/ Motoring, Parenting

Could you teach your children to drive?

A chalk drawing of a car on a blackboard

Young drivers already face the mounting costs of car insurance and fuel. Having to pay for more lessons before securing a driving licence would add an extra financial burden. Would you coach a learner driver?

I remember the sharp intake of breath and how admirably my dad stopped himself from shouting as I narrowly missed a parked car while trying to navigate a crowded street.

This was the first of many practice drives that helped me to pass the driving test first time. Even more helpful than my dad was a good friend, who put me on his car insurance and let me drive him and other friends around for a whole summer. I did also have professional lessons, but only about a dozen because money was tight.

Last week, road safety campaigners put forward new proposals about young drivers. The campaigners suggested a restriction on the number of passengers a novice driver can carry. I’m concerned that such a restriction could make it even harder for young drivers to get the experience they need.

Mum’s driving school

Perhaps parents should step in and spend more time being ferried around by their children. But would you feel confident enough in your own driving skills to act as their instructor?

I’ve had the privilege of going on lots of driving courses over the years. I even retook my driving test for a Which? investigation a couple of years ago, so I would feel prepared for the challenge of coaching someone else.

But a quick straw poll around the office showed a distinctly different situation – only two out of 10 people thought they were good enough to coach their children behind the wheel.

Rather than having to fork out for more lessons for their children, perhaps my colleagues could take advantage of new, tailored lessons being offered for anyone wanting to coach a learner driver. For example, the AA’s new tailored two-hour lessons highlight skills examiners will be looking for and offers advice on how to coach a learner.

AA figures show that 20 years ago learners needed around 30 hours of lessons to pass their test, but today this figure has risen to 47 hours. So perhaps coaching from parents could be a really good way of helping youngsters pass the test, while saving money.

Are you confident enough to teach a learner driver or would you rather leave it to the experts?


We should all be very careful about the political interests of professional driving instructors. They have been trying for years to make driving teaching “professionals only”. It’s a classic ‘Producers’ Ramp’ – trying to creep into the statute book as the only people “qualified” to teach driving.

I and my siblings were taught by my parents. I’ve helped teach my four children to drive. Most passed first time; all have driven safely and accident-free since.

So full marks to the AA for spreading the knowledge about good driving teaching.

Well done!

L Jones says:
2 April 2013

Learning to drive is a complex skill and sadly parents and ‘experienced’ drivers often engender poorer skills and bad habits. Driving Instructors are highly trained professionals – trust me, I know how long it takes to become a professional instructor. Would you tell a supermarket that they shouldn’t bake cakes and bread just because you think you know how to cook?

Please don’t underestimate the skills of learning to drive. Just a few lessons telling you how to pass a test does not make good drivers as it is a skill for life.

Parents an friends can certainly help their offspring but please don’t think that teaching young people a safe and secure way to drive confidently is something we can all do – just look at all the ba habits and dangerous driving that is commonplace next time you are around.

richard says:
3 April 2013

Sadly I’ve seen bad habits and dangerous driving from driving instructors and there is certainly no real correlation between good driving and good instructors – It depends on the individual acting on their own – the fact they know how to do it properly does not mean they do it properly all the time – In fact it seems the younger the driver is the more likely they are to drive badly causing incidents (not accidents)

“Would you tell a supermarket that they shouldn’t bake cakes and bread just because you think you know how to cook? ”

I would not tell a supermarket to stop baking, but if I had the skills, I would do my own baking, to save money.

Similarly, whilst driving instructors can be in existence for learners who need them, I see no reason for suitably skilled relatives and friends to take the role of instructor, in order to save money.

By way of example, I am teaching my wife to drive. I have a career as a teacher, so teaching skills are there. I am a sensible driver. I still remember some of the advice imparted by my instructor decades ago. I have several books on driving skills and on teaching learners.

So what’s wrong with me teaching my wife to drive? Nothing! She may need a few professional lessons to bring her to test standards, but that’s all. She can learn the bulk of the skills from me.

With respect, I think you should let the professional driving instructor give the first lessons, Louis. A lot has changed in the last few decades and even though you are a safe driver, a driving instructor is likely to be better able to prepare your wife to meet the expectations of the examiner. Think about how your own teaching style has evolved over the years.

Another factor is that your wife will hopefully be comfortable with you in the passenger seat, but may be less at ease receiving instructions from a stranger. The driving examiner will not only be a complete stranger but also placing your wife under the stress of assessment. It’s not just children who can find examinations stressful.

I’m happy to help novices and have done this from time to time. My approach is the same as what my father did when I learned to drive. That is to leave most of the discussion until the end of the lesson, so as not to undermine confidence. Highlighting strengths is complementary to pointing out weaknesses.

brat673 says:
2 April 2013

I am 71 and feel quite confident to supervise a learner to give them extra hours practice. It is the acquisition of some automatic skills that only comes with practice. Having done a old age driving course which pointed out my bad habits and we were made aware of some changed driving practices. Feel that having passed the “test” a P plate for a year should be compulsory and perhaps an hours motorway driving lesson?

drivingsince60s says:
2 April 2013

I would bee more than happy to accompany a young learner. Believe I have seen most things on road in 40 years of riding & driving. Don’t really trust driving instructors these days- having observed the standard of driving by learners in driving instructors cars; and also the appalling standard of driving some of these so-called instructors in what are obviously their Learner car on their own! It is high time car drivers were subject to a similarly strict learning regime imposed on motorcyclists. This should take the form of limits on engine size dependant on their age, no driving at night for first two years, and no passengers under 21.

What is wrong with driving at night? The roads are quieter, with less vulnerable users such as cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians. Many users drive more cautiously at night, and headlights provide a warning of vehicles approaching at corners and junctions. I believe that it is essential that all learners are comfortable with driving in the dark.

The better driving schools encourage learners to undertake practice drives with parents and give useful advice on how to make it complementary to the formal lessons. They usually recommend that pupils have their first ten or so lessons exclusively under professional tuition in order to establish the basic disciplines and best practice. I think the professional instructors will also have a better understanding of the correct technique looked for by the examiner on test. The problem with mixed tuition is that there could be a divergence on technique that might cause confusion; reverse parking is an obvious example where experienced drivers have fashioned their own approach that might differ from the orthodox model. There can be a benefit, however, if the learner passes on some of the best practice tips to their parents, especially on roundabout discipline, signalling, approach to traffic signals, and overtaking. The most difficult thing a parent has to learn is how to pay maximum attention to the road ahead, surrounding traffic, and driving technique without expostulating every time the pupil gets too close to the kerb or crashes a gear. Another point is the absence of dual control in the family car and the inability of the supervising parent to make a rapid gear change if necessary; this is especially pertinent during the early stages of learning to drive.

Starting off with just professional tuition makes a lot of sense, as John has explained.

One of the side-effects of introducing parental supervision is that older drivers will learn from what their children have been taught, and they are likely to be made aware that their own driving is not up to current standards. An important part of teaching is learning.

“I think the professional instructors will also have a better understanding of the correct technique looked for by the examiner on test. The problem with mixed tuition is that there could be a divergence on technique that might cause confusion; reverse parking is an obvious example where experienced drivers have fashioned their own approach that might differ from the orthodox model.”

What’s wrong with teaching a technique that is not the official way, as long as the end result is achieved safely and correctly?

richard says:
3 April 2013

Well as asked – Yes – I taught my son to drive – passed first time – I have in the past said I used to run driving classes for a local club – with excellent pass rates. But I am a teacher by inclination and training – whether it is a multi-spindle capstan – welding – rocket guidance systems – Maths Physics Biology Computer Studies Mother Care etc . But are many people capable? I doubt it watching my brother trying to teach his son to drive and failing dismally.- and the tales I’ve heard

It would help if parents could help their children learn to get into the habit of checking their vehicle, for example: tyres (pressures/tread depth/objects in the tread), lights, under-bonnet checks, and how to change a wheel (if there is a spare). The driving test covers some of this but there is nothing like practical experience.

Here again, there is scope for the learner to teach their parents, who may not be careful about the condition of their vehicle.

Margaret says:
5 April 2013

I didn’t teach my 2 children to drive but I did sit in the passenger seat, after they had had 10 lessons with a driving school, and allowed them to gain the experience required to initially pass the driving test. Practicising the skills such as reverse parking, parking between 2 cars and hill starts are something which you only achieve successfully with confidence after numerous attempts. Why pay a professional for steps such as these which most experienced drivers should be more than capable of without too much effort. You do need an abundance of patience though!!

Professional driving instructors or ADI’s (Approved Driving Instructors) have to pass 3 strict high standard exams to teach driving skills for gain or reward: firstly, a high standard of safe driving or part 1, which is one and a half hours in length; a maximum of 6 minor faults is allowed during that test.
The second exam or part 2 requires a high degree of theoretical knowledge and a 93% pass mark is required for this; and thirdly (part 3) a high standard of structured teaching covering the entire syllabus at all stages of learning from a novice to an independent stage or standard, using varying methods of teaching to impart knowledge, confidence, and safe driving skills.
ADI’s are also trained in the appropriate use of dual controls where needed to ensure the safety of their vehicle and that of other road users.

The costs of running a school car have annual costs of approx’ £10,000: fuel, insurance and leasing. Purchase is not a cost effective option. After this, Instructors have yet to buy a pint of milk or a loaf of bread.
One of the two main professional instructor associations (the DIA) or Driving Instructors Association, hired a professional company of auditors several years ago to assess hourly lesson fees, and concluded that the hourly rate should be not less than £32. The reality is that driving schools currently charge an average of £23 an hour: an uneconomic rate that ensures relative poverty for many.
If anyone believes this to be expensive, then they should compare these rates with (for example) a professional golfing lesson (£25 for half an hour), unless anyone really believes that learning to swing a golf club and hit a golf ball is more lethal than driving a potential weapon on todays crowded roads.

Learning safe road-skills for life in the prevention of accidents, injury, serious injury, permanent disability and death, has little to do with “passing the test” as the driving test is in place to ensure that only a minimum standard of safety is achieved before being allowed to drive unsupervised.
The Driving Standards Agency who oversee and conduct the tests, have been endeavoring to get away from the traditional public mentality of just being able to “pass the test” and encourage a more comprehensive approach in learning all of the skills for safe driving, and because most learners only wish to do the aforementioned, new learners are therefore highly vulnerable and high risk post-test, and the reason their insurance runs into the thousands of pounds for their first 12 months.

To think that full licence holders such as Mums or Dads, Uncles or Aunts or anyone else could possibly fulfill the above role beggars belief, as they are not trained in any of the above, or possess the knowledge and training required in teaching: “safe driving skills for life”.

This is just another example of the driving instructors trying to create their own cozy monopoly by persuading the government to make ‘professional’ instruction mandatory before taking the driving test.

So it has been, for every trade, since the medieval guilds and earlier. And, as for every other trade, we the public need to resist it.

My wife and I helped our four kids to learn to drive. Some also used professional driving instructors; some not. It was their choice. Those who used them were generally pleased that they did. Those that did not passed without their help.

Let’s keep it that way.

Driving instruction by qualified personnel is mandatory in France spanner48 as it is in Germany, and some other European countries, but practice is allowed in some. Professional tuition is considered to be mandatory in these countries because of safety and comprehensive expert tuition.
The problem is that learner drivers who do practice with relatives or friends are not shown the approved safe methods of driving, and pick-up “bad habits”, which is a synonym for careless and sometimes even dangerous behavior, because this is how the “teacher” drives.
Do you suppose that anyone other than an ADI knows the syllabus in driving skills before they begin teaching their children? Unlikely. There is nothing worse than amateurs pretending to do a qualified professional occupation.

If the UK is anything to go by then the example of other drivers on our roads is hardly something that we should pass on to our offspring, and by this I mean: tailgating, risky overtaking, jumping red lights, abusing speed and breaking speed limits, disregarding traffic signs and traffic lights: the list is quite endless.
How many mums or dads do you also suppose know an up to date highway code or the rules of the road, and even the last time they even looked at one.
Most parents I know who have sat a simulated “Theory Test” have failed miserably, even though they may have been driving for years.

As I have mentioned previously, even the DSA advertises that it is highly unlikely that anyone other than a professionally qualified tutor can teach all of the skills in being safe on the road; this is NOT about passing a test, it is about safe driving skills for life.

Perhaps you would rather have someone who “knows a bit about plumbing” to install your central heating or replace old pipework, rather than a qualified “gas-safe” (corgi-registered) plumber/engineer? you are free to do so, but is this your safest and most reliable option?

Earlier in the Conversation, I said that I support novice drivers starting off with professional instruction, but I believe that it is also important that drivers get plenty of experience. It is much cheaper to get mum or dad to sit in the car. I have met a couple of driving instructors who recommended this.

It is obvious that not everyone has the right temperament or competence to supervise their children practising their driving skills, but there are many who could. No amount of professional instruction is going to prevent those who pass their tests from taking the risks that chrisb refers to.

EU Traffic Accident statistics 2012:

Fatalities per 100,000 road vehicles:

UK: 5.1
Germany: 6.9
France: 9.57

Those statistics are not abut “passing tests”, but about real safety for life.

And in response to your last paragraph: no, I DON’T have the right to install gas central heating. The gas engineers HAVE managed to create a mandatory monopoly for themselves.

That – the professional “Closed Shop” – is what we have to avoid.

Spanner48 – You CAN install your OWN central heating provided that the gas and electrical work are checked by qualified people before the system is commissioned.

I would be interested to see comparison of accident statistics for those who have had professional tuition throughout and those who have mainly been taught by their parents. My hypothesis is that that there will not be much difference. Professional tuition makes drivers better prepared for the test, taking their trainees on routes known to be used by examiners and coaching them to be prepared for the challenges they are likely to encounter.

I agree with you that the accident statistics you refer to are not about “passing tests”, but about “attitude” and “irresponsibility” on our roads, coupled with drivers who have about three brain cells, two of which are probably not working (mainly young males rather than females). This merely exemplifies what I have already mentioned in the common mentality of the majority of learners (and fee-paying parents) wanting to just “pass the test”, rather than learn all driving skills comprehensively, and as a result then “pass the test”.

It would seem that you are unaware that the “closed shop” that you mention is in place for “public safety” in for example only having a trained professional to do any job, such as installing gas central heating, properly, safely and competently.
What you are saying I think is that the bloke next-door who knows a bit about mathematics or history, or whatever subject you care to mention, would be fit to teach our children at school in preparation for their exams!!

I am not saying that it is not a good idea to practice skills in driving, because as the saying goes: “practice makes perfect”, but only professionally qualified persons can do any job to a high standard of competence, where others are highly unlikely to be able to.

Driving tuition is not a “closed shop” as you know, but to rely exclusively on non-qualified people such as mums and dads to teach their children to drive would lack the essential thoroughness and the appropriate skills needed, even though they may have scraped through a driving test.
Professionally qualified driving instructors also know “how to teach” and “what to teach” using teaching techniques that you are likely to be unaware of. Their aim is to allow their pupil to progress from a novice to an independent standard on all topics within the approved syllabus, and avoid under or over instruction: only a professional would know how to do this.

the views that I have expressed in reply to your own are based on my opinion and substantial experience as a former driving examiner with the Driving Standards Agency, (DSA) and authorized by the Secretary of State to conduct driving tests, and an expert on driving behaviour.
I inadvertently omitted to mention this in my posts.

Just one more point in relation to what we have been discussing, is that it is highly unlikely that a non-professional would be able to teach and impart the knowledge of: forward planning, anticipation, and defensive driving; all of which are essential in becoming a safe driver for life.

Andy Dobel says:
5 July 2018

I can find nothing on WHICH regarding advice for parents wanting to find insurance for learner drivers. Have I missed something here? In fact, I can find no advice regarding insurance for provisional licence holders at all. Help?!?

Hi Andy. Unfortunately this isn’t an area we’ve investigated and provided advice for, however we do have a guide to finding car insurance for under 25s: https://www.which.co.uk/money/insurance/car-insurance/car-insurance-for-the-under-25s-and-over-50s-az1zp3b48lzd