Teaching Family & Friends

Lend a helping hand to a learner driver in the family with
some practice behind the wheel. Give them your expertise on the road, but not your
bad habits

When learning to drive, practice outside of ordinary driving lessons can help increase confidence and skill, and give the learner driver an opportunity to drive in the presence of different people in different situations. Learning to drive with a family member or a friend can be a rewarding and useful experience, but it can also be quite stressful. To achieve the most out of the extra driving time it is vital that both the learner and the family member or friend work together.

To supervise a learner driver you must be at least 21 and have held a full driving licence for three years.

Due to the increase in traffic, a lot more is expected of both the learner driver and the tutor in modern society. There are many more road, signs, and speed limits, as well as many more cars than when older drivers where learning. Learning to drive can be an intimidating experience, and may well unnerve the assisting family member or friend just as much. Here is some advice for learners and their practice partners to help both of you benefit from this experience.

Your Role: As the parent/friend/sibling etc of the learner driver, your role primarily is to give them time to practice what they have learned, providing guidance and instruction when they come unstuck. The point to practicing with a family member is to give the learner as much time behind the wheel as possible. What occurs in these practice sessions should reinforce what has been covered by their driving instructor.

It is very easy for a learner to pick up bad habits. Their attitude will be reflected in their driving ability and their consideration for other road users. So ensure that you express the correct levels of attention, anticipation and courtesy that are required to create a safe and competent driver. By setting a good example in attitude you will pass on just as significant skills as well the technical capabilities.

Keep Your Bad Habits In Check

It may have been many years since you took your test, so bear in mind that when your child does pass their test they may technically be a better driver than you. Remember the important skills that examiners look for; always check your mirrors, hold the steering wheel correctly, and always, always, indicate.

Plan The Sessions

Together, plan where each driving practice will take you and what manoeuvres you may cover. In the beginning it is better to look for large empty areas like car parks while the learner gets to grips with the car. As they progress onto the road, choose quiet roads first.

Take Your Time

The learner driver will inevitably be nervous, and no doubt so will you. Build up the sessions gradually as you both increase in confidence and get used to each other. Frequent, shorter sessions can be more beneficial than longer sporadic ones.

Don’t Shout

The biggest problem a parent can have helping to teach their child to drive is talking to them naturally. Driving can be a tense experience for the learner, and you want to do everything you can to help them feel confident and in control, not like a naughty child. Driving under the guidance of someone they know can be extra pressure for the learner so be patient and positive. Don’t nag, and if you do feel like shouting, take a break. Tempers will not benefit either party and can undermine the learner’s confidence.

Don’t Take Passengers

Not only will they put off the learner driver, but having someone in the back seat can restrict the learner’s view when looking out the back of the car.

Don’t Overwhelm The Learner Driver

Build up to different settings and manoeuvres as the learner progresses. Making them practice and check everything at once will only leave them bewildered and lead to frustration. Remember that it is all quite new to them and to take things slowly.

Communication Is King

When giving the learner driver instructions, make sure that they understand exactly what you mean to avoid undue stress, and give the driver plenty of time to consider and anticipate the next move. For example, ask to them turn right after the traffic lights, as opposed to saying “turn right now”.

Don’t Just Instruct

If the learner has made a mistake, ask them what they think they did wrong before you point out their error. If they are speeding in a certain area, ask them what they think the speed limit is. It will keep them focused on their surroundings and aware of their actions.

Remain Vigilant

However well the lesson is going and how confident the learner driver seems, they are still inexperienced in the ways of the road. They may not be prepared for sudden changes and so you must be the second pair of eyes.

Help Out Where Necessary

The amount of controls and settings in modern cars can be a little confusing at first, especially as the learner is concentrating so hard on the road. Help out if they get flustered if the windows mist or if they forget to dip the lights, and go through the controls again after the practice if required.

Watch out for some of the most common mistakes that new, and particularly, young drivers make:

  • Not slowing down in complex road situations
  • Not looking around or using mirrors enough
  • Overconfidence

After each driving practice, ensure that you spend time discussing the positives and negatives of each session. Always encourage the driver when they have done well, and allow them time to reflect on the areas which didn’t go as well. Don’t clash with what the driving instructor teaches; speak to the instructor and find out if the learner has misinterpreted what the instructor said.