Ask LH: How Can I Teach My Partner To Drive?

Dear Lifehacker, My wife got her learner’s permit recently and we have been out for a couple of practice drives. I am having a lot of trouble teaching her how to turn corners properly, as she oversteers or understeers every time. She can't understand when to start straightening the steering wheel. What is the best way to teach her how this?

I have tried getting her to focus on what the car is doing, and not the way the steering wheel is pointing. I have also tried drawing pictures of what the wheels actually do in a turn, and why you need to start straightening the wheel before you are actually pointing the right direction.

She grew up in a place with no cars and hasn't had the exposure to driving that I have, so something as simple as turning a corner doesn't come easy to her. Any tips? Thanks, Wheel Challenge

<Picture: Sean MacAntee

Dear WC,

My advice is very simple – it’s time to pay for some driving lessons.

People for whom handling a car comes easily often very poor at passing on these skills to others. Because they have learned by observation, they can’t explain what they’ve absorbed clearly. For you, turning a corner is something simple. That isn’t the case for everyone, and it evidently isn’t the case for your wife.

I’ve known far too many couples who have ended up in screaming arguments because one spouse (often, but not invariably, the husband) has been driving from as soon as it was legal (if not prior to that) while the other has never been that interested until their partner insisted they needed to learn. Rows are the invariable result, often in the middle of busy roads. There’s no sense driving head-first into entirely avoidable arguments.

This doesn’t mean you necessarily have to spend a fortune on driving lessons. Once that particular skill is mastered, then you may well be able to resume the role of the licensed driver accompanying your wife until she qualifies for her P-plates. But getting those basic skills in place is likely to come much easier with someone who has training and experience in teaching other people to drive.

Having said that, if readers have any specific tips they’d like to share for explaining steering to driving newbies, I’d love to hear them in the comments. But I firmly believe professional help is the answer here.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    If possible, go to a big empty car park to practice basic car control, thats what i did when i got my learners permit.

    What also sucks, some cars have to feedback from the steering wheel, i like a steering wheel that has a little resistance when turning. Without resistance it is quite easy to over compensate and oversteer.

    Couldn't agree more with this advice. I didn't learn in earnest till I was 30ish, and didn't even want to sit in the drivers seat till I had had a few recent lessons. Then any time my wife and I hit frustrations over some aspect, I'd schedule another lesson or two. We managed to fill 120 hours of logbook (no fudging!) without any major arguments.

    Professional lessons and possibly getting a friend to help would be the best suggestions.

    I was taught to look farther ahead in the bend, worked for me never had any trouble after that.

    When I was a kid I had a LEGO Technic race car with fully functioning steering wheel. I attribute playing with this as a kid the reason why I could do basic driving and any parking first go.

    I'd suggest getting one, or playing a game with a far camera view. This way, the learner will see from a distance exactly what impact each car function has (will I hit the kerb? Is this far enough to start reversing?).

    "Eyes on the road !" Well, no. Not really.
    Don't look in front of the car at the road. Look ahead to where you're going (Horizon).
    It'll make for fewer corrections and smoothing turning.

    One possible solution is to take one driving lesson yourself and ask the instructor to focus on how to turn corners. You can then nick his specific teaching methods/phrasing and use it on your wife.

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