Learning to drive is expensive. The Driving Standards Agency say on average it takes 47 hours of formal lessons and 20 hours of practice driving to pass the driving test. The more practice you can get the less formal lessons you will need.
Practice Driving and Insurance
Practice Driving is one way to minimise the number of formal driving lessons necessary. This is where a family member, or friend, accompanies the learner driver in a private car to literally practice driving on the road. It is surprisingly easy for a learner driver to get insurance to allow them to drive a parent’s car, for example, even though once they pass their test they may not be able to get insurance to drive that same car. This is because insurance companies know that there is an experienced driver in the car with them whilst they are learning. The cost of insurance for someone with a provisional licence is around 3 per day, and they can drive cars up to the value of 20,000 and up to Insurance Group 42.
Why Practice Driving?
The more you practice a new skill the better you become at it – this is as true with learning how to control a car as it is with anything else. But one of the less obvious benefits of practice driving is the additional experience of coping with everyday hazards on the roads. The more a learner driver drives, the more he or she will discover about driving. And this does not just cover knowing when to change gear, or the mechanics of how to do an emergency stop. It is quite likely that more hours spent on the road may mean that a situation may arise where, for example, an emergency stop is required for real. If a learner driver experiences a variety of hazards when they are accompanied by an experienced driver, then it is more likely that they will be better able to deal with a similar situation when they have passed their test and are driving alone. Let’s face it – however many years we’re been driving we can still some across things that we need to react too, but haven’t seen before, but our experiences help us to deal with the situation safely.
If your son or daughter is learning to drive, helping them by letting them practice in your (or perhaps their own) car, giving them the benefit of your experience and giving them as many driving hours as you can fit in will help your peace of mind in the long run as well. As they come across more and more different situations, and you help them deal with them, you’ll know that they’ll be able to cope when driving alone.
The Accompanying Driver’s Role
One thing to make clear though, what you are giving them is the opportunity to practice what they have learned, and when necessary offering the benefit of your experience. You are not teaching them to drive. Formal teaching should be provided by a properly qualified Approved Driving Instructor (ADI). One important thing to remember is NEVER criticise or contradict the advice given to the learner driver by his/her instructor. If you think the tuition being given is wrong, then talk to the driving instructor, and if you are not satisfied, change to a different instructor or school. It will probably have been many years since you were taught to drive, and things have changed. Most driving instructors will encourage you to accompany them during a lesson, so you can see today’s method of teaching. If the learner driver tells you ‘my instructor told me to do it this way’ – bite your tongue. They are being taught to pass the driving test, and any contradictory information you give might be out of date.
When to start Practice Driving
Do not start practice driving as soon as that provisional licence arrives. Talk to the instructor and agree when the learner is ready. You will not have the benefit of a dual control car, and although you may well have learned to drive without such a luxury, all instructors use these now, and learners can rely on this bit of help. They need to be able to drive independently before you can safely take them out on the road.
What is Practice Driving? What should I do?
Talk to the instructor about what the learner needs to practice, and make sure to include this in your practice sessions.
When I was helping my son learn to drive he drove me wherever I was going – to the shops, towns, visits out for the day. On one occasion he drove on an outing which meant 4 hours of driving in one day, on rural roads, dual carriageways and through a complicated one way system in a large town. All this was great experience for him. We also went a number of planned drives to cover traffic lights and complicated roundabouts from all directions. One particular favourite was a roundabout with traffic lights on some of the approaches and on the roundabout itself. Well, I enjoyed it anyway!
Hill starts and awkward junctions are great too – and trips to the supermarkets are good for practicing parking. One of the benefits of insuring a car for the learner driver is that that car can be used to take the driving test in. If they are driven many miles in that car and are familiar with its turning circle for manoeuvres then they’ll find the test less stressful. It’s also a lot cheaper than borrowing the instructor’s car for the test!
Who can Accompany a Learner Driver?
Can anyone accompany a learner driver on their practice drives? In theory, yes. The insurance covers the learner driver driving that particular car as long as there is an experienced driver with them. The law says the accompanying driver must be over 21, and must have held a full driving licence for 3 years. The car should have L plates fitted front and back, and there should be an additional stick on interior mirror for you to use. In reality, accompanying a learner driver is not for everyone.
If they are driving your car, be prepared for a few rough gear changes, jumpy starts and a few hit kerbs. You should have a degree of patience – and not get flustered if stalled in the middle of a roundabout. L plates show other drivers what’s going on – they were all learners once, so it’s their problem if they get annoyed. You have to keep calm to relax the learner driver so they can start the engine and get on their way again. If you are impatient this will only fluster the learner, and especially if it’s a relative, lead to heated arguments which is not advisable with a learner at the wheel of a car. Likewise you shouldn’t be overly critical – obviously you need to point out when they are doing something wrong, but you should aim to do this is a calm way, with explanations as to what wasn’t right, and what should have been done. Sometimes you do need to raise your voice if otherwise you’d be heading for a dangerous situation (such as on a slip road heading to a dual carriageway if the mirror hasn’t been checked properly – that’s one from experience!), but mostly a calm, quiet voice will be best.
If you are impatient or a nervous driver then accompanying a learner driver on practice sessions is perhaps not for you. I can’t pretend it’s not stressful!
As their Driving Improves
One important thing to remember is as they progress, stop giving them so many instructions. Eventually you should just be able to give them directions, with just an odd correction now and again when needed. To mimic the driving test it’s good to let them practice independent driving by following the road signs to an agreed destination. They are ready for the test when you rarely need to say anything at all.
After the Test
Once they have passed the driving test and have their own car remember to shut up and be quiet. You will always come across situations where, as a driver, you can’t keep quiet when you see something (child about to run out in front of you), but if you continue as if they still had L plates they won’t offer to take you driving very often. It’s very hard to stop giving advice, but it will be appreciated