Taking your learner driver on the motorway can be worrying. Here are some tips for making it less stressful.

Plan the route in advance

Sit down with your learner before the practice session and map out your route. Having a good session plan in place can be a good way to make sure you both feel confident and in control while driving on motorways.

Many learners find it hard to plan a route. Giving your learner a mental picture of where they’re going at the start is important. It’ll also help you to concentrate on their driving, rather than where they’re going.

Start slow

Make sure you don’t rush your learner into a level of driving they’re uncomfortable with.

  • Before you go onto the motorway, start by taking your learner into 60 to 70km/h zones. Build their confidence at those speeds first.
  • On the motorway, start with travelling 80–90 km/h in the left lane. Don’t worry about the vehicles driving faster than you.
  • Gradually increase to 100km/h as your learner feels more comfortable. Reassure your learner that driving in fast traffic is stressful for everyone!

Practise one task at a time

Plan your session so you practise only one thing at a time. Make sure your learner practises each action a couple of times to build their confidence.

Here are some ideas:

  • Practise entering and exiting the motorway by getting off and on at every exit and entrance you see between two places.
  • Ask your learner to identify the traffic in each lane behind them. Get them to do shoulder checks both right and left without physically moving lanes.
  • Practise moving from one motorway lane to another, even if there are no other cars around. Get your learner used to signalling, checking mirrors, looking over their shoulder and selecting a safe gap.

Key coaching points

Following distances – the 2-second and 4-second rules

Under normal driving conditions, the 2-second rule is an easy way to make sure a driver has enough following distance between their vehicle and the vehicle in front. Get your learner to practise keeping a 2-second following distance when they drive.

This is how you can check if they’re travelling 2 seconds behind the vehicle in front:

  1. Watch the vehicle in front of you pass a landmark – such as a sign, tree or power pole at the side of the road
  2. As the vehicle on front passes the landmark, start counting out loud ‘one thousand and one, one thousand and 2’ at normal talking speed
  3. If your learner passes the landmark before you finish saying those 8 words, they’re following too closely. Tell them to slow down, pick another landmark and try again.

In bad weather, when the road is wet or slippery, when you’re towing a trailer, or if the vehicle behind you is too close, your learner needs to increase their following distance to 4 seconds because they’ll take longer to stop if they need to.

To check that they’re travelling 4 seconds behind the vehicle in front, follow the instructions for the 2-second rule, but count from one thousand and one to one thousand and 4 instead.

Drive smooth and look ahead

Talk to your learner about looking ahead and steering gently with no sudden movements. They should be:

  • holding a position in the centre of their lane
  • signalling for at least 3 seconds and looking over their shoulder before changing lanes
  • looking for brake lights, not just in the car directly in front, but 2 to 3 cars ahead
  • watching out for slower drivers on the motorway or in heavy traffic
  • be looking ahead for information and exit signs
  • getting into the correct exit lane in plenty of time.

Drive to the conditions

Remind your learner it’s important to always drive at a speed that’s right for the conditions. The speed limit is a maximum, not a goal to aim for.

In general, your learner should keep in the left lane unless they’re overtaking.

Encourage them not to worry about impatient drivers. If someone is following too closely behind them, that person can use the right lane to pass.