When your child turns 17, chances are they will be champing at the bit to learn to drive, finding you, like many other parents, offering up the family car for the purposes of practice. But, according to recent research, teaching your teenager to drive is one of the most difficult experiences that parents go through – and can be just as stressful for the young driver too.
The Driving Standards Agency says it takes learners on average 45 hours of professional tuition and 22 hours of private practice before they can pass their driving test. Extra practice with friends or family is associated with a higher driving test pass rate, so practising with parents really does pay off, despite the stress.
Whether you’re a beaten-down parent or just a very patient friend, helping someone learn to drive can be very beneficial. But helping someone learn to drive isn’t as simple as hopping in the passenger seat and shouting “Go!” – so, to help you along, here are our top tips for supervising a learner driver:
- Let your teen know what to expect before you pull away: tell them where you’ll be driving and what you’ll be working on. Try to find out what they have been learning in their professional lessons and consolidate it with practice rather than attempting a new skill.
- Set a good example to your teen while you are driving and make sure that, before you give them advice, you are up to date with the Highway Code and current driving practices. Your pupil will be heavily influenced by observing how you drive and by watching your judgement and behaviour while on the road.
- Don’t lose your patience with the driver, even if they keep making basic mistakes or appear not to be listening to you. Anger will inflame the situation and could cause them to make dangerous mistakes. Equally, if something goes wrong, don’t panic, just calmly talk the driver through the situation or offer to take control of the car if needed.
- Don’t talk down to your teenager or treat them like a 10-year-old, and avoid negative comments based on other traits you know them to have. Heap them with praise when they drive well and reinforce good habits by reiterating the procedures they’ve correctly grasped.
- A driving lesson is all about driving. It’s not an opportunity to berate your teenager about other issues in their life while they’re locked in a metal box with you and unable to escape. Try to avoid turning the radio on too – it may seem relaxing, but it can be very distracting for new drivers.
- Give your teenager the chance to experience a wide range of different road conditions: from rush hour to quieter times, fine weather to rain, busy roads to quiet side streets. The driver should take the initiative when it comes to deciding when you will have practice lessons, though. There’s no point forcing a reluctant teenager out for a lesson if they’re not in the mood and it will add to the stress.
Helping your relative or friend learn to drive isn’t just about being calm, supportive and organised in the passenger seat. Before you can let a teenager loose in your car, or hop in theirs, there are a few legal requirements that you need to make sure you’re meeting:
- You must be at least 21 years old and have held a full driving licence for the type of vehicle you are supervising in for a minimum of three years. For the purposes of Adrian Flux’s learner driver insurance, accompanying drivers must be over 25
- Make sure the vehicle being used is in a safe and legal condition – that it is licensed, taxed and has an MOT – and that the driver meets the minimum eyesight standards
- Display L plates on the vehicle so other road users are able to see that a learner is at the wheel
- Remember that if the vehicle is owned by the learner, the supervising driver may need to drive it themselves at some point during the practice, which means they must also be insured to drive the vehicle
- Never use your mobile phone while supervising a learner driver – including sending text messages. As you are technically in control of the car, it is illegal for you to use your phone while the car is being driven. Equally, wear your glasses if you need them to drive and never supervise if you are over the drink-drive alcohol limit
- It is illegal to receive payment for accompanying a learner driver unless you are an Approved Driving Instructor and hold the ADI certificate from the Driving Standards Agency.
Learner Driver Insurance
Before you put the rubber to the road with your teen, it’s essential to ensure that you’re covered for any problems that might occur while your child is behind the wheel.
Adrian Flux offers car insurance for learner drivers from under 85p a day and, rather than including a learner on a parent, family-member or friend’s policy, it offers separate, fully-comprehensive insurance that pays out in the event of a claim and also protects the car owners’ no-claims bonus. Policies can be taken out on a month-by-month basis, so learners only pay for the cover they need until they’ve passed their test.
Accompanying drivers must be over 25 with a valid, full UK driving licence which they have held for at least three years – although they do not need to be the car owner – and policyholders must be aged 17-25, have a UK provisional licence and permission from the car’s owner to drive the vehicle.