Improve Your AuPair’s Driving With an Online Driving Class

by cv harquail on September 5, 2014

An online driving course is an easy, inexpensive way to get both you and your AuPair feeling confident about her/his driving– before your au pair even arrives in the USA!

Here’s a tip from TexasHostMom— 

Our first AP was 26 when she arrived and had been driving for some time, so I never thought we’d have to worry about her driving.  But when she arrived and got her behind the wheel, it turned out she was a terrible driver.

3930504131_52a9259f83_zI frantically looked at driving schools and private lessons, as folks have advised here on AuPairMom. I had a Brazilian friend take her out and practice in her native language. But it wasn’t until we had her take the online driving course (6 hours of videos and quizzes) that we saw marked improvement.

Since then, we have had our new APs take the online driving course while they were still in their home country prior to arrival and (knock on wood) we haven’t had a weak driver since!

The online driving course can strengthen overall driving skill and confidence of APs.

And, you can do it before they even arrive in your home, so they don’t have to get confident at driving while they are learning everything else.

I’ve found that the videos and visual learning approach really helps an APs understanding– much more effectively than handing them the printed drivers’ manual.  The videos review in detail the different road signs, rules, and regulations, etc. These are typically the things that we have seen APs really struggle with in the past.  You can repeat the sections as many times as you like.

Polish Their Driving Before They Get Here

I find that sending them the (pre-paid) link to the driving course while they are still in their home country allows them to focus on the material better (vs when they are starstruck and drinking from the firehose upon arrival here and trying to also learn our family, schedule, routine, city and US).

All our APs who have taken the online course have felt a lot better about driving here.

The course also also made things easier for me, since we were able to ramp quickly getting au pairs adjusted to our cars and neighborhood. All they needed to practice was parallel parking.  ;)

Bonus for Texas Host Families:   The online driving course has a final exam at the end that counts as the written test here in Tx. That means that, for me, I have one less trip to the DMV. That’s worth the price of the course to me!  ($40-80 usually depending on state and course).

Polish Their Driving, Polish Their English

The videos and tests are all in English.  (You might be able to take them in other languages but I have never looked into it).  Ironically, the online course tends to help their English! APs can take notes, look up the words they don’t understand and then watch the video again to make sure they understand.

The Online Course Serves As Another Test: Of Enthusiasm

This is probably me reading too much into it, so I caution myself and others, but I also like that I can see how they approach the whole task of getting ready to arrive.

For example, our first AP really struggled and it took her over 5 weeks to complete the online course!  Our second had it done in 4 days during her holiday break with her family.  Our incoming AP this November is chomping at the bit to get started on it but we are waiting until closer to her arrival so the info will stay fresh.

If, however, I matched with an AP that either didn’t make it a priority to work on the course (not that it needs to be done in 4 days, but if I pay for it and send to them and they haven’t logged in within a week I would start wondering) or if for some reason she can’t pass the quizzes (never had this happen) then those would be big red flags for me. This might help us dodge a bullet and find another match in time.

 Have any other host parents or au pairs used online driving courses? Have they helped?

~ TexasHM

 

See Also:

The Best $98 You Can Spend on Your New Au Pair

Driven to the edge because my Au Pair can’t drive

 

 

image: Can I Drive? from Flickr

{ 40 comments }

TexasHM September 5, 2014 at 7:44 pm

I’d love to know too what other things other HPs send to their APs to help them prepare before they leave home. I thought the custom google map idea was great and will use that too, just wondering if anyone has found anything else that helps them ramp up by improving their driving, area knowledge or English.

WarmStateMomma September 5, 2014 at 9:30 pm

I sent the custom Google map, not realizing that Google is blocked in China. I also sent links to California’s DMV website (because it had some good videos on what to do and what not to do), but those were also blocked (part of the Chinese conspiracy to ensure terrible driving?). I send Wikipedia links for our city and its Chinese community. I also send links for Amazon and Target, so they can decide what to bring from home and what to buy here.

DowntownMom September 5, 2014 at 9:05 pm

We have sent the DMV manual for our state for the past few years since one of our au pairs got frustrated by the delay of getting her license upon arrival. I explained to the next one how important it was to get a head start by reading the manual before her arrival. When she arrived, she had never even downloaded the manual (she was by far the worst au pair, driver, and roommate we have had). The next out-of-country au pair received the manual months ahead of her arrival, would have had plenty of time to read it, and it took her over half a year to obtain her license. Recently, we have had better luck (luck, since we are not the best at interviewing) and no issues.

Additionally, we send the handbook, a “micromanagement” sheet with daily tasks, and links to fun events and attractions in the area.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 5, 2014 at 11:49 pm

After AP #8 drove headfirst into an SUV that had the right of way, our insurance has required our APs to hold a valid U.S. license at our first renwal (4 months after the AP arrives). We tell each woman now that it’s her priority.

skny September 5, 2014 at 9:50 pm

would you post a link? cant find it
thanks!

CAHostMom September 8, 2014 at 3:50 pm

I too would appreciate the link. Thank you!

TexasHM September 8, 2014 at 7:10 pm

The link I have is for the Texas one, if you google “adult drivers education online course (your state)” you should get a list of options. Let me know if that doesn’t work and I’ll post the link for the Texas one and that company I know does it for all 50 states so you might be able to browse through to another state. :)

Taking a Computer Lunch September 8, 2014 at 9:46 pm

If your LCC has a blog, then check it. Ours provides lots of useful links. Regulations change all the time, and a great LCC stays on top of them, so ask her questions. Remember licensing is done at the state level, so access to manuals, sample driving tests, etc., may vary.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 5, 2014 at 11:47 pm

For European APs, I wouldn’t worry – even if they have never driven in a city before. One Brazilian AP had earned her license the old-fashioned way (she bribed the examiner), the other was an excellent driver. Our Chinese AP was hopeless. Eventually, she became what I would call an advanced beginner, and after 6 months with us our LCC advised us to stop begging her to take her licensing exam (we didn’t want to extend with her – and her failure to earn a state license was the easy way out).

WarmStateMomma September 5, 2014 at 11:54 pm

10 months into our AP#1’s year, she still couldn’t park between the lines in an empty parking lot. She insisted on taking the road test anyway. The examiner said she was a danger to herself and couldn’t return to retake the test. I never imagined that someone could be incapable of learning to drive, but it’s possible. Of course, she thought she knew how to drive because she bought a license in China….

Old China Hand September 6, 2014 at 1:11 pm

You don’t have to buy the license in china to still be unable to drive. The test is very specific and you can learn all the skills to pass the test without knowing how to really drive. Our ap was like that, I think. I never let her drive. I know this from a student of mine who is from shanghai. She has a license but considers herself to not know how to drive. She considers that she knows how to pass the Chinese driving test. Our ap said her parents offered to buy her a license but she insisted that she needed to pass the test herself. We decided that we don’t care if our ap drives and would rather not pay for the insurance, so we don’t allow it. We give her a bike to use instead. But, we live in a small town where the college kids don’t usually have cars, so the only inconvenience to us is getting her to cluster events.

WarmStateMomma September 6, 2014 at 8:26 pm

@OCH: our AP didn’t think she’d “purchased” her license, but she paid a fee, took some classes/exams, and finished with a license. And zero time behind the wheel on the open road. From what she and AP#2 tell me, the written exams were rigorous and they think the parking lot test was rigorous, but neither learned to really drive in China. I suspect it’s because skill is not required to pass the exams.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 8, 2014 at 6:47 am

That was my experience with the Chinese AP we hosted. Her driving was as bad as a 16-year-old’s on the first day out when she arrived, and eventually – with a police-run driving program and then ten sessions with a program she found on her own, she drove tolerably. However, we had a very snowy winter and she refused to drive (which led me to scream, “Why bother having an AP?” – because I had to take 4 hours of leave every time The Camel had a drs. appt. – had to go home, pick up AP & car, then go to The Camel’s school and pick her up…) After three months of snowy weather, we refused to let her drive until she could demonstrate to HD that she could handle it – and we discovered we were back to ground zero! She never took any of the steps to obtain a U.S. license, and so we used that as our excuse not to extend with her.

On the other hand, I had a young German AP, who drove well enough, but had two documented incidents of what I called “distracted driving.” The first time she plowed past a school bus with flashing lights on a narrow side-street (seen by another parent in our carpool), days after DH warned her about stopping for them. She plowed headfirst into a moving hummer during the second incident – having failed to yield at a stop sign. After the second incident we made her paying for a driving session conditional upon staying with us – and gave the car a 10:00 curfew – on the theory that she wouldn’t be driving it when she was super tired.

WarmStateMomma September 8, 2014 at 7:14 am

I hear you. My baby was sick one day and needed to get to the ER. I was stuck downtown with no car and couldn’t get her there. It was pretty scary/frustrating because when I thought about it, the 10-yo neighbor kid would have been a safer bet for driving than the AP. (At least he knows the basics of where the car should go….) Luckily, his dad was home and drove my baby and AP#1 to the hospital (and I met them there).

I want to find our next match before Thanksgiving and the driving issue is our biggest challenge.

Seattle Mom September 8, 2014 at 12:37 am

I did have one French AP who was a pretty bad driver.. worse than my Thai AP. But I think she would have improved over time- we ended up rematching over different issues that would not have improved over time.

Peachtree Mom September 6, 2014 at 7:43 am

For their driving I send them a link to the DMV manual but like TX Host Mom I found that online course for about $40 that I will send next time. In addition, after they get here we bite the bullet and enroll them in driving school which is 30 hours classroom time and 12 hours on the road time with night driving…..costs about $780. The school is great and the owner gives my husband regular reports and recommendations and his final exam also counts for the DMV test. The one au pair we cheaped out on and skipped the school with (she was from Germany, 26, GREAT driver, worked part time as a taxi driver) got into an accident and totaled the Escape and did a fair amount of damage to a BMW SUV (2 claims still pending from almost a year ago). She knew nothing about a turn arrow and turned left to cross 3 lanes on a busy road. She never saw the other SUV coming until it was in the front end. Thank goodness no one was hurt. We decided it was way cheaper (in terms of money, safety, lost sleep, ulcers) to fork over the $800 and have a safe driver than to go through that again. I also send links to our subdivision and the Chamber of Commerce website to see the upcoming festivals and events.

NJmama September 6, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Our insurance requires the au pairs to get their driver’s license 60 days after arrival. (May be a state law in NJ). The day after they come my husband spends a lot of time driving them to and from all the places they’ll need to go (school, dance, music lessons, pediatrician, community college). I have directions typed out so the au pair gets used to going the same every time until the area is more familiar. And we hand them the drivers manual so they can start studying. We had a gps but now they use google maps on the phone. In the first few days I think we spend more time on driving than anything!

I used to be pretty strict about having the au pairs only use the car during the day and for kid-related activities until they pass their written exam. It was/is a great motivator. For the most part I have lucked out on having good drivers – the one that got into an accident of course was the one we loosened the rules for before we were truly comfortable with her driving (and she didn’t last long anyway). She was a German girl and they are typically very good drivers because they have to go through a lot of testing to obtain their license. But this one told me after the accident that she had failed twice in getting her license and basically flirted her way through passing the third time.

This is sort of embarrassing because I have never thought to send a link to the manual ahead of time. I ask A LOT of driving-related questions in the interview because a big part of what my au pair does is drive my girls around. But hats off to TexasHM for coming up with this idea. Will def look into this for the next one.

Texas5TimeHostMom September 6, 2014 at 12:47 pm

I’m also a Texas Host Mom and have used the online course for all of my au pairs. In fact, if they are under 24 in TX I think they are required to take it to get their license so there is no getting around it. For one that was a horrible driver I did the online test and in car lessons. Ouch.

TexasHM September 6, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Some kind of drivers ed course is required in TX for everyone under 25 but other HPs had sent them to a driving school for traditional drivers ed. I tried the course when first (almost 27 yr old) AP struggled and then thought “I wish I would have sent this to her two months ago while she was home twiddling her thumbs dying to arrive” and that’s what we did with #2 and now several HP friends have been doing it as well and it seems to help! I’ll take any edge I can get to make the transition smoother and less stressful!

QuirkyMom September 7, 2014 at 10:07 am

I think the online driving course and sending the state’s driving manual are both fabulous ideas and I’m going to follow through on both of those this time around. Both of our au pairs this last year had speeding tickets (camera traps), one passed a stopped school bus, both had minor accidents….well, minor in that no one was hurt, but one was a two-car fender bender and we had to pay the other person’s repair costs as well as our own, and the other was a one-car accident that did major damage to our front end. Between the deductibles, the out-of-pocket costs, the added insurance costs and increased insurance rates, and the tickets that we ended up covering for various reasons, it’s been an expensive year!

This time around, we are going to require an initial driving evaluation with a local driving instructor who is used to evaluating au pairs (we live in the DC metro area).
And I’m also going to talk to our insurance company about whether completing a safe driving course might help shave the insurance rates down!

Question — after the one accident that we had to submit to insurance, the company raised our premiums. I would assume that getting a new au pair would take our rates down to what they were when we first put the au pair on our insurance (i.e. pre-accident) but does anyone have any experience with how getting a new au pair affects insurance rates?

CAmom22 September 12, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Our AP#3 had an accident on her record pre-arrival (totally dropped the ball on the interview on that one!) so our insurance rates were jacked up the year she was with us. As soon as #4 arrived though, insurance went back down to reflect the better driving history of #4.

caring hp September 7, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Quirkymom: depends on the insurance. Usually they calculate based on many factors including (1) the safety record of the individuals drivers listed on the policy (so in your case yes when the ap with accident history is removed from your policy and you (hopefully) add an ap who is cheaper to insure, your rate will be less) and (2) the overall number of claims on your policy (they usually give discounts if your policy has had no claims for some years and if you have claims and they don’t give “accident forgiveness” even if the person driving during the accident leaves your home and policy it could be 3 to 5 years before your rates go back down). Try negotiating with the insurance company.
Btw: another reason to make the ap get an American license immediately. …. some insurances charge a FORTUNE extra for international licensed drivers and even if they get an American license 2 weeks after arrival they won’t reduce the rate until next policy renewal.

For kid safety and more affordable insurance we try for:
Older au pairs
American licensed
Verified clean accident and driving history
Experience driving on our kind of roads
Send them videos of our type of roads and car
Send them our state rules of the road as a printed document by mail and via email before arrival

Send them Black and white metrics on how many miles a day they drive for us and photos of the roads so they see the big junctions

And…. we will not insure them or let them have our car until they get an American license which we help them get the week they arrive.
We take her driving with us hours on week 1 under the limited guest rules of our policy to practice for test or send her with a driving school.
This way we can do an immediate rematch if driving isn’t already safe or likely to be safe shortly. If all is well we put her on our policy as an American licensed driver from day 1 so we don’t have the international license rate hike. Some companies won’t even consider insuring non American licensed drivers.

Another tip always have in country au pairs send you photo of front and back of American license if they have one. Ask your insurance to run the license number and give you a quote. They can tell if she has an accident in her file. If she has no American license, before you match go on Google and find a driving school near her and pay them to take her out for an hour or 2 and call you with evaluation. Hassle but better than jeopardizing your kids safety or costing you your home in a liability law suit.

SwissAuPair September 8, 2014 at 1:34 am

I was just reading the “The Best $98 You Can Spend on Your New Au Pair” topic I kind of had the same problem. I have my own (manual) car back home and drove every day for 50km or more. I really love to drive, I really love cars and I drive now for more than 4 years without even a scratch on the car. Then, first I came to England. It was not only the left-hand-traffic, but also the automatic car! I took 4 Driving lessons to feel safe in the Birtish Traffic. Great, but then the Hostparents were driving with me, and I really felt like at the driving test 4 years ago.

I’m very very very scared before tests. I had to take my driving test 3 times just because I was so nervous that I fist was not even able to start the car. That was horrible. I drove perfectly with my driving-teacher and perfectly with my parents (In Switzerland it is allowed to drive with parents while you learn to drive), but when it came to the test I totally freaked out (I do have that with almost every kind of important test). Fortunately I had a very nice examiner, that just told me to drive to “*** railway-station” and then to *** with use of the highway… Not like it is usual “now to the right! Now left!” So I passed the test without problems then.

But back to England. The situation with the parents made me kind of freak out (just a bit). I drove bad the first time. And I told them that I was just so nervous. So they called the driving-teacher i had in England, and he told them that i drove perfectly fine. Then the parents made kind of a “secret-test”. They once called me, if I could not please drive the HM-Sister to the doctor for some reason. And I was like okay I will. I was absolutely not nervous and just drove as normal. The parents afterwards told me that they now feel safe to let me drive alone. I was so happy that they did that kind of test, and it is maybe also an option for other HP, when the AP tells you, that they are just so nervous when you sit in the car.

I also was in the US for a roadtrip, and first when I arrived I took myself to a driving-school. Just to learn about the rules and to be able to ask for special laws in each state i wanted to drive. After 3 Months I still felt not very comfortable to turn right when the traffic-light was red.

Emerald City HM September 9, 2014 at 11:16 am

Our new au pair “can” drive, but as of right now it makes me incredibly nervous. She has been driving for 8 years, but from a country where they don’t test, you don’t have to take courses, you just pay (I think it’s slowly changing, but she said she just paid the fees to get her license all those years ago).

Anyway, she failed the first driving test for not stopping completely at a stop sign. She passed the second time. However, on the way home from the DOL she ran a red light with my husband in the car (right turn on red, didn’t stop). DH said she hardly even slowed down enough to really look at first, but she did stop when he shouted stop after she was partway through the turn and then was going to back up. Luckily there was no traffic and no people crossing the road.

When we asked her about it later, she said she wasn’t sure when you needed to stop and when you didn’t (there wasn’t a sign that said ” no turn on red”) so she just went.

I looked up the online traffic schools for WA, but so far the one I found it requires that you put in your court order, though the Texas one you can volunteer to take. I’m totally willing to pay for this for her, I’m just wondering if it will help though. I know we’ve talked about stopping on red before turning (because I failed my first driver test for not). I just don’t know how to handle an au pair that doesn’t know when she’s supposed to stop.

This just happened, so we told her to go through the driver manual and write down all the times it says when she is supposed to stop (I want to know that she is aware of school buses, broken traffic lights, and blinking red) and also write down when she is allowed to resume driving after stopping.

For the host moms that have done this, does it help with those drivers that come from countires where the stop sign rules might be more lax than ours? Is there any feedback? Like how do you know they completed the course? Does it help with someone that has that many years of “bad driving habits”?

WarmStateMomma September 9, 2014 at 1:11 pm

I feel you. AP#1 didn’t know what stoplights were for. AP#2 didn’t know about stop signs. We didn’t teach them about right on red because it’s probably only going to lead to an accident and it’s only going to annoy the cars behind them (as opposed to harm anyone).

We paid for a driving school to give AP#2 a few hours of private instruction on the road. That boosted the AP’s confidence but not her skill level. After failing the road test a couple more times, she practiced for a couple of afternoons with a retired friend. That helped a lot, but she’s still not ready for heavily congested areas or complex interchanges. In fact, we just got our car out of the shop yesterday after she swiped another car going 60 mph on a freeway (we didn’t know she was planning to drive on that solo). She said she was unsure about where she was going and the GPS wasn’t being clear. I’m wondering if the GPS needs to go…. We are going to have a talk with her soon about putting restrictions on car usage now that we know she doesn’t pay attention when she should.

Emerald City HM September 9, 2014 at 1:53 pm

You might try what we did for the GPS.

I changed the setting on the GPS to “Avoid Highways” (at least for now).

For our previous au pair, we changed the spoken language to Japanese because her english wasn’t great and I think that helped her.

Her city allows for right turns on red (in theory that is after stopping, but again, I’m not sure if the stopping part is actually followed).

WarmStateMomma September 9, 2014 at 2:23 pm

The highways are unavoidable here, unfortunately. The GPS has this irritating habit of telling you to turn onto Highway X South, but then saying to switch lanes and go north at the last second. The idea seems to be to tell the driver when to take the exit for Highway X, but it’s not advanced enough to tell you which direction on Highway X until it’s too late (given the number of other cars on the road).

You and I would just accept our fate, take the wrong direction, and find a place to turn around. AP#2 did not.

Dorsi September 10, 2014 at 2:01 pm

All of our APs have at first been incredulous about the right turn on red rule. Then they go through a stage where they forget the stop part, and then they seem to get it right. Our first driver got puller over, right after getting her license, for turning right on red without stopping (but no ticket and no collision). The third driver did it with me in the car. I think it is such a weird thing, even for an experienced driver, that it takes them a bit to intuit the right way to do it.

Having said that, I have really appreciated having a driving instructor from a local school evaluate our APs over an hour (or more in some cases). I feel they have so much experience with new drivers they can really check the mistakes people are most likely to make. Also, a lot of ones in our area deal extensively with immigrants/college students from abroad/Au Pairs, so they have a sense of what kinds of problems people have.

TexasHM September 10, 2014 at 12:11 am

So emerald city HM our first terrible driver that inspired this post was Brazilian and had been driving that long and had bad habits and this online course was the only thing we did that I saw marked improvement from. Maybe it’s because the videos are all visual and show the scenarios and spell it out for them and then quizzes to reinforce I don’t know but it helped. Second AP was also Brazilian, had license for 6mos (I know you all are thinking I was nuts right now) but was super smart and motivated so we sent her the link before she came and took a chance and it worked. She was a great driver, just had to teach her to parallel park. But the signs and scenarios she had down. She was driven so tried to get 100% on every quiz which led to her being tuned in and rewatching anything she wasn’t sure on. For the cost ($40-80) I would pay it even if my state didn’t need it for the AP for the reasons I said above – get them acclimated when they aren’t overstimulated and can focus, see how motivated they are and how they score and lucky side effect it helped them improve their English.
As for the GPS, we have a no GPS rule until they show they can read a map, learn directions and know the area. Our first AP (terrible) would have followed the GPS into the lake (anyone else love that Office episode?!). After we had a miscommunication and she drove 50min away via GPS and highways (neither permitted) with AP friends I asked her which general direction she had gone to prove a point (if there was an issue, we have no way to find you without you giving us directions). Guess what? She said SW. Yeah she went NE. Enough said. We also make sure they can use a GPS responsibly (assuming they get to that level – AP1 never did). Meaning discuss not swerving across lanes, braking sharply, how to take the next u turn safely, etc.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 10, 2014 at 7:11 am

Our first two APs had to learn to read a map because we didn’t have a GPS. They became expert navigators (meaning if one way was blocked, then they could figure out what the best alternative was). We acquired a van with GPS just before AP #3 arrived (but she, too, often looked at Mapquest before she headed out, to see what the alternatives were, but never really became an expert navigator). AP #7 purchased a GPS for the AP car, for which we reimbursed her at the end of her year. I would say that APs since have relied 100% on the GPS, which prefers the larger roads to the smaller ones, and can take them 10-20 minutes out of their way.

I have an atlas of our greater metro area, which I tell APs is their limit until they acquire a U.S. license. AP #10 said, “But the GPS will get me there.” To which I replied, “That’s not the point.” I don’t want my APs driving to the next city until they’ve made the effort to get the license (unfortunately, with Germans it means doing a prep course and then going to the DMV and surrendering their license – I do like the written and road tests – because it requires a basic mastery of English. Which, I agree, most of my German APs arrive knowing.)

However, if an AP doesn’t know where she is, then she can’t figure out what the best alternative route is when there is an accident or flooding.

CAHostMom September 11, 2014 at 5:12 pm

Hello Fellow AP Moms,
We are currently interviewing for the next lovely AP that will join our family. I have a rather specific (but related) question about choosing between Au pairs when the only differentiator (they are both really amazing!) is driving skills and experience. Candidate 1 drives very frequently, with preschool children in the van (required special license), has been driving for 6 years in a variety of conditions (heavy traffic, weather, etc.). Seemingly near perfect, but the kicker – in her country, they drive on the opposite side of the road than we do here in the US.
Candidate 2 has been an AP before (on her own in a different country) and while she’s been licensed for 8 years, she spent the last 2.5 years as an AP in a country where there was easy access to public transportation so she never needed to drive (read: hasn’t driven hardly at all in 2.5 years). Nor is she as experienced with driving children.
I am quite stuck on this. Do I go with recent and extensive driving experience (on the “wrong” side of the road), or do I go with not as recent, nor extensive experience but the experience that she does have was on the same side of the road that we travel here in the US? Kind of a dilemma (in my head at least).

Does anyone have any advice or suggestions for ways that I could determine the best option?

WarmStateMomma September 11, 2014 at 6:19 pm

I’ve driven in wrong-side-of-the-road countries. It took about 5 minutes to get used to it, although I didn’t have to deal with any major freeways or interchanges. My parents and husband would say the same.

I would take the experienced driver in a heartbeat, but I’ve been struggling with inexperienced drivers.

Returning HM September 11, 2014 at 9:13 pm

I drove in Ireland and England with no problem, both on highways and on windy, scary little roads, and like WSM, it took a very short time to get used to the other side of the road. In fact, towards the end of my year, I broke two of the fingers on my left hand, and my biggest stress was that when I came back to the States, I would not be able to shift my manual car. It wasn’t until I was home that I realized that in the US, we shift with our right hand so my broken left fingers didn’t matter. That is how ingrained driving on the other side – and operating a car with the opposite hand – became to me.

I too would take the experienced driver. We have had to rematch twice over the years due to driving, and now comfort and experience behind the wheel are right at the top of my list of must-haves. Good luck with your decision.

Aussie HM September 11, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Absolutley the driver!!

The important aspects of being a great driver, like safe breaking distance, headchecks and appropriate mirror use, stopping at stop signs etc – all are the same regardless of the side of the road you are on!

Also the fact that she has experience driving with preschoolers in the car, this is something that AP#1 was not familiar with and it took her longer to get used to having the kids in the car than it did drviing on the left!

CAHostMom September 11, 2014 at 10:35 pm

Thank you all! Your feedback has been quite helpful and I am grateful!

NJ Mama September 12, 2014 at 11:37 am

I know I’m late to the party but just wanted to add — our current AP is English but a very experienced driver. And the transition has been nothing but smooth. I think she was more nervous than we were about driving on the “wrong side” when she got here. Although we always put a priority on practicing driving that first weekend, we definitely built more time into the schedule for her, just so she would feel comfortable. We always practice going to and from the house to all the usual places, going the same way each time until they a feel for the area. And I have all of the directions typed out. [It helped that I had an overlap with a former au pair, so I wasn’t as worried about the new one getting up to speed with the kid’s schedule].

I think for her, those first few days of driving were a little taxing but she caught on very fast (one trick she used — she tucked her left foot under her right calf to keep her from hitting the wrong pedal — the car she owned at home was stick shift.) She is definitely one of our best drivers. I’d go with the more experienced driver if you need an AP that drives. She’ll get used to driving on the “wrong side” in no time!

Funny – I used to be more strict about APs not using the GPS for the first few weeks because I wanted them to really learn the area. But then we got one girl who just had the world’s worst sense of direction!!! She was an AMAZING au pair in every other way, and it didn’t help how much she studied the map before she went off. This was just the way she was. So after that I sort of threw in the towel and let her go with the GPS. At least I knew she’d get home eventually!!

QuirkyMom September 12, 2014 at 11:45 am

Chiming in on the “wrong side of the road” issue. One of the reasons we chose our current au pair was because she’d been driving in England for a number of years, worked in a preschool, had driven kids in vans, etc. Turns out she had failed her English exam six times before finally passing, and it took her forever to get her license here, because she choked on the written exam at twice and on the practical exam once. I know the British test is harder than the American one, but still. She finally had to take lessons with a driving instructor to get enough confidence to pass, and she is still a much more nervous driver than she should be — very easily flustered. She also drove way too close to the right hand side of the road for many months — I was concerned about whether she’d side-swipe the curb. She also did major damage to our front end in a car-vs.-pillar in a parking garage, Which is all by way of saying — from now on I am going to ask not only about how long they’ve been driving, but how many tries it took to pass the exam. I’m also going to be much more proactive in terms of having a new au pair get evaluated by a driving instructor right away.

Related question — I know APIA offers an optional 1-day classroom class offered by AAA as part of the orientation process. Does anyone have any positive or negative feedback about this class? Does it have any impacts on insurance rates? It’s $250 and since it’s classroom-only I’m thinking that would be more cost-effective to put the money towards a driving instructor or hands-on safe driving class.

CAHostMom September 12, 2014 at 12:05 pm

We are also with APIA and looked into that AAA course with our current AP when she arrived last year. My husband determined that it really wasn’t worth it and our money was better spent on an instructor led session once our AP arrived to our area. Fortunately our AP didn’t require that instruction and proved to be a great driver. If I can get him to recall details about why he felt it wasn’t a good investment I’ll come back and post them here.

NoVA Twin Mom September 12, 2014 at 12:50 pm

I looked into it, but it’s only classroom instruction. If they could somehow set them down on an actual road and make them drive, then I’d consider sending our au pairs there. Of course, most of our au pairs have been from northern Europe, where it’s much harder to get a license. But I see APIA’s course as “book” learning when what most young people learning to drive in another country need is “hand on” learning. So we’ve skipped it so far.

Callie Marie June 30, 2015 at 5:01 pm

It’s interesting how many resources there are out there just for aupairs. Paying for a course in an online driving school can help her learn a valuable skill. It will also keep your family safe.

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