Teach your Teen How to Drive and Survive

September 5, 2009 at 11:29 pm 1 comment

It’s an early winter morning and the roads are slick and frosty. As you travel along a winding country lane you notice a small pickup truck start to pull out of a driveway ahead on the left. His windows are frosty – just as yours were a few minutes back when you got into your car — and you can tell immediately that he doesn’t have a good view of the road he is about to enter. He stops, then starts to roll again right into the path of your approaching vehicle.

This scenario is not uncommon. In fact, it happens all too frequently. But for the seasoned driver who is accustomed to expecting the unexpected, it’s a non-event. You slow down, squeeze the brakes, and tap your honk to immediately get the driver’s attention. He stops his vehicle’s roll and you are quickly sailing on by him with neither harm nor worry.

It’s a simple response for you, but would your newly licensed teen be just as ready to respond as swiftly to the same scenario.

As parents, it’s our job — our priority – to make sure they are.

Teens may not fully appreciate the privilege of driving  or owning a car.

Our teens are our most precious resource, so it’s up to us preserve them by teaching not just how to drive, but how to survive.

Once your teen has his learner’s permit, it’s critically important to become actively involved in the training process. Coordinating and participating every step of the way. Here’s a 7-step path that the two of you can follow to help your teen become a safe and responsible driver.

Seven steps to teaching safe driving:

1) Parking Lot Driving – Find an open parking lot, field, or any pedestrian and vehicle-free area to begin training your teen on how to operate the vehicle. Practice stopping, accelerating, braking, turning and shifting. Note: If at all possible, it’s best to teach teens how to drive a manual shift vehicle right from the start. That way they will be able to drive any car that they need to. If they can drive a stick shift, they can certainly drive an automatic.

Spend as much time as possible in the parking lot getting your teen used to the workings of the vehicle. You can set up courses through which to maneuver, practice parallel parking, do sudden starts and stops, practice speed turning and anything else to help your teen feel comfortable behind the wheel. Change the landscape and keep it interesting by varying the parking lots you use as a training ground.

2) Street driving – Start slow, on streets that have less traffic than others, or one-way streets. Or pick a time that is the least busy, such weekend mornings or holidays. As passenger, remember to keep conversing with your teen about what to anticipate: road surprises such as children or animals; unexpected bumps or potholes, sun blindness, slippery road conditions, etc. Plus, you should always preach the rules of the road: seat belts, speed limit, turn signals, space between the vehicle ahead of you, using the rearview mirrors, etc.

The more you talk to your teen as an adult — not a child – the more they will hear what you are saying, the better chance your message will become ingrained in their minds and the safer they will be.

3) Destination Driving – Once you feel comfortable with your teen’s driving on quiet roads, you can start having them drive you on daily errands, such as to the grocery, school, church, video store, or wherever. Give your teen as much supervised time behind the wheel as possible, while you help this young driver learn how to be a defensive driver.

4) Freeway Driving – When ready, progress to major roads and freeways, utilizing as much practice time as possible under your supervision, so they become familiar with different situations and scenarios. Reinforce them to practice patience on the road.

5) Map Driving – Plot out a course for your teen to travel. Have them look at maps and gain awareness of the routes they will take, and alternate routes as well.

6) Night Driving – Remind your teen how night driving is different than day driving: streets are slicker, vision is drastically reduced, oncoming lights can blind you — or you can blind them. Continue to instill traffic rules and fundamental safety standards as you ride.

 7) Situation Driving — Don’t be mistaken that once your teen has received his/her driver’s license, the driver’s training ends. It does not. In fact, this is a very critical stage of your teen’s learning and your job of supervising their driving should continue for another three to six months. Everywhere you go with your teen, have them take the wheel. You get to ride for a change. And as you do, you are reinforcing the safety principals of the road.

Also, you should kick into surveillance mode, becoming actively involved every aspect of your teen’s driving. Here are just some of the points to consider as your teen starts to drive solo

Who are his traveling companions? – Peer pressure is often the root cause of teen traffic accidents. Be sure you know and trust child’s riding friends.

Choose a safe car – Make sure it’s mechanically sound and safe. Also, when buying a car, consider engine size and vehicle safety ratings in your purchase.

Ride with your teen – Continue to be a pesky passenger, so you can continue to monitor your teen’s driving.

Share insurance and maintenance costs – The more invested your teen feels in the vehicle, the more respect he/she will have for its safe arrival home.

And finally, remember that learning to drive is not just about operating a car – or even obeying traffic laws – it’s about staying alive.


Entry filed under: 4Teens, Tips. Tags: , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Young Drivers  |  October 17, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    This is a really great post. My son is 15 and will be getting his driver’s license next year. As a parent I am scared to death especially since kids these days think no harm could ever come to them.

    Being we live in Minnesota, the Winter season scares me the most. I myself hate driving in the winter.

    Thanks for these tips, I’m going to share them with my son.


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