Parents under pressure from learner teens

Article date: 10 August 2006

Keen teens are pressuring parents to hit theroad for driving lessons that could do more harm than good, newresearch reveals today.

The research reveals that almost half (46%) of parents arepressured for lessons by teenagers and are often unable to refuse.Parents’ lack of confidence and poor knowledge putsrelationships under strain and can seriously impair learnerdrivers’ development.

More than a third (38%) of parents admitted that they’d doneno preparation for teaching their children to drive despite thefact that the average parent surveyed had last taken their test in1978.

BSM’s "Reluctant Instructor" study - an in-depth piece ofresearch amongst 1,000 parent and learner drivers - reveals thatpoorly planned and unstructured lessons often end in disaster:

  • A third (33%) of learners have had to swap places with theirparents as a result of the tense atmosphere 
  • More than a quarter (26%) of parents have had to grab the carcontrols from their child
  • More than one in five (22%) learners have had to pull over tothe side of the road in order to avoid a dangerous situation.

The stress of learning to drive also takes itstoll on home life. One-third (33%) of parents have lost their cool,and arguments carry over from driving lessons in another third(33%) of cases. The intense pressure can even cause long termdisruption, with one in 20 (6%) learners feeling their relationshipwith their parents had worsened as a result.

Dr Aric Sigman, leading psychologist and counsellor explains:"Teaching children to drive is one of the most challengingexperiences of being a parent. Letting a teenager take control ofthe wheel can be an uncomfortable role reversal and requires anunprecedented level of trust. However, working towards a sharedgoal in this way is a very positive exercise for parents andchildren."

Bad habits
The study reveals that parents’ poorpreparation can also prove detrimental to learners’ drivingability. Almost a third (30%) admit they make more mistakes whenout with their parents than with their instructors.

Mixed messages also cause problems for learners, withthree-quarters (75%) stating that the advice of instructors andtheir parents contradicts one another. One-third of parents(33%) expressed concern about passing on bad habits to theirchildren.

The research suggests that parents must do more to familiarisethemselves with the requirements of the modern driving test. In thelast 10 years, the driving test has changed considerably to includea theory test, a hazard perception test and vehicle maintenancequestions. Three-quarters (76%) of parents have not kept up-to-datewith such developments and this can prove to be a seriousdisadvantage.

Commenting on the findings, BSM road safety consultant RobinCummins said: “As a father, I know first hand how difficultand frustrating teaching teenagers can be. However, parents canplay an invaluable role . A carefully balanced mix of professionaltraining and responsibly managed private practice can significantlyimprove the chances of passing the practical driving test, and helpthe learner to progress to becoming a responsibledriver.”

BSM has teamed up with Aric Sigman to produce some simple,practical tips to help parents prepare to teach their child todrive:

  1. Avoid a conflict of roles. Remember you are a parent first andforemost and your child's coach or teacher second. While you canhelp your child to improve their driving, this is different fromthe conditional approval and disapproval of an instructor whoisn't their parent
  2. Frame of mind - make sure neither of you are irritable orfraught before the driving session. This isn't only unsafe butcould strain your relationship. Choose a good moment and try torelax and be calm before you start
  3. Safety first - explain that you may have to act in a sudden,decisive ... even bossy manner, to prevent an accident. Thisdoes not mean that you are angry, irritated or disapproving ofyour child, it's merely a necessary attitude to overseeing yourchild's driving
  4. De-brief - Talk about the driving session you just had togetherand listen to your child's concerns. Offer constructivecriticism and reassurance
  5. Praise - learning to drive is more than a mere motoring issuefor your child, it relates to their confidence and self-esteem.because you are their parent they need a sense of achievementand your approval and praise - so give it wherever possible.

To help parents prepare for driving lessons,BSM has produced a step-by-step guide to teaching learner drivers.Practice Sessions is available to buy from or bookshops forĀ£5.99.


BSM/RAC Press office contact:
Amanda Glover or SoniaClarke or at Lexis PR on 0207 908 6462 or 0207 908 6570

Lucy Haughey or Adam Cracknell at RAC Press Office on 01603 354337or 01603 684916

Notes to editors:
BSM commissioned YouGovspoke to conduct research amongst 1068 parents and learner driversonline between 26 July and 1 August 2006.

About BSM
Founded in 1910, BSM is theUK’s most experienced national driving school. Each year itteaches over 170,000 learners how to drive. It has over 100 BSMcentres and 3,000 BSM instructors across the UK.

While BSM is best known for teaching learner drivers, it is alsoone of the largest providers of training for driving instructors.It is a founding member of ORDIT (Official Register of DrivingInstructor Training) and plays an active role in lobbying thegovernment on road safety and learner driver related issues.

About RAC
With around seven million members, RAC is oneof the UK's most progressive motoring organisations, providingservices for both private and business motorists. Whether it'sroadside assistance, windscreen repair and replacement, learning todrive, vehicle inspections and checks, legal and financial servicesor up-to-the-minute traffic and travel information - RAC is able tomeet motorists’ needs. RAC incorporates BSM, RAC AutoWindscreens, RAC Direct Insurance and HPI.

Aviva bought RAC in May 2005. The acquisition brings together RAC'spowerful brand and customer base with the expertise and leadingposition in motor insurance of Norwich Union Insurance (part ofAviva). Norwich Union is the UK's largest insurer, insuring one inseven motor vehicles and with a market share of around 14%.

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