Supervising your child as a learner driver
Helping your child on their driving journey can be rewarding for them and you, but we understand it can be a worrying and stressful time. We have asked Keith, a driving instructor – to give us his insight and his top tips for you when giving your child private driving practice.
I’ve been an Approved Driving Instructor for over 20 years and a teacher for many years before that. Young people, at school and whilst learning to drive, benefit greatly when parents and the teacher work together and it can be a very rewarding experience for all involved. If you are a supervising learner driver, you will be helping reinforce skills already taught in lessons, providing support, effective practice and guidance on their journey to the independence on the road.
How can private driving practice help learners?
In a calm, planned drive, the learner can benefit from driving in different traffic situations, roads and times of day – which will help them to feel more confident in those real-life situations after they pass their driving test. Here are some top tips:
1. Sit in on a driving lesson
To help you understand how effective teaching is delivered by your instructor, it may be worth sitting in on a lesson or two with your child and their driving instructor. By following the advice and guidance from the instructor, the private practice drives will support what your child has already learned so it’s relevant to your child’s driving experience, skills and needs.
2. Swot up on the rules of the road
It’s a good idea to brush up on your own knowledge of Driving Theory and the Highway Code. These change from time to time, and are likely to be different from when you were learning – so you’ll need to know the up to date rules to help your child.
3. Understand your own driving style
How’s your own driving? It may be worth talking to your child’s driving instructor and taking the opportunity to have your own driving assessed. Your child is doing that every lesson so you’ll have no problem, will you?
So, you’ve brushed up on your Driving Theory, taken advice from the instructor on your own driving and you’ve planned the practice driving session. Now, what’s left to do?
4. Follow these checks before you set off
- Stick L plates to car body, not on windows.
- Get a suction mirror and use it when you’re supervising, so you can confirm what’s going on behind and ensure your child is using the mirrors effectively.
- It is also important that before you set off, you should check all of the following:
Fuel – have you got enough?
Lights – side, dip, beam, fog, brake, reversing… all of them!
Oil – and other general under the bonnet checks.
Windscreen – Windows, washers and wipers!
Electrics – Dash lights, sat nav and ventilation.
Rubber – check the tyres and the spare tyre.
You – Make sure you’re fit and healthy to drive.
Damage – check all around the vehicle for any damage.
Documents – don’t forget your licence, insurance, and numbers for breakdown services.
5. Remember the following while driving
- You’re not a passenger, you’re a supervisor. Keep alert and monitor what the learner does.
- Keep calm – provide positive and constructive feedback.
- Don’t forget to take breaks for a chat or for a drink or bite to eat.
- It goes without saying that you should put your phones away, and avoid eating and drinking during the drive.
- You are liable for driving offences whilst supervising (as you would be behind the wheel) – alcohol, mobile phone use, for example.
- You don’t have dual controls so you really need to look well ahead and be aware of what’s going on to keep safe and avoid emergencies
6. After the lesson
It’s important to encourage your child after that first private practice session. Chances are, you got off to a rocky start and it didn’t go as perfectly as either of you thought it would have. The important thing for both of you now is to not give up. Planning your next trip together and focusing on what needs work will help with the nerves. Reflection is important, too. Have chat with your child – how did they feel the session went?
Watch and learn
You may not realise, but your child has been learning about driving for many years before they get their licence by watching how you are behind the wheel. Whilst you may have picked up some bad habits over the years – now is the time to help them learn the correct way to drive, keeping them safe when they’re behind the wheel on their own. Private driving practice is a great opportunity to help your child become a safe and confident driver.
It’s a great challenge too, for both parents and learners. Take advice from the instructor, plan your drives out, and make it an enjoyable experience for both of you. Too many young people are killed and injured in crashes and you will be instrumental in helping provide positive experiences, skills, confidence and attitude - all necessary for those decades of driving ahead - and to reduce the risk for your child.