Be the Tortoise and Avoid Rushing the Learning Process

Posted on 01 January 2018

This video reminds me a little of the Tortoise and Hare story and the Driving Instructor Dad has cast himself in the role of the Hare.

It's not only teenagers who get a little giggly and ahead of themselves when they are handed their learner's licence – we mums and dads have also been known to become a little over excited. I recently shared a video of a Dad taking his daughter out for her very first drive and commented that although he made some technical errors, he performed quite well and established a good rapport. This particular Dad is certainly pleasant and reassuring enough, and potentially capable of providing good instruction, however I believe his daughter may have benefited from a more informative and structured approach from the beginning.

To be fair, we possibly should consider that the 'Deep End' approach may not be too uncommon within the rural counties of Texas. I know when I was taught to drive - back when Australia had seven million less humans, I was the recipient of the 'Baptism of Fire' technique and survived ... just. The principal aim of this post is to encourage preparation and structure - especially in the early stages of instruction. Try not to be influenced by those who declare "My son was driving on the highway on his second drive". Some proud parents genuinely believe their teen is driving; however, they're unaware that it's often they who are really driving – from the passenger seat.

The Dad in this video is clearly eager to get his newly permitted daughter out onto the road and to surprise mum with video evidence. In fact, so keen is he that his excitedly scared teen goes from learning to shift the gear lever from park to drive -- to moving a tonne and a half of aluminium and steel at 80 km/h -- all in the space of 60 SECONDS - with her very cheerful younger sister seated at the back for good measure.

It's SO important to cover the early stages of the learning process in small chunks. Granted, it won't be anywhere near as exciting as this teen's first lesson, but it will provide a solid foundation for everything that follows. Admittedly, it may also not be as much fun and I'm certainly not against having some fun whilst learning to drive -- provided it's timely and somewhat measured.

Our Instructor Dad displayed a pleasant reassuring tone and I'm confident he will have improved technically following this first outing. Below are a few basic things he could have done BEFORE his daughter turned the engine on.

  • He could have suggested his daughter ditch the Ugg boots for more appropriate footwear.
  • He could have discussed vehicle controls and practised using them before moving off. Travelling at high speed is not the best time to receive a lesson on indicator location and operation.
  • He could have advised his learner to only use her right foot on the pedals.
  • He could have instructed the driver to adjust her mirrors.
  • He could have first driven or at least advised his daughter where he proposed to drive and what to expect along the way – such as; motorist interaction, travelling speeds, hills, acceleration, braking and turning.
  • He could have discussed and demonstrated steering techniques.
  • He could have discussed blind-spots before moving onto the road.
  • He could have asked his daughter if she had any questions or concerns before moving off.

An effective approach is to discuss, demonstrate, practice and review. Ensure your learner is engaged in the process by asking open-ended questions and allowing them to explore their own way in a safe environment -- These learners typically develop more rounded skills, and ironically quicker than the learner who goes straight out onto a main road with almost every action choreographed from the passenger seat.

Try to make decisions with the end in mind -- Don't be afraid to be the tortoise.

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