So you’ve been chosen as the designated patsy… er, no, parent to teach your teenage son or daughter how to drive? Congratulations! Yet, before you let Buster or Kitten get behind the wheel of the family car, there is some homework you need to do first that goes well beyond being sure you have enough aspirin on hand for your obligatory post-training headache. To teach your kid to drive, you need to begin by knowing more than your child if not even more than your teen believes he knows.
All jokes aside, training anyone to drive is a serious matter. How well they learn and how comfortable anyone becomes behind the wheel as he starts to train can be a strong indicator of how talented and responsible a driver he will be in later life.
Make your teen super nervous when parking or driving on a busy highway, and you may end up with an adult who grits her teeth before she ventures out to work or shop. But if you can instill a sense of patience and responsibility within a teen as a balance to the fun he or she anticipates, you can transform a potential speed-freak joy rider into one who watches carefully for potential trouble and responds accordingly at the same time they enjoy the task.
But, before your own set of nerves gets worked up at the very thought of the awesome task of teaching a novice to drive, let’s get into 10 very savvy tips for handling driver education with the acumen of a pro and the care of a parent. Follow these recommendations and both you and your teen will not only survive the lessons, but perhaps feel far better about letting that teen drive on his or her own.
Tip #1: Know all the laws and rules before you start.
As the parent, you are responsible to obtain the necessary learner’s permit with your teenager. But you also must know the laws of your state and community and you need to be sure your child knows them as well. Also be very careful that you do not pass along misinformation. A great example of this is the concept of right-of-way; many do not understand it and pass on wrong facts.
Tip #2: Research good places and situations to let your child practice driving.
You want to include as much variety and real life driving situations as possible but carefully metered out. This includes driving on wet pavement as well as on nice, clear days. You want to introduce a learning driver to traffic but not on the first trip out behind the wheel. Start out in low traffic situations and then gradually work up to more demanding ones.
Tip #3: Don’t be overly critical.
Strike a balance between noting every tiny flaw in your teen’s driving with failing to bring important issues to your child’s attention. You didn’t catch all the fine details at once and neither will your teenager.
Tip #4: Be patient!
As difficult as it sounds, strive to be as patient as possible, even if your teenager is wildly impatient to consider him or herself the world’s best driver. After all, included in your driving lessons should be training to help your teen be patient as well as cautious behind the wheel. There are enough cases of road rage and joy riders out there already.
Tip #5: Carefully check the vehicle(s) you will use for lessons before you begin.
You want the vehicle to be safe and in proper operating order. But you probably don’t want to perform early lessons on your best and/or most expensive family vehicle. Also be sure your insurance covers that vehicle and will cover a student driver.
Tip #6: Cover all bases.
Where possible, you want to train your teenager to handle both an automatic and a manual transmission so he or she knows both.
Tip #7: Plan to break your lessons into segments.
Each session should present a mix of new and repeated information as well as, again, a variety of driving experiences.
Tip #8: Be prepared to take the wheel.
If you spot that your teen is becoming overwhelmed or nervous, calmly ask him or her to pull over and assume the wheel yourself. Assure your child there will be a next lesson, but don’t let a bad situation or a near accident turn worse by continuing when your teenager may already be past his or her comfort zone.
Tip #9: Don’t give in to pressure.
Teens can be very persuasive. But you cannot afford to let your teen talk you into something you do not feel they are prepared to handle or you do not fully believe is a wise course of action.
Tip #10: Watch the car keys!
Teens learning to drive often begin to believe they know everything. They almost may be far more likely to borrow the family car for a ride or to drive friends around even when they are not yet licensed to do so. Keep a closer eye on the car keys throughout the training process.
Finally, here is a bonus tip that can make a lot of sense. Consider whether you should augment your teen’s private lessons with you with a school driver education or private professional training program. Either of these options may polish what you have started. They can also give you a bonus of lower car insurance premiums for a better trained teen driver.