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What Makes a Great Driving Coach?

How many drivers do you know who really should have had a better driving instructor? Are you one of them? Is your son or daughter one of them?


The number of poor drivers on the road on a given day is staggering. Driving is one of the most important skills an individual will acquire in a lifetime, but for most people how much thought goes into learning to do it well? When teens start out with a foundation of safe driving skills, they are on their way to building a lifetime of safe driving experience. I know I sleep better when I think about all the families I’ve helped develop the tools for safe driving.


So what makes a great driving coach? Coaching itself is a particular style of teaching that promotes self-learning and development. Everyone knows that there is a huge difference between sitting and listening, and listening and doing. Coaching involves teaching people how to do something for themselves so that they become skilled at performing the learned tasks on their own.


There is a famous quote, “Tell me and I forget; teach me and I may remember; involve me and I learn,” that is often attributed to Benjamin Franklin. It’s actually an ancient Chinese saying, but the wisdom holds true. A coach is a teacher who involves the student so that they truly learn.

Also, the student who is being coached is typically one who wants to learn. Think about high school. The teachers have to teach everyone because the students have to be there, whether or not they want to learn. The teacher has to use techniques that reach the least motivated student. The athletic coaches, however, are coaching student athletes who want to be there. They are motivated to learn, so the coaches have to use techniques that sustain high motivation.


Being a great driving coach involves several skills:


1. Teach to Engage the Brain

Have you ever struggled to recall the points made in a lecture, even one that held your interest? When communication is one way, the learners aren’t using enough cognitive skills to move the information into long-term storage in the brain. When communication involves dialogue, the learner engages more of the brain and tends to retain more information.


A great driving coach asks questions, demonstrates relatable examples, and creates dialogue with the young driver to help them encode safe driving skills into memory.


2. Remain Calm to Eliminate Tension

Inexperienced drivers tend to be nervous. Inexperience alone is fertile ground for making mistakes, but adding anxiety increases that risk. When you experience high stress, does the mood of people around you have an effect on whether your stress gets worse or better? Teen drivers need validation to reduce their nervousness, but they also need assurance that the person helping them will not escalate their anxiety. One reason many parents opt for a professional driving coach is that they know there are too many emotional dynamics in the relationship to stay as calm as they should.


A great driving coach stays calm at all times and knows how to keep the driver calm and focused on safe driving.


3. Create Teachable Moments on the Fly

Teachable moments are everywhere if you really pay attention to the world. Sometimes a mistake becomes a teachable moment, but just as often, the observable environment is equally suitable for teaching. Have you ever waited to do something until you watched someone else do it first? Or have you ever asked someone to explain an ongoing situation to you? Those are teachable moments. Someone with more experience teaches someone else what caused something, why something is, or how to avoid something. They do this in a way that is easy for the learner to understand and digest.


A great driving coach is a master of observation and knows how to break down situations into easy-to-learn explanations.


4. Encourage Students to Maximize Motivation

It’s very easy for teen driving students to become discouraged. The early lessons can be slow moving and it feels like they are making tons of mistakes. Have you ever just felt completely depleted from an experience where you feel like nothing is progressing? It’s understandable that teen drivers sometimes lose their motivation to learn, despite their desire to be licensed drivers. Encouragement makes their progress seem more concrete and helps them feel like they are getting somewhere. Praise them for remembering concepts and avoiding past mistakes to help them keep their eyes on the end goal.


A great driving coach is naturally encouraging and knows how to apply it to keep energy and motivation high.


Learning to drive is difficult, so driving coaches need to be skilled professionals who know how to teach, handle stress, relate to the environment, and keep a positive attitude. Does this sound like you? If not, it might be a good idea to get some professional help with your teen’s driving lessons. If so, how would you feel about coaching student drivers yourself?


As I try to make this Eastern Montgomery/Lower Bucks corner of the world safer, one safe driving teen at a time, I am looking to bring on new coaches to work with driving students. Contact me to learn more about being a Safe Driving Coach or about lessons for your teen driver.

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