It’s hard to believe your child, the one you constantly hound to get homework done and has difficulty finding his shoes, is ready for a driver’s license. He turns 15 and you think to yourself, “he’s just a teenager.” Next thing you know, he’s asking if he can take the family car. It all happens so fast. You now must consider trusting your child — the same child who cannot remember to take out the trash — with his own life in your personal vehicle. You’ll never feel fully prepared for this event, but there are steps you can take that can relieve your anxiety.
Read Related: Are Teen Drivers Aware of the Risks?
Look for organizations that offer online virtual driver’s education. This is a great way to familiarize your child to the hazards of driving from the safety of your living room. Websites such as Driving-Tests.org offer on-line Florida permit practice tests for your teen to study and see how well he’s studied the rules of the road.
A National Highway Traffic Administration survey shows the crash rate for 16-year-olds is 3.7 times higher than all other drivers. The crash rate for 16- to 19-year-olds is 2.7 times higher than drivers of all ages. These statistics prove the more driving time your student driver has, the less likely he is to experience a crash.
Give your child the experience advantage by allowing him to drive while you ride shotgun. This is an opportunity for you to obtain first-hand experience in what your teenager views as risks of the road and discuss the hazards of driving. Before you hit the road, you should make a plan:
Select a less anxious time. You do not want to be doing this exercise after a long day’s work. Practice in a school parking lot on a quiet morning when you are calm and your mind isn’t on other things.
Choose an empty parking lot or safe area with as little activity as possible.
Pick beforehand the activities you are going to practice. Choose one or two activities to go over in one session. Don’t try to do too much at once. Practice parallel parking, turning, stopping, shifting.
Plan your time. Set a time to finish no matter what. You’ll both be anxious and tempers will flare if it goes on too long. Frequent small pockets of time work best.
Give calm, constructive criticism, not judgment. Give encouragement five times more than criticism. Once he realizes you are there to help him succeed, he will listen.
Read Related: Texting and Driving Dangers for Teens
Texting or talking on the phone is the number one distraction for teenagers when driving. This is an even bigger distraction than grooming, eating, horseplay or conversations with passengers in the car. Talk with your teen about the rules of conduct while driving. Share the statistics with him. In the empty parking lot, consider demonstrating how easily things can happen if you take your attention off the road.
Be the Example
Your voice will become your child’s inner voice. Eventually, when he is driving on his own, he will remember how you reacted in certain situations. Set the example. NEVER use an electronic device while in the car. If you do it even once, he will deem it acceptable. You may even take it a step further and discuss with him how you are assessing the risks on the road as you are driving. Yes, it is very likely that your teen will respond with deep loud sighs and lots of eye rolling, but in the end, he will remember why you do the things you do.
You will dig your fingernails into the dashboard and probably suffer a mild form of whiplash, but understand this is a learning experience for both of you. Be calm, take deep breaths, and think about how wonderful it will be when it’s all done and you will have someone else in the house who can run errands for you.