LEARNING TO DRIVE
Brought to you in partnership with Adrian Flux
It's an exciting but nervous time for teenagers and their parents. If anything, it can be harder on mum and dad, as the chances are you’ll foot the bill for lessons, insurance and maybe even a first car. Then there’s the worry of using the family wheels for practice as your child gets to grips with the basics of driving. Even the closest parent-child relationship can be put under strain with a teenager behind the wheel and mum or dad in the passenger seat...
Any parent wants to support their child in learning to drive safely and effectively. That’s where the Learning to Drive – The Parent’s Guide comes in. We’ll show you how to help your child become a safe and responsible driver. From choosing the right instructor to making the most of practice to finding affordable insurance cover, this guide is full of practical advice. So, good luck to you and your learner driver. Here’s to making the start of their driving career a safe and happy one.
what driving experience can you get before turning 17?
Although your child can’t legally drive on public roads until they are 17, on private land they can drive at any age. As a result, in recent years there’s been an explosion in under-17 driving opportunities. By starting young they’ll have a better feel for how a car works when they reach 17, and will hopefully be better able to learn about hazard perception and the rules of the road if they can already control a car. The biggest under-17 driving scheme is Young Driver (youngdriver.eu), launched in 2009 and available at more than 50 sites across the UK. The programme’s Kim Stanton comments: “At Young Driver, we strongly believe that catching youngsters when their attitudes towards driving are still developing is the key to producing a safer driver.”
Having a disability need not be a barrier to learning to drive. There are many modifications and adaptations that can make driving possible. If your child receives the higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or the enhanced rate mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) then they can apply for a licence at 16, not 17.
When can you apply for a provisional licence?
As watershed moments in a teenager’s life go, the 17th birthday has to be right up there. Forget cards and presents or a night out with friends – what they’re probably more excited about is finally being able get behind the wheel of a car on the public road. To make sure their licence arrives in time for their birthday, it’s possible to apply up to three months in advance. However, regardless of when it arrives they can’t get behind the wheel until they are 17. Just as importantly, even if they’ve applied for their licence in good time but it fails to arrive before the big day, they can’t start driving until the licence turns up. However, as it should take just one week to arrive if you apply online, or three weeks by post, allowing two months should be more than enough time. Applying for a provisional driving licence is simplicity itself. Just have your child complete the relevant application form. The one they need is called a D1 form and should be available from most post offices. They’ll also need to hand over the fee. At the time of writing it’s £43, but you can check the current cost by logging on to gov.uk/driving-licence-fees. Your child doesn’t have to apply for their provisional driving licence through the post though. The online service at gov.uk/ apply-first-provisional-driving-licence is quick and easy. What’s more, it’s cheaper than a postal application, saving £9 at the time of writing. That’s not a huge amount but every penny counts when learning to drive is so expensive.
how to choose a driving instructor or driving school?
As the parent of a learner driver it is really important you find the right driving instructor. To help you find the ideal person to teach your teenager, the DVSA has improved its ‘find driving schools, lessons and instructors’ service.
You can now search the database of more than 26,000 approved instructors by the grade awarded to them by the DVSA. Instructors can add links to their website or Facebook page. This will help you find more detailed information, whether the instructor provides a photo for security, whether they provide lessons for learners with a special need, the instructor’s availability/ working pattern and the price of lessons.
Ask these questions
1. Is the instructor fully qualified (an ADI)?
2. If we have a PDI (an instructor who is still in training) will we pay less?
3. If my child doesn’t get on with their instructor, can we have our money back? All of it, or just some?
4. Will we get the same instructor and car for each lesson?
5. How long is each lesson? Can we choose how long the sessions last?
6. Can we get post-test training such as night-time driving lessons?
7. Can we change instructors if we want?
8. Where will my child have their lessons?
9. Do we know someone who has recently passed the test and could recommend an instructor or a school?
Giving someone driving lessons yourself
Unless you are a qualified ADI, then you are almost certainly not the best person to teach your child to drive. But that doesn’t mean you won’t play an important role in helping your teenager to become a safe and responsible driver. Time spent practising between professional lessons can reinforce what your child has been learning. This is best done by working as a team with the instructor, and doing your best not to pass on any bad habits you may have developed.
Try following these tips:
1. Parents should read a current copy of the Highway Code and work with their child on the theory exam.
2. Plan before you set out. Choose a suitable area and route, and know what you want to achieve before you get behind the wheel.
3. Use quiet roads until your child is confident, especially in traffic.
4. Stay below the level they’ve reached with their driving instructor.
5. Avoid carrying passengers – they’re a potential distraction.
6. Work with a professional instructor who tells you what your child is being taught and what techniques are being used. Then you won’t give conflicting advice.
7. A learner driver is not ready for all the challenges of the road, so you must be aware of the hazards around you. Constantly anticipate other road users and be ready to spot trouble your child has missed.
8. Be sparing with your comments, but problems must be identified while still fresh in the memory. Confidence needs to be built first, though, so don’t forget to praise good driving.
9. Keep calm – shouting won’t help. And don’t get angry if they find constructive criticism hard to take.
10. Make learning enjoyable. You need to keep your cool so that you both enjoy the process. You and your teenager shouldn’t dread getting into the car.
In order to teach a learner in your car, you will need to ensure the Learner has insurance cover. The most popular way to do this is with a Learner Driver Insurance product. Learner driver insurance covers a young driver to practise in someone else’s car, most likely their parents’. Instead of being added to your insurance and bumping up your premium, they have their own policy. Some insurers will ask learners to sign up for at least 30 days, others offer daily policies or will even cover youngsters for just a few hours. Adding a learner as a named driver to your car insurance can be expensive compared with arranging separate cover. What’s more, if they do have a mishap, they can claim on their own policy, not yours, which should help keep the peace if they have a prang in the family car.
Learners should find cover for around £70 month, or less than £2 per day. Kids won’t be able to borrow their rich uncle’s Range Rover – policies place restrictions on the insurance group and the total value of the car they drive. Typically the highest insurance group allowed will be around group 30-35, and the maximum value of the car somewhere in the region of £20,000-£30,000. Policies usually cover learners to drive in one specific vehicle – expect to take out another policy if they want to practise in a second car. There may also be restrictions on the age of whoever is supervising and their driving experience, so an older brother or sister may not have been behind the wheel for long enough. Also, if a young driver has already made a claim due to a crash while learning, they may not be eligible for cover.
You can find out more about Learner Driver Insurance policies with our partners Adrian Flux here
Although motorways are statistically our safest roads, learner drivers haven’t been allowed on them. That all changed on 4 June 2018. Learners now have the green light to get to grips with motorway driving before they have passed their practical test. Will I be able to drive on the motorway with my learner? No. The new rules allow learners onto motorways, but only in cars with dual-controls and accompanied by an approved driving instructor. So you won’t be able to practise on motorways with your child between professional driving lessons. Is motorway driving now compulsory for all learner drivers? There is no requirement for your child to drive on the motorway if they don’t want to. Depending on where you live it may be impractical. It will be up to you, your child and their instructor to decide whether to drive on the motorway.