A guide to getting new drivers on the road.
Even though Kayleigh Furtado has only had her learner's permit for a few months, she already has some good advice for new drivers. "Being anxious or scared of the road and people on the road will make your experience more difficult and nerve wracking. You should be aware and alert, but you should not be scared."
The 16-year-old's confidence stems from not only taking a high school driver education class—which she credits for giving her practical experience behind the wheel—but also the support she receives from her parents and others willing to sit in the passenger seat.
"I've been practicing driving almost every single day with my parents and other family members. I have done lane changes on busy roads like Portage Avenue, while maintaining a steady speed and practicing pedal control," she says. "The more I do these things, the better I'll feel about them during my road test and when I'm actually driving on my own."
That's the thought process behind Manitoba Public Insurance's (MPI) new Driver Z Program, which places greater emphasis on in-car practice time both with an instructor and a team of "co-pilots." These driving coaches are typically parents and other family members, but it could be any fully licensed driver who wants to support a young driver's development.
Students are now allowed to invite up to eight co-pilots to help them achieve the required hours of in-car practice time—which recently jumped from 24 to 45 hours—meaning extended family members can share the responsibility of supporting the student. This team approach helps provide the teen with more opportunity to practice and learn from different role models. It also helps them get comfortable driving with various people.
"In-class learning can help shape good driving habits, but in-car practice really develops critical-thinking skills," says Maria Minenna, MPI's manager of driver education and training. "It also builds the confidence of novice drivers, which will help reduce risky behaviours behind the wheel."
MPI has also developed online learning modules and support tools for co-pilots to feel more confident in their own driving ability. "Statistics show that the more engaged a parent or co-pilot is in their kid's driver education, the less likely it is for that child to be involved in a collision. Our goal is to set students up for success," Minenna says. Because young drivers are over-represented in collisions, MPI's program changes are designed to improve their driving ability, reduce risk and prevent fatal or painful—and potentially costly—collisions.
So, does Furtado think she has what it takes to become a full-fledged driver? Aside from some parallel-parking jitters, she says yes. "I've been told that the best way to pass your road test is be calm. Just follow the rules of the road and you'll be fine."