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 level” 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 conflicts they see. It will let you know that they are thinking, anticipating, and driving intelligently.
Additionally, it is important to talk with your teen about how to behave if a police officer pulls them over. Let your teen know that it can be stressful; however, if a few simple steps are followed, the interaction can go smoothly.
- Activate your turn signal. Drive as close to the right side of the road as safely as possible, stop, and park your vehicle safely away from traffic.
- Turn off your engine and radio and roll down the driver’s window.
- If it is nighttime, turn on the vehicle’s interior light as soon as you park but before the officer approaches the vehicle.
- Limit your movements and ask any passengers to do the same — do not reach for anything in the vehicle.
- Alert the officer immediately if you are transporting any type of firearm.
- Place your hands on the steering wheel and ask any passengers to have their hands in view.
- Keep your vehicle doors closed and stay inside your vehicle unless the officer asks you to get out.
- Keep your seat belt fastened until the officer has seen that you are appropriately restrained.
- Wait until the officer asks you to retrieve your driver’s license, registration and insurance cards. Do not hand the officer your wallet, just the requested items.
- Always be polite. The officer will tell you why they pulled you over. You may receive a warning, or you may be cited for a traffic violation. If you disagree with the citation, you are entitled to a court hearing where you can present your arguments. It is not in your best interest to argue with the officer at the scene. If you believe that you have not been treated in a professional manner, you should contact the appropriate police department at a later time and ask to speak with a supervisor.