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Every parent wants their child to be successful, whether in school, work or life. But there’s another area parents should pay attention to that can impact every part of their teen’s life: success behind the wheel.
Define success for your new driver
Though some parents might think that passing the test at the DMV and getting a license makes their teen a successful driver, this isn’t the end of the story. The same way passing one class doesn’t make your teen a total success in school, finding success on the roads is an ongoing effort.
Before your teen ever gets behind the wheel to practice, talk through what this means and help your teen set driving goals. Remember: a successful driver isn’t necessarily the fastest or most skilled person on the road, it’s the person who always arrives safely.
Set your teen up for success
Since you cannot assume that a driving class or test will make your teen a perfect driver, it is up to you to give your child more experience behind the wheel. The key is setting your new driver up for success in each lesson.
What exactly does this mean? Picture this scenario:
You want your teen to practice driving on the highway, so you help him or her drive up the entrance ramp and merge into traffic. To keep up with the other vehicles, your teen drives a little faster than usual and after a few minutes, you point your teen toward an upcoming exit so you can both head back home.
Being new to highways, your teen is having some trouble staying in the lane. Then, your teen checks the rearview but forgets about the passenger-side mirror and nearly hits another car when trying to merge. Frustrated and anxious, you yell to get your teen’s attention and avoid the crash. After a few moments, you guide your new driver to the exit, barely making it in time and cutting off another driver in the process.
Now ask yourself, did your teen have much of a chance to be successful in this situation?
Own your role
Remember, all of the lessons, skills and habits we take for granted are new to teen drivers. Checking your blind spot might be instinctual at this point, but your teen might not even understand how truly blocked another car can be in the blind spot. This applies to all kinds of factors, but let’s consider a few more from this scenario:
This list goes on and on but it shows you how much you have to consider when your teen gets behind the wheel, not to mention factors like the condition of the vehicle or how your reaction to your teen’s mistakes might make things more difficult.
Most parents can attest that this process is not easy, but it is worth it to ensure your teen’s safety. Talking through your driving plans before each lesson can help so that your teen knows what to expect, but the best thing you can do is stay involved and never forget or underestimate your role in your teen’s success behind the wheel.
The next time you head out together to practice parallel parking or maybe driving at night, ask yourself, what does my teen need to be a successful driver in this situation? Then ask, am I setting my teen up to be successful or could I be doing more?
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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