photo: Antonio Diaz/iStock

The Benefits of In-Vehicle Driving Lessons

By Carly Peters

They say father knows best, but AMA member Meghan Epp disagrees. Though enrolled in driver education, the 16-year-old took some bad dad advice to her first Class 5-GDL road test—and failed. “He said to always turn your wheels toward the curb when parking on a hill,” Epp recalls. “Going downhill, that’s correct, but uphill I was supposed to turn my wheels to the street. The lesson I learned: Always listen to the expert—in that case, my AMA instructor.”

As a learning driver, the Edmonton teen practised on the road with her parents, but admits it took some time to get comfortable behind the wheel. “I was afraid I would mess up and get in an accident,” she recalls. Taking classroom and in-vehicle lessons with AMA Driver Education, however, boosted her knowledge and confidence.

“One of the biggest challenges for new drivers is they simply lack driving experience,” says Wayne McLachlan, chief instructor for fleet and novice operations at AMA Driver Education in southern Alberta. “That lack of experience affects their confidence and decision-making ability.”

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AMA has been providing driver training for more than 80 years; it’s one of the largest and best-established driving schools in North America. Instructors are provincially certified and receive additional in-house training that goes beyond Alberta Transportation’s requirements. The reason for that, McLachlan says, is that better instructors cultivate safer, more confident students.

Some key skills taught in AMA in-car lessons include following and stopping distances, shoulder checking and overall visual awareness. Epp says she applies those lessons every time she drives herself to school and ringette. She also has knowledge that she hopes she won’t have to use, like what to do if her tires lose traction on a slippery roadway.

“New drivers are taught to analyze risk in the driving environment,” McLachlan explains. “Among other things, that means determining a safe speed for the conditions and recognizing potential visual impediments.”

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For the best experience, he says, in-vehicle training should be combined with additional learning opportunities. All AMA new driver programs include in-car lessons as well as in-class or online instruction. The latter is particularly useful for self-motivated students and busy families.

Parents of new drivers can also benefit from AMA resources, like AMA’s coaching guide, a free online coaching session, driving logs and even brush-up driving lessons for themselves. Or they can just ask their confident new driver. “I think my parents did learn from my driving lessons,” Epp says. “My dad can now properly park on a hill.”

A LITTLE HELP
A few other ways that AMA helps to nurture new drivers.

Practice exam: Prep for Class 7 learner’s permit test with AMA’s practice exam. Find it at ama. ab.ca or download the free Learner’s Licence Practice Exam smartphone app.

Flash cards: To aid eventual Class 7 test takers, AMA’s deck of 100 cards covers everything from licensing to difficult driving conditions. Available at AMA centres.

In-class teaching: AMA’s lessons maximize learning through hands-on activities and interactive content, which prepare new drivers for in-car sessions.

Online education: A first of its kind in Canada, it offers the same high-quality instruction as AMA’s in-class lesson—but you can learn on your own schedule from the comfort of home.

Save money: Graduates of an AMA driver education program are eligible to receive a discount of up to $200 on their AMA auto insurance.