When your son or daughter is learning to drive, every bit of practice helps so it’s a great idea to take them out in your car between lessons.
However, a recent study by Young Driver, found many parents are teaching their teens outdated techniques while out on the roads.
So to help make sure you are giving your teen driver the best advice possible, we spoke to Acclaim Driving School’s Richard Smith, who’s been teaching people to drive for the past 22 years.
Richard has taught everyone one from 17-year-olds to military drivers in the Bristol area, and here he offers some great tips to parents.
What should parents do before heading out for the first time with their teen?
It’s so important parents take their teen out on a route they’re familiar with; make sure you know it like the back of your hand and give instructions in good time.
Kids often tell me on a lesson that they fell out with their dad while practising because he gave them instructions too late. Learner drivers have to process everything; they don’t drive like people with experience. They treat it a bit like a shopping list – check mirrors, tick, slow down, tick, change gear, tick...
Here’s an example of the best way to give an instruction to your teen: “At the end of this road, turn left.” That’s a nice, simple instruction – make it clear.
Parents should also reinforce the instruction; if you want your child to take the second exit on a roundabout, as you go past the first say: “This is the first exit and we are taking the second.”
It’s also important not to change your mind at the last minute; the student will fall apart and more than likely stall.
Try to make your son or daughter feel at ease; don’t shout or get irate, you need a nice, quiet demeanour and you must be patient. Don’t get stressed!
How can parents and instructors work together?
Communication between the instructor, the learner driver and their parents is vital.
If a student is working with their instructor on left turns, they should tell mum or dad that so they can take the teen driving in an area they are familiar with to perfect the same thing.
But even when going out with parents, listen to what the driving instructor says.
If the instructor says they aren’t ready to go out on the roads on their own, parents shouldn’t take them out. This normally means the instructor is still using the dual controls – a luxury parents won’t have in their cars. You only have the handbrake and you should never be in a position where you need to put the handbrake on.
Parents should also feel free to talk to the driving instructor at the end of a lesson and ask them how it went. Learning to drive is a team effort and people pass first time more often if they practise in their own car.
And don’t be afraid to ask if you can sit in the backseat during a lesson; you can pick up some tips on what to cover with your teen and how to instruct them.
Should a learner driver have a lesson with a professional before heading out with mum and dad?
Yes, I recommend having a few lessons with an instructor before practising in their own car with mum or dad – the student should be reasonably confident using the clutch, gear changing and braking on their own. Then, everyone works as a team to get them that pass.
How can a learner tell if a lesson with an instructor or their parents is going well?
The way to monitor if the lesson is going well is by how much the adult is saying; if they are saying very little then you know the lesson is going well as they aren’t having to remind you to change gear or slow down all the time.
What else should learner drivers and their parents consider before practising in their own car?
The golden rule before your teen heads out in a car other than the instructor’s is ensuring they’re insured to drive the car.
In the 20 years I’ve been teaching people to drive, I’ve had a few people who practise in their friend’s car and they think that anyone is insured to drive it through the owner’s insurance.
It’s also vital to make sure the car is roadworthy and check if it requires an MOT certificate; lots of people don’t realise they may need this.
If you’re coaching your child, make sure all the paperwork – MOT, tax and insurance – is in order.
And don’t forget to check the tyres – make sure they meet the legal requirements by having no less than 1.6mm tread depth.
So there you have it, some top tips from a driving instructor with two decades of experience under his belt.
Here are Richard’s top tips for your easy reference:
- Wait until the instructor says your teen is ready to go out with you
- Practise on roads you know very well
- Give clear instructions in plenty of time
- Stay calm and be patient
- Practise the same things they learn on their lesson
- Make sure insurance and paperwork is all in order
- Make sure the car is roadworthy