Like jumping out of a plane or diving with sharks, teaching your kids to drive can be a terrifying experience. It’s no wonder 30 per cent of parents aren’t in a rush to teach their kids to drive again.
But there are some steps you can take to make sure it’s an adrenalin-free experience for both you and the L-plater. Before you get behind the wheel with your inexperienced teen, here are some tips for surviving the journey:
1. Plan your journey. Before you even get in the car, make sure you’ve mapped your route so you can give your teen plenty of notice before they need to turn. It’s also important to have an agenda of what skills you plan to focus on: turning, highways, three-point turns, etc. Minimise the surprises so you can maximise the enjoyment.
2. Stay away from busy roads and intersections in the early stages, especially if driving a manual. Ease the driver into the more stressful situations to prevent the ‘frozen experience’ – a.k.a: sitting at an intersection, in a panic, unable to turn with a bank-up of cars behind you furiously pressing their horns.
3. Be clear in your instructions. Give the driver plenty of warning and explain what you want them to do. For example, instead of telling them to drive ‘slowly’, ask them to “reduce your speed to 20km/h”.
4. Be patient. This might be an obvious one, but patience is a virtue – especially when your 16-year-old is operating a huge metal machine. Just think how you’d react if your navigation started yelling at you to turn right; you’d probably miss the turn and end up in a fluster which can lead to costly mistakes. Avoid the stress.
5. Teach your L-plater the car’s capabilities. The best place to do this is at an empty car park or on an empty road. Use your judgement and make sure it’s safe and legal. Ask your teen to drive, and then slam on the brake. They’ll get a sense for the ABS’s pulsing stop and learn to keep the pressure on anyway. You’ll learn this on a defensive driving course too, which is highly recommended for experienced and beginner drivers alike.
As an added tip, if you don’t think your nerves can cope with the above, you should probably empty your wallet and drive your teen to an experienced driving instructor. Actually, you should probably just do it anyway.