Motoring Advice

Helping Your Child Learn How To Drive

Oct 13, 2016

Helping Your Child Learn How To Drive

This is a potentially tricky one. Kids, especially our own, are apt not to be too keen on taking directions and orders from an adult, and we've all known the stroppy teenager who simply won't do what they're told. But driving is as much responsibility as privilege so it's important that you get your pet 17-year-old off to a good start behind the wheel.

First off, get all the regulatory stuff in order. They'll need their provisional licence, properly attached and displayed L-plates and they'll need to have passed the theory test before venturing out. Most of all they'll need you. I mean physically, because the days of the Gardaí turning a blind eye to youngsters driving on their own are long gone. Provisional licence holders must be accompanied at all times until they have passed their test, and by and large that means you. The Road Safety Authority (RSA) also requires each learner driver to have a sponsor, someone who accompanies them while driving and encourages them as well as instructing them so almost inevitably that's going to be a parent.

Next, make sure your car and insurance are all sorted. Named driver policies are getting pretty expensive again, but getting to know your local insurance broker could help you find a better deal. As for the car itself, it should preferably have a manual gearbox. Old fashioned? Yes, but even when automatic transmissions are becoming more commonplace, if you learn and pass your test in an auto you'll never be allowed to drive anything else. Better to get them started on the basics.

Next, you'll need to book some lessons. The RSA says that 12 lessons at minimum must be taken but definitely consider getting them to take more than that. According to research, it takes 45 hours of instruction to get someone past the driving test, and it might be asking a bit much to have you take sole responsibility for the remaining 33 hours. The more professional coaching they get, the better.

The most important thing you can do, though, is to try and install good driving habits. Now, you need to tread carefully here as we all know that the best way to get a teenager to do one thing is to tell them to do the other. So, you need to play this softly-softly. Encourage rather than correct. Give gentle advice rather than barking orders. Remain calm at all times yourself, even if it is your expensive alloys getting closer and closer to the kerb. Above all, try and give them a sense that the rules of the road are there to be used and worked with, rather than submitted to or even avoided.

It's definitely a good idea to try and get them a bit off experience in environments away from the road. Whether it's a bit of go-karting, or some off-roading or even a session in a single seat race car at Mondello. Proper structured performance driving at a young age can really give your learner driver some hugely valuable experience. Plus, they're more likely to pay attention to a professional in a Nomex suit, and experiencing things like slides, skids and even spins in a controlled environment can be hugely beneficial when it comes to dealing with emergency situations on the road.

You also need to do your own homework a bit. If you're old enough to have your own teenagers then the driving test has changed a lot since you took it, so head over to the RSA's website and start downloading all of the guides and books you can. Bone up on the current requirements to make sure you're not handing out the wrong info yourself.

Finally, the biggest and best thing you can do is to try and give your child the sheer joy of driving. Yes, it can be frustrating, there are too many rules and there's too much traffic out there but driving can still be the ultimate freedom for many of us and, yes, it can still be fun, not to mention a skill that needs to be carefully honed over years and decades ahead. Teach them patience. Teach them tolerance of other road users. Teach them well.