Teaching Your Teenager How to Drive Safely

Teen Driver with Adult PassengerAccording to John Ulczycki of the National Safety Council, a large part of the problem with teen drivers is parents teaching their children the wrong skills. We listened to his advice and created a quick list of what you should and should not do when teaching your freshly permitted driver the rules of the road.

Let your child practice driving! Practice makes perfect. New drivers are required to get at least 50 hours of supervised drive time, 10 of which must be at night, before they can get a driver’s license. If your teen hasn’t done at least the minimum 50 hours, he or she probably does not know how to be a safe driver or how to react to surprises on the road.

Take advantage of driver’s education courses. Many high schools offer it as a free course that your child can take for one semester once he or she has a learner’s permit. If it is not offered through your child’s school, check with your local department of motor vehicles for course availability. Many teens respond better to a formal instructor than a parent when it comes to learning new things.

Teach your children to say no. Drugs, alcohol and riding with other teens who are irresponsible drivers are all possible dangers for teens. Make sure your child knows how to say no to a bad situation.

Lead by example. Parents are models for their children. This is not a good time to say “Do as I say, not as I do.” If you text or talk on the phone while driving your child is likely to follow suit.

Enforce the rules. This means you have to know the rules too. Teens do not get unlimited access to the roads. Pay attention to and enforce the curfews imposed by law on teen drivers. A learner’s permit allows for daylight driving only during the first 3 months and no driving after 10 P.M. thereafter. Even a driver’s license is issued with restrictions for teens. 16 year olds are only allowed to drive without supervision from 6 A.M. to 11 P.M. and 17 year olds from 5 A.M. to 1 A.M.

Get them a big, slow and ugly car. It sounds like a silly idea but a large slow vehicle is going to better protect your teen and prevent them from speeding down the roads. Think of a big body Buick or an old Cadillac. We have another article where you can get more guidance on selecting a car for your teen.

Let them do some donuts in a parking lot. A secluded parking lot is a great place to push the car to its limits. Let your child go fast and make hard turns in a place where he or she can’t crash into anything. This will let them feel how anti-lock brakes work and prepare them for the possibility that they might lose control of the vehicle if they drive irresponsibly.

Waste your time teaching parallel parking. It’s not even on the driver’s test in Florida! There are exceptions here. If you live in a community where parallel parking is abundant or your child plans to move to a city for college knowing how to parallel park will be helpful. However, do not teach this at the expense of forgetting to teach simpler, more useful things like parking in a perpendicular spot, three point turns and how to stop safely and quickly. Those are all tested.

Blast the music and dance. There is a common myth that if you distract your child while learning to drive he or she will be ready for any distractions when driving with friends. This is simply not true. Teens need to learn to drive in a controlled environment while they are figuring things out. Only progressively should more difficult road conditions and distractions be added into the mix.

Point out everything they do wrong. They are going to make some small mistakes. Brush off the little ones that can be corrected later so your child will pay attention when you have something serious to say. Keep in mind positive reinforcement.

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Jim Dodson
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A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.