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As a parent, you’ve likely tried to steer your child away from being too judgmental.
In most situations, it’s a good idea to be open-minded, gather as much information as possible before forming an opinion and give people the benefit of the doubt. That’s not always the case on the road.
Safe driving is all about having good judgment, since this will help your teen make good decisions behind the wheel. So while we wouldn’t recommend it for social circles, here are some of the benefits to your teen being ‘judgey’ during driving lessons.
Often, first impressions are wrong. On the road, however, your first impressions of drivers are usually the only impressions you ever get. Whether we’re driving across town for an errand or across several states for a road trip, the traffic around us is almost never the same. That means we can’t afford to give drivers the benefit of the doubt; if we want to stay safe, we have to judge drivers based on their actions and drive accordingly.
Encourage your teen to be especially judgmental (and cautious) around drivers displaying unsafe behaviors. If a driver is swerving in and out of the lane or tailgating your teen, the safest thing to do is slow down and move away from the vehicle. The driver might be impaired or distracted – or just a poor driver – but your teen shouldn’t wait around to learn more.
In addition to judging the behaviors of other drivers, your teen also needs to learn to judge difficult roadway situations. We’ve talked about not making assumptions for convenience before but there are instances when it’s the safest choice.
Picture your teen trying to change lanes on a busy road, with vehicles passing at different speeds and your teen’s exit coming up soon. It looks like there might be time to merge after the next vehicle passes, but should your teen commit and get into the other lane? Teach your teen to think through how much space is available and how fast the surrounding traffic is moving. Stressful situations like this can cloud our judgment, so remind your teen that sometimes missing an exit is better than making an unsafe choice.
Being judgmental on the road isn’t about making unfair assumptions, it’s about making smart decisions based on what you’re seeing. The more your teen learns to judge the reality of the road, the better decisions he or she will make.
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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