Friday, March 23, 2018

Is My Child Really Ready to Drive?

There are wings on our car. Not the tangible, feather encrusted kind, but independent wings that just lifted my daughter as she drove by herself for the first time today. She took all of the driver’s training classes, passed through behind the wheel experiences with flying colors and all too-quickly passed her driving test. Suddenly it is much more than driving that worries me – I have thoughts from car-jackings to car fires to attempted abductions flitting through my mind, and I have to wonder: Did I do enough to prepare my teenager for the responsibility of driving on her own?

Teenagers grow up quickly enough as it is, and then suddenly they are living much more independent lives with cars keys in hand. As worried as I am about my daughter every time she drives away, I am confident that her preparation was sound, both in driving classes and life experiences, and that my worries can further be eased by implementing a few more driver safety guidelines in our family.

Driver Education

Even though we homeschool, I readily put the responsibility and trust in another source to teach my daughter about the rules of the road from a technical standpoint. My children are probably pretty typical – they are sometimes more apt to listen and less apt to insert their own versions when they are listening to someone other than me – the mom. I wanted her to hear from police officers about road laws and safety. I wanted her to watch the videos that showed the real and immense dangers of car crashes. Yes – I wanted her scared – to a certain point.

If your teenager is ready for driver education, consider the following:

Your own driving – I have never been more conscious of my own driving than when I knew my daughter was paying close attention to my every move. No cell phone use for me and no speeding (even when I felt like I was at a snail’s pace). I even found myself talking out loud about why I made certain driving decisions – such as why I didn’t pass the farm machinery that was making us late.

Cost – Shop around, both for school programs, home programs, and accredited programs in your community. In our area the costs were about equal.

Training – While the costs might have been relatively the same, the experiences of the trainers were vastly different. In the school settings sometimes the driving instructor doubles as the gym coach, and is not a dedicated professional to this specific course. Then there was me – a newbie. For us the formal driving school offered the most experienced staff, and the best 1:1 ratio of learning (outside of home).

Reputation – Talk to other parents and listen to their experiences. We had several formal programs from which to choose, and by far the one we selected had the best reviews.

Driving Apps – Our daughter is using a pretty cool program from State Farm. One portion of it is a paper log the new driver completes with the participation of at least one parent that can later be used to receive insurance deductions. The other part, an app she has on her iPod, records things like acceleration, cornering, and time spent driving. I get a report emailed to me after her trips. Our daughter appreciated the feedback, especially since she doesn’t always have an adult with her for guidance. We appreciate the extra monitoring so we know how things are progressing for her with the newfound independence.

Driving Practice

The first time my daughter drove with her permit, I felt like my mom. My invisible gas and brake pedals on the passenger side were fully engaged as she drove. Even though at first I wished I could close my eyes, I was able to relax myself enough to be the calm, nurturing driving instructor seated next to her. Fortunately for both of us, she is a very cautious driver (maybe those videos helped do the trick!). For more than 6 months we practiced (yes – I needed to practice giving up my invisible pedals).

Start small – The first places our daughter drove with her permit were country back roads with little or no traffic. It is enough for them to get the feel of the wheel; they don’t need rush hour to add to the pressure.

Be calm – I admit that the first few times on the road I opted for my husband to sit next to my daughter in the front seat, leading her way. I managed not to be a backseat driver (but I had my eyes closed a few times).

Gradually add in experiences – We moved from back road driving to city driving, but made sure that we eased into it during times of low-traffic levels. She didn’t practice driving at night for the first few weeks, either. We also eased in winter driving – a Midwest treat with icy and snowy roads.

The sound of silence – She had 3 younger brothers along for many of the rides, but we implemented a low-noise rule when she drives. No or low radio, and no or low sounds from brothers. She’ll have plenty of years to drive with distractions being thrown at her.

Constructive criticism – There were times when my daughter needed gentle reminders or clarifications while driving. I made every effort to deliver these is a quiet tone. Sometimes I waited until she finished driving to go over decisions she made so as not to distract her from her driving.

Affirmation – I will never forget the day we were cruising along at 55 mph with my teen at the wheel. Another driver pulled out directly in front of us to cross the road. My daughter slammed on the brakes, very aware of the situation, even managing to check her review mirror to see if we were in danger from being hit from behind for such an abrupt change of speed. Things went flying off of van seats, but my daughter’s cool remained intact. We narrowly avoided a crash. I gave my child affirmation that she did everything right, and praised her quick actions and choices. As frightening as it was, it gave us a great opportunity to talk about how distracted driving can quickly change things, and you have to be just as concerned about the other drivers. If she had been using a cell phone or otherwise distracted, her reactions would not have been so quick.

More Ways to Prepare My Teenager Driver

As my daughter took the keys for her first time alone, suddenly knowing the road rules weren’t enough. I tried to make sure that she was prepared for anything and everything, and I included the more obvious rules. As she smiled and half-laughed at my mothering, I told her that if she gets to use the car, I get to pretend to be my mom once again!

  • No cell phones – at all.
  • You must only drive to the destinations we have discussed (today was school, church, and home).
  • Upon your arrival you need to text me, and do so again before you leave your destination, and again when you arrive. Basically be your own GPS.
  • You may not give a ride to anyone.
  • If you are worried you are being followed, drive to a crowded destination with lots of people outside.
  • Park under a street light or in a well-lit area, especially if it will be twilight or dark when you enter or exit your car.
  • Always lock your car – preferably without leaving the keys in it.
  • Always have back-up cash for emergencies.
  • Know how to fill the car with gas – and don’t leave it on empty for me!
  • When you walk to and from your car, pay attention to your surroundings and keep your keys in your hand (they double as a weapon if needed).
  • Come back home. We love you aren’t quite ready for you to let your wings take you too far.

Related posts:

  1. Is Your Child Ready to Stay Home Alone?
  2. Sleepovers? Deciding if Your Child is Ready.
  3. Why Your Child Needs Art

View full post on Parenting Tips For Raising Successful Kids |

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