Driving can give you freedom, but in the UK for almost ten people every day it is a fatal activity, with hundreds more being injured! Unfortunately, newly qualified drivers make up more than their fair share of these accidents, and this is reflected in their insurance premiums!
It all boils down to practice, the amount of experience and mileage that a driver has under their belt. The more you drive, the more variety you encounter – different types of road, times of day, weather conditions and so on. Don’t make the mistake of rushing into a driving test before enough experience has been gained because around half of those taking their practical driving test haven’t mastered basic driving skills!
Risks to newly qualified drivers decreases with miles driven and experience gained…..and that is where accompanying a learner driver really has its benefits!
Legally there are certain requirements that need to be met before you agree to accompany a learner driver on the road.
Firstly, you need to be at least 21 years of age, and have held a full EC/EEA driving licence for at least three years for the category of vehicle being driven. Secondly, the car to be used by the l earner must be insured for learner use, fitted with L-plates (D-plates in Wales) to the front and rear of the car, and be in a safe roadworthy condition. It is also useful to fit an extra rear view mirror on the passenger’s side so that you can see what is going on behind the vehicle for safety and peace of mind.
Before acting as an accompanying driver take some time to consider your own driving and attitude. You will need to act as a credible role model who practices what they preach! Why not have a lesson or two with the driving instructor yourself to iron out those bad habits and adopt modern, fuel saving, techniques? Make sure that learning to drive is an enjoyable experience, not an ordeal, by remaining patient and planning your sessions with the instructors guidance.
As an experienced driver is it is easy to forget how complicated learning to drive from scratch can be. Nothing comes automatically, and everything takes longer than you may remember! It is important to set aside plenty of time so diary in pre-arranged sessions, so that nothing is rushed, and everything remains calm and positive.
Remember how tiring learning to drive can be? Keep the first few sessions shorter so that you can build up confidence in each other, and develop a safe technique, avoiding tiredness and frustration.
As the accompanying driver you will need to be prepared to give clear directions, calmly and in plenty of time. You will have to look and think further ahead than you would normally, and be ready to anticipate developing situations. Don’t expect your learner to have the same degree of awareness and judgement as you.
Safety is your main priority and you should act early to prevent dangerous situations occurring. If a dangerous situation does develop, be prepared to speak firmly and clearly but without shouting, reach across and take control of the steering, use the handbrake, and use dual controls if fitted. Pull over and give yourselves time to calm down. Talk through what when wrong and why, calmly and in an encouraging manner. Were you expecting too much? Turn the experience into a lesson in anticipation.
Formal, paid driving lessons can only be given by a trainee or qualified Approved Driving Instructor. The instructor will use the most up-to-date methods available. Your learner will drive in the way their instructor has taught them, and this will probably differ from the way you drive. Don’t get into arguments about the correct way to drive, and never insist that the learner adopt your approach! Make a note and discuss the difference with the instructor later. Remember the practical driving test has changed a lot in the last fifteen years or so!
This is where the driver’s record becomes a useful tool which will help you liaise with the driving instructor and make a positive contribution to your learners progress and safety. The instructor will be able to advise you when it is safe to accompany your learner, and point out beneficial practice areas.
Central to helping your learner gain experience, the driver’s record will arrive with the provisional licence or be provided by the instructor. Here at JSF Driving School we use the JSF progress card which lists the key skills that your learner will need to master within a structured learning programme, and will record the levels achieved with the instructor. The record helps the learner keep track of their progress, lists the topics to practise and acts as a communication tool letting the instructor know how you and your learner are getting on.
Ask your learners instructor about the drivers record or progress card and for help with the key skills that need to be practiced. These key skills are identified in many DVSA publications which may be purchased online, or from TSO shops. Make sure that you are familiar with the highway code, and keep a recent copy in the learners car for reference. Further information, and downloads, on the drivers record and the private practice record, can be found at //www.direct.gov.uk/en/Motoring/LearnerAndNewDrivers/LearningToDriveOrRide/DG_4022483.