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Welcome to National Defensive Driver Training!
Serving the needs of new drivers since 1997.

Tips for Being a Good Co-Driver

Hiring a professional driving instructor is a smart step toward educating your teen about the "right way" to drive in today's ever-changing environment. After all, you may be a good driver, but if you're like most, you probably have some bad habits you would rather not see your child pick up. Most of my daylight hours are spent in the serious field of driver education. Sadly, each year in Canada, traffic-related collisions are the number one cause of serious injuries and fatalities for persons between the ages of 16 to 25. Consequently, learning to drive properly is one of the most important things you will ever do for yourself, your passengers and others who share the road.

Along the way to becoming a good defensive driver, your son or daughter should understand that driving is a privilege, not a right. With the privilege comes responsibility. One of the most important factors in preventing teen collisions and fatalities is to teach new drivers how to be aware of and proactively identify risks and learn how to deal with them.

Driver training can be pretty scary stuff. I have been in the traffic safety industry for over 16 years, and I can tell you stories that would make your hair stand up. Since getting my license, I have always made it a practice to avoid certain actions like driving in lanes designated for oncoming traffic, turning left on red-lights, or running over pedestrians. Unfortunately, while avoiding these actions seem perfectly natural and logical to me, some of the students I have taught do not (look as if they) feel the same way. Of course, the purpose of driver training is to build safe habits, create an understanding of the vehicle and how it handles in various conditions, and eliminate dangerous behaviors. This is why I have more grey hair than my older brother. (Or maybe he is using Grecian Formula, I'm not quite sure)

Although a good instructor creates the foundation for learning the right skills in the 10 hour beginner driver education course, according to statistics, the average novice driver requires approximately 40 to 50 hours of supervised driving practice before they are ready to handle today's busier traffic environment. Simply put, this means that it important for a new driver to practice their skills while supervised. You may add a few grey hairs, but helping your teen to become a confident and skilled driver under your watchful eye will reward you through strengthening your relationship with your teen and giving you some peace of mind when they start asking for the keys.

Remember that parents are indispensable help in teaching their teens. Most parents' driving resumes would include:

  • Many years of driving at night, winter driving, driving in heavy traffic, and hazard recognition
  • 15+ years of personal coaching and counseling with the individual to be trained
  • Familiarity with the vehicle to be driven
  • Familiarity with the roads to be driven on


  • REMAIN CALM (At least it should appear that way). Your teen driver is already nervous, even if he or she is not showing it. If you appear nervous, it will make them MORE nervous. This fear can impair proper decision-making. Would you feel comfortable with an impaired driver at the wheel?  A nervous driver makes mistakes, a calm driver makes fewer mistakes.
  • UTILIZE RISK MANAGEMENT - Individuals who have never driven before should practice in a parking lot before they move on to public streets. Your first session should establish smooth braking, smooth acceleration, and proper steering technique. Once the driver demonstrates basic proficiency, graduate to residential streets. Stay in these neighbourhoods until your teen is ready to move into more complex situations. If the co-driver is nervous to graduate to the next level, the driver should stay at the current level as long as necessary. Keep it simple. There is no point trying parallel parking between vehicles or driving in rush hour traffic until the skill and comfort level are right.
  • BE POSITIVE - Obviously your teen will make some mistakes when learning to drive. I don't think I need to tell you to correct them. Many instructors, however, forget to reinforce the successes. Make the effort to reinforce good performance with remarks like, "good smooth braking" or, "nice turn". Positive reinforcement lets your teen know you see improvement.
  • WE ALL LEARN AT OUR OWN PACE - If you have observed more than one child, you know that each of your children has a unique personality. Work with your teen according to his or her level of maturity, learning ability, and physical coordination.
  • ENJOY YOUR TIME TOGETHER - Tell your usual bad jokes dad, relax and have fun!
  • Sessions should normally range from 45 to 90 minutes in length. Take a good break in the middle if you plan to be out longer. It takes concentration and repetition to learn those good driving habits.
  • HELP THEM STAY FOCUSED - When necessary, pull over somewhere safe for discussion. It's hard for a driver to keep their eyes on the road if they have to look at you when you are talking. You may have learned to drive the week before your road test but there is a lot more traffic on the roads today and drivers tend to be more impatient than ever before.
  • Are you going somewhere specific?
  • What skills are you developing?
  • Are you spending enough time on each and every skill? (Many parents avoid enough time for parking skills)
  • BE SURE TO GIVE DIRECTIONS EARLY - Nobody wants surprises on the road. A last second instruction to "turn left here" will undoubtedly result in a poorly executed left turn into oncoming traffic that could lead to unexpected and expensive consequences.
  • Before you know it, your child will be well on the way to DRIVING SAFE FOR LIFE!
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