Learning to drive safely is an important lesson for teens. Only those who fully understand the gravity of the privilege of driving will take the lessons seriously. There are several things that a parent can do to help their teen understand the fine line between responsible and irresponsible driving.
Teach Things That Don’t Happen Behind the Wheel
Before sliding behind the wheel of the vehicle, teens who are learning to drive should understand the basic mechanics of the vehicle. Making sure a teen can pinpoint a problem that arises while driving not only helps them understand that they should be vigilant drivers, but also makes them more confident in their own problem-solving abilities.
Before taking the car out for a drive the first time, a teen should be able to locate and fill the gas tank, know the meaning of the warning lights on the dashboard and know how to change a flat tire. Teens also need to know that they may not always be in a place where they will be able to get help immediately. They should be able to find and use the vehicle operation manual that is in the glove compartment. (Photo: akarmy, Flickr)
Parents have a tendency to forget what it was like to be behind the wheel for the first time. When they take their teen out for a first driving lesson, most parents begin the lesson with heightened awareness and emotion. They may shout directions, breathe heavily, grab for a place in the vehicle where they can hold on or even press their foot down onto the floor towards an imaginary break
Almost every parent commits one of these mistakes while teaching their teen to drive. Regardless of the show they might put on, most teens are very nervous when they realize they are in complete control of 3000 pounds of metal on four small wheels. Jerky movements, impatient sighs and a negative tone of voice will only make a teen more nervous. One good way to keep this from happening is for a parent to practice how they plan on reacting to situations.
Taking long, deep breaths, speaking in soothing, even tones and attempting to keep their body in a relaxed position not only helps keep the parents from over-reacting, but it also helps the student driver stay in the right frame of mind to learn new driving skills. (Photo: akarmy, Flickr)
Take the Lessons a Step at a Time
Letting a new driver attempt a quick trip down the highway to get a feel for the road is not a good way to start driving lessons. Even those who begin confidently are likely to become shaky once they are driving down a busy road with other cars. Teens should start somewhere with plenty of open space and lots of room for error. The lessons should include forward, reverse, stopping and turning. Country roads with plenty of visibility and parking lots are both great places to begin these lessons.
Even when the teen thinks he or she is ready to move to someplace more difficult, it is important that the parent also make sure they feel ready for the child to move on. Lessons that include high speeds and/or close proximity to other vehicles should be left until the teen is completely comfortable behind the wheel and the parent is completely comfortable in the passenger’s seat. (Photo: Andre Um, Flickr)
Be a Good Example
This last tip is probably the hardest to accomplish. However, it is undoubtedly the most important. Teens who see other drivers with road rage, hear inappropriate language or experience driving with those who speed or make reckless decisions while driving are more likely to drive in the same manner. Because teens’ decision making abilities are notoriously impaired, they will assume that if they weren’t injured before, then they won’t be injured now. Just as the teens in this picture are ignoring warning signs on the cliff, teens who are driving may ignore road rules if they believe they can get away without being caught or having an accident.
Parents who stay under the speed limit, obey the rules of the road and are courteous drivers will show their teens that parents also understand that driving is a privilege. Parents should also monitor those with whom their teens ride as passengers. It is important that teens are familiar with the right way to drive so that they can emulate that instead of those who are not respectful of the privilege of driving. (Photo: Richard Masoner, Flickr)