Let the practice begin!
I often get asked from parents of new drivers how they can keep their sanity while they sit in the passenger seat when the new driver is driving. Finally, it’s time to help all of the parents of new drivers. It’s time to put down your valium and rejoice! Help is on the way!
The first thing to realize is the new driver has very limited experience. Their decision-making ability is poor. Your job is not to teach them, but to help them become safe as they practice what their in-car instructor has taught them. The first suggestion is to find a safe place to practice. The mall parking lot isn’t the best place, although it can be fine if you just want them to get a feel for the gas pedal and brake pedal. Since there are no curbs or actual corners in the parking lot, their perception of when to make turns is thrown off. Take them to a quiet residential area. The mall parking lot can also be too busy for a first-timer.
The other thing to remember is the time of day. Take your new driver out to practice when the roads are a little quieter. Having fewer distractions are better for their concentration level. Heavy traffic can put a bit of fear in new drivers because of the distractions. Keep the driver focused on what they’re doing.
This leads into how many people you want in the vehicle. Keep it to just you and the new driver. I’m sure they don’t want someone in the backseat yelling “We’re going to die!” every few minutes. Avoid bringing the entire family along for that “Sunday drive” when your new driver is practicing.
How much time should you spend all at once when you’re out practicing? The common error many people make is going out for two or three hours all at once. The problem with that is the new driver tends to forget a lot of the information after awhile. The best solution is to go out for 30 minutes at a time and perhaps 3 or 4 times a week. Parents have often told me they don’t have large gaps in their day to help the new driver practice. They don’t need large gaps. The repetition of practicing every 48 hours makes a world of a difference. Did I mention repetition?
I would also recommend you speak with their driving instructor to ask what you should be practicing. It’s important to practice the same things the same way they were taught so your new driver can build positive habits. I remember having many students telling me over the years how their parents tell them how they should be driving. The problem, as they say is “Too many cooks spoil the broth”. In other words, let them practice what they’ve been taught. Remember, you’re not the one who has to take a government road test…yet!