Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Safe Driving – A Guide to Teaching the New Driver

I’ve had two teens enter the driving arena in the past two years, and I’d like to say I was calm, cool and collected throughout. But lightening would strike. When you take a turn on two wheels or get close enough to the car in front of you to read the fineprint on its bumper sticker, it’s hard to be emotionally level-headed. My son constantly groans, “Mom, I do a fine job when you’re not in the car!” Hmmm . . .

So instead, I’ve turned to the experts at the Department of Revenue to find some sage advice on how to teach a teen to drive. First, they recommend that parents and teens develop an agreement so everyone is clear about the family driving rules and expectations. You can find a sample form on their Web site or you can create your own. What a nifty idea! I wish I would have thought of it.

The revenue department also offers a booklet titled Safe Driving – Guide to Teaching the New Driver. I highly recommend it as a must-read for those with new drivers. Again, I wish I would have thought of it. But I didn’t, so here are my own personal tips, which, while not eloquent, do come from personal experience and may help ease the tension when driving with a teen:
• Set a good example and practice what you preach – speeding, road rage and other bad habits can be learned practices.
• Don’t yell or nag – it’s tempting, but it only makes things worse.
• Be patient – every new task has a learning curve, and this is one that can’t be taken lightly.
• Don’t overload your driver with facts and tips – make comments sparingly and when appropriate or your remarks could be distracting.
• Be positive – compliment your teen on driving the speed limit, signaling in a timely manner, looking both ways before proceeding, etc. Praise works better than criticism.
• Encourage young drivers to speak up for what is safe and right – peer pressure can lead to trouble when teens are behind the wheel.

If nothing else, you can always resort to putting one of those “Student Driver” signs on your vehicle. That will explain everything.