With the average cost of learning to drive topping £1300[i], young drivers are increasingly reliant on their families for free driving lessons or driving practice.
In fact, the number of 17 to 20-year olds added as a named driver on motor insurance policies has more than doubled[ii] over the last five years, according to data from motor insurer Ageas
But a nationwide survey of 2000 parent drivers commissioned by the insurance company reveals major gaps in motoring knowledge of the would-be instructors.
Over half admits that they haven’t looked at the Highway Code for at least 15 years or can’t remember when they last did; nearly two in five say they have no idea what the current driving test involves; a quarter believes the turn in the road and reverse around a corner still form part of the practical test; and only a fifth know how to adjust their headrest correctly to reduce potential injury in an accident.
Parenting bloggers put to the test
It’s not just out-of-date knowledge that can hinder rather than help learner drivers. Parents are also likely to have forgotten some of the basics and developed bad habits, inadvertently passing them on to their children.
To illustrate the good and the bad of teaching your offspring to drive, three of the country’s top parenting bloggers - Jo Middleton aka Slummy Single Mummy, Ali Williams aka Mum In A Nutshell and Nigel Higgins aka DIY Daddy - were filmed taking their learner driver children out for a lesson on the roads of Cardiff.
What they didn’t realise was that the person sat in the back of the car with them was Cardiff-based accredited driving instructor Nicole Fox, who was scrutinising their driving advice and teaching abilities as much as their kids’ skills behind the wheel.
You can watch the video here.
So while parents may have the benefit of years of driving experience, the best advice is to proceed with caution when it comes to helping your children learn to drive safely.
Having observed the three amateur driving lessons, Cardiff-based qualified instructor Nicole Fox shares these tips:
1. For learners: Don’t focus on passing the test. Learning to drive is not about passing a test, it’s about being safe on the roads for life.
2. For new drivers: Don’t be over-confident on the roads. Confidence is good but don’t go too far the other way as over-confidence can quickly become reckless and that’s when accidents happen.
3. For parents of learners: Don’t take your kids out on the road for a lesson unless you’ve checked with their driving instructor it is ok. Trust the experts and swot up on both the Highway Code and what’s required in the new driving test.
What does the current driving test involve?
The driving test was revamped at the end of 2017 to include new reversing manoeuvres, a requirement to follow directions from a satnav, doubling of the time driving independently to 20 minutes, and a 'show me, tell me' question while driving. Also, a more recent rule change in June means learners are now allowed to have lessons on 70mph roads if accompanied by an approved instructor and driving a car fitted with dual controls.
[i] Calculation based on £43 for a postal version of the provisional licence, AA average driving lesson price of £24 multiplied by DVSA recommended 47 lessons, £23 theory test cost, £75 practical test cost.
[ii] Based on Ageas data between 2013 and 2017 of named drivers aged between 17-20 added at new business, midterm adjustment and at renewal, showing an increase of 122%.
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NOTES TO EDITORS
The three videos can be provided separately or as images, if required.
Please find below quotes from the bloggers and their children:
Jo Middleton, 40, Slummy Single Mummy blogger and mother of 22-year old learner driver Beth, comments: “Like most things, you do improve with age because you gain confidence and have more experience of different driving conditions and situations. I’m pretty good at the observational stuff - checking my blind spot is a bit of an obsession.”
When it comes to bad habits, Jo says:
I sometimes find myself clapping to songs, realising I’m meant to have both hands on the wheel. I can be a bit risky with narrow gaps sometimes, where I see something coming the other way and there is an obstruction on my side, but I just go for it!
What did Beth think of her mum’s driving?
Generally I think my mum’s driving is really good, probably the best driving I know. She’s really smooth and I never feel sick.
Ali Williams, 42, Mum In A Nutshell blogger and mother of 17-year-old Jordi says:
I'm 75% better at driving than when I first passed my test. My nerves at first made me so hesitant and I hated driving. It's taken me eight years to become confident at motorway driving too. I don't think I'm the perfect driver by any means but I am very aware of potential hazards. I'm pleased that hazard perception is part of the test as I don't think the younger drivers have the experience to draw on which us oldies have.
On the flip side I'm not as vigilant all the time, my mind tends to wander which I know is not a good thing at all. I also turn the music up too loud when a song comes on which I like, so need to rein that in a little.
Son Jordi said of Ali’s driving:
Mum’s driving is about average. She’s not a Formula One driver so I can’t rate her as good, but she’s OK and not afraid to push the accelerator.
Nigel Higgins, 48, who runs DIY Daddy blog, readily admits that he has passed on some bad habits to his daughter Emily, 20.
I hold the gear-stick too much and I spotted Emily doing this on a regular basis. I can also be guilty of not observing all the time, and on one occasion I noticed Emily looking at the houses as she was driving. This is something I do.
Looking back over three decades behind the wheel, he says:
My driving is definitely worse, but also better. It's worse because after 30 years I have developed my own style of driving. This involves habits such as not keeping both hands on the steering wheel all the time. But it's better because experience has helped me to spot dangers.
Nigel’s daughter Emily said of his driving:
I think your driving is good and I feel safe. However, at times your directions were awful, and you didn’t look when going over roundabouts. You also had a go at me for holding the gear stick too much, but you did the same.