Each year, thousands of young people make their first steps into the world of driving, investing hundreds in lessons from their local instructor. Learning to drive offers a sense of freedom not enjoyed by those reliant on trains and buses, so it’s easy to see why so many youngsters are keen to get behind the wheel when they reach 17.
But we all know just how difficult learning to drive can be, and the latest figures suggest that 1 in 5 young drivers fail to pass their test on the first attempt — which is a lot, given that resitting theory and practical tests doesn’t come cheap.
The question is, how can young drivers improve their chances of success when it comes to their driving test? After all, driving ability isn’t down to natural talent; it’s a matter of practice makes perfect.
With university open days in full swing, and thousands of young people readying to fly the nest in September, this could be the last chance for them to nail that driving test. If you’re keen for your kids to get a shiny pink license before they head off to uni, here we offer advice and tips on how you can help them pass on the big day.
Teaching the Kids to Drive
The thought of lending your offspring the car might fill you with dread, but letting them get extra practice in the family car could mean the difference between pass and fail — not to mention save them a shedload of cash in lesson fees. It’ll also mean they’re better prepared for lessons with their instructor, ensuring they get maximum value from each hour-long lesson slot. But before you let your kids take the wheel, there are a few things you need to do.
First, be sure that you, or whoever else has volunteered to supervise the learner (be it a friend, sibling or other family member), meet the legal requirements. Supervisors need to be 21 years or older and have held a full UK driving license for three or more years to qualify. They’re responsible for the safety of the driver and other road users, and will be liable in the event of an accident on the road.
Next, make sure the car is insured for both the supervisor and the learner. If the vehicle belongs to you, the easiest way to do this is to add the learner to your existing insurance premium. If the car belongs to the learner, however, they should be the named driver, and the supervisor should be included as an additional driver. Don’t be tempted to ‘front’ the insurance to save money, as this could invalidate the insurance and lead to a hefty fine.
On the Road
Supervising a learner driver on the open road can be a daunting experience, and it’s a skill professional driving instructors have honed over countless lessons. Providing clear instruction, resisting the urge to intervene, and ultimately keeping your cool can be difficult, especially between family members. Here, we offer tips to help you and your learner stay cool and collected on the road.
Plan Your Route
As the supervisor, it’s your job to plan a manageable route that suits the ability of your learner. Depending on how adept they are behind the wheel, choose roads that will test their skills without throwing them in at the deep end. For instance, if they’ve only just mastered the controls, opt for quiet roads where they can practice the basics. Or, if they’re approaching their test, take them on a busier route to ensure they’re used to driving in different situations.
By planning a good route ahead of time, you’ll avoid unnecessary stress that could lead to tears and tantrums — from both parties!
Don’t Get Stressed
Even the calmest person can get angry behind the wheel, and this tends to intensify when parents choose to teach their kids how to drive. While it can be all too easy to get stressed when supervising a learner, try to see it from their point of view and think back to your days as a new driver. The best advice comes from remembering how you rectified your own bugbears and mistakes when first learning to drive, something that could prove useful in helping them overcome their blunders.
Above all, try to stay calm and collected when in the passenger seat, even if they do something really silly. Fights and arguments are distracting, and can easily lead to accidents.
Offer Clear Instructions
While driving is second nature to experienced motorists, learners need constant advice and encouragement. Operating a car, watching for hazards, and knowing when to turn is a steep learning curve for new learners, so offer clear instructions and avoid ambiguity. For instance, instead of saying “slow down” say “brake”, as this is a more direct instruction. Make sure you give them plenty of time to react to navigation instructions too, or else they’ll soon get flustered.
Stick to their Instructor’s Learning Techniques
One of the best pieces of advice for parents helping their kids to drive is to stick to their instructor’s learning techniques. Even if you disagree or prefer your way of doing things, conflicting advice can cause more harm than good, and could even set them back a lesson. Of course, if their instructor’s advice sounds flawed, it’s probably best to find a new one before that all-important test.
To get the best from every trip riding shotgun with your kids, here are some further tips and advice you should consider:
- Let them practice in different conditions: Driving in the dark, in the rain or in bad traffic/roadworks will give them experience they can use before and after the test.
- Give them time to warm up: Start each session on quiet roads, so they’ve got time to practice their skills and get used to the car before venturing into trickier situations.
- Try travelling with family and friends: By introducing other friends and family to the car, this will help them relax and get used to driving with distractions — something they don’t teach during regular driving lessons.
- Teach them basic car maintenance: While driving instructors will impart basic knowledge of car maintenance, you can take this further by showing them how to change a flat tyre, top up fluids or replace a windscreen wiper. Even things like filling a car with petrol can be daunting for a new driver, so show them how it’s done early on.
- Remember the basic equipment: Sounds obvious, but when transforming the family car into a learner mobile, remember to use ‘L’ plates. We’d also recommend investing in proper instructor mirrors for the rear and side mirrors, so you can keep an eye on what’s going on around the car.
Top Tips from the Dads:
Often charged with helping their children pass their driving test, dads know better than anyone what it takes to take their kids from sheer danger to decent driver. With this in mind, we enlisted the help of two top dad bloggers to share their words of wisdom for fellow parents helping their kids to drive
When it comes to passing a driving test, there’s no better advice to adhere to than the 3 P’s of Practice, Patience and Perseverance. For the majority of people looking to get their licence, learning to drive is a new skill like nothing they’ve experienced before. As such, they need to put in the hours both in and out of the car, take things slowly without becoming annoyed and stick with it even if they feel like giving up.
Mum and dad can do a great deal to help their children pass their driving test. Assuming everyone is comfortable with the situation and the necessary legal requirements are met, mum and dad should take their offspring out on some supervised drives. The route, however, must be planned in advance.
A learner driver is not allowed on a motorway. Busy, urban roads will be stressful for all concerned. Plan to go on quiet roads, during daylight hours when the roads are quiet and allow your child to gradually build up their driving skills.
Parents should also remember their child is new to motoring. They have not got the years of experience you have and will make mistakes and lack confidence. Keep this in mind, and don’t get stressed as this will affect your child’s confidence.
By giving your son or daughter driving lessons in the family car, you’ll not only boost their chances of passing their driving test, but also make them an all-round better driver.
And once they have passed, why not continue their motoring education with Holts Car Care Guide for First-Time Drivers — download it for free, here.
At Holts, our handy DIY car care range offers peace of mind for drivers old and new. To browse our complete product range, visit the Holts website.