Getting your teen on the road: top tips for teaching learner drivers

From reading and writing to tying shoelaces, the chances are you’ve helped teach your child a number of skills they carry with them through life. Teaching them to drive is no different, though it can be a daunting task for any parent.

The day your son or daughter is ready to get behind a wheel is one of the most exciting of any teen’s life. Before they jump in your vehicle, make sure they’ve read and understood the road code and have obtained their learner’s licence.

Knowing New Zealand’s road rules and how to behave on the road with other drivers is key to keeping themselves and others safe. Sites like offer free practice tests that reflect actual questions included in current versions of the road code test.

Having a basic plan in place will help reduce any anxiety you have and ensure your learner is an educated, prepared driver. Below are our top tips to consider to ensure your journey together is as smooth as possible.

Know your vehicle

Take things slowly and help your learner driver consolidate the basics first. Get them familiar with the workings of the vehicle you’re driving: the location of different indicators on the dashboard and what they mean, how to turn the engine on and off, where the headlights and windshield wipers are located, how to check tyre pressure, etc.

Locate a safe place to learn

In the early stages of having your teenager behind the wheel, try to locate a place to learn where it’s okay for them to make mistakes. A big empty parking lot is ideal. They can stop and start, practice turning, pulling over and parking without worrying about other vehicles speeding past them. Graduate to quiet, relatively empty local streets. Deserted country roads or even paddocks work great, too, if you live in the country. Gradually introduce your learner driver to main roads and traffic lights. Try to go for drives in quieter periods, like early on a Sunday morning, and avoid peak traffic hours.

Learn the basics

Basic driving skills you’ll want to teach your learner include putting the vehicle into park, reverse, neutral and drive, or how to use their gears if they’re learning in a manual – plenty of patience will be required on that one! You’ll want to go over how to start and stop the car smoothly, how to make turns, back the car and merge safely.

Opt for a paid lesson or two

Having a paid lesson with a driving school is a fantastic option once your teen has had a go at driving around a car park and knows the basics of operating the vehicle. There are plenty of companies that offer lessons, and often the cars are specially adapted with dual controls (meaning the instructor has a break and accelerator on the passenger side, too).

Lessons with a qualified instructor are a particularly good option for young drivers in cities such as Auckland, where the roads are busy and take plenty of concentration. Instructors will take them through more complex driving situations in a safe environment. Plus, we all develop bad habits behind the wheel. Having a lesson or two ensures your child hasn’t picked up any from you while you’ve been in the car with them. 

Do a simulated driving test with a company

Companies like the AA and A1 Driving School offer practice tests that simulate what the real restricted licence test will look like. They’re worth the money for a learner driver to feel totally comfortable and prepared for what they’re going into.

Your insurance policy

Your insurance company needs to know that you have a learner or restricted driver driving. If you haven’t updated your insurance in a while, the chances are your insurance policy won’t cover drivers under the age of 25. Thankfully, it’s relatively simple, just ask your insurance provider to add it onto your existing policy and you can sleep easy knowing your learner is covered.

New Zealand has the second highest death rate in the 15-24 age group, out of 29 comparable countries, according to the AA. The greater crash risk for this age group means insurers tend to err on the side of caution when setting policies for drivers under the age of 25. Some insurance policies will exclude drivers who are under the age of 25 and have an accident while driving your vehicle, unless they’ve been specifically added to the policy.

On the other hand, some insurers recognise that there are times younger drivers may need to use your car – even if they haven’t been named on your policy – so will cover these instances if something does go wrong. But, expect there to be separate excess payments.

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