Learner drivers given wrong steer by parents

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One in two learner drivers are given tuition by their parents – yet many mums and dads show a worrying lack of knowledge of basic driving best practice, with one in five not even sure they’d pass their own test if they took it again.

The research was commissioned by Admiral-sponsored Young Driver, the UK’s largest provider of pre-17 driving tuition, following driving instructors revealing one of their most dreaded phrases was “but my dad says...”

When questioned, 76% of parents believed they were up-to-date with the latest rules and could provide adequate instruction to their children on driving...but when quizzed on certain facts, many revealed their advice to be wide of the mark.

More than 1,000 people were surveyed by Young Driver, which offers driving tuition to 10 to 17 year olds at more than 40 venues across Great Britain.

Outdated advice

  • Mirror, signal, manoeuvre – more than a third of parents have forgotten this basic rule, despite it being the cornerstone of good driving. While one in two forget to teach their children about the importance of checking dangerous blind spots
  • Hand position – despite many of us being taught that hands should be kept on the steering wheel at the 10 to two position, that advice has been revised over recent years. It is now recommended that hands are in the quarter to three position, to maintain control and to prevent a serious injury should an airbag deploy. Some 46% of parents admitted to insisting their youngsters use the original 10 and two placement they’d been taught in the pre-airbag era
  • Steering – Four out of five parents (82%) wouldn’t teach the push-pull technique favoured by instructors
  • Gear changes – 38% would insist the learner moved up and down the gears sequentially (1-2-3-4-5-6). However, block gear changing is now considered acceptable in many situations
  • Braking – One in two parents would insist the handbrake was applied whenever the car stopped. However, the purpose of the ‘parking brake’ is to secure the car when it’s stationary on a hill, or stopping on the flat for more than a few seconds. Stopping at a junction on the flat, the handbrake may not always be needed
  • Manoeuvres – One in five would be adamant that a turn in the road was a fail unless it was completed in three manoeuvres. In fact, the modern test allows for up to five turns, hence, it no longer being called a ‘three point turn’
  • Assisted technology – One in four would insist youngsters didn’t use parking sensors or cruise control to help with their driving but these are perfectly acceptable in a test situation when used appropriately.

Young Driver's research also found dads are twice as likely as mum to take their offspring out for practise, with the majority offering additional experience time alongside professional tuition. Yet one in 10 youngsters rely purely on a family member for their driver education.

Kim Stanton, of Young Driver, said: “Our instructors have long despaired of the phrase ‘my dad says’ just because it normally means a parent is contradicting what the professionals are trying to teach the learner!

"Because we teach under 17s, usually the youngsters haven’t yet had any experience of being taught by a parent, but children are like sponges – they constantly want to absorb information, and once they’ve had a lesson with Young Driver, they often question their parents on driving techniques.

"But of course, the instructors are the experts, and know what the current best practice is, so we’d hope parents would swot up a bit before giving any dud advice! It might actually help their own driving skills too.”

Parent horror stories

“My dad told me you don’t need to stop at a STOP sign if there’s nobody coming.” 

“My dad always told me to put my foot down when the traffic lights were on amber to get through.”

“My mum was adamant that if I didn’t go down through each of the gears when I stopped at a junction I would fail my test – even though I repeatedly said that contradicted with what the instructor told me!”

“My dad was always trying to tell me to squeeze past cyclists and horses when I knew the instructor would tell me to hold back and wait until I could properly overtake. I found it very stressful!”

“My dad helped me with some practice theory questions. When my instructor asked if my dad had helped me I thought I better be honest. His reply: 'thought so, he got them wrong!'”

“My dad drove using his knees and told me it was the best way to drive.”

  • If you are learning to drive, why not take a look at Admiral's Learner Driver Insurance which will cover you in mum or dad's car while you learn to drive? Get instant cover from two hours to 90 days and their No Claims Bonus won't be affected if you need to make a claim.

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