What scares parents supervising a learner driver?

Discover the top concerns parents have when taking their learner driver out, together with tips to overcome them


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By Alex Johnson

Updated on Apr 29th, 2021

Parents can play a big part in helping their young driver prepare for their driving test and beyond – whether it’s financial support, moral support or practical support. In March 2021 we conducted a survey of 346 parents of learner drivers to find out what their biggest concerns were when taking their young adult out for a drive. 20% of parents said they felt anxious about learning to drive and a very small minority “terrified”. I must say, I felt like this the first time I took my daughter out, but I soon realised there was little to fear, and I actually enjoyed helping her and seeing her grow in confidence! Read on to discover the top fears – it’s probably not as scary as you think (I promise!).
We hope, after reading this, that you feel re-assured that it’s completely normal to be a bit apprehensive before letting your learner take the wheel with you riding shotgun. Not to mention the fact that the benefits far outweigh the niggles as 73% of those survey suggest they enjoyed helping their young driver develop a new skill, 62% felt reassured that they were helping them to become safer and 56% enjoyed spending time together! Still not convinced – read our blog on why there is nothing to fear with private practice (including real-life stories) from parents like you.

1 Causing confusion

Believe it or not, parents are not in fear of their lives. 59% of parents said they are concerned that they don’t want to cause confusion for their young driver by teaching different techniques to that of the driving instructor. This is an easy one to overcome by keeping in touch with their driving instructor and asking your learner to explain to you what their instructor has said.

If you’re not sure about something they have been taught, rather than disagree with your learner, it’s a good idea to ask the instructor to avoid causing confusion with the learner, as the instructor probably has a good reason (and not to mention the most up to date best-practice). My daughter has a handy feedback app where her instructor notes what she wants her to practice before the next lesson – so this really helps us know what to focus on.

2 Being involved in an accident

51% said they were worried about being involved in an accident – the main worries were causing damage to their car or other people’s property or cars too. This is a natural feeling when you are not the one in control – and when you don’t have dual controls! The truth is that accidents involving learners are not that common and by attempting drives that you and the learner are confident with, and trying to avoid very busy roads and times (at least until they are test ready anyway).

As a supervising driver you’re watching the road as if you’re driving anyway so by ensuring you leave plenty of room ahead of the car in front and keep at a sensible speed, a simple instruction to “stop”, “slow down” or “move away from the curb” (my favourite!) will allow them to react.

3 The aggressiveness of other drivers

A third of parents are concerned about aggressive drivers. This is one of our pet hates here at Marmalade too! Despite the fact that we have all been a learner at some point, some drivers have no patience and will tailgate, overtake and even honk their horn behind you! It’s frustrating, and can be unsettling for the learner but, just like bullies at school, you just need to rise above it. It’s helpful if this happens to just reassure the learner to stay calm. It goes without saying that, it would be counterproductive to start shouting, honking at or gesticulating to the aggressive drive (as tempting as it may be!).

We feel so strongly about the issue we launched a petition to Government to impose stricter penalties to deter abusive behaviour on the road. Unfortunately, it was closed early due to the General Election (where all petitions were closed), and then the pandemic struck! As it is close to our hearts, we will re-launch this later this year. If you’re keen to get involved when we do, subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date.

4 Passing on bad habits

A quarter of parents are worried about passing on bad habits. By the time we are getting in the passenger seat it’s probably a case of worrying about it after the horse has bolted as your young driver has probably been observing your driving style for years. However, it is a good opportunity to think about and talk about any bad habits you’ve developed. It gives a great opportunity to bring up the conversation about what good driving habits look like – and by starting to change habits yourself you’re demonstrating just how important you think it is. You may find that your young driver is happy to see you ditch habits like speeding or picking up the phone when you shouldn’t ! We’ve some top tips for private practice tips which you may find helpful.

5 Becoming overly anxious and stressed

25% are apprehensive about getting stressed out in the passenger seat! It’s natural to feel anxious, particularly the first time you do it. Neither of you know what to expect and you want to provide your learner with the best support. Team this with a feeling of lack of control and it’s a bit daunting. This means important to choose a time when you are both feeling calm to avoid emotions escalating, and also, don’t be scared to cut a session short if things aren’t going so well.

I found that if we had a stressful drive, a break from driving for a few days worked a treat and the next time we headed out would be a clean slate. Another top tip is to breathe deeply and slowly and concentrate on keeping your voice steady and calm – it will not only put the learner at ease, but I found it helped me feel calmer in myself.

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