For most par­ents in this coun­try, teach­ing their kids to drive is one of those ‘rightof-pas­sage’ things, up there in the fam­ily mile­stone stakes with ‘ first- days-at-kindy/ school/ work, first school disco/ for­mal/ date’, etc. Be­cause I was so in­ter­ested in the process, learn­ing was like sec­ond na­ture to me and I was deftly han­dling throt­tle, ( drum) brakes and a col­umn ( re­mem­ber those?) man­ual gear change lever from the age of, well, never mind. It came as quite a sur­prise, then, when my son An­drew, now 19, was in no hurry to get mo­bile, and when he fi­nally de­cided it was time, made it clear he wanted to learn from a pro­fes­sional rather than me. Un­til I pressed him about it one day he never re­ally said why. But when he fi­nally did, I felt sick. Para­phrased, his rea­son­ing went some­thing like this. “Why would I want to learn from you? All you do is get an­gry and shout...” And therein lies one of the most en­dur­ing is­sues when it comes to road safety in this coun­try. I re­mem­ber, at a car launch many years ago now, the late Denny Hulme, still our only For­mula 1 world cham­pion, de­spair­ing of the way fa­thers proudly told him how they had taught their sons to ‘ brake test’ and/ or ‘give the fin­gers’ to any­one fol­low­ing too closely. If this sounds fa­mil­iar, all I can say is, ‘ don’t worry, you are not alone.’ Denny also made the point that both the act of and rules as­so­ci­ated with driv­ing are dy­namic; and what worked for your Dad in his day might not nec­es­sar­ily work to­day. Even the na­ture of learn­ing has changed as my son con­stantly re­minds me. Where I learned ‘ by rote’ and was ex­am­ined by re­gur­gi­tat­ing facts in long-hand es­says, if An­drew wants to find out any­thing ( and I mean ‘any­thing!’) he sim­ply sits down in front of his com­puter and ‘Googles it.’ If you have any ex­per­tise in any sub­ject ( at all) you will quickly find your­self de­spair­ing of the ‘gen­er­al­ity’ of Google but it cer­tainly has rev­o­lu­tionised ( or per­haps a bet­ter word is ‘ democra­tised’) the way we learn things. That it hasn’t – and I doubt ever will – com­pletely re­place one-on-one ‘ teach­ing’ means there is still a place for it, though my son’s re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence learn­ing how to drive a car equipped with a man­ual trans­mis­sion is in­struc­tive. So, if you haven’t gone down the road of teach­ing your son or daugh­ter to drive, can I re­spec­tively sug­gest that, bar drive­way ba­sics, you en­list a qual­i­fied pro­fes­sional to do the job. The prob­lem if you do it your­self is that all you are re­ally do­ing is pass­ing on your own ( in­grained and no doubt now quaintly out­dated) bad habits. In my own case, when he de­cided he was ready, An­drew and his Mum asked around and found a won­der­ful ‘nat­u­ral teacher’ who runs a school from her home just around the corner from where we live. If noth­ing else she knows both the cur­ricu­lum and what the testers are look­ing for, a key fac­tor, I be­lieve, when my son de­fied the lo­cal odds (a 60 per­cent fail rate!) and passed his re­stricted first time. As is the way th­ese days, that – of course – was in an au­to­matic. And it has only been since he de­cided he wanted to learn to drive a man­ual that I have been in­volved in sit­ting be­side him and try­ing to im­part any mean­ing­ful knowl­edge. It’s a process I don’t mind ad­mit­ting I found as stress­ful as An­drew ob­vi­ously has and as such it has given me new­found re­spect for those who can both drive, and im­part the process to oth­ers. Speak­ing of which, I must ring up my old mate Mike Eady and book An­drew in to one of his now Mazda-backed de­fen­sive driv­ing cour­ses. The one thing An­drew and I agree on is that it is an ab­so­lute war zone out there at the mo­ment and the more tools and ex­pe­ri­ence you have in your ar­moury the bet­ter!

NZ4WD ed­i­tor Ross MacKay.

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