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Here’s a tough reality for parents to accept: at some point, your teen will be behind the wheel, facing a difficult situation, and you won’t be there to help.
Scary as this is, the more you practice with your teen now, the better prepared he or she will be to stay safe without you. Fortunately, this time of year has no shortage of opportunities for lessons. In fact, a parking lot during the holidays is a microcosm of the many risks we can face on the road. So while we don’t recommend your teen get behind the wheel in a crowded mall parking lot just yet, it is a great time for him or her to learn from the passenger seat.
Parking lot risks
What makes busy parking lots so complicated? Picture your local mall on a Saturday night in December:
All of these add up to a lot of risky situations, but they also provide useful experiences for your teen to learn. The key is pointing out the issues for your teen and talking through how to stay safe.
When a driver backs out of a parking spot near you without looking, you can show your teen why he or she always needs to stay alert and be ready to brake. When a pedestrian is pushing a cart down the middle of the lane and holding up traffic, you can teach your teen how to communicate with people while driving. And when you’re feeling frustrated because you haven’t found a spot yet and there are entire crowds of people crossing the street without giving you a turn and it’s starting to snow and you’ve still got 20 gifts to pick out…you can demonstrate that patience is crucial to keeping all road users safe.
It may not always be easy – especially that last part – but it is important for your teen to get this experience and take away the right lessons. We learned recently that new drivers really do want you to help them practice on the road and they’re learning from you behind the wheel. So when you have opportunities like this to teach them, don’t pass them up.
At a certain point, holiday shopping can feel like a chore, but that’s not how you want your teen’s driving lessons to feel. So keep your teen in mind while you’re driving this holiday season and set a good example on every trip.
DriveitHOME™ is an initiative of the National Safety Council, designed by and for parents of newly licensed teen drivers. DriveitHOME™ offers free resources parents can use to help their teen build experience to become safer drivers.
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