How do I teach my child safe driving habits?
Real Mom Problem
“My 17-year-old has his license and I regret allowing him to get it. He wants to speed around town recklessly. It's been an ongoing argument and worry.”
- 1. Kids learn by example--show him or her how to be a safe driver when you're the one in the driver's seat
- 2. Get rid of distractions in the car, including everything from the radio to younger siblings
- 3. Be clear which friends your teen is allowed to drive with and which he or she is not allowed to drive with
- 4. Make sure your teen gets lots of driving practice before taking the driver's exam
- 5. Some moms give their teens their own driving tests, in addition to those administered by the DMV
Real Mom Solutions
Now that your teen is out on the road, are you worrying about his or her driving habits? Teach your teen to drive safely using these tips from moms.
Teach by Example
My daughter is a very safe driver and overly critical of her own ability. When she is not driving, we talk about what she observes in other drivers. When she drives, we debrief after. I think the best thing of all is to be a good model and to keep the conversation going.
When we were teaching our daughter to drive we pointed out other drivers' bad habits. When someone would roll through a stop sign, tailgate, cut someone off, or pull out in front of us, we'd say "see what that person just did? Don't do that!"
Teach by showing your teen safe driving habits. He will learn more from your driving skills than anything you try to teach him.
Establish Clear Rules
My son is 16 and has had his license for three months. Rules are no passengers other than one particular friend or his siblings, and that's rare. He isn't allowed to ride with teens I don't know. No phone, no loud music, and no acting stupid.
We had our daughter drive with her permit for longer than the required six months and 50 hours. We let her take her driver's test after driving for a year on her permit. I think she is a good driver. She doesn't speed, blast music, talk, or text while driving. She's a very attentive driver.
Ban the radio. Cell phone gets locked in the glove box. Don't have younger kids, pets, or other distractions in the car.
Insist on Quality Time & Instruction
We started in empty parking lots until she was used to controlling the car. Then we did back streets until she learned all of the rules. Then I took her on main roads. When she was comfortable with that we did highways teaching her to keep up with the flow of traffic, switching lanes at higher speeds and merging on and off. After about four months of me training her she started driver's ed. Her instructor was impressed with how comfortable she was. Most kids there had never been out of a parking lot. We started with the radio off but as she became comfortable I insisted the radio be on. I know reality is when she drives alone she won't have the radio off so I wanted to make sure she was used to the distraction. I was completely shocked with the road test. It was just a five-minute drive around the side streets. She never went on a main road. Driver's ed never even took them on a highway or major roads. It scares me that so many kids are given a license and have never been on a highway or a main road.
Enroll teens in the AAA driving school, not the cheap online thing. Be a safe driver yourself and give them lots of driving practice before they get their license. In addition to passing the DMV test, we made our son pass a driving test with both me and my husband (individually), take a written test specific to our rules, not drive with music or siblings for the first month (even though it is legal) and sign a contract related to driving (modified from the AAA website).
My teens do not get their license until they are 18. We make them drive a whole winter before they get it. Most teens do not have enough driving experience.
After four teens, I got pretty good at teaching them. Talk through each maneuver ahead of time. Have your teen "talk through" what she's doing, as in, "I'm approaching an intersection, no cars are coming, I will slow down to check." Start with deserted places (after-hours parking lots are good). Then work up to minor side streets (so you still have stop signs and such). Then go to routes you and she know well - from your house to school or sports, but not in traffic. Then work up to those same routes but in traffic. Last would be freeways. Make sure she is rested, not hungry or thirsty. And the same for you as well. And last, use the same car she will be taking the test in.