Teaching someone to drive, whether your friend, spouse or teen kid, can be rather daunting. While it’s mainly just a matter of practice, having a good, patient teacher can help the process to be smoother. However, before you start teaching someone to drive, you must make sure that you are familiar with the rules so that you are comfortable with a new, unlicensed driver and will take on the responsibility if anything goes wrong. Also, you need plenty of patience to deal with your student’s mistakes.
In this article, we will discuss some steps that you must take as a supervising driver to ensure that your friend, teen or any other family member whom you’re teaching how to drive is able to earn their driving license.
Check That You Can Teach Legally
To be able to legally teach someone to drive, you must:
- Be over 21 years of age
- Be qualified to drive the same car as the learner i.e. automatic or manual
- Have held your driver’s license for a minimum of 3 years at least
- Not receive any remuneration for teaching and supervising the learner
- Meet the eyesight standards
You must also ensure that the learner has everything in place. The learner must:
- Be 17 years old at least
- Have a provisional license
- Have an insurance policy, which covers the learner
Check if the insurance policy of the learner covers you as the supervisor also. Otherwise, it is recommended that you take a separate insurance policy along with your annual policy that protects you in the case of an accident.
Ensure That Your Vehicle Is Ready for the Road
Learners must ensure that they have all the documents required to take their vehicle on the road and also that the car is roadworthy i.e. has properly functioning lights, safe tires and clean windows. The vehicle must be:
- Registered with the DMV
- Display a learner’s plate on both the front and back
- Up to date on the vehicle tax
Refresh Your Driving Knowledge
You may have passed your practical and theory tests quite a while back and since you earned your driving license, the driving laws may have changed. So, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with all the rules before you start teaching your teen or friend how to drive. Read all the information about traffic signs, roadside markings and also familiarize yourself with the car parts. Also, do a refresher on the maintenance checks you must make to the vehicle so that you can pass on all the information to your learner.
Begin with a Vehicle Tour
Train your student on the basics before you hit the road. Show him/her how to adjust the seat, steering wheel, rearview and side mirrors according to their comfort. Review all the features and controls of the car and teach your learner how the controls on the dashboard, starting/turning off the engine, brakes, gas, turn signals, headlights, emergency lights, wipers, safety features like seatbelts and airbags, parking brake and release and warning lights on the dashboard like low oil, gas, temperature indicator, etc. work. Also, show your student where the car manual, registration and insurance papers are located.
Practice Giving Instructions
Once you have familiarized yourself with the updated road signs, maneuvers, etc., it is important to practice giving clear instructions to your learner driver. Practice how you will give instructions in a clear and concise manner that your student can understand easily and follow.
Perfecting the technique will let you deliver your message clearly during a driving lesson so that your student has lots of time to decide how to approach a junction, change lanes or accomplish any other driving task properly.
Get Used to the Car
When your student drives the car for the first time, ensure that you begin in the easiest and safest location such as an empty parking lot or a field. Get your learner to practice driving straight, turning, backing up, applying the gas and brakes. Once your learner has mastered these skills, get him/her to learn how to pull in/out of a parking spot. It may take a few days for your student to learn how to get from one place to another, how much to turn the steering wheel and how much pressure to apply on the accelerator and brakes.
Remind your learner to pay attention to his/her surroundings by checking the mirrors (rear view and side), look ahead, to the sides, check for hazards continually and keep a clear safety space around the vehicle so that there is room to react to any situation. The farther he/she keeps back from the vehicle in the front, the better he/she can see what is ahead, which will help to give extra time to react to the traffic.
Begin in Low-Traffic, Low-Speed Areas
When your learner is comfortable with the basic operation of the vehicle, then you can begin practicing to drive on quiet streets, where your student can learn to stay on the proper side of the road, learn to stop at signs and anticipate vehicles exiting driveways. For some time, stick to roads having slower speed limits. Avoid complex routes, including hill starts and multi-lane roundabouts.
This will help your student to gain confidence behind the wheel.
Here is the skills checklist for your beginner. Practice the following by varying the driving routes.
- Use of signals and turns
- Accelerating smoothly, increasing the speed safely to a safe speed, keeping within the limit
- Braking smoothly and slowing to a stop gradually
- Single-lane and multi-lane roads
- Changing lanes safely and merging into the traffic
- Approaching intersections that are controlled by lights or stop signs
- Determining the right of way
- Maintaining proper speed
- Identifying hazards
- Maintain a safe following distance
- Driving on the road along with school buses, pedestrians and cyclists
- Using turning lanes
- Responding to an emergency vehicle that is approaching
- Driving in a school zone
When your new learner starts to master these skills, pay attention to the ones he/she is confident with and practice what he/she is not sure about. Once your student is comfortable, then expose him/her to driving in different traffic levels, weather conditions and times of the day.
Once your new learner has mastered the basics of driving, he/she needs plenty of practice getting accustomed to the road. So, for the next few days, stick to low-traffic, low-speed roads. Make sure to take different routes every time to ensure that your student gets different experiences to become a safe driver.
The most important thing that you must keep in mind as a supervisor is to be patient with your student. Here are a few things that you should keep in mind while teaching someone how to drive:
- Give instructions in advance.
- Scolding your student, criticizing him/her for their performance and raising your voice can stress the learner and affect his/her performance.
- Always be alert to hazards on the road or any poor decisions taken by your student. However, remain calm.
- After the lesson is completed, then discuss the things that did not go properly and advise your learner how he/she can make improvements.
Conduct a Mock Test
Conducting a mock test for your student is one of the best ways to prepare him/her for the practical test. Typically, a driver requires around 45 hours of driving lessons before he/she is ready for the final test; however, each person has a different learning rate, so you should adjust the pace according to your student’s capacity.
Usually, driving tests take around 40 minutes and it is a good idea to include all the parts of the real test so that your learner is fully prepared for the D-day.
- Vision Check: Ask your student to read a number plate from a distance of around 20 meters.
- Questions: Ask your student a “show me” and a “tell me” question.
- Driving Ability: Give your student directions and observe their use of mirrors, speed and other skills required to drive safely.
- Reversing: Ask your student to park in a bay, parallel park at the roadside or pull up on the right-hand side of the road.
- Pulling Over: Ask your student to pull over and pull out. You can do this as a hill start or behind a parked vehicle.
- Independent Driving: Allow your student to drive independently taking directions from the Sat Nav and observe his/her driving technique throughout.
Keep an eye for common mistakes that can cost your learner points when taking a practical driving test. Look out for hands slipping from the proper positions (10 and 2 o’clock), hands crossing on the steering wheel and when stopped, failure to use the hand brake. Around 15 minor or small errors (driving faults) can be excused. Keep a watch for serious or dangerous faults, because these are usually treated as major mistakes that will result in your student failing the driving test automatically.
With proper instruction around 3 full days of tuition is sufficient for a good student to learn the basics of how to operate a vehicle effectively. But it may take much longer for the situational awareness and muscle memory of driving as a skill to be mastered. Driving the car not only involves learning the car mechanisms but also concentrating on the road, learning defensive driving skills, watching and reacting to hazards, etc.
This is why most places need a minimum number of training hours before it is considered that a person actually knows how to drive. And, the most important thing that a new driver must learn is that driving is not about the car itself, it is about how well you use the road and, most importantly, stay safe.