Out of Control
Sitting in the passenger seat, supervising an inexperienced learner driver can be a super stressful experience with your right foot pressing the nonexistent brake pedal and communication reduced to barking commands at an already terrified driver. It’s the sort of scenario that can seriously damage relationships as well as increase the blood pressure. However, a lot of tension can be avoided through a simple discussion prior to getting out on the road. Both the learner and supervisor must understand each other, let’s face it, miscommunication at 30 plus mph could lead to some awkward situations to say the least so, it's worth sitting down together first to set out a plan of attack and a set of parameters.
Time to Think
Instructions and directions need to be given well in advance. A learner will most probably be unable to react as quickly as the supervisor might expect, so early clear directions is a must. Any advice on how to deal with a certain situation must be given well in advance, giving the learner plenty of time to process and implement the advice. Analysis of a mistake should preferably take place when pulled over at the side of the road.
A Time to Speak
The learner should be led to consider how the supervisor will be feeling during a drive and how a simple 'yes' or 'understood' would alleviate any concerns over information not being heard, which would in turn will reduce the risk of constant repetition. The supervisor should take care when providing their own feedback and analysis on specific scenarios but rather encourage the learner to describe what happened and give their own analysis first.
A Time for Action
There’s very little a supervisor can do to stop the car in an emergency, so agreeing that a supervisors experience of sensing hazards must take precedence and how that will be communicated and acted upon is essential. I would advocate practicing something along the lines of an emergency stop in a quiet area in order to increase confidence in both learner and supervisor alike (making sure it’s safe and there are no vehicles following).
Which Way Now?
It’s wise to plan a route which is within the capabilities of the new driver, as confidence grows the difficulty level can be increased. Initially, steer clear of high stress situations which could include right turns at busy T junctions and Traffic lights, large multi lane roundabouts, steep hills and such like. Planning the route in advance will ensure that directions can be given in good time rather than the learner being panicked into making quick decisions.
Consider using shorter circuit routes which can be practiced multiple times, fine tuning as you go.
During driving lessons, I regularly encounter pupils being confused by information provided by family and friends which doesn't agree with things being taught on their lessons. When I learned to drive at 17 (30 years ago), I was taught to slow down using the gears which was deemed the correct way to drive and considering the poor brakes back then was probably right on the money. Times have changed, nowadays you can stop most cars ‘on a dime’ so there's less reliance on assisted engine braking. So too, driver training has changed to take such advances into consideration; so now you'll hear the phrase - gears to go - brakes to slow.
If you’re going to supervise a learner, then why not sit in on their professional driving lessons, and feel free to ask the instructor questions and thus ensure that the learner if being given corresponding advice.
The Law & More
To be a supervising driver you must be at least 21 years old and have held a full driving license (for the type of vehicle being supervised) for a minimum of 3 years and be able to read a number plate over a 20 metre distance. Click here for more further clarification.
It’s the supervisors responsibility to ensure the car is safe and legal and that ‘L’ plates are being displayed. The car must be Taxed, MOT’s and Insured; make sure the insurer is aware that the driver is a learner and their age.
In order to be aware of what’s coming up behind, I’d suggest purchasing a detachable rear view mirror and perhaps an extra blind spot mirror for the left side of the car.
I recall a pupil excited that his Dad had insured him over the Christmas period so as to act as designated driver and allow his parents to have a drink. A learner supervisor is bound by the same rules as if they were driving themselves. So, no drinking, no mobile phones etc.
Professional driving lessons are not compulsory when it comes to tasking a driving test, however, experienced input will definitely reduce the risk of a poor result. Some driving instructors offer realistic mock tests with feedback to highlight any deficiencies which, when you consider the costs involved in retaking the test, could be extremely good value for money.
It can be a privilege and extremely rewarding to sit alongside a learner as they master the skills necessary to drive safely. I positively encourage my pupils to drive whilst being supervised by family or friends. In my experience I have found that in taking on the extra responsibility of being in sole control (without dual controls) has a profound effect on a learners driving and stands them in good stead for taking their driving test.
NB. You can download a useful pdf produced by Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents which gives lots of advice called 'Helping young people learn to drive safely'