Preparing your Teen to Drive

Preparing your Teen to Drive

The purpose of this booklet is not to give you the "Rules of the Road" or statistics about auto accidents.

It does give you some common sense things to consider as you help prepare your teenager for driving. These topics include:
  • Putting Things in Perspective
  • Setting a Good Example
  • Being Involved
  • Talking Facts
  • Setting Some Ground Rules
So your teenager wants to drive
So, your teenage son or daughter wants to drive. Can hardly wait, in fact. Scary, isn't it? Driving has become one of the most important things in your child's life.

You've heard the statistics about teenage driving -- the traffic violations and fines. The accidents and property damage. The disabilities and deaths. Try telling those to a teenager, who thinks, "It'll never happen to me."

Suddenly, you become a "wet blanket." "You don't trust me," he or she claims. "You never let me have any fun."

How do you prepare your teenager for the responsibilities of driving? There's no magic formula. But there are some things you can do to make this step in the transition to adulthood less painful -- for both of you.

Putting things in perspective
Teenagers' interest in driving may seem sudden and unusually intense, but it isn't. We all have helped "program" them for this day since their earliest childhood. Their first "wheels" were a baby buggy or stroller, then a walker to help them learn to walk.

And, what about the tricycles, bicycles, in-line skates, scooters, skateboards and go-carts they've enjoyed? We've taught them that wheels are more than a way to get from here to there -- they're a way of life, and they're fun!

Now, your teen is interested in more adult things, and what's more "adult" than a car? Cars are transportation and status symbols. They make a statement about who we are. We look for our own brand of power, speed and style.

TV shows and movies featuring exotic cars and chase scenes add other dimensions to the allure. And, as your son or daughter will quickly point out, all the "older kids" including brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors, drive. So, why shouldn't they? The can hardly wait to "go cruisin'"!

Your teen has been thoroughly indoctrinated in the American love affair with the automobile; driver education and a learner's permit are just ahead. It's important that you be a major influence on his or her driving skills and attitudes.

Setting a good example
Children learn by imitating their parents -- from tying their shoes to cutting the grass. Youngsters also adopt parents' attitudes. The old adage to "Do as I say, not as I do" just doesn't work.

If you talk to your teen about obeying the speed limit and then rely on your radar detector to keep from being caught, you're telling them it's okay to speed if you don't get caught.

The same goes for rolling through stop signs and accelerating on a yellow light. Or refusing to yield the right of way to a car or pedestrian. And face it: you're never going to get kids to use seat belts if you don't buckle up!

Attitude is as important as specific driving skills. Maybe you can beat the odds while you ignore good driving habits, but your son nor daughter has neither your experience or judgment. Ignoring the rules of safe driving is never acceptable behavior. Don't just pay lip service to good driving; set the example.

Being involved
Driver education courses focus on specific driving skills and knowledge, but they're no substitute for maturity and experience.

You can give your young driver the benefit of both if you communicate and stay involved in the learning process. Avoid lecturing. Be alert to opportunities for discussion. Ask questions to stimulate self-discovery, and listen to his or her responses.
Discuss what's happening in the driver training course. Review text material with your student to reinforce learning and to refresh your memory. Being involved shows you care about what he or she is learning and you take it seriously. Use every opportunity, including trips in the family car, to reinforce learning.

After your young driver has earned the learner's permit, take frequent practice drives. If you're patient and attentive, your teenager will gain experience and confidence, ask questions and learn from mistakes under your supervision. Continue supervised drives in all kinds of weather and traffic conditions.

Your teenager will make many mistakes in the first few practice sessions. Some of those mistakes may reflect lack of a specific skill, in which case additional practice will help. Others may be the result of attitude: carelessness, inattentiveness or lack of judgment or concern. Focus on such things as concentration, courtesy, judgment and responsibility. Stress that anger, aggressiveness, arrogance and other negative attitudes are leading causes of accidents.

The National Safety Council's 10 important tips for you and your passengers:
  • Don't leave the driveway without securing each passenger in the car. Safety belts save thousands of lives each year!
  • Remember that driving too fast or too slow can increase the likelihood of collisions.
  • Be alert! If you notice a car straddling the center line, weaving, making wide turns, stopping abruptly or responding slowly to traffic signals, the driver may be impaired.
  • Avoid an impaired driver by slowing down, letting the driver pass, pulling onto the shoulder or turning right at the nearest corner. If it appears that an oncoming car is crossing into your lane, pull over to the roadside, sound the horn and flash your lights.
  • Notify the police immediately after seeing a motorist who is driving suspiciously.
  • Follow the rules of the road. Don't contest the "right of way" or try to race another car during a merge.
  • Don't stop in the road to talk with a pedestrian or other drivers.
  • Avoid eye contact or making obscene gestures with/at an aggressive driver.
  • Don't tailgate.
  • Remember, while driving, be cautious, aware and responsible.