Helping Your Teen Driver Learn to Navigate the Road
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Want to help your teen driver succeed on the road? Check these tips!
As your child begins to get closer and closer to getting behind the wheel of a car, we expect that you, as a parent, are feeling quite a mix of emotions. On the one hand, you won’t need to be your kid’s chauffeur anymore, responsible for getting them to school and sports practices on time.
On the other hand, you’ll be trusting them to hit the roads with a healthy respect for safety – both their own and that of other people sharing the streets!
Witnessing your child navigate the open road for the first time is a milestone moment, and you have an incredible ability to help your child become a responsible driver in the process. In this article, we discuss some ways in which you can improve your teenager’s confidence behind the wheel and reduce their chances of running into a costly car accident lawsuit.
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Beginning With the Basics
The path to safe driving begins by finding a qualified driving instructor that you can trust to keep your teen safe. You’ll want to find a program with certified instructors and a curriculum that aligns with your state’s driving requirements. Once you’ve found an instructor that seems like a good match for your family, make sure to stay involved with the process!
Touch base with the instructor to make sure you and your teen clearly understand the training process. By actively engaging in your child’s learning experience, you can make sure they’re on the right track for success.
As an experienced driver yourself, you can help by familiarizing your teen with the basics of vehicle controls and functions. Ensure your teen understands how to operate all essential features of an everyday motor vehicle, including the steering wheel, brakes, turn signals, lights, and windshield wipers. Giving your teen hands-in experience helps create a strong foundation of safe, confident driving.
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Emphasizing the Importance of Defensive Driving
You may have heard the term “defensive driving” before. Essentially, defensive driving boils down to proactively staying aware of your environment and reacting to potential hazards before they put you and your passengers in danger. One of the most important things you can stress to your family’s newest driver from day one is the importance of situational awareness.
You should actively encourage your teen to scan their surroundings, observe what other vehicles and pedestrians are doing, and anticipate potential hazards. Lead by example when you’re behind the wheel and point out what you observe during a routine drive.
As a new driver, your teen may not fully grasp how long it can take to bring a car to a complete stop. Emphasize the importance of maintaining a safe following distance at all times. This can be done by using the three-second rule, when you hit a fixed landmark on the side of the road a full three seconds behind the vehicle in front of you.
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Explain that there are situations when even more following distance should be given, such as during rain or snow. Demonstrate this rule in practice during family drives, showing your teen how it translates to increased reaction time and a buffer zone for unexpected situations.
Your teen may struggle initially to understand right-of-way rules, especially at tricky intersections. You can help by guiding your teen through these concepts in a practical manner. Begin with simple intersections and progress to more complex scenarios as you see your teen’s confidence grow.
Finally, be sure to limit distractions in the car. Work with your teen to address and prevent common distractions like cell phones, loud music, and unruly passengers. Set clear expectations about phone use while driving and encourage open communication about potential distractions they might encounter.
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Letting Your Teen Take the Wheel
Mastering the basic maneuvers of driving requires hands-on practice. Schedule dedicated sessions with your teen to practice parking, lane changes, and stopping in safe, controlled environments like empty parking lots or quiet residential streets. Once your child has the basics down, introduce them to driving in different weather conditions, traffic volumes, and road types.
You’ll also want to make sure your teen is able to safely hit the road in other commonly-encountered conditions, such as nighttime or on the freeway. When working on nighttime driving, focus on proper headlight usage, scanning for hazards in low-light conditions, and maintaining safe speeds.
As you’re getting your teen used to the freeway, start with low-traffic conditions and provide clear instructions and support. Be sure to get across the importance of maintaining safe speeds and staying aware of surrounding vehicles. Other drivers are frequently erratic and can cause a dangerous situation.
Make sure your teen understands that there are some dangerous behaviors they need to avoid. Among these behaviors are speeding, racing, and aggressive driving. If it helps to get the point across, you can share your personal experiences with dangerous drivers on the road. Be sure to create a safe space for your teen to ask questions and express concerns about peer pressure or risky driving situations.
Helping Your Teen Become a Safe Driver is a Rewarding Experience
Guiding your teen driver can be incredibly rewarding. You have an incredible chance to see them grow in confidence and skills as they take an important step towards adulthood. By prioritizing professional instruction, building a foundation of defensive driving skills, and providing consistent support and encouragement, you empower your child to navigate the road with confidence and responsibility.