Learner drivers: A Guide for parents and learners
While passing a K53 driving test is not the only preparation needed to drive safely on South African roads, it is the only legal requirement to receive a license.
It is up to teachers of new drivers to share their experiences to develop their skills. Seasoned drivers need to spend time not just prepping for the driving test but sharing their experience as well.
According to research, South African youth are some of the most vulnerable on the roads.
The CEO of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, explains: "The impatience and recklessness of many drivers paired with inexperienced and new drivers, creates prime opportunities for tragedy," says Herbert.
Three risk areas
- Inexperience: experienced drivers should help build their confidence with guidance and patience which will help them identify risks and adjust their driving
- Reckless driving: new drivers should not just be told not to speed, drive distracted, forego seatbelts or be aggressive but be helped to understand the consequences of this.
- Further training: Defensive driver training develops full awareness and knowledge of evasive techniques that go beyond K53 theory.
Parents also need to be selective when deciding where to teach learner drivers. Herbert, explains further: "Increase the difficulty of driving scenarios as experience increases. Gaining experience with a skilled driver is invaluable to creating confident and safe drivers. Putting new learners in peak-hour traffic is unwise at best.
"Use discretion when deciding whether a new driver has enough skill and experience to manage more challenging roads. While gaining this experience under your watchful eye is preferable to them driving these routes in the near future with equally inexperienced passengers, be cognisant that certain situations are simply too dangerous for new drivers."
As a co-driver, your role is not to kick back and relax. "Instead, watch the road as if you were driving. A new driver is unlikely to see the reckless driver or jaywalker as quickly as you and parents should help develop this skill.
"Use every trip with your learner driver to create a learning experience. Help develop the ‘muscle memory’ you already have from years of driving so they can drive alone with a great deal more confidence than if you never had this opportunity to share your skills with them."
Additionally, MasterDrive strongly advises against new drivers taking long-distance trips for the first time with only friends for guidance. "New drivers simply lack the situational awareness experienced drivers have. Studies show experienced drivers perceive and recognise potential hazards much faster than inexperienced drivers - a few minutes' delays can have tragic consequences.
"Young drivers are also at higher risk with friends in the car. A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says a teen driver’s risk of death increases by 44% every 1,6km with one teen passenger and quadruples if there are three. The risk is simply too high."
Next step: K53 training
Once you impart these skills to your learner driver, it is time to select a driving school. "Unfortunately, many driving schools have bad reputations for being more concerned about guaranteeing passes through bribery and corruption than what they are about conveying invaluable driving skills.
"We recommend looking for driving schools accredited with the South African Institute for Driving Instructors. While accreditation is not a legal requirement or a guarantee of quality for driving schools in South Africa, it does hold members to higher standards."
After that follow these tips
- Check the credentials and training of instructors.
- Ask for referrals and seek out your own from both friends or acquaintances and online.
- Ask to view a training session.
- Do this with more than one potential driving school.
- Once you select one, watch for progress in your child’s driving and react as soon as you do not see adequate progress.
- Be cautious of schools that ‘guarantee’ passes.
- Assessing driving school based on pass rates is not an accurate judgement because too many variables can cause a failure or pass, not just the quality of the school.
Parting tips for learners
Once you pass and receive your driving license, remember that you are still learning. "It is estimated that it takes approximately five years to gain enough experience for the roads. Keep these tips in mind to remain safe while you learn."
- Maintain a following distance of at least three seconds.
- Drive looking 12 seconds ahead to anticipate traffic and dangerous situations.
- Always adjust your speed to the conditions irrespective of the speed limit
- Be always aware of your surroundings.
- Never drink under the influence of either alcohol or drugs
Most parents invest a great deal of years and money into developing well-adapted adults. "Not giving them the best training and skilled guidance is a mistake and can even be considered short-sighted and neglectful," emphasises Herbert.