Learning to Drive: Tips for Parents Teaching their Kids
DRIVEtorque advises parents not to teach their kids how to drive. They must leave it to professionals. However we understand that at times they have to so here is some advice.
Each year, thousands of young people make their first steps into the world of driving, investing hundreds in lessons from their local instructor. Learning to drive offers a sense of freedom not enjoyed by those reliant on trains and buses, so it’s easy to see why so many youngsters are keen to get behind the wheel when they reach 16.
But we all know just how difficult learning to drive can be, and the latest figures suggest that most kids fail the first time and easily give up and get depressed. Retesting is also expensive.
The question is, how can young drivers improve their chances of success when it comes to their driving test? After all, driving ability isn’t down to natural talent; it’s a matter of practice makes perfect.
With university open days in full swing, and thousands of young people readying to fly the nest in September, this could be the last chance for them to nail that driving test. If you’re keen for your kids to get a license before they head off to university, here we offer advice and tips on how you can help them pass on the big day.
The thought of lending your offspring the car might fill you with dread, but letting them get extra practice in the family car could mean the difference between pass and fail — not to mention save them a shedload of cash in lesson fees. It’ll also mean they’re better prepared for lessons with their instructor, ensuring they get maximum value from each hour-long lesson slot. But before you let your kids take the wheel, there are a few things you need to do.
First, be sure that you, or whoever else has volunteered to supervise the learner (be it a friend, sibling or other family member), meet the legal requirements of Zimbabwe. They’re responsible for the safety of the driver and other road users, and will be liable in the event of an accident on the road.
Next, make sure the car is insured for both the supervisor and the learner. If the vehicle belongs to you, the easiest way to do this is to add the learner to your existing insurance premium. If the car belongs to the learner, however, they should be the named driver, and the supervisor should be included as an additional driver. Don’t be tempted to ‘front’ the insurance to save money, as this could invalidate the insurance and lead to a hefty fine.
On the Road
Supervising a learner driver on the open road can be a daunting experience, and it’s a skill professional driving instructors have honed over countless lessons. Providing clear instruction, resisting the urge to intervene, and ultimately keeping your cool can be difficult, especially between family members. Here, we offer tips to help you and your learner stay cool and collected on the road.
Plan Your Route
As the supervisor, it’s your job to plan a manageable route that suits the ability of your learner. Depending on how adept they are behind the wheel, choose roads that will test their skills without throwing them in at the deep end. For instance, if they’ve only just mastered the controls, opt for quiet roads where they can practice the basics. Or, if they’re approaching their test, take them on a busier route to ensure they’re used to driving in different situations.
By planning a good route ahead of time, you’ll avoid unnecessary stress that could lead to tears and tantrums — from both parties!
Don’t Get Stressed
Even the calmest person can get angry behind the wheel, and this tends to intensify when parents choose to teach their kids how to drive. While it can be all too easy to get stressed when supervising a learner, try to see it from their point of view and think back to your days as a new driver. The best advice comes from remembering how you rectified your own bugbears and mistakes when first learning to drive, something that could prove useful in helping them overcome their blunders.
Above all, try to stay calm and collected when in the passenger seat, even if they do something really silly. Fights and arguments are distracting, and can easily lead to accidents.
Offer Clear Instructions
While driving is second nature to experienced motorists, learners need constant advice and encouragement. Operating a car, watching for hazards, and knowing when to turn is a steep learning curve for new learners, so offer clear instructions and avoid ambiguity. For instance, instead of saying “slow down” say “brake”, as this is a more direct instruction. Make sure you give them plenty of time to react to navigation instructions too, or else they’ll soon get flustered.
Stick to their Instructor’s Learning Techniques
One of the best pieces of advice for parents helping their kids to drive is to stick to their instructor’s learning techniques. Even if you disagree or prefer your way of doing things, conflicting advice can cause more harm than good, and could even set them back a lesson. Of course, if their instructor’s advice sounds flawed, it’s probably best to find a new one before that all-important test.
To get the best from every trip riding shotgun with your kids, here are some further tips and advice you should consider:
Let them practice in different conditions: Driving in the dark, in the rain or in bad traffic/roadworks will give them experience they can use before and after the test.
Give them time to warm up: Start each session on quiet roads, so they’ve got time to practice their skills and get used to the car before venturing into trickier situations.
Try travelling with family and friends: By introducing other friends and family to the car, this will help them relax and get used to driving with distractions — something they don’t teach during regular driving lessons.
Teach them basic car maintenance: While driving instructors will impart basic knowledge of car maintenance, you can take this further by showing them how to change a flat tyre, top up fluids or replace a windscreen wiper. Even things like filling a car with petrol can be daunting for a new driver, so show them how it’s done early on.
Remember the basic equipment: Sounds obvious, but when transforming the family car into a learner mobile, remember to use ‘L’ plates. We’d also recommend investing in proper instructor mirrors for the rear and side mirrors, so you can keep an eye on what’s going on around the car.