Remember when your parents taught you to drive? Some parents are good with such a task, patient and calm. Others, however, flinch, get angry and generally make their learning teen more nervous than they already are. There’s a lesson for you there. When it’s your turn to relinquish the keys and climb into the passenger seat, know how to do it right and what not to do.
Here are some things to keep in mind when teaching your teen-ager to drive safely:
- Stay calm.
As much as it would feel more natural to yell, bite your nails or grip the dashboard, keep your voice calm and free of the panic you may be feeling. You’ll just make your new driver more nervous—and more likely to do something wrong, like punching the accelerator instead of the break. When they make a mistake, and they will, be patient and have them pull over so you can explain what should have been done differently.
- Be vigilant.
Watch for any potential hazard, because your teen is probably so focused on the road directly ahead they don’t see what’s going on around them. Point out possible dangers and teach the teen what to look out for.
- Take baby steps.
For the first few times, give the driving lessons in an empty parking lot. Then, move up to streets that don’t see a lot of traffic. Eventually ease into driving on busier streets, boulevards and, eventually, the freeway.
- Be clear about the rules.
Beyond the basic driving instruction, be clear on what they must and must not do. No texting while driving. Keep both hands on the wheel. Watch out for the other guy. Don’t speed. When they’re licensed and driving on their own, no driving around with more than one or two others in the car with them. Absolutely no drinking allowed.
- Make the rules official.
Drive home the rules with a signed agreement. Print out this Parent-Teen Driving Agreement by the CDC. Go over it with your teen, being sure to add in the consequences you will enforce should they not follow the rules. When the rules are understood, the two of you should sign it.
- Do as you say.
Be a good driving role model for your teen. When you’re in the driver’s seat, drive safely, don’t speed, always use the turn signal when you turn and never drive angrily. They learn by example and are more likely to live by the rules if you do, too.
Proper procedures, clear understanding of the law and teen-driver rules, and accountability will encourage your teen to drive responsibly. And you’ll worry just a little bit less when they’re out on the road without you.
To find out more about teen driving be sure to read Making Auto Insurance Affordable for Your Teen Driver.