Supervising a learner driver doesn’t need to be stressful

Anyone who has learnt to drive probably remembers trying to persuade their parents, partners or generous friends to take them out on the road to practise in preparation for their test. You may well have found them unwilling!

Going out in a car with an inexperienced learner can be a daunting prospect for parents or other prospective supervisors who, without the luxury of dual controls, may see supervising a learner as risky.  Well-publicised incidents in recent years, including a tragic case where a novice driver struck and killed an eight-year-old girl on her first driving lesson while supervised by her husband, may have compounded this fear.

A driver is supervised by an instructor.

Private practice outside of formal lessons with an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) is invaluable for learners.

As a driver yourself, however, you know that learning to drive isn’t just about passing a test. Private practice outside of formal lessons with an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) is invaluable for learners as it broadens their skills and experience such as in different weather conditions and times of day.

Involving yourself in the learning process could earn you brownie points with a learner and it can help ensure that the apprentice is more fully prepared to face the mean streets when they do pass. You may doubt your own ability to teach properly and safely and, if a parent, you may be inclined to limit your involvement to selecting instructors and funding lessons from the famous Bank of Mom and Dad. But by following a few simple steps, you can feel confident in supervising a learner and helping them gain that oh-so-important experience.

Research shows that the more experience that learner drivers obtain, the safer they are when they do hit the road on their own. RoSPA has produced a handbook on how you can give them this experience safely.

Firstly, think about your own driving ability. It may have been some time since you passed your test and you may have fallen into bad habits. RoSPA encourages even experienced drivers to take refresher training such as through an Experienced Driver Assessment or even by taking the RoSPA Advanced Driving test.

Give Way sign learner driverIt is important to talk to the learner’s instructor (you could communicate through the learner, but sometimes teenagers aren’t the most verbose creatures). They can give you a clear idea of the learner’s progress, what they should be practising and, importantly, when they are ready for private practice.

Instructors can also advise on current legislation, best practice and may even be willing to share their knowledge on how to communicate effectively with the learner – you could even sit in on a lesson (but be careful not to be a “backseat driver”!). Treat your chosen driving instructor as part of the learner’s team (you are also a member!), helping them to become – and remain – a safe driver.

Prepare your car and the route before you go out on the road – make sure you display L plates and involve the learner in a basic vehicle check (lights, tyres, oil, coolant, windscreen wash). Stay calm and constructive both during the journey and afterwards, when reviewing the driver’s performance.

Learner driver rips up L plate

Prepare your car and the route before you go out on the road - make sure you display L plates and involve the learner in a basic vehicle check.

Following the guide that RoSPA has produced in conjunction with the Department for Transport should ensure you feel confident and prepared enough to help a learner practise. It should be remembered, however, that while practising can help learners to pass, it isn’t a replacement for qualified instruction. In these economically challenging times, it may be tempting to try and help a learner to pass as quickly and cheaply as possible but this will almost certainly not be the best way to prepare them for a life on the roads.

At the very least, basic car control (including the emergency stop) should be mastered with help from a qualified instructor in a dual control car. Professional lessons are a life-long investment which can help to ensure that you, the driver and the general public stay safe through private practice, the test and beyond.

Lindsey Simkins, RoSPA’s road safety research and evaluation officer

2 Comments to “Supervising a learner driver doesn’t need to be stressful”

  1. There should be a good communication between learner and instructor. You should believe your own ability of driving. You should stay calm and serious while driving.

  2. I am surprised that you have not mentioned Roadcraft in the above information. I have been using it in conjunction with other publications for many years and so did Chriss Gilbert [ Class one Police Instructor at Hendon Police College ] when he was an A.D.I.

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