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Helping Your Teenager Learn to Drive

Posted on 15 July 2017










For the vast majority of parents it has been decades since they passed their L's and driving test and if they're being really honest
they've probably picked up a bad habit or two and become a little rusty with a few of the road rules. Understandably, they may feel somewhat anxious about sitting alongside their offspring when he or she is behind the wheel.

Typically we parents don't contemplate our teen's driving instruction until they get awarded those black and gold plates. The primary objective of this post is to encourage parents to plan Jack or Jill's first driving lesson long before their 16thbirthday.

To quickly warm up, here are (5) steps YOU can take well before your greenhorn passes their L's test:

1. Reacquaint yourself with the road rules and regulations. Most licensing authorities have free practice online knowledge tests and offer a pdf of road laws. There is no quicker way to lose credibility with your learner than to have them teach you the rules. I recommend keeping a copy of the road rules inside the car.

2. Conduct an audit of your own driving behaviours and habits long before you start lessons – ensure there is congruence between what you are currently practising and what you will soon be preaching. The reality is we parents begin modelling driving behaviours and attitudes to our children from the moment we first buckle them into their NASA designed baby-seats.

3. If you are someone who is very rarely a passenger, prepare in advance when travelling with a partner or friend – because after all those years sitting behind the steering wheel you may be surprised by what a difference thirty inches to the side makes to your outlook.

4. Practice taking the steering wheel with one hand from the passenger's seat with an experienced driver in the driver's seat, in a quiet controlled area – because more than likely you will need to do it when with your novice driver.

5. Set up a small detachable mirror on the passenger side of the windscreen - Become comfortable using it with an experienced driver behind the steering wheel.

We are more aware of the appalling worldwide statistics relating to adolescent drivers than ever before, yet we don't seriously contemplate the learning process until Jack or Jill becomes a licensed learner. Most of us make it a priority to teach our pre-school aged nippers to swim and stay safe around water despite not usually swimming unsupervised until older. We generally concede that it's unrealistic to expect to train a novice to be competent in challenging water situations within twelve months - yet so many assume they can produce competent motorists in that relatively short period of time

Nowadays logbook licensing regulations require young people to undertake a minimum amount of driving hours - so why not ensure that not even one of those precious hours is wasted on topics and concepts that could easily be covered years before they pass their L's test? I am convinced that for many learners much of their booked 'driving' hours are underutilised

Here are (10) measures you may wish to consider before their 16th birthday:

  1. As soon as they are old enough to safely sit in the front passenger seat, have them sit next to you so that they get to witness all the action unfolding. It's much easier to get them engaged from that position than the back seat.
  2. Introduce them to the concept of blind-spots and visual block-outs by walking around the outside of the car with them in the driver's seat - asking them to observe you through the mirrors and tell you to stop once they can no longer see you.
  3. Most provisional drivers would struggle to locate the spare tyre let alone know what to do with it. Walk them through the ENTIRE vehicle. Explain the easily forgotten features like the night mode on the internal rear view mirror that reduces glare from the headlights of vehicles travelling behind.
  4. Introduce scanning principals by visiting a crowded shopping centre and asking them to walk around for five minutes whilst just looking at the shopper immediately in front of them. Then ask them to walk around for five minutes whilst looking forty metres into the distance. Ask them to describe the difference. Take five minutes to sit and watch other people walk around - observe the different styles. Which people have to keep slowing down and stopping (braking)? Which people keep bumping into others (crashing)? What's happening to the shoppers who are looking at the floor, their phone or friend whilst walking? Another effective exercise is to ask them to hold the palm of their hand one inch in front of their face and then move it to five inches to see the difference it makes to their field of vision.
  5. Ask them to look for such things as exhaust smoke, front wheels turned outward, a driver behind the wheel, turn signals and brake lights as a sign that a parked vehicle may pull out suddenly.
  6. When travelling near schools and sporting fields increase low scanning including in between and underneath parked vehicles, looking for small feet and rolling balls; etc. Look for reflections in windows and the side panels of vehicles.
  7. Inform them what different regulatory and cautionary signs mean– (the L's test makes it relatively easy to memorise pictures following repetitive online test practice over several days, but not necessarily long-term meaning).
  8. Demonstrate how to adjust the seat and steering wheel for optimal posture and how to grip the steering wheel.
  9. Show them how to correctly set-up the mirrors. If the car has convex side mirrors it's important to explain that unlike flat mirrors, vehicles appear to be further away than they actually are.
  10. Demonstrate how to operate the various controls such as - pedals, indicators, windscreen-wipers, lights, demisters and park-brake.

There are often two novices inside the car – the learner driver and their supervising parent. Rather than regarding it as a period to survive, try focusing on the upside of spending valuable one-on-one time with your son or daughter.

P.S. If there are any topics you would like me to cover feel free to let me know via the Comments or Contact Page.


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