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New Driver In The Family?

4 key points you really must discuss with a new driver in the family: All parents worry about their children; it’s part of the job description. Whether your child learns to walk, ride a bicycle or use public transport, you want to make sure that he or she knows how to do it safely and responsibly. Fast forward a few more years and learning to drive is a huge rite of passage for many young adults.

How do you deal with a new driver in the family? Your own many years’ of driving experience will have given you a thorough understanding of the dangers that lie ahead on busy roads – but will an excited 18-year-old appreciate these risks, or will they consider themselves invincible now they’re passed their test?

Here are 4 key points you should be addressing as a family to ensure your child’s introduction into the world of motoring is handled to everyone’s satisfaction.

  1. With great freedom comes great responsibility

As a teenager or young adult, having your own set of wheels parked in the drive is an invitation to go and explore the world – because now you can! No more waiting for trains and buses, no more asking Mum and Dad for lifts, the sense of freedom and independence that comes from being a ‘proper’ adult with a car is irresistible. Remember that we were all young and carefree once.

To allay any fears you may have, engage your son or daughter in a serious ‘grown up’ talk about the importance of safe driving. Without patronising your adult child, explain how one tiny mistake or lapse of concentration can have disastrous consequences for all concerned, and how it may not even be their fault if an accident should occur. Reiterate the responsibility they carry as a road user, and how a cavalier attitude to driving can easily put themselves and other, innocent people at risk.

If your child is amenable, suggest watching Barely Legal Drivers together, a recent BBC series that filmed teenage drivers unaware that their parents and a traffic police officer were watching. It’s an entertaining programme with a serious message, and may just be the perfect way to broach a difficult subject between parents and youngsters.

  1. A little learning is a dangerous thing

Having a full driving licence is a fantastic achievement that deserves huge praise. But make sure your son or daughter understands that this is only the beginning of their motoring journey. As we all know, it takes years of practice to become an experienced and accomplished road user.

Suggest that you go on drives together to help improve your child’s driving practice and build confidence – maybe a shared daily journey to work, or a regular weekend outing? Obviously, resist the temptation to behave like a driving instructor, but do be on hand to give useful advice and positive (!) feedback as and when appropriate.

Find out if there are any particular areas of concern that your young new driver would appreciate help with. How confident is he about parallel parking, bay parking or turning in the road? Is night-time or motorway driving still an issue?

Many driving schools offer refresher lessons that can make a big difference. There’s also Pass Plus, a DVSA government approved practical training course aimed chiefly at new drivers, while the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) offers a wide range of driving courses and workshops to improve road awareness and safety.

  1. Trust is good, but control is better

You know your child best – and if you’re simply not convinced that they will play by the rules, it may be necessary to impose some form of control to curb your son or daughter’s enthusiasm for their new found independence – at least until your trust has been earned.

You may have heard of ‘black box’ insurance – whereby a telematics device is fitted to the car to record the driver’s speed and driving behaviour in terms of acceleration and braking. Along with other useful data, the information is fed back to the insurers who calculate the annual premium based on driving style.

Obviously, the idea is to save money on eye-watering amounts of car insurance for young new drivers. The great thing is that the telematics box not only provides the incentive to drive safely, it also gives you the opportunity to monitor how responsibly your son or daughter is driving.

As a slightly more drastic measure to keep your child’s driving in check, it is possible to have a speed limiter or ‘governor’ device fitted to set the car’s maximum travelling speed.

  1. The golden rules of engagement

Treat your child like an adult and, chances are, they will respond as one. So that every family member feels heard and treated fairly, there should be some ground rules that all drivers in the household sign up to. In addition to general ‘safe driving’ practices, these could include

  • A zero tolerance policy towards drink driving and mobile phone use while behind the wheel – two of the most dangerous driving behaviours
  • Set agreements for driving at night, driving with passengers, driving in remote areas and similar circumstances
  • Family rules for car cleaning and maintenance, smoking in the car, and the use of the drive or garage
  • General driving etiquette and behaviour as a road user

If necessary, you could introduce a system of rewards and penalties to reinforce your family motoring rules, until the desired behaviour is fully embedded and everyone in the household is an experienced and trustworthy driver.

Article provided by Sara Bryant, an independent content writer working alongside a selection of companies including CDC Garage Doors, who were consulted over this post.