The teenage years: how to drive to stay alive

Get set: Learning to drive is a huge learning curve, so have patience and empathy when teaching your children.

Get set: Learning to drive is a huge learning curve, so have patience and empathy when teaching your children.

"I'm never driving with you again!"

Hands up, parents and carers, if your teen has ever yelled something similar in the initial stages of the learning to drive ordeal.

"The closer the relationship between the learner and the superviser, the worse it is in that sense," driving instructor Warren Aubin said.

He has sat next to learner drivers for around 2000 hours a year over the past 24 years and has valuable advice to help parents and carers navigate the teenage learning to drive experience.

Being in charge of a moving vehicle is a high-stakes game and it is no exaggeration to say that learning the correct techniques may save your teen's life or the lives of other road users.

But being able to learn properly is often a matter of confidence and it’s imperative that novices get the support to become confident, safe and defensive drivers.

How parents can help-

  • Give your child a variety of driving experiences.
  • Make them do the hours, don't fudge the books.
  • Advise them to stay calm and observant.
  • Remind them to ditch distractions (phones).
  • Don't let them pile passengers into their car.
  • ​Get them lessons from a driving instructor.

"You have to remember that driving is a huge learning curve," Mr Aubin said. 

So, to avoid eroding a learner's confidence and hearing those dreaded words, "I'm never driving with you again!", Mr Aubin advocates starting in a simple and positive manner.

"Do the basics, no matter how repetitive and boring," he said. "Start the car. Take off. Pull over and stop. Turn the car off and start again. Stick to the quiet zones where there are no distractions and less pressure for the learner."

Supervisors should also come prepared with plenty of patience and empathy, remembering what the experience can be like. 

Mr Aubin also cautions not to speed up the learning process (excuse the pun). Taking a learner into an area where they are not comfortable, or pushing them to do things before they are ready can actually be a backward step.

"Two things happen: the learner loses the confidence they have already gained and the supervisor doesn't feel comfortable to take them out, so the driving usually drops off for a while," he said.

Supervisors need to teach basic principles of fine steering and good pedal control, good observation, keeping the car in the right position on the road, and maintaining the constant speed. 

Once these are mastered, it is a matter of practice.

"When they are accruing hours for their logbook, it shouldn't just be driving from home to school and school to home," he said. "To be a good defensive driver you need a variety of driving experience."

And if you are tempted to fudge the number of hours in a logbook - just don't.

"It is the time behind the wheel which builds skills and confidence. You don't gain those by just thinking about driving," he said.