It’s a good idea to plan your practice routes before you get into the car for a lesson – especially when your learner driver is still on the basics.

Planning your routes carefully will allow your learner to practise specific skills and then build on them in future sessions. This helps them gain confidence and a sense of achievement and progress.

As a coach, planned practice routes help you give instructions earlier and more clearly. You’ll also feel more comfortable when your learner is behind the wheel.

Day and time matters

Consider the day of the week and the time of the session. This can have a big impact on the amount of traffic they’ll have to deal with.

Keep practice routes short

Work out what skills you both want to work on, so you don’t try to cover too much in each session.

For beginners, practice routes should be less than 30 minutes. Anything over that is a long time for someone to concentrate, especially when they’re new to driving.

Once your learner has got the basics—can indicate correctly, check mirrors and blind spots without being reminded—then you can make the sessions about an hour long.

Plan practice routes by ability

Teach your learner the basics of driving somewhere without traffic first. The next step is to practise driving skills on a quiet road.

Plan each session by choosing the type of road, speed zone, amount of traffic that’s right for the session and matches your learner’s level of ability. Think about hazards that need to be included or avoided.

Learning to drive is a progression, so make sure to think about this when planning. Start with simple situations with little or no traffic and build up to more difficult situations with more traffic.

Don’t ask them to drive you on everyday trips like going to the shops until they have the basics and can drive well around other traffic. You don’t want to risk safety by putting your learner in an unsafe situation they’re not ready to deal with.

Here are some suggested places to practise:

Starting out and beginner

  • Off-road areas such as car parks, industrial and commercial sites.
  • Quiet, wide roads on level ground to practise skills like steering, braking, gear changing and parking without disrupting other road users.
  • Simple T intersections with left and right turns.

Intermediate environments

  • Intersections on single lane roads with give way signs, stop signs and traffic lights.
  • Different gradients, for example, steep roads and slopes to practise uphill first gear ‘hold and control’ at intersections.
  • Roundabouts and crossroads.
  • Roads for performing U-turns, 3-point turns and reversing.

Experienced environments

  • Multi-laned roads.
  • One-way streets.
  • Railway level crossings.
  • Pedestrian crossings and busy shopping areas.
  • Rural roads.
  • Motorways.
  • Open road speed areas.
  • Night driving.
  • Wet-weather driving.

If you can’t find the right place to practise

Not all settings your learner needs to practise in may be close to you. For example, you may live in an area where there are no hills. In this situation, try to think of a creative solution – you may still be able to practise hill starts if you can find a slope where the car would roll back if the hill start is done incorrectly.

Remember that even though your learner may not need certain skills straight away – depending on the area they live in, they may need them later on if they travel or move to a different place.

Transfer responsibility for route planning

Once your learner is confident and more experienced, start letting them take responsibility for planning the route. To do this:

  • Start the session by telling them you want to go from A to B.
  • Get them to plan a route with you.
  • If you think the route they’ve chosen is right – given road and traffic conditions, take your learner out to drive it.
  • If they’re unfamiliar with the area you may need to give some help identifying streets along the way.

Keep a record of routes you’ve done

It’s a good idea to keep a record of what routes you and your learner have completed together. Repeating routes too many times can be boring and your learner doesn’t get to apply and practise what they’ve learnt in different settings.

Example driving log [XLSX, 12 KB]