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Driving Licenses

Tips for Teaching a Person Learning to Drive

It’s that time in the life of a Dad or Mum where your daughter or son has got to the age of learning to drive.  For some, this is a time where stress levels begin to rise; just the thought of having to go through busy intersections with a rather nervous learner isn’t something for the faint-hearted.  However, it can be a very rewarding time where you get to hand that little bit more independence and responsibility over to your teenager.  Here are some tips from someone who has gone through this stage in life twice; actually three times, if you include the time when I was at university and gave lessons to a good mate of mine who still hadn’t been behind the wheel of a car by the time he was 21.

First of all, the teenager will need to get a learner permit.  For this, your child needs to be 16 years old.  The only exception is in the ACT, where the minimum age is 15 years and 9 months.  In some states, you just fill in a learner licence application form, while in other states of Australia, your child must also pass a written or computer-based test on the road rules.  Some states also have an eyesight test thrown in for good measure.

Once they have their learner permit, then in most Australian states and territories the learner drivers must gain driving experience on the road before they can do the test to get their P plate.  They must do their learner driving under the supervision of a driver who holds a full unrestricted licence.  The learner will also need to complete the Hazard Perception Test, continue to gain experience, pass the Practical Driving Assessment and then get a Provisional Licence.

To get through these steps, the first hurdle is getting to know the road rules.  Reading up on the rules is, obviously, really helpful.  This can even be done just before they hit the age of being able to go for their licence.  It’s during this learning phase that I found bringing out my old ‘Matchbox’ cars (you can use any toy cars), drawing some roads on a big sheet of cardboard/paper and using them to push through the drawn-up intersections to gain a spatial birds-eye view of who gives way and why.  Works a treat!

Out on the road, they’ll learn as a passenger, however, when it comes to them getting behind the wheel, it’s a really good idea to ease them into driving in a place where there is very little traffic, just so they can get used to the car, how it stops and goes, how it sits on the road, what it feels like to control and getting to know where it begins and ends.  Even a farmer’s paddock is a nice wide open space where there is nothing close in the vicinity to accidentally hit, but you get the idea, I’m sure.

If you’re not a competent teacher, make sure that you find someone who is.  The teacher’s demeanour always influences the learner’s ability, so a firm, soothing and relaxed manner always delivers a positive rub on the learner, helping them to gain confidence and grow quickly in ability.  A harsh, scared teacher will make for a nervous learner who will quickly dislike the whole experience.  I’ve known some people who struggle to drive even years after they finally got their license, all because of the whole bad experience of learning to drive.  You can always bring in the services of a qualified driving instructor if you can’t find someone you know and trust to do the job well or if you know that your skills just won’t cut the mustard.

When it comes to the particular car that the learner will be driving, then my advice is to ensure that the car is a safe choice.  Cars with an excellent safety rating are a must for new learners.  It is madness to put your own daughter or son in something that won’t provide good protection in an event of a crash.  It’s always best that they learn to drive the car that they’ll be sitting the practical tests in.  And my advice is that they should continue to drive this car even once they have their licenses and are out on the road by themselves (at least for a year or two).

Only if a learner is a true natural and picks up driving easily would I suggest a manual vehicle for them to drive, though manual cars are getting less and less easy to find, let alone buy these days.  An automatic vehicle is so much easier to drive when you are learning, as it takes away the fear of being in the wrong gear at the wrong time, stalling at an intersection; and it’s just one less thing to do and think about while you’re getting used to driving out on the road.  I know of one young husband whose wife has been for her learner license three times and failed the practical tests.  He still insists that she learns to drive a manual car first, just like he did; because in his eyes if you learn to drive a manual, then you’re going to be a better driver in the long run.  Um… no.

Oh, and don’t forget to enjoy the experience of teaching your teenager to drive.  Keep being an encourager; it is fun and you can add to the good times by going out for a coffee afterwards.