For a teen, learning how to drive is an incredibly freeing experience which may also mark the first time that they take on a major responsibility. Behind the wheel of a car, they are empowered to make decisions that can impact their life as well as the lives of others. For this reason, properly preparing your teen for this new and exciting part of growing up is very important. Before handing over their new car keys, start by reading this article for some ideas of the new challenges that teens may face behind the wheel, then move onto this list of tips for “Better Ways to Teach Teens to Drive” from the Wall Street Journal, and finally impart your newfound knowledge on your eager teen.
Beyond Book Learning
Driver’s ed is a necessary program for anyone who wants to get behind the wheel. And while it teaches important information such as safety statistics and the rules of the road, going from being a student in driver’s ed to a driver on the open road is a big–and often frightening–step.
Confidence in Conditions
To ease the fears of your teen through this transition, build their confidence in situations such as night driving, various weather conditions, and on different types of roads. With the guidance of an experienced driver–such as a parent or driving instructor–this can be practiced until your teen feels ready. Also consider having your teen spend their first few weeks with their license driving alone on familiar roads in clear, daytime conditions before driving unfamiliar routes trying to follow directions in inclement weather or at nighttime. Gradually easing up to these challenges is the best way for both you and your teen to become comfortable.
Filling up with Fuel
While your teen likely watched you fill up your gas tank hundreds of times as a kid, knowing how and when to get gas can be an easily forgettable skill to teach but a hugely important one. Running the tank too close to empty can lead to scenarios such as needing to fill up when you’re already late for school, getting stuck stalled on the freeway, or becoming stranded at night on a dark and windy road. Remembering to fill up before desperation sets in can eliminate unnecessary headaches and even help save money by allowing time to pass by a gas station with less expensive fuel prices. Filling the tank is easy: a trip to the gas station for a quick demo and a snack can help your teen feel better prepared to set out on their own when they pass their driver’s test.
Upon arriving at their destination, your teen will have to park their vehicle. It is imperative that your teen practices pulling into all sorts of sports–including parallel parking. After a long and exhausting drive, it is crucial that your teen is able to get off the road by parking their car in whatever type of space is available.
For much of the time your teen spends driving, they will be alone. Therefore, it is important that your teen internalizes the boundaries you set for them and understands your reasoning for these rules so that they can hold themselves accountable in the absence of an adult. Obviously, it is crucial that your teen understands the horrible reality that both drunk and high drivers too often face with regard to their safety and their future. Less clear is the importance that your teen understands that they are a new and inexperienced driver and should drive defensively, paying close attention to the cars all around them. While building confidence may be crucial for some new drivers, a reminder of the potential dangers of their inexperience may be important for others: even the most skilled drivers maintain responsible habits, such as keeping their eyes on the road or not eating while driving, when behind the wheel.
Preparing for Problems
It is also important that you prepare your teen for an event such as a breakdown, ticket, or accident as these may be high-stress situations that require intervention from professionals or the authorities. For any of these situations, an insurance card and a driver’s license are important items to have available. Additional information your teen should have may include the phone number of a local towing company or a AAA card to help with any car troubles. Have your teen thoroughly read their insurance card so that they don’t have to read it for the first time following a scary experience; the card may even have steps to follow and a phone number to call in the event of an accident.
Accidents happen but being a cautious and defensive driver can significantly reduce the likelihood, and severity, of a crash. While driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is certainly a cause of many crashes, the true cause of these collisions is irresponsible drivers. Irresponsible drivers can also cause crashes by driving ‘distracted’; distracted drivers are at-fault, leaving you open to legal action. Distractions may include eating, rummaging around for an item, texting, road-rage, or paying too much attention to friends and not enough to the road ahead. These are all examples of crashes that are preventable if enough caution is exercised by the driver at fault and sometimes even when nearby drivers react defensively. No matter the cause of the accident, the primary concern should always be for those involved and those nearby who could potentially become involved as part of a secondary collision. If something were to ever happen, make it clear to your teen that they are your primary concern and that they can call you for help and support following their frightening experience before facing judgment.