How to talk to your children about safe driving

A father teaching his daughter how to drive
Invaluable advice: the best thing parents can do is sit in the back during a lesson Credit: Alamy

It's exciting when your teenagers start driving but it can also be terrifying. Here’s how you can help keep them safe on the road

Watching your teenager climb into a car and disappear into the distance is one of life’s more unsettling experiences. But you can help them drive safely with a combination of teaching and talking.

According to the Driving Standards Agency, it takes about 45 hours of lessons and 22 hours of practice to pass – and parents can play a vital role.

“There are issues with young drivers that you tend not to get with older people,” says AA driving instructor Karen Parker from Feltham, west London. “They’re often influenced by others’ bad driving habits, or they’ve been go-karting and over-steer.

And gender may play a role for some. “My son was a much more impatient driver than my daughter,” says Nancy Stewart, from Manchester.

“I found a YouTube video showing the consequences of speeding - getting arrested, losing your licence, risking lives - and made him watch it.”

Anticipating consequences is crucial for any driver and teens aren’t always skilled at thinking ahead. “The most important thing is to ignore road rage,” says Natalie Wills from Morden, whose daughter Charlotte recently passed her test.

“Drivers may swear and beep, but learners need to understand that doesn’t mean they should speed up or overtake in a dangerous situation.”

Insisting they think every action through is key, says Ms Parker. “If they tend to pull out without checking the blind spot, I say, ‘what if it was your younger sister standing there?’ Put consequences into real terms that they can envisage.”

But while advice may eventually sink in, Ms Parker says, “the best thing parents can do is sit in the back during a lesson - it’s a revelation to them. We teach control, legality and the consequences of actions, whereas generally, mum and dad just teach control.”

Though it’s natural for parents to worry about their children driving off for the first time on their own, the youngest drivers may be safer than they think.

Or at least, they’re trying to be. According to a recent survey of 1,094 British drivers - conducted by YouGov in conjunction with the Telegraph and Aviva - new drivers under 25 are less likely to purposefully disregard the speed limit or break the rules of the road. But that doesn’t mean they’re not prone to making unintentional mistakes on the road.

It’s important for parents to know the law and break their own bad driving habits before trying to help their child learn. “I wish parents would actually do what they tell their kids to do,” Ms Parker says.

The biggest gift you can give your new driver isn’t a brand new car, it’s investing time and care in their driving skills – and, of course, your own.

Are you a safe driver? Download the Aviva Drive app to put your on-the-road skills to the test. Plus, find out more about the Aviva safe driving challenge here