland Council could give us a chance to get something done about these problems," added Mr Gunn.

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