Car Advice

RACQ says teenage drivers are picking up bad habits from mum and dad…

RACQ discovers more mums are teaching kids to drive and that many parents are ignorant of basic road rules and are thus passing on bad habits to teenage drivers.

ACCORDING TO RESEARCH released today by the RACQ, more mothers are teaching learners to drive than any other supervisor.

More than 53% of learners surveyed reported they were mainly supervised by their mums or step-mothers, perhaps explaining why so many new drivers have such a poor understanding of the road rules and driving craft. According to the survey, 43% of learners choose to be taught by mum for the majority of their 100 hours mandatory supervised driving.

The RACQ’s Lauren Ritchie suggested the high percentage of learner drivers being trained by their parents is a timely reminder to parents to brush up on their knowledge and skills before letting their child behind the wheel.

“Parents play a huge role in learning to drive and it may have been a while since you sat your driver licence test,” she said “so it’s important you’re across any road rule changes or new techniques. Learner drivers will pick up a lot about driving from you, so make sure you’re setting a good example and not passing on bad habits.”

That’s all well and good, but a frightening majority of Australian drivers are setting a very bad example to young drivers, from not knowing or following the rules to not understanding the most basic driving essentials (just ask any driving instructor).

Over the years research has come out indicating that many older drivers are as ignorant of the road rules as teenage drivers. And that can be attributed partly to changes in driver education. Sure, it’s not perfect, but the driving test now is a lot better than when some were handed their licence; in the old days you simply went for a drive with a police officer as passenger and that was that. No three-point turns, no reverse parking tests, or watching to see if you pulled up too close to the car in front…

Some of the major ‘bad habits’ being passed on to younger drivers by parents include, not indicating correctly on a roundabout; even if you’re travelling straight ahead at a roundabout you need to indicate when exiting, and 4 out of 5 drivers don’t. Eating while driving is another no-no, as is sitting in the outside lane (at 80km/h or more) when not overtaking, ignoring school and roadwork speed limits, and not slowing to 40km/h (25km/h in some states) when a school bus has pulled over to pick up or drop off kids, driving with the wrong hand and, or seating position behind the wheel. Not explaining basic car maintenance, or showing teenage drivers how to change a wheel. Other bad habits include pulling up too close to the car in front, riding the clutch (if driving a manual car)…

The most comprehensive research around parents teaching children to drive was conducted in the US with material drawn from smaller studies around the world. But, the aim of the research was mainly to discuss lengthening the Graduated Driver Licencing period (countries like New Zealand, USA, UK, France and Australia have adopted GDL structures) and including more parental supervision. But, the research failed to explore the positive or negative impact of greater parental involvement. You can read the research here.

Ms Ritchie encouraged parents to get their learner children driving as often as possible and under a range of road, traffic and weather conditions, including at least 10 hours of night driving.

She also encouraged parents and learners to take advantage of free professional instruction by signing up to the Keys2Drive program for a one hour lesson from an accredited driving instructor. “It’s a great way for parents to brush up on their skills and ensure they are passing on all the essential information to their learner driver.”

Details can be found at

After a little bit of internet searching, Practical Motoring discovered that a number of driving schools allow for parents to sit in the back seat when their children are being taught to drive so that they too can get a bit of a refresher.

Paul Murrell

Paul Murrell

Paul’s mother knew he was a car nut when, aged three, he could identify oncoming cars from their engine note alone. By 10, he had decided what his first car would be and begun negotiations with a bank to arrange finance, the first of many expensive automotive mistakes. These days, he is happy to drive other people’s cars (on the road, off the road or on the track) and write up what’s good about them and what isn’t.