How to WIN at teaching your teen to drive

How to WIN at teaching your teen to drive

You should teach your learner the basics of driving somewhere without traffic at first. The next step is to practise basic driving skills on a quiet road.

Helpful hints

  • You’ll need to be patient with your learner when they’re getting behind the wheel for the first time. Take things slow, and work up from the basics to more complex driving techniques.
  • If you need to explain something in more detail, ask them to pull over and stop so you have their full attention.
  • Rear-view suction mirrors are used by professional instructors, but can be great for amatuers as well. You can get one at an automotive store. Use the mirror to see your learner’s face while they're driving, so you can check where they are looking. A second mirror gives you a rear-view for yourself as well.
  • While on the road, talk about things that are “must-knows” and “should-knows”. Leave the “could-knows” till after the lesson.
  • Ask your learner driver to describe what they’re doing for you as they’re doing it. This is a good check that they understood all your instructions and have not missed anything.

Feeling nervous? 

Many coaches feel nervous during driving lessons.

It can be disconcerting being on the passenger side of the car when a learner is driving. It may feel like they’re driving too close to parked cars and the roadside. Remember the car needs to keep well left to leave room between it and the centreline. 


Taking your learner on the motorway can be nerve-wracking. Here are some tips for making it less stressful.

Plan the route in advance

Sit down with your learner before the practice session and map out your route. Having a good lesson plan in place can be a good way to ensure both of you feel confident and in control while driving on motorways.

Many learners find it hard to plan a route at first. Giving your learner a mental picture of where they are going at the start is important. It'll also help you concentrate on their driving, rather than where you're going next.

Start slow

By planning ahead, you'll ensure that you don't rush your learner into a level of driving they're uncomfortable with.

  • Before you venture onto the motorway, start by taking your learner into 60-70km/h zones. Build their confidence at those speeds first.
  • On the motorway, start with travelling 80-90 km/h in the left lane. Don't worry about the vehicles driving faster than you.
  • Gradually increase to 100km/h as your learner feels more comfortable. Reassure your learner that driving in fast traffic is demanding for everyone!

Practise in isolation

Plan out your practice sessions in a way that allows you to practice the various requirements of motorway driving separately.

Run your learner through each manoeuvre a couple of times to build their confidence. 

Here are some ideas:
  • Practise entering and exiting the motorway by getting off and on at every exit and entrance you see between two places.
  • Practise changing lanes at low speeds (50-60km/h zones) first. Ask your learner to identify the traffic in each lane behind them. Get them to do shoulder checks both right and left without physically moving lanes.
  • Practise moving from one motorway lane to another, even if there are no other cars around. Get your learner used to the routines of checking mirrors, over their shoulder and signalling.

Here are a few tips for communicating with your driver at higher speeds, to ensure the instructions you give are helpful and productive.

Give instructions early 

Make sure you take them through each manoeuvre step-by-step before you get them to do it for the first time. Preferably do this while you are parked so they can concentrate on what you are saying.  Get them to repeat the steps back to you so you're sure they've understood. 

Tell your learner what to do nice and early. Let your learner know when they'll need to take an exit or change lanes well before they need to do it. 

Teach 'commentary driving' 

Once you're learner is reasonably comfortable driving at higher speeds, teach them “commentary driving”. 

Get them to identify potential hazards out loud. This is a skill that experienced drivers usually do without seeming to think, but your learner will need to practise this skill at first. Mental practice like this is very important in developing your learner's judgement and awareness.

Use the WASP technique

Sometimes the best way of teaching is to stay silent. Use the WASP technique when the learner makes a mistake:

  • Wait - see if the learner says they've made a mistake.
  • Ask - if they don’t say anything, ask if they noticed the mistake.
  • Show - if they can't work it out, show them what the mistake was.
  • Practise - repeat the skills or manoeuvre a few times the right way

Your learner might have trouble adapting to the pressures of driving at high speeds. Here are some tips you can pass on to calm their nerves.

2-second rule

The 2-second rule is vitally important at higher speeds. Higher speed means things happen faster. Decisions have to happen early and quickly.

There is not much room for error, so leaving a reasonable following distance is important.

Get your learner to practise the 2-second rule at higher speeds. It works exactly the same - pick a landmark up ahead, and start counting when the vehicle in front of you passes it. You should get to a count of 2 before you pass the landmark yourself.

Drive smooth and look ahead

Talk to your learner about the need to steer gently with no sudden movements. Holding a centred position in the lane is important—learners tend to drift across.

Look ahead for information signs on road conditions.

Look for brake lights not just in the car directly in front, but 2-3 cars ahead.

Watch out for slower drivers on the motorway or in heavy traffic as this can create a hazard.

Drive to the conditions 

Remind your learner that it's important to always drive at a speed that's appropriate for the conditions. 100 km/h is a maximum, not a goal to aim for regardless of the conditions.

In general, your learner should keep in the left lane unless they are overtaking.

Encourage them not to worry about impatient drivers. If someone is tail-gating them, that person can use the right lane to pass.  If you're already in the right lane and someone is tail-gating encourage your learner to signal left and pull over to the left lane to let them pass as soon as they can find a safe gap.


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