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A guide to teaching your teenager to drive

Teaching your child to drive is something of a rite of passage both for you and for them. 

That’s not to say it’s one you’re hugely looking forward to, as it can be a daunting prospect. In fact, research from the AA showed one in 20 (5%) parents said sitting in their learner child’s passenger seat was the most stressful part of parenting[1]

But it doesn’t have to be an experience you both dread. Preparation goes a long way and, by following a few essential steps, you can feel positive about helping your teenager on their path to independence. 

Step 1: Understand the law

Before you even think about taking to the road for a lesson with your child, it’s important you have a handle on the legal ins and outs.  Here are a few to bear in mind: 

  • To start driving, your child must have turned 17 and have a valid provisional driver’s licence.
  • Any vehicle they drive must display ‘L’ plates.
  • They can only drive on motorways with an approved driving instructor, using a vehicle that has dual controls fitted – so this should be left for their professional lessons.
  • To teach a teen to drive, you must be over 21.
  • You must be fully qualified for the vehicle that the lessons will take place in (e.g. you will need to hold a manual car licence if that’s the type of vehicle to be used).
  • You will need to have held your full driving licence for 3 years or more.
  • When supervising a learner, you’re legally treated as a driver, so it is against the law to use your phone.
  • If the lessons are taking place in a car that will be your child’s, they will need their own insurance policy. If they are taking place in your car, your own insurance policy will need to cover your child as an additional driver. 

Step 2: Prepare yourself

We’d be lying if we told you that heading out for a drive with your teenager will always be a stress-free experience. But there are some steps you can take to ensure your feel calm and in control: 

  • Consider some training. It may be decades since you took your own test and it’s perfectly normal to have picked up some bad habits along the way. Make sure you’re passing on all the best practices by undertaking a driving course or examination of your own, such as the Driver Risk Assessments program offered by the RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents).
  • Have another qualified adult accompany you on a drive. Allow them to give some feedback on your driving style and any bad habits. Then do the reverse, and practice instructing that qualified adult as they get behind the wheel.
  • Have a thorough conversation with your teenager, explaining any ground rules, procedures you plan to follow and what to do if something goes wrong. 

Step 3: Prepare the vehicle

You’ll want to make sure the car you’ll be using is up to the task, whether you’ll be letting them get behind the wheel of yours, or you’ve already bought something just for them. 

  • Have the car checked over. It could end up being detrimental if your teenager learns to drive in a car that’s suffering a defect like misaligned steering or worn brake pads. Take the car to a garage and get any repairs done before you get started.
  • Have a tidy-up and remove any distractions. Even something as small as a dangling air freshener could make for an unwelcome distraction for your teen. Clear out the car and ensure there’s nothing that could interrupt their field of vision. 

Step 4: Take to the road

Once you’re confident that you, your teenager and the vehicle you’ll be using are all ready, it’s time to take to the road. This is usually best done once your child has four or five hours’ experience under their belt with their professional tutor, so they’re not starting with you completely from scratch. 

Once you get moving, bear these tips in mind: 

  • Have a route planned out and stick to roads that are familiar to you, so you don’t come across any unexpected hazards or challenges.
  • Plan any particular skills you want to target in a lesson (e.g. parallel parking) and prepare a safe location where your child can practice them. Bear in mind that certain driving skills might be best saved for their time with their instructor.
  • Remember that they cannot drive on the motorway with you as their supervisor.
  • Unless there is a very serious and immediate danger, don’t shout or become agitated. This will only break your teen’s focus and cause undue anxiety.
  • Be patient. Most learners spend upwards of 40 hours on the road before they’re at a point where they can past their test. 

Whether you’re looking to add your teen to your own policy, or it’s time to get them cover on their very first car, you’ll need insurance before you head out on your family driving lessons. See what Rias could do for you when you start your car insurance quote today >