Independence Behind the Wheel
- Thursday, June 23, 2005
As your child approaches their teen years, learning to drive will quickly become an important focus of your homeschooling agenda. Requirements for how to receive a driver's license vary greatly from state to state. Most states require your that teens take driver education classes which include book instruction as well as behind the wheel practice. By spending time behind the wheel with your teen, your support as a safe and experienced driver will have a positive impact during the development of their safe-driving skills.
Children view their parents as role models. Your good driving behavior, from the time your children are in a car seat until the moment they take the wheel, is the first step toward raising a safe driver. Have you evaluated your driving habits lately? Do you wear your seatbelt? Do you always use turn signals? Do you stop firmly at red lights and stop signs? Do you treat other drivers with courtesy? These are but a few attributes, reinforced in Driver Education programs, which can be very easily incorporated into your everyday trips around town.
Learning to safely operate a vehicle takes practice--supervised practice. Here are a few tips that will help make driving with your teen a positive, confidence building, experience:
- Plan the route you want them to take before they get behind the wheel and discuss landmarks, road conditions, potential hazards as well as other driver issues.
- Give your teen time to get to know the feel of your car, adjust mirrors, seat and steering wheel, locate blind spots and feel the brakes (Note: give special consideration if your car has an antilock braking system).
- Begin with a 15-minute drive and gradually increase their drive time as they gain more experience.
- Remember that your teen will be nervous, so stay calm. Be patient and expect mistakes.
- Pull over if you must give specific instructions. This will allow your teen to concentrate on what you are saying, instead of the road in front of them.
- Begin with routes in low traffic areas then expand to urban settings, rural roads, and interstate highways. It is also very important to include trips at night and during inclement weather to increase their skill under all conditions.
- Don't forget to record your driving sessions. Some states will require this.
- Give your teen positive feedback and after each driving session and ask them to give you feedback on your instruction.
You will also want to make sure that your teen's vehicle is one that reduces their risk of being involved in accidents by offering state-of-the-art protection. Consider avoiding their use of sports cars and other vehicles that might encourage speeding. Sports Utility Vehicles, especially smaller ones, pose a rollover risk and small vehicles offer less crash protection. Generally bigger is better. Many mid- and full- size vehicles offer great protection.
Information about the safety ratings on vehicles can be found at the following web sites:
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Learning to drive is a right-of-passage you can share with your teen as you engage in the dialogue and practice the skills that will help them become an independent and safe driver.
Acknowledge upfront (to yourself) that there may be some stressful and challenging moments for both you and your teen as they learn how to drive, but remember to enjoy this milestone in your child's life--and yours as well.
This article originally appeared in Homeschool.com's excellent eNewsletter, which is available for free at www.Homeschool.com/subscribe
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