Teen driver’s education involves more than learning how to parallel park. As your teenager approaches the age when he can qualify for a learner’s permit and begin learning to drive, it’s normal for both of you to experience some fear and anxiety. It comes with the territory. It may help to know that parents play a major role in any teen driver’s education experience, both in and out of the driver’s ed classroom.
Begin by talking to your teen about the definition of safe driving. Emphasize that staying safe on the road involves more than being able to steer a car neatly around a corner. Explain that as you drive you are constantly evaluating the situation on the road ahead as well as behind you. The best way to do this is while you’re driving with your teen beside
you. Ask for his evaluations and encourage questions. One important point to remember is that you are still in control of the teen driver’s education issue. Until your teen reaches 18, he needs your signature on that application. Many teens, even honors students, don’t believe that anything bad can ever happen to them. If you know, or even just sense, that
they don’t understand the importance of safety on the road, tell them they are not ready for this big step. This is especially important when it’s more a matter of attitude than intellectual understanding.
Before your teen even begins the classroom portion of teen driver’s education, you should set clear expectations, rules, and consequences for their driving behavior. Will they be allowed to drive with friends in the car? Who will pay for the gas the use? What about cell phone usage? You don’t want your teen setting off alone in the car without one, but you
also don’t want him using it inappropriately. When your teen sees you taking the time to set rules and consequences about their driving, it helps them understand you take this seriously and so should they.
If you don’t do it already, start modeling the behavior you want to see in your teen as a driver. This means obeying the speed limit, buckling your seat belt, and turning off your cell phone while you’re behind the wheel. Explain that you don’t try to “get even” with a driver who cut you off because it’s dangerous. Talk about what you don’t do, like tailgating, that may not be obvious to that teenage observer next to you.
Many teen drivers’ education programs put more emphasis on passing your state’s driving test than driving safely, so it’s a good idea for you to teach your teen about safe driving behavior. This is also a good time for you to refresh your own knowledge of traffic laws and emergency driving skills. Do you know which way to steer if you go into a skid on an icy
corner? How do you determine a safe distance behind the car in front of you?
Look at your role and consider yourself a back-up driver’s ed teacher who specializes in safety on the road. Let the driving instructors teach your teen how to turn a corner neatly and parallel park. Even if they teach him safe driving habits, your teen also needs to hear these lessons from you.