Legal i

Parental guidance

L-plate1Q. With some trepidation, I have agreed to teach my son to drive. He has his provisional licence and ‘L’ plates, and I will tell my insurers, but I wondered if there are any laws that govern what I can and cannot do in teaching my son to drive.

A. That’s a good question, as generations of parents have taught their offspring to drive, possibly without ever considering what their legal liabilities might be.

First, so long as you are not providing the lessons for money or money’s worth, you do not need any qualification or special licence to teach a learner, other than being at least 21 years old (obviously so given that you are teaching your son) and have held a licence for at least three years. (These age and length of driving requirements are relaxed for members of the armed forces acting in the course of their duties.)

The law imposes a duty on a driving supervisor to do when necessary whatever can reasonably be expected to be done to prevent the learner from acting unskillfully or carelessly or in a manner likely to cause danger to others, and to this extent to participate in the driving.

If you were found not to be acting in this way then your son could be charged with driving without supervision and you could be charged with aiding and abetting him. It is therefore quite an onerous duty.

A supervisor can also be guilty of aiding and abetting a learner who has consumed in excess of the legal alcohol limit. It would not be a defence to say that you did not know that alcohol exceeding the limit had been consumed, because this cannot be known until the learner’s blood had been analysed.

It is enough that the supervisor knew that the learner had had an excessive amount of alcohol, although this does beg the question as to what an “excessive amount” is. It hardly needs saying that it would be unwise for either learner or supervisor to drink any alcohol before embarking on what can already be a stressful experience for both parties.

Unfortunately, the defendants in a case before the courts in 1969 failed to heed this warning, when the supervisor was convicted of aiding and abetting his learner, when the car they were travelling in swerved from side to side and hit the bank three times. The supervisor told the police that he and the learner had been out drinking together that evening.

You must at all times be in the vehicle, so you could not for example get out of the car to supervise a tricky manoeuvre. Technically, you could be in the back seat of the car to meet the requirement, but given that you could not reach the controls in an emergency this would not be a great idea!

If an incident should occur that required your son, as driver, to stop and provide his details after an accident, or to report an accident, you could be found to have aided and abetted him if you took no steps to remedy this wrong.

None of these requirements are likely to come as much of a surprise, so there is I am afraid no reason for you to back out now!

Designed by solicitors, tested by barristers and available around the clock, Road Traffic Representation is an online legal system that allows people accused of a motoring offence to get free advice on how the law will be applied in their case, and referral to a telephone helpline and representation by a barrister in court if required. Practising solicitor Martin Langan spent two years designing the system and creating the data repository which allows the software to analyse road traffic offences with the same authority as a solicitor.

Twitter: martinlangan
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