Make the most of private driving practice outside lessons - essential reading for learner drivers or anyone accompanying them!
Taking extra driving practice alongside the lessons with an instructor will not only improve skills and confidence, but the increased exposure to different experiences behind the wheel will help drivers feel more prepared on passing. Private driving practice allows time to perfect certain manoeuvres the learner may really struggle with, or cover scenarios they may not get to experience in a lesson – such as night time driving, multi storey car parks or heading through a drive-thru (which let’s face it is likely to be high on the list as a new driver!).
To get the most out of your private practice and make it as stress free as possible – for both the learner driver and supervising driver, here are our top tips:
Enthusiastic learners may be chomping at the bit to take dad’s Audi 5 series for a spin (which we quite understand!), however practising in a car that is much closer to the car they are learning in with their instructor, or practising in the car they will drive once they pass, is more beneficial. It will not only be easier for them to get used to and feel confident in but is likelier to be easier to manoeuvre, and less stressful for both drivers. It goes without saying, that before you head out, it is important than insurance is in place to cover the learner behind the wheel.
Ok, so this is one for the supervising driver (although, if you’re a learner reading this, it’s definitely worth suggesting to your parent, or partner, who may have forgotten what it is like to be a learner!). Ask if you can accompany the learner driving during the lesson in the back seat and ask the driving instructor for advice as to how you can best support the learner in private practice. By observing for the lesson you can see first hand just how much the learner needs to think about (that may come naturally to you), what they struggle with and how they are handling their nerves behind the wheel. Seeing the lesson from their point of view, will help you have more patience when you’re the one in the passenger seat!
Unless you’re practising in exactly the same car as the instructor car, there’s likely to be a few differences when the learner gets into the new car. During the first session, it’s a good idea to spend a few minutes talking through how everything works – for example, some newer cars substitute the ignition or handbrake with a button – which may come as a surprise for some learners as they get ready to set off! After getting to know the cockpit of the car, it’s worth the learner testing the biting point of the car before they set off. After all this, they should feel more confident and relaxed during the drive.
Let’s face it, it’s going to be a bit nerve wracking in the early days for both parties, so choose a time you are both going to be feeling fairly relaxed. Heading out of a weekend or a free afternoon or evening is probably wiser than hitting the city centre at rush hour, or trying to cram in half an hour before dinner when everyone’s hangry! You’ll know when the best time is to practice driving for both of you. Also, for the first drives building in a little extra time will ease the pressure – allowing learners to re-familiarise themselves with the car and to take a break if needed.
The drive is likely to go a lot smoother if both of you know where you are going and what you are planning on practising in the session! Before the session it’s worth catching up on the skills you want to cover and where may be best to head out to – whether it is a quiet side street to practise parking, or taking the route to and from a workplace to work on a variety of skills. The length of time you have to practise may dictate what you can achieve in the session – so think about what’s realistic in the time period. Your instructor may be able to suggest ideal places to practice driving near you. Or why not check out our top 8 drives to do as a learner.
Aside from practising the skills to get through the driving test, private driving practise allows learner drivers to gain experience in as many real-life situations as possible. When you’re thinking about what and when you’re going to practice try and incorporate different skills and try driving at different times of day. This could include city centre driving, driving on rural roads, navigating a multi storey car park, driving at night, driving in rush hour and driving in different weather conditions, to name just a few.
It’s not always going to be plain sailing and can be stressful for both the learner and supervisor. If you’re accompanying a learner driver, remember to breathe and relax, and try not to hold on to door handle or seat for dear life, as the learner is likely to pick up on these signals and become more nervous themselves. Ensuing that you are tackling roads you are comfortable on for the learner’s stage of driving should reduce this stress. Likewise, as a learner, cut the supervising driver a bit of slack if they look uncomfortable to start with – as it will be new for them too. If at any time either of you are finding the stress too much during a session, don’t be scared to pull over and take a break, or end the session early ready to try another day.
Ok, so you haven’t exactly completed a secret mission, but you’ll both find it helpful having a chat after you drive about how it went. It’s a good opportunity for the experienced driver to praise the learner on what went well in the session and suggest what may be good to work on more the next time you head out for private driving practice. It’s a good opportunity for the learner to do the same – whether it’s sharing how they felt and what they would like to work on more, or giving their parent, friend or partner some feedback too – for example “I love the way you encouraged me, but I find it really unnerving when you grit your teeth when I am trying to park!”
It’s not often that parents and their teens get a lot of time together, so these driving practise sessions can be a great opportunity to re-connect and build memories that neither of you will forget (good memories of course!). Who knows, you may enjoy driving together so much you plan a road trip for when they have passed – and the newly passed driver will be driving, of course!
Getting on the road can be a steep learning curve for both parents and learner drivers – from choosing how best to study for the theory and driving tests, to finding an instructor and choosing what car to drive. When it comes to insurance, it’s good to know that Marmalade off a range of flexible solutions, as we know one size doesn’t fit all! The most popular option is our temporary learner driver insurance which covers the learner from 1 month to 6 months, but we also offer annual options on a parent’s car or the young drivers own car. This is a great option to ensure the learner has the same car before and after they pass. So, once you know what car you’ll be practising in, why not use our handy tool to find the right insurance for you.
It couldn't be easier to arrange cover to get out for private practice - get a quote today and you could be on the road in minutes, with no risk to the car owner's No Claims Discount!