Muscat: Rogue driving instructors are taking hundreds of rials from learner drivers then disappearing, prompting a warning from the Royal Oman Police.
Learner drivers have told Times of Oman that they paid between OMR250 and OMR500 upfront for a block of lessons – only for the “instructor” to stop taking their calls.
“My instructor not only took my OMR500 from me up front, he also took my learner’s book so I was stuck with him and couldn’t go to anyone else,” one resident said.
“He never answered his phone, and I kept calling him over and over again before I finally got through to him and almost had to plead with him to give me back my book, let alone the money, which at that point I knew I’d never see.”
Another resident said: “I began learning to drive in 2008, and I only received my licence recently because I had changed more than six different driving instructors.
“I have spent more than OMR1,000 on all of my lessons, and my teachers would never arrive on time.
“Fortunately, the last instructor I met was very good,” he added.
The reason so many residents chose to learn from independent driving instructors is because they had been referred to by acquaintances, and had signed on out of trust. Independent instructors are often cheaper to book than affiliated driving schools, residents said.
“My tutor would blame me for all the problems his car suffered and he treated me like I was a burden,” said another resident. “Once he received OMR250 for lessons, though, I never heard from him again.
“If you have such a bad instructor, how will you feel motivated to drive?” he added. “Now I have a family so I will need to start learning to drive again, but this time I will go to a school.”
“I had a three-year-old son at home and because my husband used to work far away, I thought a licence would help improve our quality of life,” revealed another expatriate resident in Muscat. “I’d given my instructor OMR300 and after he came to teach me the first two times, he’d never answer his phone.
“Finally I was fed up with him and after more than a year of on-and-off lessons, I told him to just take me for my test, and because of this, I was never confident on the roads,” she added.
A spokesman for the Royal Oman Police said: “There are those who form a company and hire a group of drivers, those who register their vehicles with us as a training vehicle and train people, and the third kind, who borrow training vehicles from other people and then train people,” said an ROP spokesman.
“The third kind is illegal, so we advise people to always sign a contract with their instructors. That way, if there is a problem, it can be resolved in court.”
The most commonly listed problem by residents was instructors absconding after receiving fees to teach their students to drive.
To find out why this was happening, Times of Oman spoke to a local driving school.
“More often than not, these private instructors charge less than the schools for lessons so they can get more business, and residents go to them on the basis of trust,” said the manager of the school. “I’d definitely recommend people to go to a school, because everything is documented and if you want to register a complaint, you can always do so because the school takes care of everything for you.
“We’ll give you an instructor, a set time, and a contract, so everything is on the books,” he added. “Many people do not know that such schools exist, and so they choose to deal with private operators.”
One driving instructor said it is difficult to schedule a week of bookings, with cancellations and learners not turning up.
“It’s not easy for us to schedule classes because it’s not just that the students who come to us are employed somewhere else, but we are too,” said one driving instructor, who juggles a full-time job with his lessons.
“We are sometimes forced to schedule lessons as early as six o’ clock or seven o’clock in the morning because the demand for instructors is too high and the evening slots are the ones to get filled first, because they are always in demand,” he added.
Most instructors take on students because they’re looking to supplement their income, and there’s a fine line between negotiating a time that suits both student and teacher.
“In this job, you might get a last-minute cancellation or a request so you always have to be alert,” he added. “On the weekends, I start my lessons at 7am and sometimes finish as late at 9:30 at night, but I need to do this because I have to provide for my family. I have to also agree to the needs of the customer and most of them are only free on the weekend, so I need to train them then or they might go elsewhere and that means a loss in income for me.”