Teaching Your Teen to Drive
Learning doesn’t stop when your teen has received their license. It’s important to continue teaching and building upon the skills they have learned. As you continue the supervision process, think about these three areas of focus:
- Spend as much time as possible driving with your teen.
- Drive in a wide variety of conditions (weather, time of day, different traffic volumes, etc.).
- Focus on “higher level” learning: scanning ahead, recognizing hazards, and learning to anticipate the behavior of other drivers.
Now that your teen has become proficient in the basic operational skills of driving, it is essential that you ensure they be exposed to a wide variety of driving circumstances and conditions. Make a point of finding circumstances to drive with them that they have not yet experienced, and do it for all types of roads – quiet neighborhood streets, multi-lane roads, and highways. Drive with them at different times of the day, in poor weather, and with varying levels of traffic. It’s much better that they experience these conditions with you, rather than alone or with other teens.
Much of what has been discussed to this point has related specifically to the basic skills your teen will need to be a safe driver. Now, your goal is to ensure your teen is thinking intelligently and making the right decisions as a driver. Sometimes after teens become proficient with the basic skills, parents/guardians will often “step back,” becoming less involved in their teen’s supervision. But there’s still a lot to learn; their teen’s education is not complete.
Be clear with your teen that the training process is ongoing and that you will continue to provide input into their development so that you both stay in the learning/teaching mode.
Even the best new drivers are likely to make mistakes. These mistakes are great teachable moments for “higher order” instructions. So instead of saying, “Stop sooner,” advise your teen to try to focus on looking ahead and anticipating events, with an emphasis on good judgment, good decision making, and hazard perception. The shift from a basic comment to a more advanced focus is perhaps the most essential element of educating your teen at this point in the learning process.
As your teen drives, talk to them about specific hazard areas, possible areas of conflict, and blind spots where trouble may hide. Teens tend not to be as good at anticipating these trouble areas as experienced drivers. A good exercise is to have your teen describe the blind spots and possible areas of conflict they see. It will let you know that they are thinking, anticipating, and driving intelligently.