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Parents as Partners in Teen Driver Education: Everyone Has a Role

One major event in the life of every teen–and every teen’s family–is receiving a driver’s license. For the teen, it means freedom and independence. For parents, it means a decrease in serving as chauffeur–and an increase in worry as parents hope their teens will drive safely.

Driver’s education for teens throughout Nova Scotia and New Brunswick–and the rest of Canada–involves a number of people acting together to make sure each new driver is a good, safe driver. Driving schools, parents, and teens all need to work together to achieve the goal.

Here’s some tips for parents as they work with their teens as they learn to drive.

Set Boundaries and Rules

This tip really falls into the general category of ‘good parenting’. While each parent and child are individuals, everyone will be more secure if clear boundaries and rules are set–whatever those rules are.  Teens, even, will admit that the appreciate rules–even as they test them.

 

Some rules are obvious–obey the law while driving is one. Parents are more than within their rights when their teen violates the law to impose some kind of consequence–but not everything is a capital case. Driving under the influence is different than rolling through a stop sign.

You will have to think through your rules before your teen gets to permit age–you want to do it right. Many parents will use a driving contract, which sets out the rules for your teen driver. In the contract, you might also want to include a set of “here’s how we the parents will act” section, also.

For example, all such contracts will have a rule about “no texting”. Parents, however, need to remember that when teens are driving, they can’t respond immediately to a text. Parents will have to be patient waiting for the response–perhaps you can build in response time rule, or a way you will indicate that a response is needed sooner rather than later.

Think Through Your Own Driving Habits

Most drivers have habits which they’ve adopted over the years–some consciously, some unconsciously. And you’ve been driving that way with your children in the car–and they may have absorbed those habits as acceptable.

It’s OK–but now is the time to think through those habits and remove them–at least through the driver training process.

One habit I suspect we all have is driving “at the speed of the traffic” when we’re on Highway 104. While the speed limit there is 100 km/h, many drivers will go 105-110. While there is some evidence that going the speed of the traffic is safer, new drivers should be encouraged to follow all speed limit signs. The best encouragement they can get is from you.

Likewise, if you’ve habitually treated yellow lights as a signal to accelerate, now is the time to stop following the habit. You may be someone who cuts corners on rural roads–making the curves easier. Rolling through stop signs is a common habit. Work to remove them from your driving while you’re trying to teach your teen. Use your turn signals!

Planning Your Sessions

Driver training is more than just time behind the wheel. It is, rather, a way to focus the student’s attention on specific skills for an hour or so, giving them a chance to practice that skill.

Your professional driving instructor may give you guidance on what skills to practice between lessons–make sure you build those skills into your practice sessions.

As with any physical activity, don’t let skills get rusty. Your teen may demonstrate the ability to make a safe “K-turn” early on.  While you don’t need to do K-turns every single practice trip, make sure that they do them once in a while, just to keep the skill fresh.

Don’t let hour-long sessions get bogged down into one skill, even if it needs work. If your teen is struggling with parallel parking, for example, working on it for 20-30 minutes or so is more than enough.  Move on to something else, and then maybe for the last few minutes try again once more.

Think Ahead

Even before your teen receives their Nova Scotia learner’s permit, think through where you will practice. School parking lots (when empty) are great places to learn stopping, starting, and turning. During bad weather, they may be good places to practice skids–at very low speed.

Begin talking about safe driving when your teen is 13. Have them pay attention to the behavior of others on the road–good and bad. Discuss with them what you’re observing, and why it’s something they need to know.

Being involved in the development of your teen’s driving schools is a known safety improver. Teens with involved parents have fewer crashes and are more likely to use seat belts.

Selecting a Driving School

Everyone is busy–we know that. We know you want to be involved, but you may not have all the time needed to help your teen become a great driver.

You will be investing time and money into a driving school. Find out all you can before you sign up.

  • Ask friends and neighbors about their experiences with local driving schools.
  • Find out if schools have Parent’s Nights or other introductory programs.
  • Get a copy of each school’s classroom and behind-the-wheel curriculum, and make sure it includes defensive driving instruction.
  • Visit the schools you’re thinking about using, and interview the owners and instructors.

You will need to have a good sense about the people teaching your teens to drive.

Conclusion

In 21st century Canada, teaching teens to drive is part of life. Providing your teens with a combination of your coaching and professional driving instruction, whether you’re in Halifax, New Glasgow, or Bedford, is your responsibility.

Everyone relies on the ability of other drivers on the road. Your safety depends on you and on them–and you can make sure that your teens are safe, too. You can’t train everyone, but you can train them.