For many teens, getting their learner’s permit is a rite of passage that they’ve been eagerly hanging out for. For parents, it can be a time of mixed emotions: happy, a little bit stressful, and a reminder that your baby bird is beginning to fly from the nest with their first taste of automotive freedom. But with our guide, this can be a fun and exciting time for both you and your learner when it’s time for your teen to drive.
Before you and your learner decide to start up the engine, make sure you’ve got all of your ducks in a row. Does your insurance cover any accidents that occur while a learner is at the wheel? Double check your coverage to make sure that you’ve got all of your bases covered.
Has your teen read through their learner manual, and readied their log book? Different states require varying numbers of experience hours before a learner can apply for their probationary licence, so make sure you and your learner are aware of their obligations, and that all hours are logged honestly and correctly. You can check out your State or Territory’s requirements with your licensing bureau.
Is your teen emotionally ready to learn? Learning to drive can be a stressful time, and driving requires a cool head under pressure. Every teen is different when it comes to maturity, and pressure under fire, so it’s important you and your teen are comfortable and ready to take this step.
Have you picked up L plates? Learner plates can be cheaply sourced and learner plates can be magnetic or come with suction cups, depending on your personal needs.
If your teen will be learning and doing their assessment in your car, is it roadworthy and in good working order? Different states have different standards a learner’s car must meet to be eligible to be used for the assessment. Check out your state’s requirements to ensure you’re not disappointed on the day.
Having an honest discussion with your teen about road safety, and Australia’s road toll, can be a tough and sobering experience, but it is vital.
Refresh your memory
You’ve been driving for decades. You’re a pro. it’s all second nature now, right? Not so fast! Although you may have years of driving experience under your belt, and feel confident on the road, lots of things have likely changed since you sat down with your learner’s manual back in the day.
Before you put on your driving instructor hat, it’s a great idea to refresh your own knowledge of the road rules and making sure you’re up to date by re-reading the learner’s manual yourself. That way, you know you’re arming your teen with the most up to date knowledge and rules so they can be the best and safest driver possible – and you’ll also be able to answer any tricky questions that may pop up along the way.
Get Back to Basics
While backing out of the driveway might be something you do every day, without much thought or effort, for a new driver every action is challenging and can be stressful. So start small.
A great way to get learner drivers comfortable behind the wheel is to drive them to a low-stress and non-intimidating space – such as a large car park at a quiet time of day – let them get behind the wheel, and start at the very beginning.
Help your learner locate the basics: point out the indicators, show them how to activate the windscreen wipers, help them to adjust their seat and mirrors, and even demonstrate how to start the car. Show your teen how to check to make sure all of their tyres are safe – checking for wear and air – and get under the bonnet so they can see for themselves how to check water and oil levels.
Once your teen is comfortable with the dashboard basics, then you can move on to the fun stuff like driving, parking, and reversing!
Open air car parks are great places to practice driving basics because they have lots of space, clearly outlined parking spots, and few obstacles – just be mindful of trolley bays, signs, and of course, pedestrians.
Once your teen is comfortably moving the car backwards and forwards and braking in the carpark – and changing gears if learning in a manual – you can move on to quiet, back streets.
Come Rain or Shine
Once they are on their own, your learner will be face with all types of road conditions. From rainy nights, to foggy mornings and everything in between, drivers need to be ready for whatever the day throws at them, weather wise, and be able to comfortably adapt their driving style to suit conditions.
Unpredictable weather can mean leaving in the sunshine only to have to tangle with a torrential downpour a few hours later. This is why it’s so important for learner drivers to practice in all types of weather and at all times of day.
While a rainy day or a dark night may not be a challenge to tackle early on the learning process, these varying road conditions provide great experience once your learner is feeling more confident behind the wheel.
Similarly, experiencing different kinds of roads and traffic conditions is a core skill that learners need to master. Merging on a busy freeway requires a completely different skill set to steady driving through a school zone, and it’s important these skills are tackled while the learner still has the watchful eye and helpful guidance of a fully licensed and experienced driver at their side.
Sitting in the passenger seat with a learner at the wheel can be a little stressful. Little mistakes will be made, and steps might sometimes be forgotten, so it’s natural to feel a little anxious and want to take control. But, stress is contagious, especially for a learner driver who is likely already on edge learning a new and scary skill.
So it’s vital to always stay calm – even if you may not feel that way inside! Give clear, direct instructions, and try to preempt directions wherever possible to give your learner plenty of time to confidently make decisions.
Keeping lessons short but frequent can help both you and your learner from becoming overwhelmed or too stressed out.
Call In The Pros
While learning to drive the family car under Mum or Dad’s direction is an economical approach, some learners do better learning from a professional driving instructor with supplemented lessons at home to solidify their knowledge.
It can also help to use the instructor’s car for the learners probationary assessment because the learner will be comfortable in it, and you can be assured the vehicle meets all necessary criteria to make it eligible as an assessing vehicle.
Once the assessment is over and your teen has graduated from learner to probationary driver, it might be time to start the hunt for a great first time car! Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with our guide to finding the perfect first car
And once your teen is ready to hit the road on their own, don’t forget to remind them that they if they find themselves with a flat battery or need roadside assistance, they can holler for a Marshall on 1300 627 742