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Aug 26, 2019

7 min. read

A guide to getting new drivers on the road.

Even though Kayleigh Furtado has only had her learner's permit for a few months, she already has some good advice for new drivers. "Being anxious or scared of the road and people on the road will make your experience more difficult and nerve wracking. You should be aware and alert, but you should not be scared."

The 16-year-old's confidence stems from not only taking a high school driver education class—which she credits for giving her practical experience behind the wheel—but also the support she receives from her parents and others willing to sit in the passenger seat.

"I've been practicing driving almost every single day with my parents and other family members. I have done lane changes on busy roads like Portage Avenue, while maintaining a steady speed and practicing pedal control," she says. "The more I do these things, the better I'll feel about them during my road test and when I'm actually driving on my own."

That's the thought process behind Manitoba Public Insurance's (MPI) new Driver Z Program, which places greater emphasis on in-car practice time both with an instructor and a team of "co-pilots." These driving coaches are typically parents and other family members, but it could be any fully licensed driver who wants to support a young driver's development.

Students are now allowed to invite up to eight co-pilots to help them achieve the required hours of in-car practice time—which recently jumped from 24 to 45 hours—meaning extended family members can share the responsibility of supporting the student. This team approach helps provide the teen with more opportunity to practice and learn from different role models. It also helps them get comfortable driving with various people.

"In-class learning can help shape good driving habits, but in-car practice really develops critical-thinking skills," says Maria Minenna, MPI's manager of driver education and training. "It also builds the confidence of novice drivers, which will help reduce risky behaviours behind the wheel."

MPI has also developed online learning modules and support tools for co-pilots to feel more confident in their own driving ability. "Statistics show that the more engaged a parent or co-pilot is in their kid's driver education, the less likely it is for that child to be involved in a collision. Our goal is to set students up for success," Minenna says. Because young drivers are over-represented in collisions, MPI's program changes are designed to improve their driving ability, reduce risk and prevent fatal or painful—and potentially costly—collisions.

So, does Furtado think she has what it takes to become a full-fledged driver? Aside from some parallel-parking jitters, she says yes. "I've been told that the best way to pass your road test is be calm. Just follow the rules of the road and you'll be fine."

Testing, testing.

They may worry about knocking over a pylon or forgetting their blinker, but new drivers need not fear the road test. "The more young drivers practice before they take their road test, the more confident they'll feel," says MPI's Maria Minenna. Here, she shares more behind-the-wheel secrets.

When's the best time to do a test?

The time of day and the density of traffic shouldn't matter because, at some point, teens will have to drive in these conditions. They should practice driving at all times of day in different driving conditions so they're confident to take the test at any time.

What vehicle should a new driver use for their test?

Use the car or vehicle you've been practicing in. You'll be more familiar with the size and how the vehicle handles, so you can then just focus on taking the road test. Make sure everything is in working order—things like blinkers and parking brakes—and ensure you know how to use them.

What are some of the most common mistakes during a driving test?

Establishing yourself for a left turn. A lot of people who have been driving for years don't even know how to do this properly. So that's something to certainly practice during in-car sessions (check out MPI's 60 Second Driver video series on YouTube for a step-by-step how-to).

What are some other tips for a successful road test?

Drivers not only need to focus on what they're doing but also be aware of what other drivers are doing around them. You have no way of knowing what other drivers are going to do and need to anticipate their moves ahead of time. Keep your eyes on the road and pay attention to what's happening all around your vehicle. The person who administers the test will be looking for your defensive driving skills.

What happens if you fail a road test?

Discuss with the person who administered your test what areas you could improve upon, and then practice, practice, practice. You're allowed to attempt the test four times before having to take two hours of professional driving lessons.

Press play.

MPI's new Driver Z Program uses eLearning to get new drivers in the zone.

This is not your parent's driver's ed: It's driver education for the next generation. Using a combination of interactive apps with videos and animations, in-class lessons and in-car experience, drivers progress through a series of "zones" to gain the tools, knowledge and confidence to improve their driving ability, reduce risk, prevent collisions and become a long-term safe driver.

Before their first class, students must complete Zone 1 (29 activities) in the online app, which could take up to 12 hours. This means in-class hours are being reduced from 34 to 20 hours. But moving some of the in-class learning into a more engaging online format allows students the flexibility to learn at their own pace in the comfort of their own environment.

The app also makes it easy for students to track and share progress, earn stars and badges for excelling through the program, as well as see how they're doing compared to classmates on the online leader board. In-class time builds on what students have learned in order to pass their knowledge test for a learner licence (also known as Class 5L).

My kid is turning 16... now what?


Get ready to register for Driver Z! After the new driver registers, they'll receive an email invitation to start eLearning lessons in the Driver Z app 30 days before the first class. All 29 lessons in the introductory Zone 1 must be completed before moving on to the in-class learning sessions. Visit apps.mpi.mb.ca/DL/CourseFinder.aspx to view a list of schools offering the program.

Learner's test.

Once a teen is 16 (or 15 1/2 and enrolled in driver ed), has parental consent and passes the vision test, they can take MPI's knowledge test (the first attempt is included in Driver Z; the second costs $10). Visit any of CAA's Autopac agents to schedule the test and pay for it.

If they pass, drivers can purchase a Class 5L driver's licence ($65 annually, but will be pro-rated if they'll be driving less than 11 months)

Step 1: In-car lessons with instructor.

Students in the Driver Z program must complete 15 hours of in-car training with an instructor, including a readiness assessment. A driving course is the best way to learn how to handle a car. Practice sessions will build on those skills.

Step 2: In-car lessons with co-pilot.

Co-pilots might want to take a brush-up lesson to ensure they teach good driving habits. Teens should drive with a co-pilot for at least 45 hours. Download a coaching guide at mpi.mb.ca. Be mindful of Class 5L restrictions (visit mpi.mb.ca for a full list).

Step 3: 9 months later.

If a driver has gained sufficient skill in basic driving maneuvers, is at least 16 years of age and has held a valid Class 5L licence for at least nine months, they can take a road test.

Step 4: Class 5 road test.

Register for the Class 5 basic road test ($30) with an Autopac agent at your local CAA store. Teens must demonstrate starting, stopping, steering, shifting, signalling, reversing, turning and parking.

Pass the test?


If your teen nailed the road test, they graduate to the Class 5I licence stage. This stage is less restrictive on the number of people that can be in the car and times when teens can drive.


There is a 14-day waiting period before drivers may take the test again. After four unsuccessful attempts, the driver must take instruction from an MPI-designated driving school before another road test.

15 months later.

Congrats! Your teen has graduated to the full stage of the Graduated Driver's Licence (GDL). But for the first 26 months, they must continue driving with a zero-percent blood-alcohol concentration. They can now drive, GDL-restriction-free.

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