Dealing with learner confusion


For your learner, confusion and surprises can sometimes be very helpful, while at other times they can be very unhelpful. This page will help you understand the role of confusion and surprises in helping someone gain useful driving experience.

Learner drivers have to consciously think through and apply, in sequence, all of the small parts of even the most basic of driving tasks, such as pulling out from the kerb or changing lanes.

They can easily get confused. The slightest extra load - such as the need to make another decision - can cause the surrounding situation to become a blur to them; their driving will become clumsy and possibly unsafe.

Unhelpful confusion or surprises can affect safety, make supervising unpleasant and cause your learner to doubt their ability. If this happens, question afterwards how you might have contributed to the confusion.

Professional driving instructors rarely have such problems. They are trained to break large tasks down into easy-to-learn, digestible pieces or ‘chunks’ and match the size of the chunks to the learner driver’s ability. They also know how to help learner drivers put the pieces together in the correct sequence and in situations they can manage.

This is a good reason to have a Keys2drive free lesson – your Keys2drive accredited driving instructor will help you and your learner get started and coach you through any new or challenging task.



When a learner driver has to take responsibility for working through a confusing situation, it will have greater meaning to them and help build their problem-solving skills. Provided it’s safe, invite your learner driver to work out how to do new tasks and manage new traffic situations on their own. They’ll need to do this on P-plates so why not let them try now while you are still with them?

Surprises can also have their advantages. Big surprises provide a real-life experience – together you can work out possible ways it could have been prevented, and use it to connect with the seriousness of driving.

Tiny surprises let us know when our mind is wandering, when our eyes aren’t looking in the right places, or when we are bending the rules. Without awareness of our errors, we become complacent and overconfident. As your learner gains experience they should gradually be making fewer big mistakes and be noticing more small mistakes.


Next: Tips for staying calm in the car

Keys2drive is an Australian Government-funded program providing learner drivers and their parents/supervisors a free driving lesson with a Keys2drive accredited professional driving instructor