According to research carried out by RAC, more than a third of drivers aged 17 to 34 felt having access to a car was more important than ever during the Coronavirus pandemic. Avoiding public transport while still feeling a sense of independent freedom is just one of the reasons why many people are now looking to learn how to drive.
However, even though driving schools have reopened following the UK lockdown, many professional instructors now face a backlog of students. This is where the driving school of mum or dad comes in.
We’ve seen a huge increase in parents teaching their children how to drive and it’s worth reminding parents that teaching a learner driver is more than sitting in the car while they figure everything out for themselves. Helping them to pass the theory and practical test is a big responsibility, so we’ve come up with some top tips and guidance.
Are you, the learner, and the car legal?
First things first, there is a small list of criteria you must meet to legally teach. You must be over 21 years old and have held a licence for at least three years. You must meet the minimum eyesight standards and you must be qualified to drive the same type of car as you using to teach a learner in, e.g. manual or automatic. Finally, you must not be paid to teach the learner.
The same goes for checking that the student is legally eligible to learn. They must be over 17 years of age and hold a provisional driving licence.
It is important to check that the car is roadworthy and in good working order. Learner driver insurance is required, as are L plates on the vehicle. Failure to display these signs could result in 6 points on the provisional driver’s licence.
How to prepare yourself for teaching
It is wise to brush up on your driving knowledge before you begin lessons with your child as driving laws may have changed. It is important to teach the learner the most up to date legalisation, as well as it being a good refresher for you as a driver.
To prepare yourself for giving instructions during a lesson spend some time thinking about everything you are doing whilst driving. This could include verbally narrating your own driving. As you are an experienced driver you may do many things without even realising you are doing them, for example, indicating, check mirrors and changing gears. Narrating your own driving is a good way of reminding yourself about all the things that go into driving. During a lesson all this will need to be calmly and clearly explained to the learner as they won’t yet know how to do it instinctively.
Before embarking on a lesson and planning a route, think about the learners driving ability. Stick to quiet and familiar roads to begin with, then as the learner builds in skill and confidence try to ensure that you expose them to real-world driving scenarios. For example, spend time tackling hill starts, manoeuvres such as parallel parking, covering country lane and night-time driving, and many other important aspects of everyday driving.
However, bear in mind that learner drivers can only drive on motorways in England, Scotland and Wales with an approved driving instructor. It may be beneficial for the learner to book at least one lesson with a professional instructor to cover this.
Patience, patience, patience
The average driver will need around 45 hours of lessons before being test ready. But it’s important to remember that everybody learns at different rates.
If it is helpful, regularly find a spot for the learner to pull over while you discuss what they did well, or not so well. Sometimes receiving all the feedback at the end of the lesson can be overwhelming and it will not give the learner a chance to put the feedback into practice until their next lesson.
Remind them that we all have off days! Yes, they may have mastered a manoeuvre two lessons ago, but everyone makes mistakes and some lessons simply don’t go as well as others. Struggling through a lesson can often make the learner feel like they are going backwards so it is important to remind them how far they have come. Try to end every lesson on a high and start each new lesson with a fresh positive attitude.
L plates tell other road users that your car is being driven by a learner driver, but this doesn’t always lead to more consideration. While most drivers will be sympathetic to a learner, giving them a little more breathing space, unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to everyone. If another driver loses their patience you must remember to maintain yours! Stressing or acting out will only further stress the learner. If you remain relaxed so will the learner.
Why not try a mock test?
Professional instructors are good at judging when a learner is ready to try a mock driving test. Why not try this too?
The aim of a mock is to mimic real-life test conditions as closely as possible to help prevent nerves on the day. It should take around 40 minutes and include the following elements:
An eyesight check.
One ‘show me’ question and one ‘tell me’ question.
A chance for the learner to show their driving ability, including reversing technique.
20 minutes of independent driving where the learner takes directions from a sat nav.
Once your learner has successfully ‘passed’ a couple of mock tests and feels confident facing everyday driving scenarios they are ready to tackle the real test!