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.