Who can accompany a Learner Driver?

Can anyone accompany a learner driver on their practice drives?  In theory, yes.  The insurance covers the learner driver driving that particular car as long as there is an experienced driver with them.  The law says the accompanying driver must be over 21, and must have held a full driving licence for 3 years.  The car should have L plates fitted front and back, and there should be an additional stick on interior mirror for you to use.  In reality, however, accompanying a learner driver is not for everyone.

If they are driving your car, be prepared for a few rough gear changes, jumpy starts and a few hit kerbs.  You should have a degree of patience - and not get flustered if stalled in the middle of a roundabout.  L plates show other drivers whatís going on - they were all learners once, so itís their problem if they get annoyed.. 

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Tips for Practice Driving

Information and advice for  accompanying drivers

Most people starting to learn to drive want to pass their test as quickly as possible - ideally they want to pass first time. 
The cost of insurance for someone with a provisional licence is around £3 per day, and they can usually drive a car as long as it's  not worth more than £20,000 and is no more than Insurance Group 42.   Although the monthly cost of around £90 may seem a lot the number of formal lessons needed will be reduced so it will easily balance out. 

Why Practice Driving?

Any new skill needs to be practiced.  Driving can be compared to starting to play the piano - if no practice is done between lessons little improvement can be seen each week.  Another of the benefits of the learner getting out on the road as often as possible is the additional experience of coping with everyday hazards on the roads.  The more a learner driver drives, the more he or she will discover about driving.  And this does not just cover knowing when to change gear, or the mechanics of how to do an emergency stop.  It is quite likely that more hours spent on the road may mean that a situation may arise where an emergency stop is required for real.   If a learner driver experiences a variety of hazards when they are accompanied by an experienced driver, then itís more likely theyíll be better able to deal with a similar situation when they have passed their test and are driving alone.  Letís face it - however many years weíre been driving we can still some across things that we need to react too, but havenít faced before, but our experiences help us to deal with the situation safely.

If your son or daughter or friend is learning to drive, helping them by letting them practice in your (or perhaps their own) car, giving them the benefit of your experience and giving them as many driving hours practice as you can fit in will help your peace of mind in the long run as well.  As they come across more and more different situations, and you help them deal with them, youíll know that theyíll be able to cope when driving alone.

The Accompanying Driverís Role

One thing to make clear though, what you are giving them the opportunity to practice what they have learned, and when necessary offering the benefit of your experience.  You are not teaching them to drive.  Formal teaching should only be provided by a properly qualified Approved Driving Instructor (ADI).  One important thing to remember is NEVER criticise or contradict the advice given to the learner driver by his/her instructor.  If you think the tuition being given is wrong, then talk to the driving instructor, and if you are not satisfied, change to a different instructor or school.    It will probably have been many years since you were taught to drive, and things have changed.  Most driving instructors will encourage you to accompany them during a lesson, so you can see todayís method of teaching.  If the learner driver tells you Ďmy instructor told me to do it this wayí - bite your tongue.  They are being taught to pass the driving test, and any contradictory information you give might be out of date.

When to start Practice Driving

Donít start practice driving as soon as that provisional licence arrives.  Talk to the instructor and agree when the learner is ready.  You will not have the benefit of a dual control car, and although you may well have learned to drive without such a luxury, all instructors use these now, and learners can rely on this bit of help.  They need to be able to drive independently before you can safely take them out on the road. 

What is Practice Driving?  What should I do?

Firstly you can ask the instructor what the learner needs to practice.  Then plan your drives around this, be it junctions or roundabouts, or manoeuvres.  But remember, general driving experience is always beneficial. 

When I was helping my son learn to drive he drove me wherever I was going - to the shops, towns, visits out for the day.  On one occasion he drove on an outing which meant 4 hours of driving in one day, on rural roads, dual carriageways and through a complicated one way system in a large unfamiliar town (he was obviously given the option to let me do the driving instead if he found it too much).  All this was great experience for him.  We also went a number of planned drives to cover traffic lights and complicated roundabouts from all directions.  One particular favourite was a roundabout with traffic lights on some of the approaches and on the roundabout itself.  Well, I enjoyed it anyway!

Hill starts and awkward junctions are great too - and trips to the supermarkets are good for practicing parking.  One of the benefits of insuring a car for the learner driver is that that car can be used to take the driving test in.  If they are driven many miles in that car and are familiar with its turning circle for manoeuvres then theyíll find the test less stressful.  Itís also a lot cheaper than borrowing the instructorís car for the test.
You have to keep calm and ignore them to relax the learner driver so they can start the engine and get on their way again.  If you are impatient this will only fluster the learner, and especially if itís a relative, lead to heated arguments which is not advisable with a learner at the wheel of a car.  Likewise you shouldnít be overly critical - obviously you need to point out when they are doing something wrong, but you should aim to do use this as a learning experience, with explanations as to what wasnít right, and what should have been done.  Sometimes you do need to raise your voice if otherwise youíd be heading for a dangerous situation (such as on a slip road heading to a dual carriageway if the mirror hasnít been checked properly - thatís one from experience!), but mostly a calm, quiet voice will be best.
If you are impatient or a nervous driver then accompanying a learner driver on practice sessions is perhaps not for you.   Likewise if you're ultra concerned about your car!  I canít pretend itís not stressful!

As their driving improves

One important thing to remember is as they progress, stop giving them so many instructions.  Eventually you should just be able to give them directions, with just an odd correction now and again when needed.  To mimic the driving test itís good to let them practice independent drivingwhen by following the road signs to an agreed destination.  They are ready for the test when you rarely need to say anything at all.

After the Test

Once they have passed the driving test and have their own car remember to shut up and be quiet.  You will always come across situations where, as a driver, you canít keep quiet when you see something (child about to run out in front of you) however experienced the person driving - it's all part of the good hazard perception you've developed yourself.  But if you continue as if they still had L plates pointing out the most minor things they wonít offer to take you driving very often.  Itís very hard to stop giving advice, but it will be appreciated. 
See also:

The Theory Test
The Practical Driving Test
Driving Lessons
Apart from the desire to be an independent driver, learning to drive can be very costly.  Driving lessons and the driving test are expensive, and so keeping both of these costs to a minimum is obviously desirable.  Giving the learner driver experience of as many road types and situations will help them be a safer driver once they are able to drive on their own.

Practice Driving and Insurance

The learner driver will need insurance to be able to drive a car, but as insurance companies know that, by law, an experienced driver will be in the car with them, insurance is actually very reasonable and easy to get. 

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