Has your son or daughter just got a learner’s permit? The scary thought Is that now you will be sitting alongside them while they drive you around.
Your life in their hands!
Before you get started on the practice drives with your learner driver there are a few things you could consider.
• Learner drivers are among the safest drivers on the road, they rarely have crashes.
• However within the first six months of gaining a provisional licence they have gone from being the safest group of drivers to the most unsafe.
• In Australia drivers aged between 17 and 25 make up slightly more than 15% of the total population, yet they represent around 32% of serious crash casualties.
What can explain this?
Driving looks easy but, like many other activities, it takes a long time to master. There is a lot to learn.
Experienced drivers can automatically put together all of the skills needed to be a safe driver, such as:
• applying the brakes, clutch, gears;
• interpreting and applying the road rules;
• making decisions about where and when to go, and
• how to look out for things that may cause problems and then dealing with them.
New drivers spend a lot of time and attention on the physical skills required for driving, (braking, steering etc.) and forget about the other things that are most important in terms of safety.
Researchers suggest that it takes more than 100 hours of practice for a learner to be able to do things automatically. Having plenty of driving practice is essential for every learner.
Before your learner takes to the driver’s seat,
• Read as much as you can about ‘Learning to Drive’ and your role as the person who supervises the driving practice session. As your child learns to drive, make sure they practise on all types of roads and in all kinds of weather and driving conditions.
Make sure the first time they have to deal with a tricky driving situation isn’t when they are on their own as a P driver.
• Find a professional driver trainer with whom you and your learner feel comfortable. The instructor will be important for teaching safe driving techniques and correcting any mistakes.
You will be working with this driver trainer for a long time to make sure your learner knows how to apply the road rules, recognise risks and hazards, and to see safe driving as important. Make yourself known to the trainer – and it’s a good idea for you to sit in on some lessons.
• Don’t try to rush the learner. Expect them to take a long time to put together all the skills required for safe driving – that’s why the learner licence is valid for a long period.
• Plan lessons so that at first your learner is doing lots of driving practice in quiet local streets. After a while you can go out into busier and more complex streets and at different times of the day.
By the time they are ready to go solo they should have driven on all types of roads and under all types of conditions.
Be prepared to put your learner behind the wheel at every opportunity – even short local trips that take just a few minutes. All experiences add up and help make your learner a safer driver once they go solo.
Credit – pdf’s used by permission – Australian Driver Trainers Association Australia (NSW) and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau