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SKJSS (formerly Klayfish)
SKJSS (formerly Klayfish) PowerDork
2/6/23 6:17 a.m.

Not sure exactly what you mean?  Hopefully this is the answer you're looking for.  I taught my oldest 3 years ago and am teaching my 15 year old twins now.  I've never had to give them an incentive for miles driven, they are both begging to drive.  They all must learn how to drive manual, that's part of my requirement.  However, they learn on auto first and then manual.  Start in the parking lot.  Before the engine even turns on, familiarize them with all of the controls around them and how to position everything.  From there I have them idle around the parking lot, using no gas at all, just brake.  I want them to get used to the feel of the car in motion and them being in control of it.  Practice making gentle turns while idling around, stopping, etc....  Then we add the next layer in...gas.  Stay in the parking lot until fully comfortable, then onto the next step.  Public roads.  Find a very low traffic road and practice there...on and on.

Hope that helps.

ddavidv UltimaDork
2/6/23 7:21 a.m.

Unpleasant truth:  most kids don't learn as well from their own parents as they do from a 3rd party individual.  When I did instructing for Doug Herbert's BRAKES program I had a lot of students whose parents just couldn't make much progress with them. Put them in a car with me and I'd have them drifting out of skids in 15 minutes. It's a psychological thing more than a teaching ability/lack thereof. Same with teaching stick shift; the kids get all flustered because mom or dad is watching. I get them and an hour later they are shifting through the pattern. 

But, if you are taking it on, absolute calm and patience is needed. I make it all matter-of-fact. "That didn't work, huh?"  They will learn much faster once they are comfortable. If they are constantly tense, learning isn't going to happen.

frenchyd GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/6/23 7:43 a.m.

In reply to TA_ :

A lot depends too on the child.   My oldest took to driving like a duck to water. Listened  me. Drove well and safely. One minor distraction incident with a load of her girl friends.  She dealt with that herself.  Time to get her a car for College the Saturn dealer only had a demo and it had 500 miles on it. Plus it was a 5 speed manual.    
   Took her to a local school parking lot and inside of 30 minutes was shifting nearly perfectly.   ( 319,000 miles later she traded  it for a new Honda Civic.  With that same clutch still in it) 

    My youngest daughter never really listened. Or paid that much attention.
 The absolute queen of distracted driving. Phone more important than driving.  Being cool was everything being safe, well other people would look out for her. Kept her in the family car until it was time for her to go to college.  
     She wanted a Toyota Yaris. But luckily they had an automatic.    8 months later she totaled it.  She begged me to get her another. I reluctantly agreed.   A year and 1/2 later she drove over a concrete block on the freeway and that pulled the transmission completely  out.    Dealership replaced it but it never really was right. 
      Etc.  Etc. Etc. 

914Driver MegaDork
2/6/23 8:17 a.m.

Short trips.  
Don't put 'em on the freeway in a straight line for 5 hours and call it training.

rslifkin UberDork
2/6/23 8:30 a.m.

No kids of my own yet, but thinking back to when I learned to drive, I learned mostly from my dad.  My mom didn't do well as an instructor for me, although she did better teaching my sister. 

My dad made a pretty decent driving instructor.  He was big on technical skills, giving exercises like "hit that manhole cover with both left side tires."  And he pretty much took the attitude of "we're going somewhere, so you're driving."  That meant lots of miles, and getting thrown into plenty of situations. 

He was relatively practical about his approach, so no stuff like "you're new to driving on the highway, don't go above the speed limit" and being stuck with cars flying past, etc.  It was more along the lines of "if everyone else on the highway is doing 80, I expect you to be doing something around 80 and acting reasonably in traffic, as that's what everyone else expects you to do."  First snow after I had a car, he comes and grabs me and says "grab your keys and let's go drifting."  He also took the approach of "you're not ready for your license until you can get in any vehicle and comfortably drive it."

porschenut HalfDork
2/6/23 8:36 a.m.

Good advise here.  As a former instructor of teens and parent of 2 the parking lot for the first few hours is great. They need to get comfortable, learn the corners of the car, how to use mirrors and maybe what ABS feels like if it is safe.  The mark of completion is parallel parking, slalom forwards and backwards and stopping smoothly, with the front bumper a foot from an identified spot.  The parent needs to KEEP QUIET. I used 10 words to communicate, agreed on first.  Kids need to use all their senses when learning, listening to dad/mom is a distraction.  

My favorite pep talk for kids: You have the potential to be one of the best drivers on the road.  Your vision, reaction time and capability to learn is at its peak.  What you need to do is understand the basics, be comfortable in the car and always learn from the experience of driving.  

wae PowerDork
2/6/23 8:51 a.m.

My personal theory is that it's easier to learn to drive a manual transmission before you know how to drive a car.  I started my eldest off in a parking lot with nothing but first gear and the clutch pedal.  I had her stall it a bunch of times on purpose to know what that feels like and to teach her how to listen to the car.  Once she had that down, we did plenty of parking lot driving before getting her out on the neighborhood streets.  She's not confident enough to pull out on to the semi-rural 45mph road that connects our subdivision to the rest of the world yet, but we've also struggled to find time to practice lately.  At this point she's probably got about 5-8 hours behind the wheel and stalls the car just about as often as I do.

The biggest thing - and this applies to any sort of instruction - is to keep your voice calm, quiet, and neutral.  Facts only.  When she's not slowing down fast enough, I simply say "brake more, please".  Or "move more to the left" when she's a bit close on passing a parked car.  I've seen and heard other parents kind of barking commands and raising their voice and that uneasiness and fear definitely comes out and undermines the learner's confidence, distracts them, discourages them, confuses them, and ultimately does not help them to learn anything.  I just remind myself that we've got good insurance and we're not going fast enough to maim or kill either of us, so it'll all be okay in the end.  Seriously.

Another big thing to remember is that you've got decades more experience than your kid does at driving.  You've seen things and have been in situations that they have absolutely no frame of reference for.  You have also forgotten a lot about driving that they still need to learn - most of the basic things have become second nature to you and you don't really need to think about it anymore.  So you might give them a command that makes perfect sense to you, but in your mind that command includes several steps that they aren't aware of.  "Go ahead and pull out of the driveway and go left" does not automatically translate in their head to "take the parking brake off; make sure you're in first gear, not third or reverse; ease to the end of the driveway; come to a stop at the back of the truck and look to the right for cars and joggers; ease forward a little and come to a stop at the car parked on the street and look to the left; make sure the garage door is closing behind you; look to the right again for traffic; then ease out into the road". 

Finally, watch them for signs of failing confidence and be ready to call it a day.  While an overconfident learner can do some dangerous things, a learner that lacks confidence can also get in to a lot of trouble.  If things start to go badly or if you start attempting a new skill that they're not really ready for, either stop the lessons for the time being or go back to a lesson that they've already mastered.  My daughter said she was ready to get out on the 4-lane road for a short trip to her job.  As she approached it, she started to doubt if she was able to do it and started to freak out a little.  I put the hazard lights on and had her just stop the car.  We got dirty looks from the cars behind us, but who cares?  We swapped seats and I drove her to a parking lot where we went back to some basic maneuvering exercise that she had already mastered so that we could end the day on a high note.

Oh, and that's one other important thing:  Other cars.  I've taught a number of people to drive a manual tranny and they've all been worried about stalling at an intersection and having cars behind them stressing them out.  To that end, my belief is that there are two types of people out there:  Those that can drive a manual and understand that you're learning and they've been there and they'll be perfectly patient with you.  The other type is a person who doesn't know how to drive a manual and who gives a damn what they think? 

Placemotorsports GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
2/6/23 8:56 a.m.

Neighborhood first, then empty school parking lots in the evenings are great. Once they get the hang of the basic car controls and feel comfortable with the car take them on a back road to get the hang of staying in the lines and stop and go.  I didn't take any of them on the highway until after lots and lots of hours of the backroads and practice. 

BenB HalfDork
2/6/23 10:09 a.m.

My two daughters "benefited" from my time as a flight instructor at a community college where I learned, among other things, how teens learn and how to stay calm while my student was trying to kill me. They're initially going to be devoting almost all of their concentration to just keeping the car on the road and they'll miss a lot of what's going on around them. We started out in a large parking lot before moving on to quiet back roads. NC requires 60 hrs of supervised driving before kids can take their test, so there was plenty of time for practice. We spent a good bit of time practicing parking. I used some cones with bamboo poles stuck in them to mark the boundaries of the spot. We also every now and then used a dead end road to get up some speed and then do an emergency stop so they could see and feel how the ABS worked. I kept emphasis on safety and kept giving them Dad-isms like "always assume the other driver is about to do something stupid" and "don't be that driver." Younger daughter picked it up very quickly and mastered the Miata manual transmission in no time. Older daughter seemed to be in a world all her own. She turns 30 soon and she still scares the E36 M3 out of me.

Datsun310Guy MegaDork
2/6/23 10:12 a.m.
trucke SuperDork
2/6/23 10:46 a.m.

My girls are required to learn how to drive a manual.  Daughter #2 gets her permit in 3 weeks.  She'll get the same as #1.  Once she gets the license, it's off to B.R.A.K.E.S. and if we find a Sunday Street Survival, we will do that too.  No problem with hours.  We will knock out the night requirement before daylight savings.  Might even let her drive us to an autocross.

#1 has been autocrossing with Dad last year and we have our plan in place for 2023.  #2 is itching to autocross too.  She has been building relationships with other female drivers the last couple of years.

Tom1200 UberDork
2/6/23 11:18 a.m.

I started my son autocrossing a kart when he was 8.

When it came time for a car we started in parking lot. 3-5hrs.

After a bit we moved to a set of dirt roads and trails (we had an older Outback for him to drive) to get a feel for the car.  4hrs

After that I used lightly traveled roads. 5-6hrs

After that I used moderately traveled roads 5-6hrs

For the last bit of training we did about 15hrs of busy roads and freeways. 

When he went to take the driving test at DMV the tester commented that he'd clearly been practicing, she also cautioned him about his inexperience on the road and to take his time......which I appreciated. 


jharry3 GRM+ Memberand Dork
2/6/23 11:44 a.m.


Sign up early.

I sent my oldest daughter to this in 2015 and she learned a lot.  My youngest daughter is 16 and just got a learner's permit.  I wanted to sign her up as well.

 I just tried to sign her up for the course in Central Texas in late March but its sold out already.   She is on the waiting list.

MiniDave Reader
2/6/23 1:23 p.m.

I get that on this forum a manual gearbox is sort of a requirement, but c'mon folks. For most suburban kids, they'll never see or own a manual gearbox....

I tried the parking lot thing with my 18 yo son (he lived in Europe from 15-18, you can't get a DL there till you're 18) and it did not go well, which surprised me as he's a gearhead too. I thought it would come naturally to him but it didn't, so I sent him off to a driving school. He did fine, got his license on the first try and we were good from there on.....whenever we went somewhere I had him drive and he did fine. We lived in a very heavy traffic area of SoCal so he had to grow his awareness quickly. He even managed to get a 75 in a 55 ticket in a car I couldn't get over 65mph (Rabbit diesel pickup truck with a shell on the back)

Local to me now, we have a driving school that only uses Mustangs for DE cars, which I thought was a great idea! Friend's son totaled one on his first day......

bluebarchetta Reader
2/6/23 1:40 p.m.

After my kid mastered the basics and got his license, I sent him to the Mid-Ohio Teen Defensive Driving school for the following reasons:

  1. The first time he completely lost control of a car, I wanted it to happen in a safe environment, like a wet skidpad
  2. The school (while not cheap) was less money than our collision deductible, so the first time he avoids an accident, I'm money ahead
  3. Teens tune out one or both of their parents half the time...if he ignored what I or his mother told him, maybe he'd listen to a professional racer/instructor telling him the same thing
  4. The state-mandated "driving schools" teach kids how to pass the driver's exam...a good racer-taught school will teach kids how to control a motor vehicle

He's almost 20 now and the only driving incident he's had was hitting a raccoon that was trying to cross I-71.  (frantically knocking wood and thanking God)  M-O's teen driving school was money well-spent.

wae PowerDork
2/6/23 1:53 p.m.

In reply to MiniDave :

It's not so much about being able to drive a manual transmission, although I do think that's a good skillset to have.  When you learn to drive a stick, you have to learn to listen to what the car is telling you whereas driving an automatic doesn't require that as long as everything is working right.  The new driver has to pay attention to when the car's starting to lug or when you're winding it out too far and need to shift.  They'll feel the difference as they start to slip the clutch and they'll know what the normal vibrations and sounds are and when things are a little off.  Later on when they're driving their first E36 M3box (and their second E36 M3box and their third and their fouth....) to get them through college and the first job, it's more likely that they'll be able to tell when the E36 M3box is about to do E36 M3box things since they're used to noticing subtle changes in noise levels and vibrations, even if they're driving an automatic.  I also think that you're better at using a tool when you have some understanding of how that tool works and when you're familiar with working a clutch and a gear shift, it takes some of the magic out of it and gives you a little bit of a shortcut in that regard.

vwcorvette (Forum Supporter)
vwcorvette (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UberDork
2/6/23 9:04 p.m.

I teach high school DE. For a living. Find a third party to teach your kid.

Here's a lot of great info from Andy Pilgrim:

Traffic Safety Education Foundation

MiniDave Reader
2/6/23 9:53 p.m.

In reply to wae :


I think this is expecting a LOT out of a new driver. I maintain we should start them out with the easiest combination and let them learn how to drive a car first, then as their abilities flatten out  add new inputs.

I doubt any new drivers understand what lugging the engine means or what to do about it, let alone what any extraneous noises are.


Autovelox New Reader
2/6/23 10:00 p.m.

When my youngest son was 20 he learned to drive a stick in a single 15 minute lesson in the paddock of a 24 Hours of Lemons race.  He then perfected shifting between 3rd and 4th for two hours of racing.

It went way more smoothly than you are imagining.  He stayed out of trouble and posted our second fastest lap time.



vwcorvette (Forum Supporter)
vwcorvette (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UberDork
2/6/23 10:11 p.m.

I'm so over the gotta learn manual argument. Fewer than 2% of new cars sold over the last decade or so are manuals. They will not figure into this generation's used car purchasing. Get them learning to read their environment, where they are in that environment, and how to chose the best path through that environment. Then if they are interested show them manual. Not enough of them get practice at night or in adverse conditions because parents are uncomfortable in those situations. Maybe focus on that instead?!?!

SKJSS (formerly Klayfish)
SKJSS (formerly Klayfish) PowerDork
2/7/23 6:05 a.m.
vwcorvette (Forum Supporter) said:

I'm so over the gotta learn manual argument. Fewer than 2% of new cars sold over the last decade or so are manuals. They will not figure into this generation's used car purchasing. Get them learning to read their environment, where they are in that environment, and how to chose the best path through that environment. Then if they are interested show them manual. Not enough of them get practice at night or in adverse conditions because parents are uncomfortable in those situations. Maybe focus on that instead?!?!

100% this.  I'm only requiring my kids to drive manual because, well I'm a GRM guy, LOL.  Actually, both my boys want to come racing and WANT to learn stick.  I want my daughter to know so that she can drive one of her brothers (or my) cars if need be.  You are correct in that they need night, highway, adverse weather condition practice.

ddavidv UltimaDork
2/7/23 7:01 a.m.

Driving manual transmission vehicles makes a better driver. But I concur, the days of the manual are almost over. Unfortunate.

vwcorvette (Forum Supporter)
vwcorvette (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UberDork
2/7/23 12:15 p.m.
ddavidv said:

Driving manual transmission vehicles makes a better driver. But I concur, the days of the manual are almost over. Unfortunate.

Does it though? Is there any research on it? Bias towards manuals may be playing with your perception.

Aaron_King GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
3/2/23 10:23 a.m.

In reply to vwcorvette (Forum Supporter) :

Thanks for that.  All of the drivers in my house will be watching those videos this evening.

914Driver MegaDork
3/2/23 10:46 a.m.

In reply to Datsun310Guy :

My sister failed her road test the first two times for Delayed Braking.  She still scares me.

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