Help Your Teen be a Safe Driver
Keep your hands inside the car at all times – parenting teens can be a bumpy ride. This is perhaps never more accurate than when those teens get their driver licenses. Before you go down that driver education road with your teens, help prepare them for the responsibilities that lie ahead. Get them engaged, thinking, and conscious of safe driving habits. And fasten your seatbelts.
Give the Play-by-Play
When my kids were babies and toddlers I gave them the play-by-play as a way to strengthen their vocabulary and engage them in their surroundings. “Look at that tiny bird. It’s looking for food in our flowers. Look at how the wings flap so very fast. We call it a hummingbird.” Now that my kids are older and there are teenagers in the house I’m returning to the play-by-play method with more intensity as a way to teach driver awareness. Even though the kids would probably rather listen to their iPods or be reading their books while I drive, I try to reign them in with the play-by-play of the sometimes boring, but still important, rules of the road.
- “I’m not passing that farm truck now because…”
- “I’m slowing down at this intersection, even though there aren’t stoplights, because…”
- “I’m parking like this because…”
Being a passenger in a vehicle is a very passive activity. When we consistently share with our kids (even when they’re not asking for it) why we are making the driving decisions that we are, we are teaching them about so many important rules of the road. There is more to driving than just knowing the laws – safe driving means making good, conscious decisions.
Engage them With Questions
Keep your teens thinking about how they might make safe driving decisions by asking them questions when you drive (this doesn’t have to be rapid-fire quizzing – just engaged conversation).
- “Which lane do you think I need to be in by the time I get to the stoplight?”
- “What did that blue car just do that shows the driver made a dangerous decision?”
- “Where do you think would be a good place to park at the mall?”
Let Them Navigate
Even though our kids are riding right along with us when we go to school, church, and the store, it doesn’t mean that they always understand precisely how to navigate there themselves, especially when you are driving in a larger city. Throw in some One Way streets and road construction detours and a new driver might get quickly confused.
- Teach them to navigate (without using GPS) by having them be the GPS system. You’re still the driver, they are just going to see if they can get you from point A to point B.
- Let them get you lost if they aren’t sure. It is much better to just make mistakes as the navigator than as the navigator who is also the new driver – and is feeling very stressed because she can’t find the dry cleaners.
- Teach them alternative routes. Things like road construction, accidents, and weather can all impact driving routes. Help save them future driving stresses by teaching them alternative routes when you’re still the one behind the wheel.
Other Rules of the Road for New Drivers
- Park by streetlamps and under parking lights, even if it is daylight when you arrive at your destination. It is much safer and easier to walk to your car in a well-lit area.
- Before you walk to your car, have your keys ready and your cell phone accessible.
- Know where the incidentals are located in the car – things like the ice scraper, map, and tire gauge.
- Know where the cell phone charger is and use it as needed – just make sure you plug it in and place it in a secure location where you don’t need to touch it before you put the car in drive.
- Above all, if you don’t think your teen is ready for the responsibility of driving, it is OK to say no to them when they bring home that driver education release form. The rest of the driving world thanks you for using your best judgment.
Parenting is a journey – and even though some days I wish that parenting teens came with an insurance policy all its own, I am getting more comfortable with the increasing levels of independence that this transition time brings my teens (and me). Teenage drivers can scare the pants right off of you, but if we give our kids proactive tools before they even take the permit test, we help keep them and everyone else safe. Happy trails.