Did you ever think that you would be teaching driver education? Are you the parent of a teenager who is about to start driving? Experiencing mixed feelings? Like relief on the one hand because you will no longer have to drive them everywhere they want to go, and worry on the other because you fear for their safety? And what about the wild (but not completely irrational) sense of panic one feels when sitting in the passenger seat of a car while your teenager explores his/her new found “license to drive”?
Yes, it’s a scary time. Everyone knows that teens are high-risk drivers. But did you also know that according to research, teenagers are much less likely to get involved in fatal accidents or break the law if their parents were a part of the driver education process and actually teaching driver education instead of a school?
So go ahead and talk to your teenager about safe driving practices. Ensure that you know the rules and regulations of the road and practice it in your everyday lives. Children learn by watching, remember? So always practice what you preach no matter how old your kids are or even if they are not in the car with you.
Once you decide to teach your kid how to drive, start by demonstrating the process. Let him/her sit in the passenger seat for a few days as you explain the task at hand.
Talk them through your decision-making process as well. What this means is that you may have to actually describe everything you do and the reasons behind it in simple language. “I need to pull over ahead, so I’m going to flash my indicator before I slow down,” or “The driver ahead is slowing down a bit, I need to stay an appropriate distance away,” etc.
While doing this, also elaborate on how to get the job done. “This is the indicator switch. I need to pull it downward to get my left indicator light flashing so as to signal my intention to turn to the driver tailing me,” or “If you are going to slow down, this is how you shift gears.”
Go over the rules of the road and the road signs indicated in the driver’s handbook and the car owner’s manual.
Expound on the importance of having no distractions when one is behind the wheel. So many deaths can be avoided if we just leave our cell phones alone.
Discuss road hazards and appropriate reactions. What do you do if a dog darts out on to the road, how to react if your car suddenly skids off the road, etc. This is what teaching driver education is all about.
Then find a safe place to practice. An empty parking lot, for example, is a great and safe location for first time drivers as it is relatively obstruction free.
Teach your teen the basics of driving: how to adjust his/her seat and mirrors, where the controls lie, how to turn the ignition, etc.
Also practice basic controls: How to change gears (if it is a manual transmission), how to accelerate and decelerate safely, how to reverse, how to park without hitting the curb or another car.
Practice makes perfect
Do this every day until your child (and you) are confident of their ability to drive in traffic.