Sharing control


As an experienced driver, you're used to being in control of the car. As a supervisor, you're sitting alongside a very inexperienced driver – you may feel a need to control the car by controlling the driver. Being controlling is a recipe for trouble, and doesn’t help your driver learn to take control of their safety. This page helps you understand how you can feel in control without being controlling.

The desire to teach and control is natural, understandable, and ultimately unhelpful. How much control will you have when they start P-plate driving?

Start by exploring the current situation. Ask your learner driver:

“Do you think I’m being controlling and telling you what to do?” If the answer is yes, ask:

  • “Why do you think that is?”
  • “What’s the outcome we both want?”
  • “How can we meet each other’s needs?”

Move to a situation where you can agree on the outcome and respect each other’s needs.

Help your learner “find their own way” gradually. If they want to immediately take full control of where they go and what they do, use questions to keep their determination in check. Try these types of questions:

  • “If we do that, what do you think could happen? How do you think you’ll go at that?”
  • If you’re still worried, say, “That would make me feel uneasy, why do you think this is? How could we compromise?”

You can expect several false starts – for some, being told what to do may be the most appropriate approach in the beginning.

Keep the progress slow and spend lots of time practising each task; make tasks more challenging rather than rushing on. You could make suggestions like these:

  • “While you do this task, tell me what’s happening in the situation around us.”
  • “How about we do it in a different situation and see how you go?”

Your learner driver’s confidence can quickly develop into overconfidence. They can soon start believing they have greater control over the car and their safety than they actually do. You can keep this in check by phasing out praise for their car control skills and replace this with praise for safe driving. Try using questions like these:

  • “Thanks for slowing down. Why did you?”
  • “Why did you seem surprised back there? What could have happened?”

Regardless of your learner driver’s skill, ultimately you should still be in control. As a supervisor, drive the car in your mind – look well ahead and use your experience to warn your learner of danger you think they have not recognised.

If you have to physically help your learner with control, don’t be surprised. When you start supervising, practise helping with car control from the passenger seat. Talk this through with your learner and try it when you're both ready and in a safe place. 

Next: Finding practice time

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