Driving school for dads: New courses offered for people who want to be official ‘driving mentors’ for 17-year-olds

From the New Year, 17-year-olds in Czechia will be able to take a driving test and obtain a license – but until their 18th birthday, they will only be allowed to drive under the supervision of a more experienced mentor. However, it turns out that most experienced drivers have picked up a lot of bad habits over the years, so to prepare them for their new role, the Association of Czech Driving Schools is offering a course for would-be mentors.

For most of us who have been doing it for a long time, driving is more or less second nature. But it turns out that comfort and confidence doesn’t always, or perhaps even most of the time, translate into actual skill level. Experienced drivers make a lot of mistakes, says driving instructor Luboš Machart, who has been teaching wannabe mentors in Jihlava.

"It was clear that this group of parents was getting a little rusty on the rules of the road and had picked up some bad habits. It was interesting that in some situations where novice drivers make mistakes, the mentors also made mistakes, for example, missing speed limit signs."

Illustrative photo: Kristýna Maková,  Radio Prague International

The Association of Czech Driving Schools’ Start Driving course for mentors offers sessions with traffic psychologists and talks on road safety in addition to test drives with feedback from an instructor. Some would-be mentors have found the experience humbling, like Pavel Votýpka, who completed his test drive.

“I brushed it off initially but it's no joke, you really pick up some bad habits during all those years you’ve been driving.”

However, some are also enjoying the challenge, like Martin, who discusses his impressions after having a meeting with the psychologists.

"Based on my experience of being a driving mentor before, even though there was no such official title back then, now I would like to do it officially with all the pomp and ceremony. So far, I've passed the theory part and I’m pretty happy about it. I’m enjoying it and I'm looking forward to the practical part."

Photo illustrative: Barbora Němcová,  Radio Prague International

Mentors can be parents, aunts, uncles, older siblings or other relatives – anybody, so long as they meet the conditions for being a mentor, namely having obtained a driver's license more than ten years ago, having held it for at least the last five consecutive years without interruption, and not having any penalty points at the time of becoming, and throughout the duration of being, a mentor. In addition, if you want to become a mentor for your 17-year-old, you can’t just hop in a car with them straight away and get on the road – you need to report to the driver’s registry office, who will check that you meet the necessary conditions, to officially register yourself as being a mentor for that specific young driver.

Although it is not compulsory for mentors to take the course, Aleš Horčička, chairman of the Association of Czech Driving Schools, says that it is very much advised.

Aleš Horčička | Photo: Česká televize,  ČT24

“People need to doubt themselves a little more – not just jump into it straight away thinking ‘I know how to drive, I can be a mentor', but actually do a bit of studying, brush up on the rules, read the manual for mentors, maybe take some driving school refresher lessons, and get some feedback. Because there will be a big difference between how different people approach the task.”

Authors: Anna Fodor , Tereza Pešoutová | Source: iROZHLAS.cz
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