Step 1 of “Leaving the Nest” – Preparing your Teenage Driver for the Road

teenagedrivingSeems like just yesterday that your child was crawling on the floor in front of you and all of a sudden, they’re behind the wheel of your car!  Preparing and teaching your child to drive can be a difficult task, and for some, more emotional than physical.   With car accidents constituting the leading cause of death in teenagers, we need make sure our children are well-prepared to be safe and cautious drivers.  Read below for some tips to help you through this crucial coming-of-age transition!

No matter what you’re doing, always be a good role model!  As parents, we know that kids learn from real-life experiences and adult behaviors that they’re accustomed to witnessing.  The same goes for what they see when you are the driver.  So, if you are an aggressive driver and tailgate cars in front of you, they will think this is the norm for all drivers.  Instead, it’s best to set a good example in the driver’s seat with an eye toward teaching your child to drive defensively and cautiously (for example, wear your seatbelt, stay within the posted speed limit, don’t drink and drive, use blinkers when turning, no use of electronic devices while driving, no eating while driving and other distracting activities).  The more your child sees his/her role models employing these safe driving habits, these behaviors will become second nature to him/her, and he/she will have no alternative than to become the safe and attentive driver you want him/her to be.

Know the requirements and rules for driving in your state. Sign your child up for a state approved driver’s education program. Even if your state does not require such a class, this is the best way for your child to learn the driving basics and rules from a professional and, as an added bonus, often secures a discount on your child’s auto insurance!  As parents or guardians, we may forget to teach them something that we think is common sense or second nature after driving for so many years. For example, at some intersections it is permitted to make a right turn on a red light.  As experienced drivers, we know that we have to stop and look before we make a right turn on a red light, but a new driver may think they can do exactly that – just make a right turn – and don’t need to stop and check first–which could have disastrous results.  Most driver education programs include time on the road with a driving teacher who is not the child’s parent, which is an added bonus.

Once your child has his/her learner’s permit, spend a lot of time in the car with him/her as the driver. Help your child to get as many hours driving as possible before you send him/her off alone. Most states have a required amount of supervised hours that new drivers have to be on the road before they can apply for a permanent license. This time together is a great time for you to instill all the good driving habits you want your kids to have and to correct any bad habits you notice before they become routine.

Make sure your child has time driving in all different types of driving conditions. You want your child to become familiar with driving in all types of driving conditions. Start with daylight hours during good weather and during times with less traffic on the roads. Slowly add in different conditions, like rain and night hours. Build up to driving on highways and in times with more traffic.  Allow plenty of time for driving in each various road/weather condition. This will make it easier for your child to adjust to different situations once he or she is driving alone.

When you feel that your child is ready and all the requirements have been met, it’s time to take him/her to the driver’s test.  Once your teenage driver has his/her permanent license, the teaching shouldn’t end!  Be sure to model and enforce the new driver regulations that your state has and maybe even add a few of your own. Keep in mind that teenage drivers are more prone to accidents and distracted driving when other people are in the car with them.  We realize that watching your child pull out of the driveway alone for the first time is a difficult thing!  But following the tips above can help you to ensure that your children are ready, experienced and well-educated.

Do you have any suggestions that we have not mentioned in helping you or your children to get through as a new driver?  Please leave it in the comments below.  We love to have your feedback!