360 hours

360 hours.

In anyone’s language that it a fair chunk of your life. Straight out it is 15 days. In working time (8 hour days) its 45 days. Measured at one hour per week it takes well over six years. And this is the point that I am trying to make – it can be a long drawn out period.

Now don’t get me wrong – no one would argue against making our roads a safer place. For those of us with three children each requiring 120 hours of driver training to go from L to red P this is the sort of commitment that is required.

I’ve always felt my driving was quite good; rating one for life; a couple of accidents when I was inexperienced but none for 20 years; one indiscretion that cost me 3 points and a reasonable amount of money about two years ago but nothing else in over 30 years of driving. Communication skills – not too bad. Well put a Gen Y teenager (are we still up to Gen Y? or have we hit Y+ yet?) and myself in a car for 360 hours and everything is tested especially in the first 10 – 20 hours of those 120 hours with each one of them.

Seemingly I am not alone in this as I have discussed with some of my work colleagues also teaching their children to drive and we have an informal support group.

A couple of scenarios:

Gen Y teenager: “That car shouldn’t be parked in the left lane should it”

Parent: [capital letters denote yelling] NO BUT IT IS; SO YOU WILL HAVE TO SLOW DOWN OR STOP.

Gen Y teenager approaching petrol bowser while a customer is walking out of shop: “I have the right of way don’t I?


Having sat in the driver’s seat for 98% of my car life over the past 30 plus years it is quite amazing how 100km/h on one side of the car feels quite safe but when you are sitting in the passenger seat with an L in the windscreen in front of you and an inexperienced driver beside you that 100km/h feels very similar to one of the rides at the Show that you went on when you were a lot younger but at 50 doesn’t look as appealing.

I am not saying for a moment that some of the, let’s call then disagreements, actually arguments would probably be more accurate that have occurred while assisting people to get to the Mt Everest line of 120 hours were not partially, if not fully my fault.

Two of my three children now have their license and the process has now begun again. I have learnt many things about myself and teenagers and communication. Firstly there is a time delay from when you see something that should happen such as a brake to be applied to when your voice says something to when the teenager hears and when they respond.

I reckon you have to leave behind any other issues – forget that they didn’t pack up, unstack the dishwasher, get home when they said they would,… and concentrate solely on the driving. DON’T YELL. It only upsets both of you. Quickly forget if they made an error five minutes ago because a worse one might be coming(!) and remember that they are concentrating as hard as you and don’t need to be reminded that they took the corner a bit wide six roads back.

About Noel McPhee

Noel's background is in statistics including 13 years at the ABS. More recent employment has been at Deakin University and Services Australia. He has worked on every State and Commonwealth election this millennium plus a few Local Government Elections. His weekly article, 'The Stats Bench' appears weekly on the Eastern Football Netball League's website. Noel's legacy as a sportsman is that he tried hard; two cricket fielding trophies, a tennis premiership and boundary umpiring about 80 EFL senior games. He has completed over 35 parkruns in quite slow times in the last three years.


  1. Andrew Fithall says

    Thanks Noel. I read somewhere that the learner’s logbook is the easiest thing to cheat on but the one you are least likely to want to. We are coming to the end of getting our first through his 120 hours before he turns 18 in April. 12 months ago I said to him that he had already done more learner driving than I had before I obtained my licence. Our problem is that next year we have three children turn 16! So if you have any spare time …

  2. Here in Queensland the kids have to do 100 hours supervised driving before they can apply for a drivers licence then we go through the red and green P plates. What you say about the time it takes to do the hours is absolutely right. We are only at the start of the 100 and I am not looking forward to it.

  3. Skip of Skipton says

    I remember having very heated blues with my father when he was teaching me to drive. That was a manual transmission on back roads when I was 13. I agree with having L-Platers well schooled, but 120 hours is a bit over the top when you consider most are driving auto, and on well kept city roads etc.

    The most important thing to get into their scone is their lack of experience, and for them to understand that
    An example would be myself driving through a cats’n’dogs thunderstorm on the Princes Freeway near Little River not long after getting my P plates. It was pissing down and the road was awash with water. There were heaps of cars pulled over on the side waitng the storm out. No sooner had I thought what wusses they were, I was spinning, a full two 360s I reckon, aquaplaning. I ended up in the (luckily) wide grassy median strip. I understood what dad had been saying about experience after that. I’m not one of those menaces who do 95kph and hold up traffic on the highways, I’m more the person overtaking you at 120, but I don’t entertain risk.

  4. Hi guys, I’m up to number three learner and she is less confident and it’s on the back burner for now. She hasn’t got past the initial lessons with the paid driving instructor who has controls with pedals at least. I get them once they feel confident enough to be anywhere near me. My daughter now 23 had to have 60 hours, she was careful and cautious and is now a terrific driver. My son, now 20, is also a very good driver, and the one thing I found, especially with my monosyllabic boy was that we would get into GREAT conversations and suddenly he would tell me something he never would at home, it was time together that I will cherish forever. Once the anxiety goes and it’s just building up hours, we went along every new freeway/tollway, I got to learn places that I haven’t needed to drive in normally, I got to have time with my otherwise cranky teenagers, and I loved it. I did hear about a family with triplets and they have to do the hours of the three all at the same time, so I consider you and I lucky. (And there was the father who had also lost his license so the mother was doing the three kids and the dad had to do his hours, so that made four.)

    There’s new rules with each child. Now they suggest that you gently introduce the kinds of distractions that kids have the moment they get the “p”‘s, music, friends in the car, phones on etc. Because my youngest, 17, is taking her time, we have yet to discover those joys. But the idea is that they get used to what it is like driving when they are alone.

    I feel very proud of the job I’ve done thus far. Now they all criticize my driving! We all do have some bad habits.


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