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.
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 are 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.
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 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. Every near-miss because you veered out of your line while messing with the radio is seen.
I’ve always been amazed at a teens ability to look like they aren’t paying attention only to have them repeat verbatim to me what I said.
As cliche 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 kind of driver, always.
Research as Well as Teach.
One thing that really woke me up to the seriousness of driving was statistics.
The newspaper reports on car accidents, but it doesn’t report all of them.
Texas.gov is the state government’s website. The state keeps records every year on just about every type of car accident statistic you can imagine.
Accidents counted by county, by age, by various categories.
While learning to drive and driving itself is 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.
I have a calendar for every year from 2003 to 2016 that shows how many people die in car accidents in Texas every day. 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.
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 attention to every detail, but after awhile 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 on like you’re 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.
Because they are needed. You don’t have brakes on your side to stop someone from driving through a stop sign they don’t see.
Respect for Authority
Knowing the law is, of course, a great thing to know, but when — not if — they get that first ticket, they will many times also 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. Looking through the eyes of the policeman as well as the eyes of the person behind the wheel worried about getting a ticket or possibly worse.
- Pull over all the way to the right side of the road. Give the officer room to stand by your door without being threatened by passing cars.
- Turn car off. Put keys on top of dash and both hands on wheel.
- If it’s nighttime, turn on dome light so the officer can see you better.
- Windows down all the way
- Have the license and insurance ready. If you have a CHL, it is required to show that at the same time as well.
- Put out any cigarettes and turn off the radio.
If you do these things, the officer knows you’re not going to drive off in a hurry. He knows you’re not reaching down to hide or get something. He knows he’s going to leave this stop safely.
This is, of course, only a tiny amount of things that need to be considered while teaching a teen to drive.
The days when we learned how to drive are over. Pumping your brakes isn’t a thing in these cars since the 90s. Yield signs stopped being yellow in 1986.
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. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”
Safe teaching and phone off,