New research by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and ACC has revealed that 90 percent of New Zealanders significantly underestimate the amount of practice needed by learner drivers, highlighting the importance of structured training programmes.
The research also provides insights into the learning to drive experience. It shows that dads are the preferred parental instructor over mums – 37 percent of New Zealanders think fathers are the best teachers (excluding professional driving instructors) and 52 percent were actually taught by their father.
This compares to 29 percent of Kiwis who were taught to drive by their mothers, however just 14 percent of new drivers say mums make the best driving guide.
"For many New Zealanders parents are a fundamental part of their learning to drive experience, and the reality is that most parents are providing some level of guidance for the next generation of drivers," says Michael Cummins, NZTA’s National Manager, Road User Behaviour.
"Having lessons from a professional driving instructor, supplemented by lots of supervised practice with family and experienced friends, is the best way to learn to drive. However, parents may not always know what they need to teach their children and the research indicates that people aren’t aware of the amount of practice needed," added Cummins.
To help those who are teaching young drivers, the NZTA and ACC have developed Practice, a free web-based resource which provides structured advice on how to clock up the recommended 120 hours of experience across a range of driving and weather conditions.
Emotionally charged experience
Because teenagers traditionally tend to push the boundaries, learning to drive can be an emotionally-charged experience.
The NZTA/ACC research showed a fifth (21.3 percent) of respondents said they fell out with their teacher when they were learning to drive because impatience, stress and anger got the better of them. To overcome these hurdles Practice provides some practical tips on how to keep emotions from boiling over during lessons.
Becoming a confident, capable driver takes a lot more than learning just how to handle the car. Consistent learning through Practice gives learners valuable experience in a range of traffic, weather and road conditions that they can draw on once they start driving by themselves.
Driver confidence takes time
The research results also show learners take a while to feel confident behind the wheel. Of those polled, a third (31 percent) said it took them three to six months to feel like a confident driver. However, 26 percent said it took up to 12 months and 14 percent said it took up to two years to feel confident behind the wheel.
Lowering crash rates
International research shows new drivers are 40% less likely to have a crash if they get 120 hours of supervised driving practice in a range of road and weather conditions before driving solo. There are about 5,000 injury crashes a year involving drivers aged 15-24. Young people are more likely to have a crash in the first six months of going solo than in the rest of their driving career.
Forty percent of respondents said heavy traffic was the hardest driving condition to master and nearly a quarter (24 percent) had difficulty with night time driving. Just 16 percent said rain was the hardest driving condition they had to master as a learner.
What parents can do
"Learning to drive is a journey in itself and it’s important parents share the journey by planning ahead and structuring lessons so they can introduce real-life driving situations when teenagers are ready," says Dr Keith McLea, ACC’s General Manager, Insurance and Prevention Services.
"Many parents find it difficult to help their teen move beyond driving to shops and back on quiet suburban streets. Practice helps parents plan the introduction of more demanding and complex driving situations."
Dr McLea urged parents to sign up to Practice to help the next generation drive with confidence and skill from the moment they pass their restricted license test.
The web-based Practice programme is a joint initiative between the NZTA and ACC. Its ultimate aim is to reduce the crash rates of young drivers (aged between 15-19 years) by providing a programme to guide learner drivers to undertake 120 hours of supervised driving practice in a range of conditions, before going for their restricted licence.
A Practice guide must have a full New Zealand driver licence that they have held for at least two years. Once registered, guides will receive a small booklet and glovebox driving manual which provide a step-by-step framework for teaching a teen to drive. At present there are over 12,500 learner drivers registered with Practice but fewer than half that number of guides.
The Practice programme supports the Government’s Safer Journeys strategy, which aims to guide improvements in road safety from 2010–2020. The long term goal of the strategy is to create a safe road system increasingly free of death and serious injury. Safer Journeys includes a package of initiatives to help improve the safety of young drivers.
For further information go to www.practice.co.nz(external link) or www.saferjourneys.govt.nz(external link). The online research was conducted in August 2010 with approximately 600 respondents. It has a 4.38 percent margin of error at the 95 percent confidence level. For a copy of the research findings please contact NZTA.