Learner Driver and Parent

Top 5 Things You Can Teach Your Teenage Learner-Driver

It’s a fact – young drivers are highly over-represented in road-trauma statistics. So how can you ensure they have the tools to minimise the risks when you jump out of the left seat and they go solo?

By Shell on Oct. 29, 2019

First you need to remove all pressure. Learning to drive is a complex, stressful process for a young brain that can’t be rushed.

“Most parents try to make an omelette and put too many ingredients into it,” says Ian Luff, founder and managing director of driver-training and safety organisation Ian Luff Motivation Australia. “They’re confusing kids with too many inputs and the arguments and meltdowns happen. It’s not good from a learning point of view.”

So, no attempting to build Rome in a day. Instead, take things slow while passing on Luff’s top learner-driver tips.

1. Take things one step at a time

“It’s that obvious principle – keep it simple, stupid. First you want them to learn to accelerate and apply the brakes gently. Then they can learn the C factor: changing direction. The key is crawl to walk to run – don’t take big steps. And the last thing you want is distractions in those first mobility hours. Go to an industrial estate or something like that, keep the drive time short and, where possible, start with an auto. Parents think, ‘They’ve got to start off in a manual because I did,’ but it just adds confusion.”

2. Talk, talk, talk

“Young drivers need to learn what we call ‘commentary driving’. You need to get them to externalise their thoughts. They’ll say, ‘I can’t, I just need to drive’ but if they’re externalising what they’re seeing – there’s a person pushing a pram, I’m approaching lights and they’re green – they’ll be developing a mindset where they are able to anticipate danger.”

3. Check, check and check again

“Mirrors should be checked every three seconds, along with speed. You want to get them to externalise that as well, particularly speed – I’m coming up to a 50 zone, now it’s 60, now it’s a school zone. That stops that proverbial tunnel vision where they’re staring at the road but not really watching it, like staring into a TV.”

4. Hands at 9 and 3

“The old recommendation used to be hands at 10 and 2 but with airbag deployment it should be 9 and 3. An airbag is deployed at a minimum of 240km/h and if your hands are in front of it you’re going to give yourself a big uppercut, which is not healthy. Many young drivers also put their hand upside down and inside the steering wheel while turning. If they do that and the wheel spins back, it’ll break their hand. Do it during the driving test and it’s an instant fail, so parents need to be across that.”

5. Phones and cars don’t mix

“Parents have to realise they have a responsibility to set the phone culture while driving. You cannot use a mobile phone at any time while teaching a learner. You can’t ring or text home saying, ‘I’ll be home soon’. The cops are on it and in NSW they’re installing cameras to monitor it and catch people, so mobile phone off, away and not sitting in the console where you can grab it.”


You might think you’re the best driver in the world but are you really? If you want to give your teenager the best start possible, turn to the professionals.

“People say practice makes perfect but if you’re practising mediocrity you’re going to get mediocre results,” says Luff. “I would strongly suggest professional lessons with a third party before you even start doing a few hours with your child. Then once they’ve passed their driving test – which is really just hill starts and parking – send them out to do a defensive-driving course.”


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