A parent's guide for helping their teen learn to drive | Guest Post

I remember when I learned to drive with the help of my Dad. After my first batch of lessons we drove from York all the way to Durham along the A19. We did it on a bright Sunday afternoon when we assumed the traffic would be lightest, and it took us about two hours including stopping for coffee and some feedback at a service station near Middlesbrough. When you’re learning to drive, building as much experience and confidence on the road as possible is vital, and I considered that this trip, and those that followed, with my Dad, were an invaluable complement to my tuition.

If you’re teaching your teen to drive then you may be feeling the same kind of pressure that he or she is. Here is some handy advice to keep in mind; it should help them develop confidence behind the wheel and pass their test.

Choosing a car
Naturally it’s best for your son or daughter to practise in the car they’ll take their test in, and are likely to drive after they pass. Many parents choose to invest in an inexpensive used car, as the odd scratch or dent on that are unlikely to cause as much heartburn as they would on the family motor. For the sake of low insurance costs, stick to small cars which have a trusted reputation for safety and not too powerful an engine.

Bearing in mind that since you passed your own test a lot has changed in road conditions and driving regulations, paying for lessons from a qualified instructor is a smart move. You should discuss progress with the instructor and agree, between the three of you, which aspects of tuition that you can work on at weekends and in the evenings.

Before hitting the road remember you will need to have L Plates on the front and back of the car, and it’s a good idea to keep both of your drivers’ licenses and insurance details to hand.

Assuming your teen is just starting to learn, then the first time you get in the car together with him or her at the wheel, you should spend a half hour or so just running through the basics such as how to operate lights, windscreen wipers, demister, gears and indicators, and of course, making sure they’re comfortable with where to put their feet to accelerate, brake and change gear.

Early Practise
If you have a retail or office development near you, make use of it. Empty car parks are ideal training grounds to master reverse parking, turning and emergency stops. Once both you and your teen feel ready, you can head to country roads where there is little traffic, before moving on to urban streets, preferably during quiet periods such as Sunday mornings. Go out in varied conditions, from sunny days to darker evenings - although during downpours and treacherous weather it’s best to stay at home and practise theory. Your focus should always be on defensive driving, making them aware of potential road hazards and how to avoid them, and how to be a responsible, conscientious driver.

You will need to be alert at all times, and communicate well in advance what should be done when approaching roundabouts or junctions for instance. Staying calm is key. If you’re raising your voice, making moves toward the handbrake or reaching for the steering wheel, then you will damage their confidence. Try to always be positive, rewarding good driving and gently correcting bad driving with advice rather than criticism. Mistakes should be seen as important lessons and you have to accept there is a risk of picking up the odd ding. Better to have a few of those than a bigger incident later if your teen is not fully prepared for the road.

Keep in mind…
To prevent burnout or frustration, keep practise sessions short, an hour at a time a few days a week is plenty, although if your teen is eager to get more experience, then try to get out whenever you have a free moment, letting them take the wheel if you need to pop to the shops or visit friends.

Also - don’t forget to give some attention to the things that aren’t taught by their instructor but which can be very useful, such as how to change a tyre, check oil levels, or fill up with fuel safely.

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