Long-distance driving needs a lot of concentration over a long period of time. It also involves a variety of road, weather and traffic conditions.

For these reasons, only do long distance drives once your learner is more experienced or has their restricted licence.

If your learner is ready to try long-distance driving, you don’t have to make a special trip somewhere. Simply use a trip that you were planning anyway such as a holiday or family outing. If at any time during the drive your learner looks fatigued, have them pull over and swap drivers. Signs of fatigue include:

  • Reacting more slowly to changing road conditions, other drivers or pedestrians.
  • Drifting within their lane or over the centre line.
  • Varying speeds.
  • Yawning.
  • Late braking.

Planning and preparation

Planning and preparation play a large part in making sure your learner completes their long-distance journey safely.

Here are a few key points to go through together:

  • Be well rested before starting the journey, avoid driving during the hours when they’d normally be sleeping.
  • Check weather, road and traffic conditions before you go.
  • Allow plenty of time to get where you’re going, including rest breaks.
  • Plan to stop for a rest of around 15 minutes at least every 2 hours.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Stop and rest or change drivers if your learner becomes tired.

Coaching during the long-distance drive

During this session, leave all decisions up to your learner and only get involved if there is a safety concern.

Get them to discover their own mistakes by asking relevant questions. Remember the WASP technique – Wait, Ask, Show, Practise.

Driving skills to focus on

  • Observation: make sure your learner checks their mirrors and maintains a 12-second search ahead. This will help keep them aware of oncoming and surrounding traffic.
  • Signs: there will be lots of road signs. It’s important they pay attention to these signs and make the necessary driving changes. For example, an advisory speed sign on a curve.
  • Speed control: make sure they stay within the speed limits and drive at a safe speed for the conditions.
  • Following distance: check they keep to a 2-second following distance in normal conditions. Or a 4-second following distance in wet or icy conditions.
  • Curves: check they drive through curves correctly. They should brake before a curve and use the correct lines in and out of the curve.
  • Positioning: make sure they keep left and don’t cross the centreline at any time, except when passing.
  • Sharing the road: make sure they have a patient and courteous attitude towards sharing the road with others. For example, people on bikes or large trucks. If traffic builds up behind them, make sure they find a safe place to stop and let the following traffic past.
  • Indicating: check they use their indicators to communicate any change in direction.
  • Passing: when passing slow traffic, check they do it safely. They should have at least 100 metres of clear road ahead when they have finished passing.
  • Distractions: make sure they manage or remove distractions inside and outside the car.
  • Stopping: if they need to stop, check they can come to a stop in a safe place. Remember, they’ll need to be as far left as possible or off the road.
  • Rest breaks: when driving a long distance, they should take rest breaks at least every 2 hours.
  • Fatigue: check they can they recognise the warning signs of fatigue and find a safe place to stop and rest if they need to.