“I asked her to brake a little firmer and at the next junction I nearly head butted the dash”. The words from one mum who took the brave leap to take her daughter out for private driving practice. Now if you stop reading here, you can assume this ‘life flashing before your eyes’ moment stopped this mum from venturing out again with her learner driver daughter behind the wheel, but if you do stop reading, you’ll not see how well they went on and progressed. “I’ve been impressed by my daughters’ sensible attitude and quick reactions when faced with difficult situations caused by other drivers.”
We’re taking a look at what parents and young drivers have said about their private practice experience, and we’ll talk you through how to handle different situations should you come across them too. Private driving practice will be full of ups and downs, but the main thing to remember is to not panic, take it in your stride and learn as you go… and to keep going! Trust us, it’s not all that bad.
“Kangaroo jumps when in third gear, not first!”
Ah yes, the classic kangaroo bouncing along the road when you try to pull away in third gear – well, fun fact, it can actually happen in any gear! It’s usually because the learner takes their foot off the clutch too quickly, tries to pull away in the wrong gear, or struggles with clutch control when changing through the gears. First, don’t worry - it happens, in fact it’s almost a right of passage to do it as least once as a learner. We see this story time and time again – it’s all about how you handle it as the accompanying driver.
Let’s face it, the first time you do this as a learner you’re going to think there is something seriously wrong with the car and you’ll likely enter into what we like to call ‘Full Blown Panic Mode!’. It’s the job of the supervising driver to keep them calm, check for other road users to make sure there’s no immediate danger and to get them sorted and started up again (turning the car off, going into neutral, MSM routine etc). Explain to the learner why this happened, that the car isn’t about to blow up and it does happen from time to time. Don’t worry, you’ll leave the kangaroo hopping stage of private practice behind in no time.
“Pulling into a car park space far too fast and scaring the living daylights out of me”
This is a good one – well, not really, but it’s a good example of what can happen in private practice. Either confidence in the learner results in them going too quickly, or they just don’t quite realise how slow and steady you need to take parking a car. Either way, there’s things you can do to help.
- Talk to them way ahead of them attempting to park the car and reiterate how slow and steady they need to go
- If you’re selecting the parking space for them, try to pick one that doesn’t have cars at either side (for a bay park) or a big enough gap for 3 or 4 cars (for a parallel park). This will give extra space for any mistakes the learner makes, and means you don’t have to worry as much about any damage to your car or nerves that may come
“Stalled the car one time. People behind kept peeping their horn. We were all getting stressed which made her do it again and again”
Ooo the multiple stalling nightmare – yep, we’ve all been there. You make the mistake once and then the pressure to get going again means all control is pretty much lost and you’re stalling multiple times before you even know it. Unfortunately whilst we’d like to think that our blogs and advice will stop all drivers from acting in such aggressive ways towards learner drivers (we’ve even got a petition on the go) this is something that still happens, way more than we’d like. To help with this one, it’s all about keeping calm – for the young driver and the supervisor. Have a chat before going out and let them know that this may occur, but how to deal with it should it happen – take your time, keep calm, ignore everyone else, and get the car moving when you can. Turning into a panic filled shell isn’t going to help you, or the other drivers who unfortunately aren’t the most patient people in the world.
“First time on a slip road, I changed to a lower gear by accident. I thought my Dad was going to pass out”
Joining fast roads like dual carriageways as a learner is terr-i-fy-ing at first, even with a driving instructor. Throw your dad into the accompanying seat and get your gears wrong, and you’ve gone from a ‘lighthearted comedy horror’ to full blown ‘can’t sleep because you’re too scared’ type situation. It’s easy for us to say don’t panic and for the most part when mistakes are made on slower roads, it’s easier to keep your cool, but approaching fast roads can see all sense go straight out the window.
To conquer this nightmarish event, think ahead of time what could and might go wrong – we know, optimistic ay! We don’t want it to scare you, but we do want it to mentally prepare you should anything like this happen. So, dropping down a gear when you’re supposed to be going up – as scary as it is, isn’t the end of the world. The car will over rev and you might jump forward a little quicker than you anticipated but you’ll have time to reassure the learner and get them back into the correct gear hopefully within plenty of time before joining the dual carriageway!
In a recent survey, a third of parents giving their children private driving practice said they were anxious¹ (as well as terrified, and unsafe!) but we found that for those who take out our Learner Insurance policy, only one in 112 customers have a claim where they're in some part at fault - so it goes to show, it's not as scary as you might think!
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