Are Parents Good Driving Instructors? 7 Ways Driving Practices Have Changed over the Years

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Driving tests have been around for more than 80 years -- and the way examinations are conducted today is radically different from the 1930s.

Indeed, even your parents and grandparents will have had to jump through different hoops in order to obtain their licence -- and this can cause headaches if they offer to supervise while you’re learning to drive in your own car.

Oftentimes, the problem with supervision comes when you pick up the bad habits of the more experienced motorist -- or if they forget to cover some of the basics associated with safe driving. For example, a poll of 1,000 people by Admiral insurance recently revealed that 50% of parents had forgot to show their children when and how to check perilous blind spots.

Although driving instructors have a professional obligation to keep up with the latest standards and testing methods, it’s possible that your friends and family might be stuck in the past -- and this is why a few lessons with a reputable driving school should always be thrown into the mix during your training.

7 Things That Have Moved On

  1. 1

    Hand Positions

    They’ve changed given the developments in car technology which keep us safe in the event of an accident. Back in the olden days, it was recommended that motorists kept their hands on the steering wheel at the position an analogue clock’s hands would be showing it was 1.50pm. Now though, learner drivers are urged to place their hands at the 2.45pm position.

    hand position
    The modern method

    Why? Because this helps motorists keep a tight grip in the event that they start to lose control of the car, and it also prevents you getting badly hurt in the event of your airbag going off when there is a collision. Despite this, close to half of parents have urged their offspring to use the old-fashioned method.

  2. 2

    Changing Gears

    Did you know that many older drivers still believe that you need to change gears gradually, even though it’s perfectly fine to skip a gear in the right circumstances? Ensuring that you read up on your theory -- and gently question the wisdom of the friend or family member who is supervising you -- will guarantee that you’re up-to-date on your driving knowhow, and don’t get into any tight spots when you’re taking your practical test.

  3. 3

    Taking a Brake

    Next, let’s talk about the handbrake. This mechanism has been designed to make sure your car remains safe when it’s been parked on a hill, or on a flat surface. However, if you’ve come to a halt at some traffic lights for a matter of seconds, it isn’t always going to be necessary to apply it.

  4. 4


    Being able to use tools which assist your driving, such as satellite navigation systems and parking sensors, are increasingly becoming an important part of learning how to drive. Even though many parents may insist that it’s something you need to be able to do yourself (and they would be right), you should not be deterred from discovering how to use this technology with confidence.

    Navigation systems have become inseparable from driving

    Under changes to the independent driving component of the practical, you now could be expected to use a sat nav for directions -- and examiners will want to see that you have struck the right balance between heeding its instructions without being distracted, and knowing when the information being provided may not be trustworthy.

  5. 5

    The Length of the Test

    You will now be expected to drive for far longer in your practical examination than your parents were. As such, a lot more ground is covered -- and there is a greater margin for error. This really reinforces the importance of practising on the roads, and having a solid idea of the manoeuvres you could be expected to perform.

  6. 6

    Theory Tests

    Many new drivers don’t realise that theory tests were only introduced in the middle of the 1990s. They were brought in as a replacement for some quickfire questions about the Highway Code that aspiring motorists would be asked during their practical. Come 2002, hazard perception videos were also added as a second part to the exam.

    mock test
    Try one or more of 17 free mock tests today

  7. 7

    Revision Methods

    Even though there’s a lot more to remember for drivers who are learning the ropes today, this has been matched by a plethora of tools which make it easier to get on top of your game and digest all of the information you need to be a responsible road user. One such example is TopTests.co.uk, where you can put your knowledge through its paces with a series of mock theory questions which wouldn’t be out of place during a real-world exam. In the run-up to your test, remember that old motto: if you’re failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.

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