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Is practising with friends and family a good idea when learning to drive?

On the face of it, practising driving with a friend or member of your family seems like a good idea; you know them well, you like them, it wont cost you a penny, so it’s a no brainer? This blog will give you essential practical advice that you can print off and share with your helper. They will thank you!

At BIG TOM Driving School, you are positively encouraged to get as much good quality driving experience as possible when you are learning to drive. Our 5 Day Intensive Driving Courses are designed around the concept that you “Drive more, to experience more, to learn more”, and we can provide that service as we use top quality, DVSA registered driving instructors who are trained to help you learn whilst managing risk.

The first important point to recognise when considering private practise sessions, is the role of the supervisor. Legally, that is what they are you know? Not everyone is entitled to supervise a learner, there are strict rules about who is allowed to supervise a learner.

From a legal point of view, there are expectations placed on a supervisor to ensure that when they take a Learner out to practise, the session has been thought out so as to minimise and control the likelihood of having an accident that will cause damage or even worse injury.

Crucially, do not fall in to the trap of expecting a supervisor to actually train you how to drive. The idea is to practise the things that you have been working on with your driving instructor, building up your confidence and ability. It is NOT a good idea to try doing new things that you have not even done with your driving instructor. A friend or member of your family is not necessarily trained to a high standard of driving ability, they may not have the verbal skills to either enable you to learn effectively or control the safety of a given situation.  As such, it is always sensible, to be clear on what goal you are attempting to achieve between you both, BEFORE the engine is turned on. Make sure you are only practising what you have previously covered with your driving instructor, and give some thought as to where you will practise.

A common mistake to make is that a Learner will naturally want to impress the member of family or friend who is supervising them. Perfectly natural to feel that way, but this really must be controlled, to ensure safety is maintained. If the route you take or location of your session is not carefully planned, before you know it, you can both be found in situations that go far beyond what you have previously covered, and that makes both of you very anxious. Not only can that situation knock your own confidence, but it can also seriously affect the supervisor too – these incidents can put off supervisors from coming out to help you again, remember, they do not have dual controls like a driving instructor has in their driving school car.


Practise….. Don’t Learn

This is fundamentally the key message to give you in this blog. You should only be driving in situations that you have previously covered with your driving instructor. The moment that you start going beyond that point, you are putting much stress on the supervisor, and risk is no longer being managed. The consequence of this, can be very serious indeed.

Chris Jubb has been a driving instructor for 14 years and provides first class driving training for BIG TOM customers on the intensive driving courses. He offers the following advice to parents and friends based on his years of experience:

“Try not to expect your learner driver to do too much. You wouldn’t put a young member of your family into a deep pool and expect them to swim or sink, and it’s the same with learning to drive. You do actually play an important part in any case, learners will watch you drive, they will observe how you respond to other drivers, they will sense what your attitude is to speeding, tailgating and the like. The best advice I can offer you is to leave any learning to us, we are in the best position to provide driving training in a safe environment, but do go out and see your learner practise, it can be very enjoyable to both of you, and very motivating for the learner as they generally like to make you feel proud of what they can achieve”.

Chris does make an important point here about the influence friends and family can and do have on learner drivers. It is recognised that some of these influences are positive and others negative so here are our top 5 tips for supervisors:

  1. Acknowledge the responsibility that comes with supervising a learner, make sure that you have done all you can in preparation for the sessions eg check the car insurance cover, check the car is road worthy, find out what the learner has been working on recently and where.
  2. Come up with a goal for the session. Be specific. Ensure that your learner is doing what s/he is wanting to do, talk about how you both share the responsibility for safety and how you can manage it between you.
  3. Make sure that the time is right. Even when these practise sessions have been pre-planned it can turn out to be not ideal timing. We are all human with everything that brings, we suffer with tiredness, feeling low, illness or frustrations. The weather might turn really bad, or the timing might mean it will be really busy on the roads. Always be prepared to postpone a session.
  4. Keep it safe. You should not expect the learner to be able to appreciate when things are getting dangerous. Just because there was a near miss that actually resulted in nothing dangerous happening, do not ignore these moments. Go and find somewhere less demanding, work on the basis that good practise has good outcomes, not risky outcomes.
  5. Keep things interesting. Asking a learner to repeatedly drive round familiar roads, doing the same journeys time and time again is not that beneficial. The idea is to practise the skillsets that the learner is currently working on, and practising them in areas that are new, unfamiliar, but still well within their current ability. So take care to make sure the locations are not too demanding, but do try to make the practise sessions involve the pupil using the skillsets they are currently working on.

BIG TOM Driving School provides 5 Day Intensive Driving Courses in Peterborough, Spalding, Stamford, Bourne, Lincoln, Grantham and Boston 0800 689 4174