Driving tests

How to coach a new driver

Learning to drive is an exciting journey and the start of a process that leads to greater independence for a young driver.

For the parents and other family members who get roped in to coach the new driver, the excitement can be tempered somewhat by a certain amount of trepidation.

Being in the car with a brand new driver at the wheel can be quite a stressful experience, resulting in choice words being uttered, sometimes yelled, and a strange desire to stab the right foot into the void of the passenger footwell in the vain hope that the car might have miraculously grown a spare brake pedal.

When you look at the official numbers around serious and fatal crashes, you notice two things.  First, that most crashes are caused by human error of one sort or another.  Second, the majority of the humans involved in making these errors are normal everyday people doing normal everyday things.

The next question that springs to mind is why do we expect these same experienced drivers to teach the next generation to drive without giving them any help to know what sort of things they can guide new drivers to do to develop good, safe driving habits?

Similarly, there is not much help for those coaches in techniques that could be used when guiding that novice driver. For example, saying “brake gently” may result in your nose getting uncomfortably close to the windscreen.  Whereas “gently squeeze the brake pedal” will probably get a more favourable response. If you say the word “brake” having seen the need to slow down and your novice driver takes their eyes off the road, looks at you and calmly says ”How do I do that again?” Your stress levels will likely rise to a previous unknown height.

If you are about to start this journey, it is well worth getting your Road Code knowledge up to date so that you know you are giving the correct information, perhaps by checking out the practice questions on this site, but also by actually reading the content and not just studying the questions (you can get detailed articles about all aspects of driving and the road rules in our driving resources section). There are lots of things in the Road Code that are not covered in the questions, and it’s important to have an up-to-date, well-rounded knowledge of what the Code says nowadays.

Other resources exist to help you to give good guidance, for example the NZTA Drive website and some others contain excellent advice on technique and practical application of road rules such as the CodeZero app. The content in this App was compiled and created by Mark Revill-Johnson, who is a former police officer, award-winning driving instructor, Chief Examiner for the Institute of Advanced Motorists and a trainer of new instructors.

Mark said that “…particularly in the early days with a new driver, a coach should agree on terminology with their student and give instructions much, much earlier than they would perform the action as driver themselves as this gives the new driver time to hear the instruction, mentally process the information and then carry out the action.”

To help preserve the personal relationship you have with the new driver you are supervising, anything you can do for clear communication is going to improve the experience immensely.

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Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

Posted in Advice
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