Teen drivers are more likely to crash than anyone, no wonder teaching them to drive and supervising their learning is something many parents dread. But it’s an important time for you both and your chance to really set your teen up for life. It’s a big responsibility so here are some tips to help you get it right.
A learner licence gives a new driver the right to learn how to drive on the road. People on a learner licence can only drive a car when they have a supervisor sitting beside them; this is the rule regardless of whether there are passengers or not.
A driver with a restricted licence is permitted to drive without a supervisor between the hours of 5am and 10pm (a supervisor is needed outside of these hours). Restricted drivers are not allowed passengers unless there is a supervisor with them or the passenger is a spouse/partner, parent/guardian or dependent.
A supervisor is someone who has held a FULL New Zealand licence for a minimum of two years and has no supervisor condition on their own driver licence. They must be seated in the front passenger seat.
For a learner driver licence it is recommended they get around 120 hours of supervised driving practice.
If your teen has successfully passed their restricted test and can now drive on their own, you may think supervised practice is unnecessary but you do still need to be involved. Young drivers (especially those on their restricted and even more so, young males) are disproportionately more likely to have a crash. This is not just because they’re inexperienced, it’s also physiological; a teenager’s brain simply hasn’t fully developed and their ability to judge risk and respond is not as sharp as an adult’s. For this reason it still pays to schedule in regular practice time with your teen to check how their driving skills are progressing and correct anything that isn’t right.
Work out what they need to learn and put together a somewhat structured programme. Progress through the various driving skills from the basic (eg. changing lanes, roundabout etiquette) to the advanced skills (parallel parking, driving in a 100km zone, driving in the rain, driving at night) and practice them more than once.
As we just mentioned, repetition is key to learning a new skills so practice driving and the different skills in a range of traffic, weather, road conditions and speeds.
We recommend you arrange for your teen to have at least a few lessons with a professional driving instructor to learn good habits, best practice, road rules and to practice driving in a test-like scenario.
You are a big influence on your teen. You don’t want to pass on your bad driving habits to your teen so before undertaking supervised driving practice make sure you are up to date with the latest road rules and best practice driving skills yourself. Sit in the car with your child when they go with the professional.
When your teen first starts talking about wanting to get their licence is a great time to start the learning process. While you’re driving, point out hazards and talk them through what you’re doing and why; eg. “I’m changing down a gear because we’re approaching a set of lights which may change to orange and I want to be ready to slow down if it is safe to do so.” It is really good to get them practising their 12 second scanning when they are in the passenger seat.
More modern cars are safer to learn in with better safety features like airbags, electronic stability control and ABS brakes. Practicing in a safer car minimises the risk if/when something not so good happens. Check out our blog on safety ratings.
Some of the biggest safety risks they’ll encounter is off the road - peer pressure and alcohol. Their mates will pressure them to give them rides and maybe even drive after consuming alcohol. They’ll pressure them to go fast and take silly risks. You won’t be able to be there to stop this but you can prepare them to deal with it, discuss the consequences and help them know how to make better choices. Make sure you understand the graduated licence system it is there to protect your children.
The Transport Agency and ACC have developed a programme to help parents and teens during the learning to drive period. It includes a description of the all the skills and videos that show a teen practising them.
If you would like more information, we are able to run a parent education evening for groups of 10+ people. Please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.