The responsibility of teaching teens to drive usually falls to the parents. Itís common for parents to feel nervous about or unqualified for this role, but thereís no need to be too worried. Primarily, parents act as a supervisor, helping their teen to get many and varied hours of practice driving before he or she is on the road alone.
With a little advanced planning, and by using the principles behind your stateís graduated driver licensing law as guideposts, you can help your teen transition safely from supervised to independent driving.
Before the learnerís permit
Itís never too early to start teaching your kids about safe driving. Even before your teen gets a learnerís permit, you can start using your time in the car together as an opportunity to get him or her thinking like a driver and talking about how to be safe.
Be a good role model.
Demonstrating the safe driving behaviors you want your kids to develop is the first step in preparing them for the road. There are plenty of "teachable moments" for you to talk about safe driving with your kids, starting as early as age 13, when they are old enough to sit next to you in the front seat.
- Wear a seat belt on every trip, and insist that passengers also wear theirs.
- Come to a complete stop at stop signs and signals.
- Keep a safe following and stopping distance.
- Obey the posted speed limit.
- Use your turn signal for changing lanes and when turning.
- Treat other drivers with courtesy.
- Avoid distractions that call your attention from the road.
- Talk with your teen about the consequences of unsafe behaviors and other hazards that are common for a new driver.
Preparing for the first lesson Ė talk before you drive
Your teen has received a learnerís permit and is ready to start logging those practice hours. Itís important to address the most basic ground rules ahead of time so you both know what to expect. This will limit misunderstandings and conflicts once youíre in the car.
Keep emotions in check: Agree to time-outs.
Arguments simply create stress, so let your first rule be to take a time-out if emotions rise. Pull over to discuss what he or she did (both right and wrong), and listen to your teenís point of view. Work it out, take time to calm down, and then get started again.
This is also a good time to talk about the dangers of driving when youíre upset, sad, or drowsy. Drowsy driving, in particular, is a common problem thatís often overlooked and is just as dangerous as driving drunk.
Establish clear guidelines: Stop means stop.
A lot of parents donít think about how their instructions might sound to their teen. For example, if you just say "stop" as you pull up to a stop sign, the driver might step hard on the brake rather than slow to a stop. So settle on something like, "Slow to a stop at the sign," and you might avoid an argument. Distinguish between when you want your teen to "ease off" (or slow down only a little by easing off the brake) versus to "slow down" by applying the brakes more firmly.
Plan the route.
Before each practice session or trip, plan the route. This not only prepares you to review the directions, but also allows you to address things you may encounter on the trip (a four-way stop, a pedestrian area, or places where it may be slippery). Thinking about the route ahead of time also allows you to be sure that the trips are varied. Make sure you take main roads whenever possible. They are safer than local back streets where unexpected hazards may arise.
Beginning driving lessons
Once your son or daughter receives a learnerís permit, you can begin to sit in the passenger seat. An empty parking lot where the new driver can get a feel for the car and learn to operate the controls can be a good place to start, since thereís no pressure to deal with other traffic.
It might also help you both feel more comfortable to start with a professional lesson or two to learn some basic skills. Remember itís up to parents to make sure new drivers get the amount of practice they need in preparation to drive independently.
When teens practice driving with their parents, they usually encounter more variations in driving conditions than they do when driving with professional instructors. The additional challenges provide a broader, more protective experience.
If you think your teen needs more time and practice before driving alone, talk to him or her about the reasons why.
Once youíre confident your teen can manage the basics of vehicle control, make your teen the primary driver each time you ride together. Expose new drivers to increasingly complex driving conditions so they get as much practice as possible under conditions they will eventually be navigating alone. You will find that if you let your teen drive for everyday activities, like running errands, he or she can quickly gain more than 100 hours of practice Ė a strong base before driving independently.http://teendriving.statefarm.com
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