Tips on teaching your teen to drive

Teenager being taught how to drive
So, you blinked, and your child is now 16 with their learner permit and keen to start driving. Now you’re expected to be their supervising driver for 120 hours. To help ease you through the experience of teaching your child to drive safely, here are six things to consider.

Car Insurance

Double check with your insurer, but most car insurance policies automatically cover a learner driver who is being taught by a parent, if that parent is a nominated driver on the insurance policy. If you only have a compulsory green slip, you might want to consider to third party fire and theft or comprehensive insurance.

Get a safety check

Make sure your vehicle is ready for your teenager to drive. If a car service is overdue, or the tyre tread a little dubious, fix those things first. A learner driver doesn’t need squeaky brakes or an un-tuned engine to add to their stress. A car that is in peak shape will make the driving experience easier for them and, of course, safer.

Take a road rules refresher

After 20-plus years of driving, we don’t think too much about the practice of driving and the road rules as they’ve become ingrained. But now that you’re in the teacher’s seat, it’s a good idea to brush up. Read through your teenager’s Road Users Handbook (available to download in various languages from the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) website and take some of the practice test questions, also available on the RMS website.

You might find you’ve developed a few bad habits of your own. If your parallel reverse park takes five minutes and a chunk of metal from the car in front, you might want to consider a quick professional lesson yourself before teaching your child.

Manual or automatic?

Whether your teenager learns to drive in a car with a manual or automatic transmission obviously depends on which of these you own. But if you have both, keep in mind that if they test for their P1 licence in an automatic, they cannot then drive a manual until they get a P2 licence 12 months later (except if they are driving with an unrestricted driver in the passenger seat). If you do decide to teach your child to drive a manual car, one dad advised me to keep the window down so they can hear the engine revs as they’re learning.

Find a good place to learn

Ask friends in your area who’ve had learner drivers where the quiet, local streets are. Industrial estates on a weekend and empty car parks are good too. If you’re in the country you can start with deserted country roads or even paddocks (preferably clear of dams, rocks and trees). As their skills and confidence grows, gradually introduce your teen to light traffic. For example, try the industrial estate on a Saturday instead of a Sunday.

Create a checklist for each lesson, and take it slowly

Put some process into your teaching and decide in advance what you’re going to try to achieve in each lesson. Or you might find yourself skipping important things like … braking. Before your teen starts the car, take some time to explain the process of driving and talk them through the main functions on the dashboard, the gears and the pedals.

Teach them the “cockpit drill” – how to check and adjust the seat and mirrors before they start the car – and make sure they do it every time. Talk to them about blind spots. Don’t be in a rush to introduce too much too quickly, no matter how confident or insistent your teenager is. You have 120 hours. Take it slowly, and help consolidate the basics first.

Going for your licence?

The NRMA driver training team will provide all the help you need