Is your teen ready to learn to drive? You're maybe nervous about teaching them the rules of the road because it's been so long since you've learned yourself. Your teen needs to learn basic rules and good driving habits early on. You are the person they will learn from the most. Here are some tips to make sure your teenager starts their driving life on the right track.
1. Take a Refresher Course
After years of driving independently, perhaps you have forgotten some of the basic principles of the road. In Connecticut, for example, parents are required to take a two-hour refresher course to be able to legally teach their teen how to drive. Teen Driver Source, in collaboration with the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, also has free resources to support parents teaching their teens how to drive. AAA's teen driving section features a page for parents, too. Even a quick review of your child's theoretical textbook will be better than nothing.
A refresher course will help you understand the learning goals for your teen, and perhaps remind you of one or two things you need to improve in your own driving.
2. Stay Calm
A study by the University of North Carolina reported that teens often have to deal with screaming parents, even though they never raised their voices. If you are nervous or unsettled, your teen will sense it and wonder what they're doing wrong. Staying calm and in control of your emotions is an essential skill as a driving teacher. Another study found that tense parents tend to teach less effectively and to focus less on safety than calm parents.
3. Practice Progressively in a Variety of Environments
During the first few weeks of teaching your teen how to drive, you will want to focus on the basic operation of a car, breaking, turning, etc. This is best done in a safe environment such as an empty parking lot. As your teen improves, you should expand the range and environments where they can drive. Keep a progressive approach and introduce more dangerous environments (such as a highway) only when you are certain your teen has mastered the necessary skills.
4. When You Drive, Model Good Behavior
If you've been driving for a while, it's likely you've acquired a bad habit or two. That's why taking a refresher course is so important. It allows you to model good driving behavior when you drive (and your teen is observing more closely). It also helps to explain safety practices that you take as you drive, so your teen can see for themselves how it works. Don't be afraid to use every occasion to discuss safe driving, even when your teen isn't at the wheel.
5. Get a "New Driver" Sign for Your Car
Even when not mandated by your state for learning drivers, you should always have a sign that indicates a new driver on your car. This alerts nearby drivers to keep their distance and drive more defensively around you. It also reminds your teen that they are not independent drivers yet.
6. Forbid Phones And Other Distracting Gadgets
Before you get in the car, make an arrangement with your teen that driving time is focused on driving. No phones or playing with the console gadgets, as these might distract them. If your teen insists on having music while they practice, make sure it's a playlist on their phone that they prepare in advance, instead of using the radio. They are less likely to be distracted by wanting to change the station.
7. Be Ready For Criticism
This isn't so much a tip for your teen, but a reminder for you: once your child has access to driving resources, they will observe and likely criticize you when you drive. This is actually a great occasion to show that you can overcome bad habits by paying attention to your driving after making an error.
As a parent, it's good to invest in driver's education for your child to help improve their skills and get ready to hit the road. We even have adult driver's ed classes if you want to refresh your own skills before teaching a new driver! Your own driving dossier, as well as your teen, will be the better for it.