The Challenge of Turning Your Teenager into a Safe Driver

Most parents are fearful of the idea that their teenager is getting their driver’s permit. To be honest, when it comes to driving, it’s hard to make up for the lack of experience but everyone has to start at some point. At the same time, you know that operating a vehicle is quite dangerous, and as any good parent you don’t want anything to happen to them.

Teenagers are known for being more prone to risky behavior and rebelling against authority so you have to go about it very carefully or your good advice can just end up being disregarded simply because that’s what you, the parental authority, asked them to do, and nobody tells them what to do. 

This article seeks to guide you and how best to “steer” them towards becoming a safe driver. 

Start by Teaching Them the Basics of How a Car Works

Give them a general orientation on how a car works and what drivers need to know about their vehicles. You can even do it through reading material that can help you illustrate what you’re trying to explain. 

By the end of this stage they should be well informed on the meaning of the various lights on the dashboard, on how to start and stop the engine, how to check the oil, how to inspect the tires, how to inflate and change them, how to adjust the mirrors, safely fasten the seatbelts, turn headlights on and off, use the windshield wipers and what to do in case of common malfunctions and accidents. 

This part will get them familiarized with how to operate a car and you’ll both feel less anxiety. 

Empty Parking Lot Stage

Here your teenager can get acquainted with handling a car and making it do what he or she wants, without you having to worry about pedestrians. Teach them how to make safe turns and how to signal, how to stop the car smoothly, shift gears and back the car safely. 

While you’re there you can begin telling them what they need to watch out for while driving through traffic and how to predict the behavior of the other motorists.

Driving Through the Neighborhood

If you live in a busy area it would be better if you looked for a quieter neighborhood. They still have a lot to learn and intense traffic will be too distracting and scary at this point.  The aim is to teach them how to navigate through light traffic and how to stay vigilant while driving.  

Explain Why Distractions Are Dangerous

This is an excellent opportunity to educate them on the dangers of texting or talking on the phone. How driving when you’re sleep deprived or under the influence can lead to accidents and the legal consequences of those accidents. 

In case they do get into accidents later on, after they get their license, there’s a high chance they’ll need legal assistance and you might want to look into No Win No Fee Solicitors early on. But right now, don’t fill their heads with the most catastrophic scenarios because a panicky teenager is not the best student. 

What They Should Be Able to Do 

During this phase your teen has to learn how to navigate through an intersection, change lanes smoothly and safely, maintain a safe cushion, be courteous with other drivers, obey traffic signs and speed limits, use the mirrors and check blind spots. 

Time to Go Back to the Parking Lot

For many novice drivers, learning how to park can be a more difficult skill to master than the driving itself. You don’t want them damaging the car you probably bought or causing property damage, so you’ll need to get them back to the parking lot and practice. We recommend you do it in shorter session of 30 minutes as it requires a lot of patience. 

Before they can call themselves a parking connoisseur, they need to be able to do a parallel parking, pull in and out of a diagonal or 90-degree parking space, make a U-turn and a three-point turn and, let’s not forget, park safely on a hill. 

How to Be a Good Teacher – Soft Skills

Like we said in the introduction, the way you talk to your teenager is very important. If you’re being too critical and impatient, they might end up doing the opposite of what you teach them just to spite you, even though during your lessons they might hide their bitterness. Remember that the ultimate goal is to keep your children safe.  

Make Sure They’re Ready

First of all don’t pressure them to start learning how to drive if they don’t feel ready, it’s better if you begin by explaining how you drive while they’re in the passenger seat and asking them to help you when you need to fix the car or do maintenance work. 

Once they’ve taken the initiative and shown interest, take it slow and go through the different stages at their pace. It might get tedious but you were once just like them and even if you feel that you picked up these things faster, it’s not constructive to start comparing and making them feel bad. 

Avoid Talking down on Them

If you want to point out a mistake they made, don’t speculate on what it says about them as a person, like “You get distracted too easily.”. That’s very discouraging. It’s much more motivating to praise them on what they do well and ask them questions to lead them into figuring out their own errors. So instead of saying “You’ve gone over the speed limit again!” try phrasing it more along the lines of “What’s the speed limit in this area?”.

Give Them a Heads up

Your teenager is not an experienced driver like yourself so they haven’t had time to form good reflexes yet. When you want them to make a turn, it’s better to let them know a bit ahead of time by saying “We will be making a left turn at the next block.”

Likewise, before taking them out for a driving lesson, let them know what you’ll be doing, in what area you’re going to be practicing and what skills. 

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