Driving, it begins with establishing rapport

November 17, 2017

Driving, it begins with establishing rapport

by Mal Collits


This YouTube video shows a dad supervising his daughter on her first driving lesson.  It is the perfect way to demonstrate what effective rapport between a learner and their supervising driver looks like. It's important that parents don't underestimate the influence parent – teen dynamics has on the learning process.

The supervising dad did make numerous technical errors which will be explored and addressed.  However, these were more than balanced with his teaching attitude.

He used great tone; was reassuring and encouraging; BUT still effectively corrected his learner when appropriate without breaking rapport. For the most part, his directions were timely and concise.

Following is a review of a few specific items:

Location – Beginning off-road allowed the teen to familiarise herself with vehicle controls. The quick progression to a quiet road with no traffic then helped facilitate road positioning; indicating; turning; stopping and speed management practice.

Seating position - If arms are excessively bent it can interfere with steering control and cause fatigue. A 40-45 degree bend at the elbows is fine. When your learner is seated with their back against the back-rest ask them to fully extend their arm - In this position the driver's wrist should make contact with the top of the steering wheel – if contact is with the forearm they are too close; if it's the fingers that are touching the steering wheel they are seated too far back.

The steering wheel airbag area should be aligned with the drivers chest. If the seat can't be raised any higher, the steering column should be lowered.

Braking with the left foot – Although the dad eventually realised his daughter was using her left foot to brake, he needed to spend more time covering vehicle controls BEFORE moving off. Parents are generally unconsciously competent drivers, and so often over estimate how much our teens actually know about driving. Advise your learner that there is a raised floor section for them to place their left foot and to get into the habit of having it anchored there from the start.

Timely concise and clear directions – Examples appear between 7:10-7:40, 8:35 and between 9:15-11:00

Imprecise directions and lack of clarity – At 15:06 there is an example of what happens when the supervising driver is NOT concise – "You're too far to the right – You're going to hit the trash can – so go to your left. It was then followed with an over-correction at 15:12 "Not too far left." We must be specific – such as; move a metre to the left – ("Too far" isn't good enough).

19:16 is another example of not being specific – "Go through this way" -- "This way?" "No, this way." dad should have said "Go Left" and pointed left at the same time.

Commentary drive - I believe the new driver may have greatly benefitted from a commentary drive in the very beginning. The instructions given between 19:32-20:00 would have been perfect if done when driving and modelling the technique. Steering was one area the dad found a little difficult to articulate - so a ten minute drive would have given him the opportunity to better demonstrate his advice as well as talk about where his left foot was located and how he was approaching intersections and curves.

It's usually not only the learner driver who is negotiating a steep learning curve during the initial hours – the supervising driver is too. Car-parks and other quiet locations offer a lower risk environment to develop vehicle control skills before traffic and hazards are thrown into the mix.

In terms of establishing a solid working rapport, I feel this dad and daughter team were very successful.


Mal Collits provides parents and supervising drivers with instructional content and strategies to help them deliver car driving lessons to their young learners. Mal is an RMS licensed Driving Instructor and current member of the Australian Driver Trainers Association.  He also has a diploma in professional counselling and holds a current working with children clearance issued by New South Wales Office of the Children's Guardian. Mal provides automatic transmission driving lessons to learner drivers in Sydney's Sutherland shire www.southsidedrivingschool.com.au

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