RAISING SAFER TEEN DRIVERS
Hey there, Parents!
Life is great isn’t it? You have your bills under control. You just came back from a family vacation where the whole family didn’t fight with each other.
Yeah, life is great.
But there’s one simple phrase though pushes all that happiness, all that relaxation back into oblivion. Those 5 words many parents dread to hear…
“I start driving next year.”
For parents, those words can be terrifying on so many levels. Let’s ignore the “we’re all getting older so fast” part and focus on what this means for you, the parent.
Teaching teenagers to be safe drivers can be fun. And, while not exactly simple, it will absolutely be rewarding.
Here are a few basic tips that as parents, and experienced drivers, we can use while training your teen to drive.
1. LEAD BY EXAMPLE
Before they were a 14- or 15-year-old talking to you about wanting to drive, they were a 3-year-old, a 9-year-old, an 11-year-old.
What did they do and what do they STILL do when you’re driving?
They pay attention.
Every person you yell at for being “stupid” is noted. Each lane change without proper protocol is watched.
I’ve always been amazed at a teen’s ability to look like they aren’t paying attention only to have them repeat verbatim to me what I said.
As cliché as it sounds, they learn by watching you. So before we even start this adventure of learning to drive, hopefully they’ve already had years of practice. This is one of their first steps into an “adult” world. What they’ve seen from adults is how they think they are supposed to act.
Show them how you want them to drive by being that driver. …always.
2. RESEARCH AS WELL AS TEACH
One thing that really woke me up to the seriousness of driving was statistics.
The newspaper reports on car crashes, but it doesn’t report all of them.
Texas.gov is the State’s website. The state keeps records every year on just about every type of car collision statistic you can imagine: crashes by county, by driver’s age, by category.
I have a calendar for every year from 2003 to 2016 that shows how many people die in car accidents in Texas every day.
While learning to drive and driving itself if fun, young children need to learn quickly that it’s also dangerous and very deadly. Especially to the 18-24 age group that dies in car accidents 3 times more often than any other age.
Since 2003, Texas has not had a single day where nobody died on Texas roads.
Morbid? Yes. But these are the types of things I want my teenager knowing about every time they sat behind the driver’s seat. It’s one thing to teach HOW to be safer teen drivers.
But the realities of what they’re doing will give a reason WHY to do it as well.
And if you’ve raised a child to become a teenager, you already know that they’re more likely to do something if they understand why also.
3. PAY ATTENTION
Parents and kids have a superhero power. The power to ignore. The power to half listen.
The first few times you have your child behind the wheel you will be paying close attention to everything they do.
But after a while, the initial fear will wear off, and you’ll start to feel more comfortable as they improve. You may feel so comfortable that you want to call home and tell your spouse how great they are doing, take a quick picture of them driving for your social media page, maybe even lean back, close your eyes and relax. Enjoy what it feels like being driven around for once.
Do yourself a favor: stop.
Stop right there and remember that they are still brand new at driving.
A staggering amount of drivers have their first accident in the first year. You’re in the car with them during that window.
For your safety – for their safety – keep your eyes working like you’re the one driving so when that difficult situation comes up, you are just as focused as they are.
I remember my driver’s ed instructor had a wheel and brakes on his side when I was in training. Why? Because they are needed.
But you don’t have brakes on your side to stop your teen driving student from driving through a stop sign they don’t see. The best thing you can do is pay attention.
4. RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY
Knowing the law of course is a great thing.
But when (not if) they get that first ticket, they will many times have their first experience with law enforcement. For a scared teen, this can be intimidating.
With law enforcement being the tough subject is has been lately, take some time to talk with your new driver how to handle being pulled over. The state has added this to every driver education course and defensive driving class in Texas.
But you should cover it, too, so your teen knows you take it seriously.
And like I said earlier about being an example, let your child see you act this way if you get pulled over.
- Pull over all the way to the right side of the road
- Turn the engine off. Put the keys on top of dash, then keep both your hands on wheel
- If it’s night time, turn on dome light
- Lower your window all the way
- Have license and insurance within easy reach, but don’t reach for it until asked. If you have a CDL it is required to show that at the same time as well.
- Put out any cigarettes and turn off radio
If you do these things, the officers know that you’re not going to drive off in a hurry. They know you’re not reaching down to hide or get something. Most importantly, they know they’re going to leave this stop safely.
Parents, of course this is only a tiny amount of things that need to be considered while training kids to be safer teen drivers.
The days when we learned how to drive are over. Pumping the brakes isn’t a thing since the 90s. Yield signs stopped being yellow in 1986. And I can’t remember the last time I saw anyone try to fold a road map.
When you get in that car, put on that seat belt as a passenger for the first time while your child drives, it’s going to be a wonderful experience. …a wonderful and sometimes terrifying experience.
Just don’t be apathetic.
Being a safer driver is also a large part of Comedy Guys’ defensive driving classes, also.
Whether you take our online driving safety course or one of our live defensive driving classes, making safer drivers is our main focus. Sure, you can qualify for an auto insurance discount, or get a Texas speeding ticket dismissed. But we really want you to walk of our class with the information and motivation to drive more safely.
And remember Comedy Guys also when you need a driver education course for your teenager. We have the same approach there: solid education with comedy to keep the boredom away.