Supervising learner drivers

Posted on December 2nd, 2013 by GEM Motoring Assist

Accepting the role of ‘supervisor’ to a learner driver is a big responsibility, and not something you would want to do lightly. But with good cooperation and a positive approach, it’s sure to be rewarding for you to see your son or daughter making progress towards the Test. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions connected with supervising a learner.


Q: What can I do to prepare myself for spending time with my learner son at the wheel?
A: First of all you must ensure that you’re legally entitled to supervise a learner driver. You must:

Be at least 21 years old.

Have a full driving licence, which you have held for at least three years for the type of car (manual or automatic) to be used.

Make sure the learner has a valid provisional licence.

Make sure that your insurance policy allows a learner to drive the car and that the insurers know the learner’s age.

Check your car’s in a safe condition and displaying L plates (or D plates in Wales).

In order to ensure that you are up to the job it’s worth taking an advanced or refresher driving course and you should, at the very least, read the latest edition of the Highway Code thoroughly.

Remember to set a good example whenever you’re in the car with your son, he’s more likely to take your instruction on board if he sees you practise what you preach.

One useful bit of equipment: a second rear view mirror you can fix to the windscreen, so that you can see what’s going on without hurting your neck.

Finally, it’s worth talking to your son’s driving instructor to find out if he’s ready for some private driving practice and to discover what areas he’s been working on.

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Q: I passed my test in an automatic. Can I still supervise a learner in a manual car?
A: No, you have to hold a full manual car driving licence in order to supervise someone in a manual car. You are entitled to supervise a learner in an automatic vehicle though.

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Q: I’m a busy guy. Can I still use a hand-held mobile while supervising my daughter?
A: Rules such as drink driving laws and the ban on using a hand-held mobile phone while driving also apply to anyone supervising a learner driver. You may not be the one driving, but as the qualified driver in charge, you are deemed to be ‘in control’ of the vehicle.

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Q: At what point is it reckoned to be safe for me, the parent of a learner, to hit the open road with him? Should I teach him the basics or let an instructor?
A: It is sensible to allow your son a number of lessons with a professional instructor before you take him on the road for private practice sessions. Once he’s mastered the basic car control skills, including the emergency stop, then you can go for it. It’s worth talking to his instructor to find out if he’s ready for private practice before you go ahead and remember that the idea is to allow him to practise what he’s learning in his professional lessons.

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Q: How can I ensure my daughter is actively involved in the pre-departure vehicle checks?
A: The best way to do this is to get your daughter to do the checks with you as a matter of course. Before setting off on a family day out, for example, ask your daughter to talk you through the checks as she does them and involve her when you check tyre pressures, oil and water levels, lights and so on, at the garage.

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Q: How assertive should I be with the learner I’m assisting?
A: Try to remain calm and positive during your sessions and never shout (unless in an emergency). Remember the learner does not have your experience and is likely to make mistakes, especially if he or she is nervous. Sarcasm and raised voices will only add to the stress. Always give directions well in advance and never contradict the driving techniques taught by the instructor, even if you disagree with them. It’s worth bearing in mind that a tried and tested formula for training is: praise – constructive criticism – praise.

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Q: I’ve been asked to supervise a friend’s daughter. Can I accept £10 an hour for this?
A: No. It is illegal to accept payment or reward for doing this.

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Q: What’s the best method of delivering feedback?

A: Don’t forget the ‘praise – constructive criticism – praise’ method of debriefing. Also bear in mind that discussions about the drive or a particular manoeuvre should only take place when the vehicle is safely stopped and not while the learner is still driving along!

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Q: What’s the value of preparing our practice routes? Isn’t it better to just ‘go with the flow’?
A: It’s definitely worth planning your driving routes, especially in the early days, as you can tailor the journeys to the learner and so build their confidence and skills. Start off with short and less demanding drives and gradually increase the difficulty of the driving and the time spent at the wheel. As the learner gains experience and confidence allow them to plan the routes. It’s also a good idea to give a learner driver as much exposure to a variety of conditions too. Try to include the following in your drives:

  • Single and dual carriageways (not motorways)
  • Different speed limits
  • Built-up areas and countryside
  • Wet and dry roads (but avoid severe weather conditions)
  • Daylight and darkness


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Q: How can I deal with my son, whose confidence far outweighs his actual ability?
A: Young drivers, especially men, tend to be over-confident. They are often good at controlling the vehicle and have fast reactions but are often poor at spotting potential hazards and assessing risk. It is therefore worth working on these areas of driving with him. Try getting him to point out what he thinks are potential hazards and point them out yourself if he misses them. Keep an eye on the speedometer and try to get him to be aware of speed as he’s driving. Be prepared to spot things he’s likely to miss but do try to remain calm and positive.

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Q: What sort of helpful questions could I perhaps ask my learner son along the way?
A: Questions that assess what the learner is ‘seeing’ are useful as this will give you a good idea of whether he is spotting potential hazards or not, and will hopefully make him more aware of what’s going on around him. Also, regular questions about the current speed limit are always useful.

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Q: What about when they’ve done the test? Should I offer to continue supervising or simply shut up and keep my criticisms to myself?
A: It’s when a young driver has passed their test that the real risk begins. Few learners have accidents while under supervision, but one in five drivers crash within a year of passing their tests. With this in mind, it’s worth continuing to supervise where possible. A good way of doing this without appearing over-protective or fussy is to allow the newly qualified driver to drive when you go out together.

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The information on this Site is provided on the understanding that GEM Motoring Assist is not rendering legal or other advice. You should consult your own professional advisers as to legal or other advice relevant to any action you wish to take in connection with this website.


GEM Motoring Assist are a breakdown cover company and road safety charity that has been serving motorists for over 80 years.