Driving is a right of passage for most 15- to 16-year olds. An opportunity to explore the world around themselves, eventually without a required adult passenger, and take on a new level of responsibility. As a parent, you are likely feeling the bulk of the stress and anxiety of your teen getting behind the wheel of a car. Learning to drive is just that—a learning process. And to ensure your child is equipped with the right tools and the right knowledge to be a successful and safe new driver, here are a few things you can do to help your teen drive transition from the back seat to the driver’s seat.
- Refresh your knowledge. You may have been driving for over 20 years now—but that doesn’t mean you remember what every road sign is for or how to properly park on a hill. The actual laws of driving may vary from the common practice seen on the roads (like merging early on the interstate by crossing solid white lines to avoid a traffic jam or following the car in front of you within a 3-car gap). Before passing on a common driving habit, first ensure you are passing on the right information. Take an online refresher course—or have your teen take it with you to reinforce the importance of safe and proper driving habits and that you are never too old or experienced to refresh yourself on safe driving habits.
- Explain insurance. Car insurance, what it covers, when, and how much coverage you actually have are important to understand. Car insurance policies can be easy to misunderstand, often resulting in under-coverage.
- Vary their driving practice. Before your teen takes their drivers test, ensure they have the opportunity to drive under a multitude of circumstances. Your teen should get practice driving on backroads (where it may be tempting to speed and learning to keep control), interstates and highways (during varying levels of traffic), neighborhood roads, main roadways, and taking different routes home (enabling them to become familiar with their area). When they have experience driving under different levels of stress and focus, your teen will become more confident in their ability—and you can provide insight on how to correctly and safely respond to a variety of issues and accident avoidance.
- Practice evasive maneuvers. This may be harder to do under a controlled environment and may consist of mostly talks and practice dry runs. Discuss different scenarios and what the best course of action should be to avoid an accident. To practice, you can use an empty parking lot to run simulations of some of the problems they may encounter. Some important driving points are:
- If the car in front of them stops suddenly and the road conditions cause their vehicle to skid—how can they safely stop and avoid rear-ending someone?
- If a child or large animal darts in the road, practicing an immediate stop.
- A large object falls off the vehicle in front of them or is in the middle of their lane (with and without cars around them).
- Safe driving habits when it is raining hard, snowing, heavy winds, or other extreme weather.
- A vehicle in front or next to them has a tire blow-out—how should they best respond. If they have a tire blow-out what are the best ways to maintain control and safely stop.
- How to maintain control or regain control when control is lost (overcompensating an evasive swerve, hydroplaning, hitting a patch of ice, etc.).
While teaching your teen to drive may have you white knuckling the overhead handle or pumping invisible breaks on the passenger side, also remember to make the lessons enjoyable. Driving lessons are a great way to bond and set important safe driving habits. If it is ever too stressful or you aren’t sure how to teach a specific scenario or your parallel parking leaves a lot to be desired, trust in a professional instructor to cover those topics for you.