You might feel better about your teenager driving if you have some influence over how your teen handles him or herself behind the wheel. While you may not be a certified driving instructor, you’re probably a better role model than most of your teen’s friends, who are also just learning to drive. Your influence could make a difference that could save your teen’s life.
Even as an experienced driver, you may find it difficult to cover driving techniques that come naturally to you. One way to ensure sanity during your practice sessions is to try and focus on just one aspect of driving each time you drive together.
Follow our weekly summer series on teaching your teen how to drive — sharing these important driving tips in small doses may help you and your teen really cover some ground.
Map Your Route
Resist the temptation to just go out and drive around. “Sink or swim” may be fine for some activities, but to make sure your driving sessions go swimmingly, it’s best to be prepared. By adding some structure, your teen may benefit more from your driving sessions.
Give careful thought to driving routes a beginner can handle. You may get off to a smoother start and find it easier as you move on to roadways with more traffic. When choosing where to practice, try to take a few moments to think about the route and drive it yourself first to better prepare for any potential difficulties.
Talk about the practice session before you go. Agree on what will be done and how much time you’ll spend on the session. In some cases, you might want to drive to and from the practice session.
- Map out your route ahead of time
- Start with short trips and increase a little at a time
- Drive alone with your teen
- End the session if either of you tires or gets tense
- Where are we going?
- What can we practice?
- Can my new driver handle it?
Get a View from the Copilot’s Seat
Those mailboxes are not quite as close as they seem. But if you’re usually the driver, it could look as though your teen driver is about to run them over.
Remember, the road looks very different from the passenger side. Take a ride in the passenger’s seat before experiencing it for the first time with your new driver. This way, you can have a better feel for how the road looks from the passenger’s point of view, and you’ll have one less surprise when your teen takes the wheel. For example, it can be difficult to tell from the passenger seat if the vehicle is centered in its lane if you usually see the road from the driver’s seat.
Act as the “New Driver”
Play the “new driver” with an experienced driver giving instructions. You might find being told to “turn left,” “turn right,” “stop here,” or “pull in there” can be awkward — and downright annoying! This experience can help you better understand what your new driver will hear and how they may feel once your practice sessions begin.
It’s important to stay alert. Remember, the minute you start to relax can be the minute your teen needs your help. Be comfortable, but pay attention.
Remember Your Goal
You can only teach so much about driving in a limited amount of time, but practicing with your teen can pay off in the years to come. By practicing, you can help them make safe driving decisions and judgments rather than rely on trial and error.
Practice in Sessions
Try to practice as often as possible, starting with sessions of 15-20 minutes. As your teen begins to feel more confident behind the wheel, increase practice periods to an hour or so. Be sure to practice during daylight hours, at night and during poor weather conditions. If you or your teen becomes tired or frustrated, take a short break — driving will not improve under tense conditions. It’s all part of staying cool behind the wheel.
Start in a Parking Lot
Empty parking lots are a great place to start practicing. See if your teen can drive in a straight line forward and backward, start up and drive a short distance, and stop the vehicle smoothly.
Test your teen’s ability to turn the wheel and accelerate. Decide on a point in the parking lot to turn right. Make sure they turn without first drifting to the left or cutting the corner. Then practice making a left turn the same way. Then try making a right or left turn after coming to a complete stop.
Parking Lot Activities:
- Left turn from stop
- Right turn from stop
Next week’s lesson: Helping Your New Driver See