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Skaife urges ban on parents teaching

Mark Skaife with his son Mitch outside his Toorak home. Skaife said parents often pass on their bad habits to children, from the incorrect basic seating position to the wrong attitude to driving.

The family ban is part of a package proposed by Mark Skaife, who intends to turn his retirement from fulltime V8 Supercar racing into a new career as a safety campaigner.  Skaife has been a driver trainer for more than 15 years and a serious safety advocate through the Herald Sun for more than 10, but found himself in the spotlight this week when he proposed a major safety review.

He called on governments to take a new look at driver training, better roads and safer late-model cars during a report for the Sunday Night program on Channel 7, but was hit hard because he included a proposal to lift the speed limit on the safest new roads in Australia to 140km/h as a way of combating fatigue.

"With the best intention in the world, too many parents pass on their own bad habits. We have to avoid that, which is why I believe we need to move to professional driver trainers in Australia," Skaife said yesterday.  "We don't like hearing the truth on some things, and this is one of them. Proper education on driving is a big part of the road safety puzzle.

"I've just been to Germany to see what they do about road safety and parents are banned there from teaching their kids. It's a much more professional process. It can cost more than $2500 and that would need some government subsidies, but would be a great investment in a major life skill."

Skaife said parents often pass on their bad habits to children, from the incorrect basic seating position to the wrong attitude to driving.  He also said the time when youngsters get their L plates is often during a major conflict between parents and adolescents who are stretching their boundaries.

"There can be major family tension at driving time. That's the truth," he said.  Skaife believes learning to drive a car should be a similar process to the one used in Australia for motorcycle rider education.

"Riders are taught the basics before they ever hit the road. That level of education is vital also in driving a car," he said.  "It's much more about controlling the machine, learning what happens and why it happens, and avoiding potential dramas."

He also emphasised the importance of real education, not just short- term training to pass a test.  "Three-point turns, hill starts and reverse parks do not save lives," Skaife said.