Setting Your Teen Driver Up For Success
June 15th, 2017 by Eli P
It’s a time many parents dread – your teenager is ready and anxious to drive and looking to you to teach them how. Here’s how to safely set you teen driver up for success.
Start Slow and Easy
Before setting out on the road, find an empty parking lot where your teen can safely practice basic driving skills, such as applying the gas pedal and brakes, driving straight, turning, backing up, and more. As your teen develops proficiency in these areas, move on to more advanced skills like smooth acceleration and braking, parking, and scanning the areas on all sides of the car.
When your teen is ready to test their skills among other drivers, start on low-speed, low-traffic roads. Avoid inclement weather, poor maintained roads or other unsafe driving conditions. To ensure a safe driving lesson:
- Have a planned route. Explain in advance where you’re going and which roads you will take. Not having to make decisions about where to go will allow your teen to focus exclusively on driving.
- No surprises! Give your teen advance warning on what you want them to do, such as turn at the next intersection. Unless it involves a driving comment or safety issue, keep your talking to a minimum to avoid distractions.
- Immediately address mistakes. If your teen driver makes a mistake, have them pull over at the first safe opportunity to discuss the situation. Simply explain the error and what they should do differently next time.
- Monitor your teen’s frame of mind. In addition to their driving, keep a close eye on your teen’s emotional state. If they seem to be getting anxious or fearful, bring the session to an end and take over the wheel.
Limit the first few sessions to 15 or 20 minutes. As your teen gains in confidence, gradually increase the time to 30 or 40 minutes. When your teen is ready to take on freeway driving, pick a time when traffic is at a minimum to practice merging on and off the freeway, changing lanes and driving at higher speeds.
Don’t Skip Driving School
Most states require teens to complete a driver training course offered by a professional driving school. Some also require completion of a high school driver’s education course. (Check with your state DMV for specific requirements.) Be sure to select a driving school that is approved by your state DMV, otherwise, the course will not fulfill the driver training requirement.
Professional driving schools offer many advantages to new drivers. These include:
- Offering specialized instruction from trained professionals
- Teaching the information needed to pass the state’s written and driving tests
- Modeling good driving etiquette and reinforcing best practices
- A chance to practice driving without the pressure of mom or dad watching
Many driving schools also offer tips for specific regional driving conditions, such as freeway driving, handling local weather conditions, or navigating congested city streets.
Emphasize these Safety Best Practices
To reinforce the importance of driving safely:
- Teach your teen to always have a “safety zone” around the car to provide ample time to react to unexpected situations.
- Teach your teen driver to respond to what other drivers are actually doing rather than what they should be doing.
- Never contradict instruction given by your teen’s professional instructor. This will confuse your teen and make them less willing to listen to their instructor.
Set Non-Negotiable Ground Rules
Your teenager finally has the coveted driver’s license. Before handing over the car keys, set the following “rules of the road” to protect your new driver:
- Absolutely no distractions. That means no phone calls, texting, or fooling around with iPods or others device that take their attention off the road.
- No exceeding passenger limits. Make sure your teen follows all state laws regarding the number of passengers they can legally have in the car with them.
- No speeding. If your teen driver gets caught speeding, their driving privileges are revoked until further notice. Period. End of discussion.
- Seatbelts are not optional. Seatbelts are to be worn at all times
- No drugs. This is a no-brainer.
Finally, never give in on the issue of texting while driving. Numerous studies have shown that texting behind the wheel is actually more dangerous than drunk driving. If your teen decides it’s more important to text than drive safely, take away their phone and their driving privileges. It could save their life and the lives of others.
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