OK, so today your child is 12 years old. With your oldest on the verge of being a teenager, it’s never too early to think about parenting a teen, right? And that means, among the changes the teen years bring, it will be time to teach your child how to drive. (For those of you who tweet, we like to use #anxiety when talking about this subject. And also, just know your older sister will remind you of how you rolled your eyes when she talked about all the challenges parenting a teen brings.)
For an opportunity to get on the road, your teen will offer services that he or she otherwise wouldn’t dream of doing. You know, a trip to Hannaford to get milk and eggs, a trek to the Speedway for gas for your morning commute, a jaunt to the post office at Colonie Center to stand in line to mail those Christmas packages.
But before your teen angel can do any of those good deeds, he or she actually has to get a driver's permit and learn how to drive. And get a driver’s license, of course.
In addition to your #anxiety tweets, the learning curve takes patience and focus.
From our friends at the State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company, here are steps to take before you let your kid get behind the wheel of your car.
Start with a tour of the vehicle: Before you hit the road, demonstrate how to adjust the side- and rear-view mirrors and seat to fit your teen's needs. Make any other necessary accommodations, such as tilting the steering wheel. Also make sure your teen knows how each of the following works: dashboard controls, turn signals, headlights, safety features (airbags, seat belts, emergency lights), wipers, parking brake/release, ignition, gas, brakes (especially ABS), warning indicator lights on dashboard. Be sure to show your teen where the registration, insurance card and car manual are located.
Get a feel for the vehicle: For the first teen test drive, start in a safe location, such as an empty parking lot where the businesses are closed for the weekend. Have your teen practice applying gas and brakes, driving straight, turning and backing up. On the next visit to the vacant parking lot, have your new driver practice pulling in and out of a parking spot. Also have your teen practice checking mirrors and scanning continuously for hazards, such as a dog running into the pathway of your car.
Start in low-speed, low-traffic areas: Once your teen is comfortable with the basic operation of your vehicle, take your lessons to quiet streets, where he or she can practice staying on one side of the road, pulling up to a stop sign, and anticipate cars leaving driveways. For the next several lessons, stick to roads that have slower speed limits (under 35 mph). Emphasize that the posted limit is only a guide for an acceptable speed in excellent conditions. Your teen should drive even slower in poor weather, heavy traffic or areas that have a lot of pedestrians. Try to take a different route each time ― one involving a school zone would be good ― to make sure your teen is getting the variety needed to become a safe driver.
Driving on the highway: Traveling on a multi-lane highway for the first time can be scary. Start by having your teen drive at quieter times of the day to practice merging into traffic, staying in a single lane, and using higher speeds and safe following distances without the added stress of rush-hour traffic. Once you are both comfortable with that, gradually move on to busier traffic situations. Before heading onto the highway, prepare your new driver for such situations as driving near large trucks and looking for stopped or slowing traffic.
After the practice sessions ― good job, parents! (#anxiety) ― it’s time to take the road tests given by the DMV.
After those tests are passed, it’s all about safety and good judgment on everyone’s part.
Smart decisions never grow old.
TSL Team Contributions
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