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Advice to Parents about Coaching their Teens in Practice Driving Situations…
Parents, you are very important in helping your novice-driver teens learn to drive safely. You are still—like it or not—role models for your kids. Teens watch you behind the wheel, so you should try to be positive examples on the road and avoid teaching bad driving habits and attitudes.
Since you parents largely control when and where your teens can drive, you should provide ample practice opportunities and be a patient and upbeat coach for them. Most states issue learner permits that require an adult in the vehicle while teens are learning to drive. Many states with “graduated driver license programs” require parents to certify a prescribed number of practice hours completed by their teens. Because most teenagers are highly motivated to get and to keep their license, you can use this motivation to leverage your teens to become safe and responsible drivers.
The best place to learn how to be a safe driver is on the road of course. Good skills are only developed through repeated exposure to various driving situations, including work zones. However, for practice to be worthwhile, it must be done in constructive and encouraging ways.
Positive learning settings enhance the chances that good things really will be learned. Avoid heated discussions with your teens before or during practice driving sessions. It’s not a good time for you to scold them about things they have or have not done, to interrogate them about homework or grades, or to raise any other volatile subject. In fact, keep even pleasant conversation to a minimum and concentrate instead on your teens’ driving. Make your instructions short and to the point…and give them calmly. Say “good job” or other compliment often.
For these practice outings, start with easy driving situations on lower-speed roads and progress to more challenging situations on higher-speed roads. Don’t shy away from practicing in work zones; increasingly they are a typical feature of everyday driving—and learners need to be exposed to them. Understand that it will take time for your rookie drivers to drive as well as you do. They will not see some hazards or react appropriately to them, but never yell at them or lose your cool. When your new drivers make a mistake, don’t make a federal case out of it. And they WILL make mistakes! Show that you have confidence in them. Remember that it takes a lot of time and practice to be a safe driver—in work zones and in all other driving situations.
These outings should prove enjoyable and beneficial for both of you. Many state motor vehicle authorities have received feedback to that effect from parents. Most enjoyed the practice driving time they spent with their teens, and they understood its importance. But if YOU aren’t comfortable riding with and coaching your teens, get someone else to do it—someone you can rely on to give good guidance and relate well to your young drivers.