January 16th, 2020 at 12:46 pm
Picking up those car keys and getting behind the wheel is a right of passage for almost every teenager but as a parent, your main worry is how can you get your child out on the road safely? The driving lessons are not the worry, under supervision and with probably a dual control car, your teenage son or daughter is quite safe, it’s what happens when they have passed their test that is the real cause for concern.
Experience is the answer
The only way for a newly passed teenage driver to improve their skills and therefore their safety levels is by driving as much as possible and exposing themselves to different situations and scenarios.
Some of these can be with another adult in the car, so a parent or older sibling. An informed passenger can provide guidance on how to deal with particular road conditions or parking problems. Remember, a new driver is continuing to learn for at least the first couple of years and supervised driving is a great way to improve their skill level and confidence.
Is there a better time of year to learn to drive?
A new motorist will probably find summer driving the easiest, to begin with as this avoids the challenges of snow, ice, fog and driving rain and mostly, driving conditions are in the light. However, it is important to prepare new drivers for the challenges of winter particularly driving in the dark. Most new driver accidents occur at night.
Why is driving in the dark so challenging?
Young drivers are not alone in finding night driving difficult. Data from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents – RoSPA – reveals an increase in motoring and pedestrian accidents and incidents every year when the clocks change in October.
At night, drivers lose some of the support they rely on in day time so peripheral vision and the ability to see ahead and anticipate. In addition, there is the glare and distraction from the headlights of oncoming vehicles. Night driving is a skill to be practised and refined and not just amongst new drivers. Supervised practice is invaluable particularly for those who learned to drive and passed their test in the summer months. They will also be reaching that dangerous point when statistically they are more likely to have an accident as they have been on the road for several weeks and natural caution and apprehension has probably worn off.
The governments’ Pass Plus course is specifically designed for new drivers and most instructors recommend that this is most beneficial during a driver’s first year on the road as this is when the majority of accidents occur. The course has to be taken with an accredited driving instructor and there is no formal driving test, just an assessment after each module. Driving at night is one of the modules.
How can you help your teenage accumulate that essential driving experience?
- Supplement their lessons with practice on a suitable family vehicle. There are short-term insurance policies you can take out for provisional licence holders which are pretty economic – you just phone or email when you want to drive and you are covered for that day. This is much more economical than trying to add them as a named driver to an existing policy when their driving hours will be quite small and potentially random
- Take them to different locations and in different conditions
- When they have passed, ask them to drive you when you are going out particularly if you are going somewhere new – many teenage drivers practise on local roads with which they are already familiar
- If you are driving locally, deliberately take different routes even if they are a bit longer
- Help them problem-solve when they encounter different issues- advise and guide, don’t interfere
- Give them advice on what to do in the event of a breakdown
Do teenagers have a different risk perception?
The answer to this is probably yes and, they can also be more impulsive and make snap decisions which can translate into incidents with serious consequences when they are behind the wheel of a car.
Other ways to keep your teenager safe behind the wheel
There are some standard protocols which will help minimise risk for a new driver.
- For a defined period, insist they drive alone and do not carry passengers other than a parent or adult friend. The distraction of driving with their own friends is enormous and there can be pressure not to make a mistake and lose face
- Drive in silence – music is distracting and most drivers, not just teenagers, will drive faster and more aggressively when listening to certain types of music
- Phones should be put right away out of reach and definitely out of sight as a screen flashing with a message can prove a fatal distraction
- Don’t link their phone to the Bluetooth so that they can take calls on the infotainment screen whilst driving – this is very distracting for any driver
- Put the new driver in the newest and safest car possible- using an old family favourite may just mean putting them behind the wheel of a car that lacks the most up to date safety features
- Never stop repeating the mantra about zero drink and drugs when driving
- Don’t allow them to take long journeys – if they are insured on a family vehicle rather than their own, then you will have more control over where it is going
- Stress the fact that you would rather pick them up if they are tired or over the limit even if it is 3 am or pay for a taxi ride home then put them at risk. Encourage an environment when they are not scared to call you or admit that they did end up drinking or find themselves too tired to drive
Putting a new teenage driver out on the road after they have passed their test is one of the scariest moments for any parent and this fear does not diminish for several years. There is tons of really good advice online from all the main motoring organisations. Being aware of the key risks will help you to protect your child and keep them safe during those first dangerous months.