Your teenager might be eagerly looking forward to his or her birthday. But as a parent, you might be dreading it, as it means he or she will be able to apply for a learner’s permit and begin the process of learning how to drive. While signing your kid up for driver’s education is a great idea, as it provides comprehensive training, both in the classroom and behind the wheel, you don’t want to completely outsource your teen’s driving training. Spending time in the car with your teen behind the wheel allows you the chance to bond and to make sure your kid is learning how to be a safe driver.
Be a Role Model
One of the best things you can do to help your kid learn to be a safe driver is to model safe driving behavior yourself. Before your teen starts driving, make sure you always wear a seat belt in the car, use your turn signals and maintain a safe following distance. If you aren’t doing those things behind the wheel, it can be hard to convince your new driver of their importance.
While frightening statistics about teen drivers and terrifying videos of the dangers of drinking and driving or of speeding have their place, when your teenager is behind the wheel, it pays to be positive. For example, if your teen is following another car to closely, ask him or her how many seconds are between your car and the car in front. Don’t yell when your teen drives too fast. Instead, ask him or her what the speed limit is on the road.
Focus on the Driving
Let driving time be driving time when it comes to your teenager and save any other parental concerns you might have for some other occasion. For example, a driving lesson isn’t the time to bring up the fact that you aren’t happy with the person your teen is dating or that you aren’t happy about his or her recent report card. Your teen needs to learn to pay attention to the road, which starts with a parent not distracting him or her.
Set up Rules
A contract between your teen and you will help give you some peace of mind once he or she gets a license and can drive unsupervised. The contract should state that your teen agrees not to use his or her phone when driving. You might also want to limit the number of other teens who can be in the car if your teenager is driving without your supervision and set a curfew for your teen to limit nighttime driving. In some states like CA, these restrictions may be the law.
Teaching your kids to drive can mean a few more gray hairs for you. But, in the end, if you’ve done it right, you’ll have a driver who’s not only skilled on the road but who remembers to think safety first when behind the wheel.
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