Supervising Driver Tips - Part 2

Posted on 15 September 2017

Throughout the first month of spring I am sharing 50 TIPS to support parents and other supervising drivers who are instructing learners.

30. When your learner is conducting left shoulder (blind-spot) checks, ensure they only turn their head so that their chin is in line with their shoulder. Too many novice drivers turn all the way around to look through the rear window - causing their arms to move the steering wheel which of course results in the vehicle drifting. Use the rear vision mirror to check behind ... the 'head-check' is for blind-spots at the sides. One occasion when they should turn to look through the rear window is prior to reversing.

29. The need for your involvement does not disappear once your teenager gets their licence. That letter [P] at the front and back of their car stands for PROBLEMATIC - especially the red one during the first 6-12 months!

28. If your learner is consistently cutting the corner or travelling past the turning point on right turns, advise them to start steering when their right-side mirror lines up with the centre line or midway point of the road they're turning onto to.

27. Encourage your learner to self-assess whilst you are still supervising their driving because once they become licensed, they will essentially become their own instructor. You can help them develop a realistic and measured view of their driving performance and capabilities.

26. Teach your learner driver to look as far into the distance as they can comfortably see. Avoid tunnel vision by not over-focusing on lane markings or the vehicle immediately in front. It also lessens the risk of veering or drifting. It's important to scan high and to the sides for regulatory and cautionary signs.

25. Sudden and frequent braking is a sign that a learner driver isn't scanning far enough ahead.

24. Learner drivers have a tendency to over-use the brake pedal and under-use the accelerator pedal to manage speed. Encourage Eco-driving by teaching them to reduce speed by easing off the accelerator pedal. This is much easier to achieve when scanning about five vehicles ahead.

23. To develop effective speed perception, have your learner guess their travelling speed before they check the speedometer. (They can start this exercise as a front seat passenger). Developing a sense of speed is useful because constant speedometer glancing can be distracting.

22. Learner drivers often comment that judging safe gaps using mirrors is the most difficult part of the lane-changing process. As a MINIMUM, they should be able to at least see the headlights of the trailing vehicle (new lane) in their centre (internal) mirror – however, NOTE: this is a guide and is not a substitute for a shoulder (blind-spot) check. REMEMBER: Mirror- MirrorShoulder.

21. Learner drivers frequently slow down whilst changing lanes. This potentially dangerous action is often done unconsciously. They take their foot off the accelerator pedal and sometimes even apply the brake. Despite initially selecting a safe gap, the gap very quickly disappears when they slow down. Ensure they maintain momentum!

20. Modern day cars are increasingly being equipped with automatic daylight running lights (DRL) which also illuminates the instruments on the dashboard. As a result many motorists don't switch their headlights on during early morning and dusk HALF-LIGHT PERIODS. Advise novice drivers that even if they can see clearly they should switch their headlights on so that others can see their TAIL-LIGHTS which aren't generally activated with DRL - (especially important if driving a dark or silver coloured vehicle).

19. Sunrise and sunset low sun glare generally coincides with peak traffic periods (nose to tail crashes) - teach your learner to stop 1.5 – 2 car lengths behind traffic initially until the vehicle behind comes to a stop and then roll forward to the standard one car length position. Always plan an ESCAPE!

18. The prefrontal cortex area of an adolescent's brain (that enables them to determine when risk OUTWEIGHS reward) is not yet fully developed – so basically, they possess the impulsive "GO" part (the accelerator pedal); but not the higher cognitive part - the "BRAKE" pedal.

17. I have heard some interesting anecdotes about learners trying to locate and use windscreen-wipers for the first time when travelling at 60 km/h with outside conditions resembling a scene from a Steven Spielberg movie. Whilst parked in a controlled environment:-
Demonstrate the slow and fast operation of the wiper lever and the washers function.
Locate and demonstrate the demister and air ventilation system and refer to the vehicle's owner manual.
Demonstrate hazard lights and horn function.

16. As tailgating drivers direct their attention solely on the vehicle in front of them (in case they need to brake suddenly), they also pose a risk to road users in adjacent lanes because typically they don't scan and their field of vision is compromised. Ensure your learner stays out of the tailgater's blind-spot. If your learner is being tailgated, instruct them to increase the following distance from the vehicle in front - CONTROL the controllables!

15. Encourage your new L Plater to wear thin-soled enclosed footwear so they have sufficient feel of the pedals. It's not unusual for them to press down on the pedals quite firmly when starting out. The sudden take-offs and stops may leave you feeling like you're inside a washing machine at times. I recall several years ago I had a learner go for his first drive after work – every time his heavy steel-capped size 12 squashed the accelerator pedal I thought I was aboard a Saturn 5 rocket – (I'm certain the investigators at CSI would still find fragments of my DNA buried deep inside the back-rest of that seat today).

14. Advise your learner driver to rest their right heel on the floor in line with the brake pedal and to press down on it with the ball of their foot. From this position their foot can swivel across to the accelerator pedal. We do it this way because we need to apply more pressure to the brake pedal than the accelerator pedal.

13. Be aware that learners often fall victim to 'target fixation' when they first begin to drive -- meaning when they see an object they don't want to collide with, they continue to look at it - that of course results in them inevitably steering towards the object or hazard. Instruct them to focus on the safe area they want to drive towards - not the object they wish to avoid.

12. Novice drivers can become quite anxious when changing lanes in congested traffic. Sometimes a 'sympathy signal' can assist. If a safe gap isn't opening up, they can apply their indicator to show other road users their intention. It generally prompts other drivers to react ... whether they back-off or speed up, a safe gap often ensues. Don't forget the blind-spot check before changing.

11. A few years ago the psychology department at Temple University in Philadelphia conducted a study into adolescent development and decision making.
They created a driving test simulator to study the risk behaviour of adolescents and adults - both when alone and when being observed by a group of their peers.
When not being watched by their friends, the adolescents took no more risks than the adults; but when being observed, they did ... no great surprises there, however it got interesting when they conducted brain imaging tests to compare brain activity when completing the tasks alone and whilst their friends were viewing via a monitor in another room. When being observed by friends it activated the reward centre of their brain, despite not even seeing their peers - (simply believing they were being watched was enough).
When the adult's brain activity was monitored there was no change in the reward centre of the brain when informed they were being watched by their friends.

Their lab then conducted an experiment with mice - they took a group of new-borns from different litters and created individual peer groups by raising them in separate cages with the intention of learning how much alcohol the different groups would consume.

They conducted the test with half of the mice being adolescents and the other half adults. And, they tested half of each group both alone and with their friends.
They found the adolescent Mickeys drank more when with their friends compared to when they were alone. The adult mice on the other-hand consumed the same amounts whether by themselves or partying with their peer group.

Those alcoholic rodents suggest we humans are not the only mammals whose brains are impacted by peers. So, rather than deny that risk-taking is an inherent part of an adolescent's pathology, we adults could perhaps manoeuvre our way around it by managing the 'opportunities' for risk.

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