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Letting Kids Drive with You

Too often, kids get a learners permit and never get to drive. Start your young driver in the neighborhood, in parking lots or other low traffic areas. After several weeks, let them drive in more traffic. Don’t expect too much at first, but don’t lower standards. Remember, what your children know about driving they have learned from watching you.

For the first few months, avoid situations where your young driver will need to cross traffic, such as left turns. This is an extremely "high risk" maneuver and your child will not have developed the perception and judgment skills to safely complete this maneuver.

  • Later on, evaluate your teens’ driving skills. Look for:
  • Driving with two hands
  • Use of turn signals
  • Smooth, steady acceleration
  • Steady speed
  • Smooth braking
  • Ability to keep the car in the center of the lane
  • Use of mirrors

During the first year, while you are still in control, constantly remind your young driver of the importance of paying full-time attention behind the wheel. The events leading up to a crash are measured in seconds, not minutes and looking away briefly can result in death or paralyzing injury.

Remember that night driving presents special challenges. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that in 2002, 41 percent of teenage motor vehicle crashes occurred between 9 pm and 6 am. Be aware of the problems created by night driving and make sure your son or daughter understands them. Night driving affects effects depth perception, general vision and our ability to determine approximate speed of the oncoming traffic.

After the first four months of restricted driving situations and times, your teen should be moving into driving all the time. This is another tough transition for parents. During the past few months you have lectured on the dangers and potential hazards caused by other drivers. Now it’s time to let them drive and help them watch out for the other guy.

Advanced Driving

All new drivers, not just teens, employ tunnel vision: they tend to see only what’s immediately in front of them (it’s a reason kids frequently run through stop signs and traffic lights). They don’t use peripheral vision and they don’t scan. This is an important skill you will need to work on with your teen.

Start by telling them they should be looking 4, 5, and 6 car lengths ahead, scanning the sides of the roads and intersections well before they get there and using the mirrors so they know what’s going on around them. When you pass a street sign ask, what the sign said. When you pass a car at an intersection, ask about the color of the car. Don’t let the driver stare; these important bits of information should only require a quick glance.

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