4 Things To Remember When Teaching Your Kids To Drive

4 Things To Remember When Teaching Your Kids To Drive

Learner drivers and parents are often thrown in the deep end when it comes to learning to drive and recording hours in the logbook. As part of a unique approach to improving young driver road safety, I asked learners what they want parents to know about learning to drive. The following take-home messages emerged.

Picture: Alex Cheek

1. Before you get in the car

Even though learner drivers had to pass a written theory test, double-check that they know the road rules before you get on the road. Who gives way at a T-junction when there is no signage?

Double-check that they know which pedal does what. It may be hilarious to talk about slamming on the brake instead of the accelerator after the event, but this could mean the difference between life and death when you are on the road.

Does your learner know that there is a spare tyre? Surprisingly, many young drivers with a provisional licence still do not know there is a spare tyre hidden somewhere in the car.

Warn them about the driving behaviour they will encounter. Learners are freaked out when other drivers don’t indicate or tailgate their vehicle.

Learners have a “bull’s-eye” on their car — the yellow L plate — and they are taught they must follow all the road rules. This is tricky when they see other older and more experienced drivers doing the wrong thing every time they venture on the road.

To these other drivers, think about what you are doing. Do you want to be involved in a crash with a learner? Making mistakes is a normal part of learning and if you are tailgating them, you are likely to be caught in that mistake.

Learners and parents want and need you to give them some space.

Make sure you have a back-up plan for when one (or both of you) freaks out. There will be freak-outs.

The best idea is to pull the vehicle over to the side of the road as soon as it is safe to do so, turn off the engine and get out of the car if it is safe and one or both of you really feel you need to do so. Chat about what happened, and how to prevent it happening again. If your learner is too freaked out to drive, you take over the driving.

2. Communication

You need to have clear communication, both verbal and non-verbal. It can be tricky, when you have been Mum or Dad for 16 years, and now you are an instructor and supervisor. This is a very different communication dynamic.

Even from the driver’s seat, learners can tell when you roll your eyes. Teenagers also tend to be acutely attuned to non-verbal communication, such as sighing, sudden intakes of breath and sarcasm.

You may feel compelled to yell and slam your foot on the imaginary brake. This may be good for your mental health! However, this can generate a range of risky responses in your learner: they could think you are hilarious (and maybe try to freak you out again); they could yell back (which means they may not be paying attention to the road); or they could freeze mid-traffic.

Also, only one supervisor at a time. If both parents are in the car, only one of you gets to be the supervisor. Learners tell me that more than one supervisor is just too confusing and too stressful.

If there are two parents in the car, make sure one of them shuts up!

3. How are they going to drive in future?

The learner phase isn’t just about filling in a logbook. Think about how they are going to drive when they have their provisional licence.

Carry those passengers now. Drive those routes now. Drive that vehicle now. Give them practice in those situations now, when you can be there to help detect and respond to hazards.

Start talking about planning ahead now. When they have their provisional licence, what are some options if something goes wrong and they can’t or shouldn’t be driving? Can they call you, take a cab, or stay over?

4. Where and when they drive now

Start simple. Look for quiet roads like industrial areas on a weekend, large streets, no traffic lights and no roundabouts. Gradually introduce these features as the learner gains experience and confidence.

Traffic lights look very straightforward to the experienced driver. Imagine you are an alien newly arrived on earth next time you drive through a signalised intersection. Think about how complex they really are.

Learners need more time to take everything on board. Sometimes they drive through red lights simply because they do not know where to look.

Roundabouts can be very scary, particularly multi-lane roundabouts. Wait until your learner has gained experience and confidence, and then practise using roundabouts outside peak hour if you can. Drivers of all ages can have trouble on roundabouts, so take your time.

Remember to let learners have a voice — start talking, and keep the conversation going.The Conversation

Bridie Scott-Parker is a Research Fellow at University of the Sunshine Coast. She previously received funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


  • I think its important for the learner to also know that it does not matter how many hours of instructed driving you do you will learn soo much more in your first weeks of driving on your own you have akready.

  • 5.The 0.05 rule applies to the supervisor too. In some states it might even be 0.00 BAC.

    Either way, you can’t get your kid to drive you home from the Pub until they’re on their P’s.

  • Also, hiring a driving instructor to teach your kids is a good idea, and to do so from the start so they don’t pick up your terrible habits. Some people clearly don’t know the road rules, and I’ve seen the following glaring problems:
    1. Failing to use traffic islands properly (car jutting out at 45 degrees)
    2. Failing to give way to all traffic and pedestrians when turning right without arrow
    2a. Using pedestrians as gaps to turn right in spite of other traffic
    3a. Turning right while opposite car turns left, and then leaning on the horn
    3. Pulling right before turning left/pulling left before turning right when not driving a bus/truck
    4. Failing to use the indicators for any meaningful time
    5. Failing to give way to right at roundabouts
    6. Not knowing that a right-turn-only lane does not enable you to drive directly forwards through an intersection (seriously, almost got hit in that one)

    • Quipsy’s number 5 is a prime example of why parents shouldn’t teach to drive. The rule at roundabouts is give way to vehicles already in the roundabout….even if they are to your left.

      • I agree insofar as that the law does not enable you to drive directly into other people’s cars, which no one should need to tell you directly, and if this is required teaching you probably shouldn’t be allowed to walk too quickly, let alone drive.

        However, roundabouts were advocated in Australia during traffic design with a method of “give way to right” in mind (prior to these the idea was to have “major and minor roads” which would always allocate right of way to the major road, which was instead dropped for a “give way to right” rule at minor intersections). Prior to roundabouts at minor intersections drivers would only be travelling slowly enough to stop 20% of the time.

    • 3a isn’t really a problem. The problem is people not sticking to their lanes (which they must, unless they are a large vehicle). If every car stuck to their lanes there would be no problem turning left/right onto a dual-lane road.

      If you’re talking about turning into a single-lane road, then yeah, damn, that’s stupid.

        • Line divided or not doesn’t matter (QLD here). I just checked the legislation, and if there is no line marked then there is no requirement for them to stick to left lane upon exit. Also there is no 100% requirement for the car to stick to the marked lane (exclusions apply).

          In any case, this blanket statement works – gotta give way. If two cars are both turning into a road with two lanes, stick to your lane and all is fine. If you can’t do that ,give way to the other car (no matter if you had green light/arrow or not).

          • I did forget that different states can have different laws for some things, so you are correct sir.

            I like your blanket statement, it make a lot of sense.

    • Some very good points, one thing that annoys me is people who don’t know how to indicate properly in a roundabout!
      When people are going straight and indicate right are a pain in the ass.

    • Totally agree about hiring an instructor. The guy I had was the best teacher I could ask for. Calm, intelligent, decisive.
      Not that my parents were bad, they just didn’t have the experience to be able to pass on their knowledge while pseudo-driving from the passenger seat.

  • Parents are such an important role models for young drivers. Sadly, when asked as part of a survey by driving education website, Aussie-Driver.com: ‘What is the most dangerous thing you see your parents do while driving?’ A quarter of survey respondents aged 18-24 said ‘Using a cellphone’.

  • It would be good if there was a syllabus for DIU driving instruction; maybe a motoring organisation could produce one.
    All the road rules apply, but a few rules and habits that need to be kept front of mind: avoid accidents, keep left (including on multi lane high speed roads…unless overtaking), slow for all pedestrian crossings and be ready to stop, pull left when you hear an emergency vehicle siren (or if you see it lights ablaze behind you), check your rear vision mirrors frequently (helps with previous point), stop on orange lights unless unsafe to do so (no you can’t race through an orange light), respect other drivers and zen them out if the’re being f-wits.

  • I had approximately 12 hours of learner driving before I got my P’s. I’m still yet to register an accident at all, either caused by me or not, after 10 years.
    It is all about the quality of teaching rather than the quantity of learning.

    Yes, experience is good, but if you’re learning the wrong things, more “experience” is just reinforcing the bad habits.

    My old man’s best words of advice were, “Nobody can drive. You’re the only one with any skill at all. Remember that every time you get behind the wheel.” If you treat everyone like they could emergency brake for no reason, you’re never going to hit anyone. Going into a roundabout? That bloke that doesn’t have his indicator on is probably an idiot who is likely to turn right into the side of you. If he continues on straight, you’ve lost a second of time. If not, you’ve possibly saved your life.

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