Teaching your teenager to drive doesn’t have to be stressful.
That low roar you hear is the collective groan of kids of all ages in our area as they realize back to school time is here. It’s entirely possible that Moms and Dads are also creating a bit of a roar, although it is likely their rumble takes on a slightly more joyous tone. As vacations, trips to Magic Springs, and lazy days at the pool start to wind down, more families will see their young drivers hitting the streets. Time in the sun is replaced by time behind the wheel and in the classroom. Today’s teen drivers face many things that compete for their attention. More than ever, they need adults to help make the experience the best (and safest) it can be.
Your teen driver may go through a formal driver education course before being allowed to get a driver’s license but it’s up to you to help with the supervised driving. These do’s and don’ts will help you navigate the process. And remember, if you have been driving for 20 years or more, things might have changed:
Start simple. Ease your teen into driving by limiting supervised sessions to less than 20 minutes. As your teen gets more confident, he or she will feel more comfortable with longer sessions. Once your teen driver is comfortable with short daylight drives, add nighttime drives. Then include drives in difficult weather conditions such as rain and snow.
Set a good example. When you’re behind the wheel, model the kinds of safe, responsible driving behavior that you’d like to see from your observant teen driver: Don’t drive distracted. Never text or talk on the phone while driving. Always wear your seatbelt and pay attention to how you’re driving, from navigating lane changes to approaching traffic lights and stop signs.
Be patient. Your teen driver has just started to learn, so you can’t expect him or her to know driving rules that seem obvious to experienced drivers. If your teen makes a mistake, reframe it as a learning opportunity: ‘I notice you haven’t checked your rearview mirror in a while. Remember that it’s important to be aware of cars around you at all times. With enough practice, you’ll learn to do this without thinking.’
Allow smartphone use. Using a phone behind the wheel compromises more than a third of your brainpower. Before your teen starts any vehicle, put all the smartphones in the glove compartment–yes, even yours. This way, you’ll both be alert during supervised driving. That’ll make teachable moments that much more effective.
Be negative or critical. Maintain a calm, positive and supportive atmosphere throughout the driving session. This will help your teen develop and maintain good driving habits. Instead of saying, ‘Stop speeding! You’re going to get a ticket!’ try saying, ‘What’s the speed limit on this road?’
We all remember the excitement and trepidation of those first few months and years as a driver. Take some time to be patient and understanding, and implement these suggestions and tools. God bless all of our students as they take on the adventure of a new year! ν