My name’s Paul and I have over 20 years of experience as a driving instructor. I have taught over 1,000 people to drive and have trained hundreds of driving instructors.
I am also a hypnotherapist and work online with people all over the world to help them overcome their fear of driving. Other skills of mine include NLP, counselling, psychotherapy, life coaching and several forms of hypnosis.
I was one of the first, if not the first, YouTube driving instructors. I’ve made over 700 driving videos since 2008 which have had over 10 million views around the world.
Combining my 20 years of experience instructing with my hypnosis skills makes me a formidable and unique instructor.
But how did it all begin? Let’s take a look.
Why I became a driving instructor
My own bad experience of learning to drive made me decide to start teaching.
Back then I thought that the instructor I had was awful. I have memories of her shouting at me and teaching me things incorrectly but now having done the job myself for so long I can understand why she said and did those things.
She was doing her best and just made mistakes as we all do but I took it all the wrong way and it started me out on a journey that would shape my life.
The journey begins
I was taking an I.T course at college while I was taking my driving lessons. I discovered a talent for using computers at a young age and started writing video games when I was 11 which I sold to the other kids in the playground.
The problems I’d experienced when learning made me decide to give up my I.T career and become a driving instructor. I vowed that I would never purposely teach people incorrectly as (I thought) had happened to me.
I wasn’t old enough to teach others yet so I had to wait four years after passing my driving test before I could start my training. That’s one thing that makes me different to many instructors; most people see an advert for this job and just end up doing it to make money. Road safety and making people safe drivers isn’t their main concern, they just endure the job to make ends meet.
To me being a driving instructor has never been just a job. I remember phoning up schools and asking if there was any way I could start sooner even though I wasn’t old enough. These schools got pretty tired of me calling up but I was very keen. To start with I even did free lessons for a few years before I started teaching professionally just to gain experience.
The day before I was due to take my final exam to become a driving instructor something happened. I was out practising with my instructor trainer on a driving lesson when a yob walking down the street thought it’d be funny to throw a brick at us. The brick smashed the side window where I was sitting and hit me on the head. It was lucky I wasn’t injured more than just having a cut above my eye. My car wasn’t in shape for taking a test now that it was damaged.
What’s funny is that it wasn’t the brick that did most of the damage to my car. My trainer, a very experienced instructor, tried to turn the car around and go after the yob. Unfortunately, he didn’t follow one of the basic rules of reversing (looking out the back window) and drove straight into a lamppost!
None of that put me off. If anything it was a preview of the madness that I was to encounter over my years of teaching. The yob did nothing but make me even more determined to pass and become an instructor. And so I did.
San Francisco and 1stDrive
Finally, I’d done what I’d waited years to achieve. I was so happy that day that I felt like nothing could go wrong so I went and put £50 on a horse. It was an outsider at odds of 20/1. I’d never even bet before but my horse won and I had £1,000 burning a hole in my pocket.
I was chatting online at the time to someone I’d only known for 2 weeks. They suggested I go and stay with them. Not only was this going to be a great holiday but a great way to celebrate achieving what I’d wanted for so long. I was on a plane to San Francisco the next day and had some great adventures over there with my friend and her cats.
I’ll never forget being on a plane circling over New York City at night on my way home in 2003. Looking down at all the beautiful lights and the tiny distant cars it felt like anything was possible. I’d only just become an instructor though and going solo is a huge step. This was my first visit in 2003 (I went back in 2004 and 2005) and it was to be two more years yet before 1stDrive began but I could already feel that it would happen.
A photo I took of the Golden Gate Bridge
Back to Birmingham
After I got back from holiday and everything settled down I started doing driving lessons for national driving schools. This was a good way to gain experience but it soon looked to me that these schools were more interested in making money than teaching people to drive safely.
Some were about sales targets and not helping people learn to drive so I decided to leave. Memories of that night circling over New York in America came back to me and I remembered how I’d felt. I just had to have my own driving school.
I went about designing a school that focused on teaching people to drive and offered an honest service. There would be no rip-offs, no catches or tricks. It had to be a proper driving school and not just a bunch of people renting cars with logos on and having a go at teaching as with other schools. The school I created was 1stDrive.com but the name was hard to think of at first…
The name game
I needed a name before I could launch my school. I’d spent weeks thinking and I just couldn’t come up with a good one. Dragon? Quick Drive? One way? I even considered calling it something really offensive so that it would upset people and get me on the local news for some free advertising. In the end, I didn’t.
At first, I just used my own name as the name of the school but I had a few problems with that.
An internet search revealed that I share my name with the world’s former number one football hooligan who had been imprisoned many times. He has over 60 recorded offences for promoting football riots, dealing with drugs and causing trouble all over Europe.
I received emails asking me why I’d gone straight when the next planned riot was and how come I was a driving instructor when I was supposed to be in prison! Do a Google search for “Paul Dodd football hooligan” if you want to learn more about that character.
Eventually, I was so sick of coming up with names I just thought of the most basic thing. It had to have “1st” in it so it’d be listed early in printed directories because that’s how it worked before the internet was king. It also had to have the main word that I wanted which was “drive”.
First to Drive? Drive first? 1stDrive? Surely that name had gone, it was too obvious. After looking it up online it was available! I quickly grabbed my credit card and registered it.
1stDrive.com launched on 1st April 2005. It took me weeks to make the first version of the website, you can read more about that below. This website is written, designed and maintained by me (Paul) and that’s why I can put the real truth on here such as pages talking about driving school scams.
After just days of launching, I was fully booked for weeks ahead and it’s been the same ever since. My site has grown in popularity over the years and pupils have travelled from as far away as Holland to take driving lessons with me.
I’d already had some exciting adventures so far and advances in technology meant there was about to become a way to share my adventures with the world.
Paul in 2005 with the first-ever 1stDrive.com car
Lights, camera, action!
An idiot was driving too closely behind me when I was doing a driving lesson one day. He wasn’t paying attention and crashed into us. It wasn’t our fault because we weren’t even moving but the other driver refused to accept any blame.
Three other cars had crashed into the back of him and the case went on for just under two years.
At this time I decided to invest in my first in-car CCTV system to protect me from any other idiots in the future. Years ago but they used to be huge, clunky devices that recorded onto VHS tapes. You had to have a big box under the passenger seat and keep winding the tapes back.
Times had moved on though and after browsing online I found one which took memory cards. To begin with I only bought it for more protection and to resolve any future accidents more quickly but little did I know the path that it would take me on…
One of my first YouTube videos
Using the power of idiots
Funny things often happen around me while I am teaching so I had the idea of making these idiots work for me. The problem was that two years ago I had lost the password for my 1stDrive YouTube channel. I’d forgotten which email account it was registered to so I couldn’t reset it. One morning I woke up and remembered the password!
I started uploading videos of funny things to my YouTube and had no idea how popular it would become. I started getting a few dozen views and a few people subscribing.
The next time I looked I’d had a few hundred views and then a few thousand and then a few hundred thousand! My inbox was full of hundreds of comments, hundreds of thumbs up and people around the world were loving my videos.
This video celebrates my one-millionth view on a video!
I made over 100 videos in the next 12 months and became really popular. I had changed my camera set-up three times from SD to HD, a higher quality HD and then to twin full HD cameras. People were emailing me asking me to make videos of all sorts of things to do with driving.
The hypnotic driving instructor
Being a driving instructor brought me into contact with many people that suffered from anxiety, fear and phobia.
I became interested in this only a few months into my career and over the years I studied basic hypnosis and NLP techniques. Learning more about the mind and how it works fascinated me and I became known as the driving instructor that could help anyone when all else had failed.
In 2019 I was to experience a series of events that finally made me decide to look more into this interest I had in hypnosis.
I earned my diploma in hypnosis in December 2019 and in May 2020 I was awarded my HPD which is the gold standard of hypnotherapy qualifications. I then went on to train with a top street hypnotist, one of Canada’s top hypnotists and then went on to study advanced hypnosis.
I’ve since trained up to master’s level and now work online with people all over the world suffering from driving anxiety.
This video is my Christmas special for 2019. I’d teased my thousands of followers for weeks that I had a big secret to reveal: none of them knew I was a hypnotist!
This video was so different from my normal driving lesson ones that it really surprised everyone. Most were expecting me to announce a new car or that I’d got married but nobody saw this coming.
I had great feedback saying this was awesome and such a great way to announce the news.
Even knowing the secret, there are many more messages hidden in this metaphoric story.
I was planning to retire as a driving instructor and focus purely on my hypnosis work when Covid-19 happened.
There’s a popular saying “Be careful what you wish for because you might just get it”. That has never been more true for me than during this time!
I had gotten tired of driving and wanted to move on to a new career where I could work from home. I had said to everyone that I wanted to get off the road and spend more time indoors and I was going to be doing a lot of that throughout 2020.
That time at home made me realise that I really didn’t want to be inside all the time. It was nice to have a rest from driving but I wouldn’t want to give it up altogether.
I started making videos about how driving lessons were disrupted by the pandemic and they got very popular. They’re still available to watch if for some reason you want to relive the whole thing!
Back on the road
It was during this time at home that I had to decide between doing driving lessons and hypnosis. A thought then occurred to me; why should I choose between hypnosis and driving? Why not mix the two and see what happens?
This is when I came up with my system to help people overcome driving anxiety online called ROAD (Remotely Overcome Anxiety from Driving).
That’s where I am now and I’ll continue to update this as time passes but that’s the story so far. If you want to follow me and see what happens from here then subscribe to my YouTube channel.
How 1stDrive.com used to look
Here is how 1stDrive.com looked in the past.
Until 2006 it was just a black and white site. So simple!
Then I progressed to the more modern design in 2007. That sports car; people kept emailing asking if that’s what I taught in!
In 2009 I moved on to mark 3. This was when 1stDrive.com really took off!
November 2012 and it was time for mark 4. I gave the site a fresh new look, made it mobile friendly and built up the driving instructor zone.
August 2016 and it was time to update my site with a modern look. I used a new design with a much clearer menu system and modern coding making it more compatible with mobile devices without the need for a separate site.
July 2019 and it was time for a fresh design. I added a much more modern look, better working contact forms and made it so the site looks the same on mobile as a desktop without losing performance.
1stDrive in the future
Where do I go from here?
Follow me on my YouTube channel and see!