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ACCOMPANYING LEARNER DRIVERS

Statistics seem to show that getting some extra practice, in addition to Driving Lessons with a Qualified Instructor, is often beneficial in learning to drive. However, it is by no means essential and many people learn to drive successfully without having any opportunity for extra practice.

If you do have a chance to practice, here are some guidelines. It might be worth both the Learner and the Accompanying Driver (usually but not always Mum or Dad) sitting down and reviewing these before the first run out.

The Law!
The Accompanying Driver has to be over 21, have had a full licence for 3 years and must not be paid for it either in cash or in kind unless he or she is a Qualified Instructor. Also you need to ensure that the car is Insured for the Learner to drive.


Practive vs Lessons
You need to be clear that this extra practice is not a "Driving Lesson". It is the opportunity to practice what has already been learnt on the lessons that the Qualified Instructor has given. There are numerous instances when Mum or Dad teach the Learner techniques that are out of date or are just plain wrong. Some of these we will look at shortly. Driving techniques and accepted practices have changed over the years as cars and traffic volumes have changed. What Mum or Dad were taught 20 years ago may well have changed considerably. It's worth remembering too that there are some things that are plain right or wrong, others where it will depend on the circumstances. Only a Qualified Instructor who is regularly receiving more training will be able to judge these situations and advise on them as they occur.


The DVSA says...
This is what the DVSA website says "It is unlikely that anyone except an approved driving instructor (ADI) would have the experience, knowledge and training to teach you properly. Learning safe driving habits from the start will improve the safety of yourself and other road users."

Potential pitfalls...

1. Gear Changing. It is now correct practice when changing down to a lower gear, to choose the gear you need rather than to go sequentially through the gears. Thus, when turning a corner, when approaching in 4th and changing to 2nd, you shouldn't go to 3rd gear at all. You're not going to need it, so don't go into it. This is called selective or block gear changing.

2. Handbrake. Some parents insist that the Learner apply the handbrake at every junction. This is not necessary. Only use the handbrake if you may roll back or if you will be stopped for more than a few seconds.

3. Signalling. Your Instructor will advise when a signal should be given. Some parents insist that a signal be given every time the Learner pulls up or pulls way. The guiding principle however, in these situations is "will someone benefit from a signal?". If yes then give one. There are other situations where a signal should always be given.

4. Sloppy habits. Learners who get extra practice often get into sloppy habits. The main ones are: forgetting to use the mirrors, holding the steering wheel in the incorrect position, sloppy gear changes and coasting.

These comments are only a guideline and you should take advice from your Instructor. The most helpful extra practice occurs when the Instructor's advice and input is sought. However, if the Accompanying Driver wants to chat things through with the Instructor, this should be considered as part of the lesson time that has been paid for, not an extra 10 minutes after the end of the lesson.

Finally
One or two additional comments: Take things easy. Start on very quiet roads and gradually build up. A Driving Instructor has the benefit of dual controls and a lot of experience, so it's likely that a parent will be a lot more tense and stressed when things go wrong. Also, when you start getting extra practice, you're driving a car that you're not used to. When you're inexperienced it can be difficult to get used to a different car, particularly in finding the biting point on the clutch.
And if things go wrong and steam is coming out of dad's ears! - pull over at a safe place, take a break, calm down and then get going again!

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