“Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a Daddy.”
Teaching a teenager to drive is one of the most dreaded rites of child-rearing. With many parents required to spend 40 or more hours in the car providing the supervised practice that teens need in order to get their driver’s license, the process is more than just a familiar ritual. It’s a serious commitment. Most parents do a great job teaching the basic skills needed to control the car. Many parents, however, don’t know how to teach young drivers the skills they need to avoid accidents. Another thing young drivers need to be taught early on is that speeding is just not worth it. It will cause them to incur points on their license, pay costly fines (which THEY, not you, will have to pay), may cause their license to be suspended or revoked, or in some cases even land them in jail. As I was learning to drive, my dad put in the time and energy to teach me a few practical driving safety tips that make accident avoidance easier.
- The Basics
Parking is a challenge for many young drivers. Parents like my dad, who are up to the challenge, spend more time working on this simple skill. Steering, braking without stopping short, and accelerating smoothly are all valuable driving skills that teens need before they head to the DMV to take their license test.
- Highway Safety
Driving in heavy traffic panics many teens. Teaching them the skills to cope with it, however, means that when they’re out on the road, they will be less likely to be caught short. Giving them the confidence to safely make left turns into oncoming traffic and offering advice concerning how to merge on and off highways at a high speed will help increase confidence and keep teens safer.
- Driving Diversity
When teens are first learning to drive, their parents often keep them on back roads and in parking lots: safe environments where they won’t be exposed to as many potential problems. As teens spend more time behind the wheel, however, they need diverse places to practice their newfound skills. My dad spent time with me in a variety of driving environments: crowded roads; back roads; highways; turnpikes; and more.
Weather conditions can turn bad in an instant. These conditions are particularly hazardous to teens, who haven’t accumulated the driving experience necessary to be good at handling them. My dad spent time with me on the road under a variety of weather conditions, from bright sunny days when the sun shines into the car and makes it difficult to see, to rainy days when the road is slick and the safe driving speed is lower than normal. We practiced driving at night, driving on snow, and everything else I needed to develop confidence as a young driver.
- Hazard Recognition
Judgment behind the wheel is one of the fundamental skills my father taught me, and one that other young drivers will benefit from, as well. Recognizing potential hazards and avoiding them quickly is an automatic skill for some, but others need it to be taught. My dad taught me to look for potential hazards as I was driving and to think about what I would do if they turned into a serious problem. Where would I go if that car pulled out in front of me? If my brakes slipped at that red light, what would my next move be? As I gained confidence with this test, my ability to avoid those hazards increased substantially.
- Cell Phones
Cell phones are one of the leading causes of distraction among teenage drivers. My dad taught me to stash my cellphone in the glove compartment, where I can’t see it and can’t be tempted to reach for it while I’m driving. This simple technique can help teenagers prepare to be more focused on their driving.
Too many young drivers have their license in hand, but no confidence to go along with it. They’re timid behind the wheel, struggling to manage situations that pop up as they’re driving. My dad instilled a sense of confidence in me that has, many times, made it easier to face conditions on the road and prepare for whatever happens. It takes hours behind the wheel in a variety of conditions, but offering teens those skills will make them better drivers who are more able to handle anything that comes their way.
When lessons are taught patiently, respectfully, and even lovingly, they can penetrate the brain of the most stubborn teen and teach them the value of a lifetime of safe driving habits. The more time a parent spends behind the wheel with their teen, the better the teen’s skills will be. As your teen crosses that critical milestone and learns to drive, giving them the safe driving skills they need will ensure that they’re able to avoid road hazards and reach their destination safely.
Featured photo credit: Audi via audi.co.uk