You have seen your child take his or her first steps, graduate from kindergarten, go off on the bus to middle school, and walk into high school for the very first time. Put on your seat belts — literally and figuratively — because you are about to watch your child reach another milestone: becoming a new driver.
While it might be hard to believe that your baby is really old enough to learn how to drive, he or she passed the learner’s permit exam and is a card-carrying member of the chomping-at-the-bit-to-learn-how-to-drive crowd.
In order to help your teen be a safe and confident driver, and keep your sanity at the same time, consider the following four tips:
Practice, practice, practice
As the National Safety Council notes, a lack of experience is the number one cause of car accidents for teens. Make sure your new teen driver gets a lot of practice behind the wheel. Start off in a large empty parking lot during the day, and gradually get him or her driving at night and in all kinds of weather. By increasing the amount of time that your teen spends driving, it will help to give him or her the experience needed to become a capable driver.
Set a good example
Although it might not seem like it, our teens are watching us all the time, seeing how we react to all sorts of situations. This is definitely true when we are behind the wheel. Do we stay calm when a little old woman pulls out slowly in front of us or do we start honking and swearing like a sailor? Do we stick to the speed limit or are we proverbial lead foots? As DriveitHOME — a new program that offers resources that parents can use to help their teens stay safe on the road — notes, drive the way you want your child to drive. Use your turn signal, be careful when changing lanes, and don’t drive like you own the whole darn road.
Sign them up for a course
While some parents prefer to teach their teens to drive, others are more than happy to let a more experienced driving instructor do the job. There are a variety of training courses available for teens. Alive at 25 is a 4-plus hour class for new drivers ages 15 and up. The course emphasizes being aware on the road, defensive driving techniques and role-playing opportunities that help teens make better decisions when behind the wheel.
You can also help make learning the nitty-gritty of driving rules fun. A website like Driving-Tests.org features DMV driving practice tests you can go over with your teen. Then, for each test your teen completes with flying colors, he or she can earn extra privileges like an extra buck or two for allowance or a drink at Starbucks.
Sign a parent-teen driving agreement
Yes, you’ve told your teen that he or she will not drive with buddies in the car, and you’ve made it clear that cell phones are to stay in the rear seat at all times. It might be a good idea to go one step beyond this and write-up a parent-teen driving agreement that lists your expectations and rules as well what will happen if they do not abide by them.