Teaching a teen to drive

After hundreds of hours on video game consoles, many teens think they can drive before they even sit their learner’s test. So what happens when they actually get behind the wheel? Mother of five, Jo Mower, shares her experience:

With five children who love sport and a husband who works on weekends, I’m well and truly up against it on Saturday mornings – getting five kids to five different parts of Brisbane by 7.30am is no fun. So the prospect of our eldest son getting his licence is very exciting. And he’s dead keen – a good combination you would think …

Two days after he turned 16 the L plates were on, a driving lesson was already booked in anticipation of my teen passing the exam – “Mum, EVERYONE passes, it’s so easy…” I should have read the warning signs then.

The instant my son gets behind the wheel, he goes from being this calm, man of few words, to an aggressive, cocky, opinionated expert.  Maybe I exaggerate slightly, but it makes me very nervous, sitting in the passenger seat – the most nervous I have been in a very long time.

Every morning I face the question: “Can I drive?”  I don’t want to quash his enthusiasm, but do we have the time? It’s so much quicker for me to get the family to school. And do I really want him driving his siblings while he’s still learning?  But opportunities for practice are limited. He needs to log up 100 hours of driving to go for his test. I won’t let him behind the wheel when he’s tired (which is often, as with any Year 12 student), or when friends are in the car. How would I explain to a nine year old’s parents that we were late because my son crashed the car! So, I take a deep breath and let him get behind the wheel most mornings.

I thought his father would be the main instructor. Being a very competent, decisive driver himself, and coming from a family of teachers, he should be perfect. How wrong could I have been? They both come into the house after an hour of driving and go their separate ways, shoulders slumped.  A cheerful “How did it go?” from me is met with grunts from son, and shaking of head from husband.

Another father who shared his experiences between overs at the cricket one day was of the opinion that there was just too much testosterone flying around in too small a space with father and son together. “Learning to drive comes when boys are asserting their independence. It makes it very interesting.” To say the least!

I still have hopes that my husband can teach our daughter to drive when the time comes. Maybe that will be a better combination. Or maybe not … A friend has three girls – triplets. (Can you imagine the pain involved in getting in 300 hours of driving time?) He confessed there had been lots of tears shed in the car – both his own and his daughters’.

For us, things were starting to look up after my teen had notched up 30 hours. He was getting the hang of the automatic LandCruiser. It wasn’t quite the white-knuckle ride on corners and roundabouts that it had been at the beginning. I wasn’t being shot through the window or being forced into my seat with excessive breaking and accelerating.  I had a little more confidence we were going to actually stop in time at junctions. Until … we made the transition to a manual.  Only then did we realise our BIG, BIG mistake.  Starting out with the automatic first seems to have made driving a manual ten times harder.    

Driving to Ipswich, I was wondering which would fail first – would the gearbox fall out, or would we go through the tyre rubber if we squealed one more time?  At one point we were screaming at each other. I’m not sure we have ever done that before – as I said he is a man of few words. It has been very demoralizing for him going back to square one.

Yet, he’s determined to get those hundred hours and pass his test. So, we’re battling on. For all of the blood, sweat and tears, there’s a silver lining and it has a big red P on it.

Here are a few things I’ve learned:

1. Never assume a teen is competent just because he looks confident. The first time my son drove he thought he could turn right on a green light. He didn’t know he had to wait for a break in the traffic – scary!

2. I talk through the planned route and conditions on the day and how they will affect driving. If it’s raining, I remind my son that it will take longer to stop. Extra bags and passengers in a small call will also add to stopping time. I also keep an eye on the speedo.

3. When I am driving and my teen is the passenger seat I explain how I handle traffic situations and why.

Good luck!

Take heart if you’re teaching your teen to drive. Even Top Gear presenter, Jeremy Clarkson was terrified when he took his daughter out for a driving lesson.

She knew that if she were to brake, I’d wail like a banshee again, so she figured it was best to keep clear of the middle pedal altogether. It was quite simply the most nerve-wracking hour of my life.” Read the full story here.   http://www.topgear.com/uk/jeremy-clarkson/clarkson-teaching-kids-to-drive-2004-08-01

Read details on how to teach learner drivers here: http://www.tacsafety.com.au/jsp/content/NavigationController.do?areaID=3&tierID=1&navID=6B3476AC&navLink=null&pageID=96

And this is another good site for defensive driving techniques: http://www.drivers.com/article/218/#what

See details of how to apply for a learner’s licence here. 

And despite the many rumours about an increase to the number of hours required by learner drivers in Queensland. There are NO plans to change the rules. This is from the Department of Transport and Main Roads:

“At present, a total of 100 supervised on-road driving hours are required to be completed in a Queensland Learner Logbook including a minimum of 10 hours of night time driving.  Any driving hours that are outside the 3 year period at the time of submitting the Learner Logbook for approval will not be accepted.

There are currently no plans to increase the required number of supervised on-road driving hours for the Queensland Learner Logbook.  Please disregard any rumours.  Any change to the number of accrued hours for the Learner Logbook requirement would be well publicised before a change was to be implemented.”

Additional information relating to the Queensland Learner Logbook is available here: http://www.tmr.qld.gov.au/Licensing/Learning-to-drive/For-the-learner/Learner-logbook.aspx

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