Author Teresa Plowright addresses a concern of all parents in her travelwithkids
blog about teen driving. She says "just around the corner is that
moment when your sixteen-year-old has just obtained a learner's permit.
So get ready for the words: Can I drive the car?"
My own son is nearly 14, and I am painfully aware of how close he is to learning to drive, especially each time he asks "Can I park the car?" In my head, all I can think about is how I'm going to explain the dents to the neighbor's car.
Plowright's blog offers a number of suggestions to help encourage safer teen driving from your teenager, all of them common-sense ways to help your neophyte driver focus on their new skills. Start by giving them lots of opportunity to practice. "Teenagers definitely need all the practice they can get... as some sobering teen driving statistics at Drivehomesafe.com indicate," says Plowright.
(My own father taught me to drive in a great big Ford F-250. He took me
to a parking lot and made me practice three-point turns, backing
through posts, and maneuvering over and around cinderblocks. To round
out the education, he taught me how to use a manual transmission on a
forklift. His logic was that if I could learn to handle those
behemoths, then I would be a skillful driver in any car. 25 years
later, I know he was correct, especially now, when my girlfriends tease
me that I can back into any parking spot better than any men they know.)
Additionally, Plowright reminds us that we should practice what we preach: Start by watching your own habits to see what kind of example you set when behind the wheel. Do you tailgate, speed, roll through stop signs? Would you want your teen to drive as you do?
She also suggests that we can assist our teen driver while we are in the car with them. Act as a second pair of eyes for your teen, point out risks, hold the cell phone, and help with the dashboard as your young driver learns where all the knobs and buttons are positioned. Even though my own son won't be driving for a couple years, I am always certain to point out relevant moments when we are in the car together, to make other driver's faux pas into teaching opportunities.
Most importantly, be patient, and positive. Don't lose your cool: if tempers are rising, consider taking a break.
Finally, Plowright emphasizes planning ahead for safety. Make sure you know the rules about teen drivers in your state: some states have restricted-use licensing that prohibit teens from driving late at night, or with other teens in the car. Help your young driver plan out routes ahead of time she they won't be confused by heavy traffic or confusing interchanges. Make sure your teenager is properly insured and always safely buckled up.
Also, one last thing that can't be stressed enough during this time of self-exploration and learning is to be sure you're teaching your young adult about the potential harm of underage drinking and the dangers of driving while impaired by alcohol.
In a recent article titled "Spring break begins teen drinking season," author Kurt Eckert reminds us all that after the spring break week comes proms, graduations and other reasons for celebrations and off-campus parties.
As spring break approaches, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission urges businesses and parents to be vigilant in helping control the problem of underage drinking. The problem most often associated with drinking is drunk driving, but alcohol is also associated with higher levels of assault, rape, and teenage pregnancy, said OLCC spokesperson Ken Palke.
By Brandy Schaffels