Your teenager is learning to drive, and you have had a sleepless night.
You are now sitting bolt upright besides them as they inch their way along the road.
Your teeth are clenched, your white-knuckled hand is gripping hard on the door handle while your foot keeps involuntarily pressing down on an imaginary brake. Sound familiar?
For teenagers, driving is a ticket to fun and freedom – a rite of passage and the first step to adulthood.
For parents, not so much.
The milestone can induce minor panic attacks and feelings of anxiety.
Especially if it is your first time going through the process of having a child hit the road.
Bear in mind that if you are that nervous during a driving lesson, your nervousness is likely to make your child even more nervous as a result.
If you want your kids to end up as safe and confident drivers, they need to enjoy the learning process and find it fun.
This is where enlisting the help of a driving instructor helps to prepare them for the brave new world of roads and traffic.
Ballito’s well-known driving instructor Ahmed Younus, who runs Ahmed’s Student Driver school, has taught generations of youngsters to drive.
Traffic is unpredictable, so learners can often get into situations which are more than they can cope with.
They can panic and you will panic too, but you really need to stay calm if you are going to teach driving, says Ahmed, who has been in more than one hairy driving situation.
“I find it very interesting how pupils react differently to the same situation, but the most rewarding part of my job is to see a pupil graduate into a competent and confident driver. This is what gives me a sense of pride and achievement.”
The father of two who has been teaching for more than 30 years has braved all sorts of challenges and recalls hilarious anecdotes that invariably involve the parent.
“Parents asking to come in the car with the teenager for the duration of the driving lesson is something that does happen,” although he advises against it.
“In one particular lesson I had a back-seat instructor dad who clenched his fists and shouted at other drivers while his daughter was driving.
“There have been incidents of moms and kids shouting at each other while I am trying to teach. I have also had moms who come along for the lesson and press down on an imaginary brake – while I have the dual controls.”
“My business started with a single student who enrolled with me for a driving lesson in Ballito back in 1990. After successfully passing her driving test, her mother introduced many people to my school,” said Ahmed, who first taught parking lessons in the Umhlali Preparatory school parking lot.
Learning how to drive involves navigating potentially dangerous situations.
Road laws and driving school methods have evolved and nowadays there is a lot more emphasis on teaching defensive driving – that is, developing habits of anticipating what could happen, rather than just reacting to what has happened.
Ahmed believes this is key to becoming a good driver.
“It is not just about passing a test but keeping yourself and others safe on the road.”
Ahmed’s safety tips for new drivers:
• Check in with a parent or guardian every time you drive.
• Eliminate all driving distractions. Do not try to eat, apply make-up, smoke, make calls or even look at your phone.
• No peer passengers in the car for the first six months.
• Do not take unnecessary risks.
• Obey all traffic laws, signs and speed limits.
• No drinking and driving. Ever.
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