Checklist for Teaching Someone How to Drive

Teaching someone to drive – your own teenager in particular – is one of those major life milestones that it’s possible to look forward with equal parts excitement and trepidation.

There’s a lot involved with not just teaching someone enough to pass their licence, but to set them up for a lifetime of safety on the roads. To determine whether you’re up for the challenge, ask yourself a few questions. Are you patient and good at explaining things, and able to give simple, clear instructions? Do you stay calm under pressure? Can you cope with other people making mistakes without losing your temper?

You also need to know the road code thoroughly and be willing to work through a wide range of steps and skills. It’s often a good idea to take a refresher lesson with a professional and brush up on your theory skills.

Here’s a basic list of things to consider in your role as driving instructor.

Check you have the legal requirement to teach someone to drive (holding a licence for at least two years is required in most places) and your insurance policy is up to date. Make sure it covers a learner driver. A car that’s in good shape will make learning easier, not to mention safer, so it’s a good idea to get your vehicle serviced before you start lessons. Position L plates on the front and back of the car. Have a good chat to set some ground rules, mutual expectations for the other’s behaviour, and any concerns you both might have.

Spend a bit of time exploring your neighbourhood to find quiet streets (or empty carparks during the weekend) where you can have your first few lessons. As their skills and confidence increase, you can introduce your student to busier areas.

But even before the ignition is turned on, it’s a good idea to spend time explaining seat and seat belt positioning, and getting to know the car’s mirrors and blind spots.

Avoid making lessons too long, as there is a lot to absorb, especially to begin with. About 30 minutes is ideal. Initial lessons may just include talking through the controls and driving around the block a couple of times. It is important to include a wide variety of driving situations in your lesson plans – don’t fill the learning hours with the same trip to and from school.  As your child’s experience and confidence grows, include night driving, different road surfaces, different weather conditions and different traffic conditions.  Think about those driving situations that make you nervous – you don’t want the first time your child experiences those to be after they have their provisional/restricted lisence when they’re on their own.

Keep your instructions simple and short and give your learner enough time to follow through with your directions. As well as telling them where to go, explain what they will need to do. For example, “At the lights we will turn left, so starting moving into the left lane and stay in it as we turn.”  As lessons progress, ask your child to tell you what they see, rather than pointing it out for them.  For example, instead of saying “There’s a person at the pedestrian crossing, prepare to stop”, say “what can you see up ahead and what will you need to do about it”.

Encourage commentary driving where your learner describes exactly what they are doing as they drive, and what they are doing to avoid potential risks. To begin with, you may describe each manoeuvre for them. For example, “We are checking our mirrors, all is clear, we have turned on the indicator and are waiting for the blue car to pass, we are moving into the lane, there is a stop sign in 100 metres.”  Check out our article on how Commentary Driving works.

Keep calm at all times and provide plenty of positive encouragement. At the end of each lesson, have a debrief session to discuss what went well and what areas need to be worked on.

Keep in mind that terms that may be second-nature to you, may be unfamiliar to them. For example, tailgating, three-second rule and blind spot.

Alongside the practical skills of driving, take time to teach other skills needed to drive safely and responsibly. These include: understanding a car’s common warning signals and knowing some basic car maintenance; how to fill up with fuel and the risks of getting caught short; the dangers associated with common distractions (phone, music, screens) and how to speak up if passengers are causing problems; common road courtesy and how to respond if pulled over by law enforcement officers.

Takeaway tips

  • Teaching someone to drive requires sound practical knowledge and a calm demeanour
  • Check your insurance cover before you start and make sure your car is in optimum working order
  • Keep the lines of communication open at all times and discuss your expectations
  • Hold initial lessons in quiet streets or empty carparks and keep them short
  • Commentary driving is an excellent learning tool
  • Lessons need to cover more than the practical skills, include what it means to be a considerate and responsible driver
  • Boost private lessons with professional lessons at the beginning, middle and end stages of the learner process
  • Don’t stop driving with them after they pass the test.  Check in on their skills and habits by having them drive you around as provisional/restricted drivers.