As a parent, the thought of your child getting on the road independently can be exciting yet nerve-wracking to say the least. There are plenty of things to cover when teaching a learner driver and while you don’t have to do all of it yourself, it can give your child some great experience before hopping in the driver’s seat of an instructor’s car.
That said, teaching someone to drive can be harder than it looks. It’s not just about making sure they don’t crash – which is a good start – but about becoming a confident teacher yourself. From brushing up on the Highway Code and planning the route beforehand to explaining how the car actually works, here are eight tips to help parents teach their children how to drive.
Before supervising a learner driver, you need to make sure you’re legally able to. Legally, anyone who supervises a learner driver needs to be at least 21 years old, and they need to have held a valid driving licence for a minimum of three years. The car you’re teaching in needs to display L plates, and you should make sure that the car is safe and road legal.
The learner driver also needs to be insured for driving the car you’ll be teaching them in. If you’re worried about adding them onto your own insurance policy because the premiums could be high, there are insurance policies available that are specifically designed for learner drivers.
Brush up on The Highway Code
Depending on when you took your own driving test, it could have been a long time since you last looked at The Highway Code. It may seem like a tedious and arduous task, but in order to set a good example, you need to practice what you preach.
Besides, no matter how long you’ve been driving for, you’ve likely picked up some bad habits. To make sure you don’t pass these habits on to the learner, refresh the rules of the road in your own mind to ensure they’re getting it right.
Plan the route beforehand
Rather than setting off with merely a rough idea of where you should take the learner driver, you need to plan your route effectively so they are less likely to make mistakes. When routes are poorly planned it puts the driver under unnecessary stress, making it more likely for an accident to occur. For example, if you’re at a roundabout and you haven’t decided which exit the learner should take, they will probably panic and make a sudden decision of their own – especially if you’re in traffic.
Unplanned routes can lead to a lack of confidence and of course, arguments. Arguments need to be avoided completely because these are a serious distraction and create more risk of an accident happening.
To avoid all of this, you should start by asking the learner where they feel most comfortable driving. Plan the route with them rather than for them, and be sure to go over any specific things that you may encounter on the route, like one-way systems or confusing roundabouts. You may also want to discuss alternative routes in case a road is blocked.
As a parent, you always want your children to be safe, and rightly so. But because you want them to be safe, it’s easy to raise your voice if you feel like the learner is getting too close to a car or they’re pulling up to a junction too fast, for example. In these scenarios, you need to try as best as you can to remain calm. Raising your voice will only panic the learner or cause them stress which could lead to an argument or worse, an accident.
Try to get into your child’s mindset by thinking back to when you were a learner and remember some of the problems you encountered. This should help shape your teaching approach (anything that frustrated you about your own driving instructor back then is likely to annoy them now). Only shout in real emergencies because again, needlessly shouting will panic them and make them feel unconfident which could lead to a lack of progression.
While the ‘keep calm’ approach is the best method of teaching, you still need to stay alert. Always look ahead and try to pick out things the learner may not have noticed. If you were to spot a serious hazard early enough, you’re then able to calmly yet assertively point out the problem and offer advice on what to do.
Talk to the learner’s instructor
It can be a good idea to speak with your child’s instructor during the learning process to find out their strengths and weaknesses on the road. This way, you and your teen can tackle these weak spots when you’re next driving together so that they’re able to build up some confidence before getting back into the driver’s seat of their instructors vehicle.
You could also ask to sit in on some lessons to get a better idea of their progression. Just make sure you get the permission of your teen first – they may feel a little more pressure with more than one person supervising them.
Explain how the car works
Understanding the basic mechanics of a car is an important part of learning to drive and becoming a car owner. While you don’t have to go into in-depth detail about how a twin scroll turbo functions, it can be useful to cover basic things like dashboard lights and what each one means, and how to switch from daylight running lights, to dipped headlights to full-beams and so on.
You may also want to explain what is under the bonnet of the car. The best way to do this is through a little ‘show and tell’ – actually point out the location of each part. For example, explain how to check for things like brake fluid, oil, coolant and windscreen washer levels. While these are all things a driving instructor will go over with learners at some point, it’s helpful to know beforehand to save time.
A few don’ts…
As you can probably tell from this article, supervising a learner driver is so much more than simply sitting next to them. It requires a lot of attention, patience and support. There are also things that are illegal to do while supervising a learner, including using a mobile phone, falling asleep, being drunk, and not wearing prescription glasses if you use them when driving.
If you are caught doing any of these things while supervising, you could be fined, or even convicted depending on the severity of the crime.
While supervising a learner driver can mean doing a lot of learning yourself, the benefits are well worth it. Not only can those lessons with you help to build your teen’s confidence, it can also make them a better, more experienced driver and may even help them pass first-time.