Entering into the world of learning to drive can be a daunting task for those taking to the road, but it can be equally challenging for the parents accompanying them as the supervising driver. The following aims to offer some tips, guidance and support to parents, helping you guide your young driver in the best way. I will refer to parents, but we know that help with driving comes from many sources including grandparents, older siblings and family friends.
My name is Chris Bensted and I have been an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) for over 12 years. I run my own driving school called Better Driver Training, as well as an 11-17 driving experience, and work nationally supporting other driving instructors and the wider community as the Driving Instructor and Trainers Collective. The following is a guide to help parents get a jump-start on the path to accompanying their young driver when they look to get in private driving practice outside of their driving lessons.
Preparing for private practice
Before you can start accompanying your child in private driving practice – there’s a few things you need to do first:
- Decide on the car. Will you be practicing in the family car or will the learner be getting a car of their own?
- Make sure you put the adequate insurance in place
- Get those L plates ready!
Private practice is a scary concept for the young driver and accompanying driver, but it is an excellent way of reducing the cost of learning to drive and increasing the experience and confidence for the learner behind the wheel.
The first private practice session
Both parents and teens are going to be nervous for the first private practice session – it’s likely that it’s completely out of your comfort zone! Following these tips and taking on this advice for the first session should set you on your way, then all sessions after that will be a breeze!
Of course this is going to be tip 1 – you’ve got to keep your cool. It’s likely that your young driver is just as nervous as you, so hopefully if you’re calm, they’ll start to calm down too. They’re relying on you to help them in this session so remember to breathe, take your time and don’t shout or raise your voice before, during or after the session. Also, don’t be embarrassed that you’re nervous. Talk openly about this and agree ‘time outs’ and plan the route together in advance. An imbalance in control and responsibility can increase the stress and that is often when it becomes unproductive.
Make a plan
Following on from tip 1, the second tip is to make a plan. This is all about knowing your teens level of experience and confidence gained from their lessons. It may be helpful to get in touch with your child’s driving instructor to see what they recommend you practice and work on identifying areas for improvement. This helps make practice achievable. There’s little point planning a route that includes dual carriageways if your young driver isn’t ready for that yet.
Figure out what it is they’ve been working on in lessons and focus on it. If their last lesson was looking at roundabouts and they want some more practice, find a route that includes a few different types of roundabout for them to drive on.
You’re not there to teach them
Private practice is designed to allow the learner driver to practice what they already know. Unless you happen to be a driving instructor too, it’s best that you let the learner work on what they’ve been learning in their lessons – this is what they need to pass their test. It’s likely when you were learning, things were a little different. Instructors know how the driving test works today, so allow them to teach your teen to drive – you’re there to support.
Another top tip for private practice is to not give instructions, ask questions instead.
The aim is to use your own driving experience to look well ahead. Let us assume you can see a cyclist - First ask, “What can you see?”. If it’s getting a bit more immediate or they don’t respond, then target the question “What are you going to do about the cyclist?”. Hopefully at this point they will have either demonstrated or replied, putting your mind at rest and demonstrating their skill, if not… now is the time to start telling them. This results in a much more relaxed experience for both parties and avoids the inevitable family row!
Other top tips
As the accompanying driver it’s worth remembering these points:
- Even though you are the accompanying driver and not behind the wheel, you’re still legally responsible as if you were driving. This means you’re not allowed to use your mobile phone and your attention needs to be on the road – just as if you were driving
- Remember you cannot take your learner driver on the motorway – this can only be done by ADIs in dual controlled cars
- Take a look at Marmalade’s YouTube Channel. Every week there is a new episode of my Driving Instructor Masterclass, where I talk you through how to perform various manoeuvres and cover things like merging onto a dual carriageway, roundabouts, and clutch control!