Should parents teach their children to drive, or leave it to the professionals? Lynn Holland is a qualified NZTA Driving Instructor and she's worked for the AA as a Defensive Driving Instructor. She has tips for teaching teenagers to drive.
Read an edited excerpt of the interview below:
Why is it that over the last five or six years the number of teenagers seeking to get their licence has plummeted?
There are a lot of issues. I do get some students who have anxiety about driving and perhaps their parents are more keen for them to drive than they are themselves and it’s usually because they’ve seen something horrific or they’ve had a bad family experience, so they’re really not keen to get on the road themselves. I think it’s more an Auckland thing. When you’re out of Auckland there is less traffic to deal with, so you’re going to have a smoother ride.
How do you approach – in the least stressful way for everybody – getting ready to learn to drive?
I think in the city parents do need to be aware. They need to upskill a bit. It’s more challenging; there are more cars on the road. Driving behaviour has deteriorated. They really need to have a good hard look at their driving because the children in the back seat are watching them driving from a really young age. They really absorb their mannerisms. When I get a student, I can pretty much tell how their parents are driving, just by watching the student.
Parents need to get online. There are a lot of free resources on the NZTA website for students and their coaches who are getting ready for that driving experience. I think Nigel Latta did an excellent job on his series on teenage drivers.
Plan ahead. Upskill your knowledge and then sit down at the kitchen table and talk it through with your students to get ready.
The first few lessons in Auckland, yeah you can take them to a carpark on a Sunday morning when it is quiet, get them used to manoeuvring the car, but I would recommend driving lessons in the city because we have dual controls and we can take them through more complex situations and it really is a far safer environment.
Manual versus automatic. Is anyone learning how to drive a manual these days?
Yes they do, there is still a demand. Although it’s hard to get manual cars. In the city I would recommend they start on an automatic. In the city it’s really about situational awareness of the traffic around you. You’ve got to learn to control your car smoothly and keep an eye on the traffic. If you’re in a manual, you’ve got one more job to do. In an automatic it is easier. There really is very little advantage to learning in a manual first.
Do you think in a city like Auckland it might be a good idea to go to a professional instructor, unless you really, really know what you’re doing?
That’s right. You don’t have to have a driving instructor if your parents or coach really does take it on board and does their homework. But I would say that a driving instructor will make the whole process go a lot more smoothly. You see a lot of bad driving behaviour on the road and it’s very hard for learners to consolidate their practice. They need to practice a lot to get good.
Driving involves a specific sense of cognitive, spatial, anticipatory skill. It’s a fantastic discipline for the brain, you’re constantly watching what’s going on around you. Anticipation of what you and others are doing and what it’s going to mean collectively, is pretty much what dirving is about.
Yes. It’s learning about the inertia of the car and the momentum and learning to plan ahead. Not just staring at the front windscreen, but thinking about what is going to happen further down the road and searching out those moving hazards on the road. That’s something you can do even before the student gets behind the wheel. When they’re in the passenger seat you can start teaching them about where they should be looking and when they should be looking.