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When Should My Teenager Have Professional Driving Lessons?

Posted on 01 August 2017








Many parents are unsure when they should book their teenager in for professional driving lessons. When and how many lessons a young driver has with a professional driving instructor varies significantly. In New South Wales, a one hour structured lesson with a professional instructor may be credited in the learner's logbook as three up to a maximum of 10 hours recorded as 30. Any lesson hours after that are simply counted as one-for-one.

Some parents elect to have their learner complete the first ten hours with an instructor prior to personally supervising their driving - those parents often say something like: 'I don't want anything to do with it until they are up and running on multi-lane roads.' On the flip-side, others leave the last ten hours to the professional - they may say something like: "Jack drives quite well; I just need you to fix any bad habits I have passed on; show him how to park and basically prepare him for the driving test." Some parents decide to do all the supervising themselves; meanwhile a very small percentage will request the pro to provide all of the tuition. I would like to point out none of those approaches are wrong; and individual circumstances do understandably influence decisions.

A group I didn't reference in the aforementioned analysis was those parents who opt to supplement their own supervision with professional instruction at VARIOUS STAGES of the process. Over the years I have gradually formed the opinion that this strategy is generally the most effective.

I firmly believe many of us parents miss golden opportunities to teach our children much of the preparing to drive; vehicle controls and traffic concepts in the tween years. We spend SO many hours travelling with our children in our shiny metallic boxes - commencing the first week of their life. If you as the supervising driver focus on the 'pre-keys'period through to the 'carpark/quiet street' stage, it will ensure that when a licensed instructor commences at the 'traffic' stage there will be a superior return on investment in relation to 'structured' professional lessons.

Waiting until a couple of weeks before test day to have an hour or two of professional lessons can be problematic as the learner is often introduced to critical and complex concepts on the eve of their driving test. Often, mum and dad have also had difficulty teaching Jack or Jill parking - so that also becomes a last minute crash course consuming valuable instruction time. Regularly there is evidence of a lack of situational awareness and higher order cognitive skills that ideally shouldn't be crammed in on the eve of unsupervised licensure. Key performance areas such as decision making/safe gap selection on lane-changes; right turns at green lights; scanning and hazard perception need to be developed throughout the entire learn-to-drive process.

View the journey as a collaboration between you – (the General Practitioner), and the driving instructor – (the Specialist). The Instructor introduces new concepts that the student continues to practice with their parent(s)/supervising driver. Once competency is achieved they graduate to the next level of instruction with the professional whereby they gradually progress through more complex decision making and higher order cognitive driving skills. This approach, I believe, provides opportunity to correct erroneous behaviours before they become deep-rooted. The student benefits from relevant, consistent instruction, reducing the potential for mixed messages.

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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