car and van


My first driving lesson with my father was my last.

Didn’t matter that it was on deserted back roads between sheep paddocks, that I really, badly wanted my license or that my father was a schoolteacher of many years experience.

(He’d even taught nine year-old boys how to make scones.)

Our one driving lesson ended with slammed doors, tears and bitter recrimination. I didn’t get my license until I was 24, years after I’d moved out of home.

We are of similar temperament, father and I (bossy, always right), and should never, ever share the same front seat of any motorised vehicle – be it motorboat, dodgem car or ferris wheel.

Dad loves a good long drive – here’s one of his splendid rigs from years ago.

car and van

I’d like to say we’ve mellowed over the past three decades, but we haven’t.

Just two weeks ago I took Dad, now in his 80s, on a drive from his home outside Geelong to visit the family in Ballarat. His incessant “turn here”, “watch that car”, “slow down”, thumping of imaginary brakes and flicking of ghostly indicators sent my heart rate through the roof.

By the time we got to Buninyong I wanted to choke the old bugger with my bare hands.

For his part, if there had been a chance for him to leap for freedom when I was stopped at a traffic light he would have taken it and alerted the authorities.

Recently in NSW, the Roads Minister Duncan Gay reduced the supervised hours needed for learner drivers to get their P-plates and lifted their maximum permitted speed from 80km/h to 90km/h. From July, those who do 10 hours of professional lessons and a safe driver course will be able to cut their time on L-plates from 120 hours to 80 hours.

Eighty hours?! It still seems like a life sentence.

When it comes to my own kids, the driving lessons are, thankfully, a few years off. I can see how my daughter and I could probably manage to rub along, but my son and I? No dice. Not even fluffy ones. I will never, ever willingly take that kid on a driving lesson. Again, we’re too alike in temperament. I love him and I want to be invited to his wedding one day.

A new study says that the younger generation is no longer in a screaming hurry to get their hands on the car keys.

They already feel connected through their mobile phones and social media.

A survey by American car-sharing company Zipcar asked people from different age groups what piece of technology would have the most negative impact on them if it was taken away: TV, mobile phone, computer or car? Those between 18 and 34 said that being without their phone and computer would be worse than not having a car. For those over 45 it was their cars that would be missed most.

Suits me. If my kids want to take the bus and text away, I’ll happily stump up for the phone bills. I’ll even drive them to uni and back.

Anything to avoid that dreaded first sentence: “Now, this thing here operates the indicators… no, sorry, I mean the wipers…”


Did you teach your kids to drive? Did your parents teach you?

How did that go?



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  • Reply April 1, 2013

    The Huntress

    Haha! Love it! I remember being taught to drive by two instructors. One Scottish alcoholic and one English alcoholic. We had a great time, until it was suggested to my mother that I drive her car occassionally to gain confidence on the roads.

    My mother is a former school teacher, who, at the time, had no sense of…(trying to think of appropriate word) fluidity? Rules were strict and to be followed at all cost. Needless to say I didn’t take kindly to being barked at as soon as I sat in the drivers seat. I even remember the words “Shoulders straight! Feet flat on the floor! Chin up!” I remember giving a withering look and suggesting it was a driving lesson, not a deportment class and that normally my instructors and I told jokes, which helped me to relax. Yeah…it didn’t go very well…

    I still have some years until I have to worry about my lad on the roads. As for me? I LOVE driving, for me it is still a freedom, I love to put the roof down and hit the road with the wind in my hair 🙂 Pure pleasure.

  • Reply April 1, 2013


    I had just one lesson with my Dad. A Dad I love dearly, a Dad who would capture stars for me if he thought I needed it. A Dad who actually instructed people to drive all sorts of vehicles in the Army Reserves.

    So miserable, divisive experience was that ONLY driving lesson for the entire family, my mother insisted on professional driving lessons to restore family harmony.

    It was a decision which enabled me to pass my driving test first go!

  • Reply April 1, 2013


    I had about six lessons then one with my dad that ended with me stopping and storming out of the car in tears, Dad bewildered and him having to cough up for another six lessons to take me back to where I was before his lesson. After that he didn’t teach any of us and we all (eight kids) has lessons. I happily paid for my daughters lessons. I am pleased she has to do so much practice – though glad I didn’t have to. I think she will be a better safer driver.

  • Reply April 1, 2013


    Dad taught me to drive. He and mum were going through an “argumentative” period at the time and driving lessons became an excuse for him to get out of the house for an hour or two. I came to dread dad sticking his head in my room and saying “Put your shoes on, we’re going for a driving lesson.” He’d be in a bad mood and the experience would be quite stressful. To this day I don’t enjoy driving and I’m pretty sure it’s because of the environment I was taught in.

  • Reply April 1, 2013

    Hillbilly Gal

    My Dad was a police driving instructor, so after being sent out to the back paddocks, in the old Landy, with 2 cushions on the seat, with no brakes, in low range, for a year or so, I had the advanced driving course prior to starting road driving, at 12 years old: I repeatedly changed wheels, parked with my front left tyre on top of a well placed match box or two, drove across a hole in the dam spanned only by two 4″ planks, learned to ‘sideways park’ between “fence” posts using the hand brake, and got out of the dam backwards, and sideways, from where he had left it, etc. When he cut his leg badly with a chainsaw, I was 14, the ambos said follow us to the hospital, so I did. ‘Stuck to their rear end like I was on an ocky-strap’. He was a bit of a drinker, so once he’d retired, so I’d had a bit of practice on the roads. When I went to get my license from the local constabulary, he was just a bit shocked that I wasn’t already legal! “Bloody hell, drive around the block, park here and I’ll have your f%#$8 paperwork done by the time you get back.”
    Not only did I teach my 3 daughters to drive, (they lasted about 5 mins with their father, until they begged it all to stop) but their boyfriends asked if they could come along too, so I helped them all. All up I’ve taught 7 kids to drive so far, plus strays for parking and defensive pointers, so that’s almost a thousand hours. They are all good, capable, defensive, drivers that I’m very proud of!

  • Reply April 1, 2013


    I also taught my three children to drive, as I was pretty sure that if their father tried it would be a very stressful experience all round! They all turned out to be good, safe drivers so I felt I had done a good job with them. I have given many driving lessons to my grandchildren too – one has her license now, passing with flying colours (the testing officer actually congratulated her on her ability to anticipate the behaviour of traffic ahead). Two others are in the process of working toward theirs, and are quite proficient. I have to say I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of teaching all of them – it’s a great way of building positive relationships if you can be relaxed and helpful about it!

  • Reply April 1, 2013


    Haha! Enjoyed it Wendy! Can still remember my father trying to teach Mum how to drive. He gave up in one lesson. We kids were in the back seat and I’ll never forget the kangaroo hops and my father’s despair LOL He never attempted it with us.

    I taught my own children and my nieces and nephews during their holidays with us in the bush. All before they were 10. Lessons in an old 4WD ute. First thing I taught was how to get it into first gear and the second thing was how to stop – smoothly LOL No one was going anywhere until they knew how to use the brakes properly and drive in a straight line.

    Best time to learn is when you’re old enough to reach the pedals, not when you’re full of raging hormones. Kids pick it up quickly as they do most things if they’re keen to learn. You just have to be perfectly strict and down the line. No mucking about.

    When our kids went for their license the money that would have gone on driving lessons went on a defensive driving course instead and I didn’t have to stay awake nights worrying about them.

  • Reply April 1, 2013


    My son has just got his licence. He’s 18. We had completed the 120 hours tuition. But as for his father teaching him to drive – not until he was “road-ready. I had to do all the hard yards. The bunny-hopping. The sudden stop. The pulling out in front of traffic, big trucks.

    He got lessons. Those driving instructors are worth every cent.

    The most disappointing thing about the whole experience is how frighteningly inconsiderate people can be towards kids on their L’s. Being cut off, beeped at, glared at. Weren’t those people once learners?

    The other thing – I have changed my own attitude to kids on P plates. They are still learning. Big time. Solo. Yeah sure, there’s some cocky ones, but my son isn’t one of them. He’s actually quite nervous.

    Please consider others on the roads when driving. That kid with the red P’s driving a small hatchback just might be my son. And he’s still learning only now he’s driving solo.

  • Reply April 1, 2013

    sue Bell

    My dad bought a car and no one in the family had a licence. I got my through a driving school then taught my mother how to drive. The best advice I had was, get your children at least 6 professional lessons before you start to go driving with them. From my children, I learnt, that I learnt to drive in the bad old days when cars were heavy bombs and mirrors were few and that driving is far more nuanced these days, so I needed to relearn my mirror skills.
    Taking my children out driving I have learnt to be infinitely patient and calm on the roads as well as being far more considerate. In other words my children taught me to be a far better driver

  • Reply April 1, 2013


    Having carefully considered the temperament of both parents and carefully weighed that against my own I decided that having a friend teach me to drive was the best plan.

    Driving around town in a Datsun 180b, drinking diet Coke with a fag in my indicator hand, best mate beside me meant I had the time of my life. It also meant that both my parents still speak to me and, weirdly, both agree I’m a pretty good driver.

  • Reply April 1, 2013


    Oh Wendy – so beautifully written – laughed so loud! There is no way on earth I would ever ever ever teach my daughter how to drive!
    I too would like to be invited to the wedding as I hope to be to your gorgeous boys one day!

  • Reply April 1, 2013


    I’m in the middle of teaching my son how to drive right now. It’s terrifying for me at times but he seems to cope well. I was jumping in happy little circles when I found out that we (and yes I mean WE) don’t have to do 120 hours. Oh happy days! We live in the country and there are only so many roads you can drive on. There is not much traffic to speak of, no traffic lights and only one roundabout in town.

    I had been wondering why my son wasn’t in a huge hurry to get his licence but now, after reading your article I understand; he is getting everything he needs from his phone and computer. Unlike me, who was out like a shot the second I got my licence. Now it all makes sense.

    Wendy I had to laugh when I read about your father and the driving lessons. I think I got three houses away from home before I stopped the car, got out and walked home leaving my dad with an empty driver’s seat and L plates on the car. I can’t even remember what happened but I do remember being taught from then on by my older sister and my boyfriend.

  • Reply April 1, 2013


    My son is 16yrs and has no desire to get his licence at all! And my daughter (almost 13yrs) also expresses the same when asked (though it is a bit early for her to really be thinking about it seriously). And I am not a mum who drives them everywhere, they get around by public transport most places.

    I am sure a bit of fear is involved, but also, they know the financial costs involved and that alone puts them off! Also, they plan to travel straight out of high school for a few months, then go to University and they plan to live near the Uni so driving becomes less of a necessity (in their mind) when they can cycle and use public transport.

    I hope that they decide to get their license at least, even if they don’t decide to own a car or drive, just so they have the choice and the ability if they need to. I hope that they learn to drive when they are young, so they don’t build up more of a fear as they get older.

    However, if they choose not to get a license, that is their decision. I definitely would say that within my teen’s peer group, rushing out to get their learners is not nearly as prevalent as it was when I was that age.

  • Reply April 1, 2013

    Janine Fitzpatrick

    My daughter just got her L’s (although we had to push her to do so). We have decided, after a particularly bad dodgem car experience, that I have control issues and therefore will be having nothing to do with teaching her to drive. So far she has reluctantly completed 3 hours with her father. We’ve got a long way to go. I’m booking her in for professional lessons, even if I have to remortgage the house. Wish us luck.

  • Reply April 1, 2013

    Jan Dobson

    Had the opposite experience, my father was so calm and patient & made the whole experience enjoyable. God, I miss him. Never did learn to parallel park though

  • Reply April 1, 2013


    Years later and he still should be paying the theraphy bills! Everytime I got in the drivers seat my father was exactly as you described and told me – one day you are going to crash. I better not be in the car and it better not be in my car. The experience as horrible and back then I only had to complete 50 hours. I am the first to admit I am not the best driver and I would never contemplate driving in Sydney.

  • Reply April 2, 2013


    “Not so fast, kid” said with hand on door handle. I think we were going about 10 kph.

  • Reply April 2, 2013


    My parents never learned to drive or owned a car. My dad eventually braved a ride with me when I was back in England in the late seventies and he needed to get to a dentist. His eyes glued on the speedo, every time I passed 30 mph, he said, “Where’s the fire?”. This with a long line of angry drivers on a narrow country road where the speed limit was 50 mph and everyone drove much faster than that! I had to take him to the pub after the dentist and before I drove him home.

  • Reply April 2, 2013

    Aeron Winters

    I took professional lessons way back when, so only had to get practise hours in with my parents. I had one such session with my mother and that was the last. Our old Ford had a bench seat in the front and by the time we had driven a few short kms down a lonely country road she had slid all the way across and was attempting to steer the car. I pulled over, put the car in park got out and walked around and got back in on the passenger’s side. Just having her doing what she was going was making me crazy, not to mention very nervous. I had many practise sessions with my dad, in fact he was the one who taught me how to parallel park (else I would not have passed my driver’s test). He sat calmly (or so it would appear to the uninitiated) and gave me instructions if I needed them. However, he chain smoked the entire time so I guess he was pretty nervous, but he was a great instructor.

    Now to my daughter. She will be 17 later this month and has no interest as yet in getting her Ls. She is focussed on getting through her HSC at the moment. We live near the train line and the bus stops just up the street, so I suppose she isn’t worried about getting to where she wants to at the moment. And of course there is always Mum’s taxi. I love her dearly, but until she has had a substantial amount of professional instruction I will not be sitting in any car that she is driving. She is very excitable and easily distracted and I don’t feel that would make for a good combination behind the wheel.

  • Reply April 2, 2013


    My father was in the passenger seat the first few times I drove (a straight, excessively wide, ultimately dead end suburban street), but once I was moving I got an instructor.

    My first real lesson, though, was when I was just a kid. Grandma was a keen driver and, when I was in the passenger seat, I changed gears for her. She pressed the clutch, told me what gear she wanted, and I shifted. So it was a little strange when I first held the gearknob in my *left* hand, but I think it did help me to learn to drive a manual.

  • Reply April 3, 2013

    Maureen P.

    Awful learning experiences with my dad! My brother and I used to call him “Handbrake Harry”.

    I never did learn to drive…

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