Learning to drive is one of the most important achievements many of us accomplish. As parents, giving your child practical help can be just what they need to pass . You know your zebra crossing regulations from your pelican, have clutch control nailed (most of the time), and know how to get your mirrors right.
No matter how long you take to pass, the tips and tricks that make you a good driver only come with experience. But what advice should you be giving the next generation? How do you know the habits you’ve picked up are good safety tips for driving?
We asked road safety experts IAM RoadSmart what advice they’d pass on to the new generation of drivers and which mistakes can be easily avoided.
Here’s a roundup of ten driving tips to pass onto your children or grandchildren:
1. Don’t copy bad habits.
As we get more comfortable driving, the methods we used while trying to impress tend to take a backseat. Whether that’s becoming lazy with your hand placement on the wheel or not indicating every time, it’s easy to pick up bad habits from the drivers around you. Try and maintain good habits whenever you’re behind the wheel to set a good example for your children.
2. Spend time getting your mirrors right and remember to dip them when necessary.
Many drivers underestimate the importance of mirrors – no matter how long they’ve been behind the wheel. One that people often forget, is the small handle at the bottom of your rear-view mirror. It protects your vision if there’s a bright light behind you. Remind your children of this, especially when driving on the motorway at night. Although a lot of newer cars have auto dimming rear view mirrors, it's important to be vigilant. Drivers who know the smallest of tips and tricks are often the safest.
3. Speed limits are there to limit your speed – they’re not a target. Drive at a speed suitable for conditions, which could be a lot slower than the limit.
When we become more comfortable on the road or familiar with our surroundings, people tend to driver faster than recommended. Speed limits are the maximum speed for fair conditions, so you should drive below them if it’s raining, there’s low visibility or, any other conditions that make it more difficult to drive safely like parked cars. To set a good example, always be conscious of changing speed limits.
No matter how long you take to pass, the tips and tricks that make you a good driver only come with experience.
4. Take pride in your licence – it cost a lot in time and money to get, so respect it and enjoy driving.
You shouldn’t need to remind your child of how long it took them to earn their licence, but it may be worth giving them a nudge if they’re making bad choices, such as having a car full of friends not long after passing their test. Passing your practical test is – in many ways – the start of your driving education – not the end.
5. Don’t be worried about telling friends to behave when in the car. Driving is a serious business and you don’t need any interference, so ask for their respect.
It’s no surprise that kids get excited when someone in their group can finally drive. They’ll all be wanting lifts, but any distractions can be dangerous, especially when you’re a new driver. It'll be worth reminding your child that even if they're not the one without a seatbelt fastened, they'll be fined or even given points on their licence if their passengers aren't wearing theirs. The chances are that your child will be alert, but it’s good to remind them to focus at all times when driving and if their friends aren’t helping – they can get the bus.
6. Observe, anticipate and plan.
New drivers should always expect the unexpected. Whether it’s by keeping an eye on the weather forecast, scoping out their route on Google Maps before setting off, or watching for children crossing, roads are often unpredictable, and you need to prepare and adapt. This is something that comes with experience so try to be helpful but not overbearing when it comes to making plans and decisions about driving.
7. Let someone know your route and expected arrival time.
This is just good practice, whether you’re an advanced or new driver. If your child thinks they might be home late, tell them all they need to do is give you a call before they set off. If you’re expecting them back at a certain time and they miss it, you might be worried.
8. Don’t underestimate the importance of vehicle checks. It may seem boring, but they could save you a lot of time and hassle.
Keeping on top of oil levels and making sure tyres have enough air is probably the last thing on your mind when you get your first car. Independence calls and it doesn’t want to hang around for vehicle checks - but it’s important. Set a good example by checking your own car regularly and warn them about the potential costs of ignoring basic car maintenance.
9. Respect all other road users and make allowances for other people’s mistakes.
After a few months of being a regular road user, new drivers will hopefully begin to feel more confident. At this point, they may begin to forget how they felt back in their first lessons when the angry drivers behind them tried to rush them. If you notice them doing this, give them a gentle reminder of how scary it was when they started.
10. Leave enough space between you and the car in front.
Probably the most important rule of the road, for every driver, especially new ones, should be the importance of space. Tell them to stay back and keep safe. And, of course, don't forget to ensure they have a car insurance policy in place.