As a mum of teenagers, there are few things more terrifying than when your young person (who was at primary school just a millisecond ago!!!!) is old enough to learn to drive, to pass their test and to set out into the world in a car of their own.
If, like many parents, you have seen their antics on games like Mario Kart (or tried to play along with them), it’s no wonder that the idea of them driving a real live car is a really scary prospect. We want our young adult children to be independent, but we also want to protect them, and discourage them from doing silly things.
Cars are incredibly useful assets. However, used improperly, they can also be perilous killing machines. Unfortunately, some teenagers can be immensely reckless behind the wheel of a vehicle. It’s vital that your son or daughter fully understands the responsibilities they have while on the road, before they launch out on their own
Here are a couple of tips to help you to pass on your experience and help them to learn, without nagging them to the point at which they won’t listen to you any more.
Set an Example
It can be difficult to impart driving wisdom if you’re also guilty of a few bad habits yourself. There are several common things drivers do that annoy and endanger fellow road users, and you should be wary of them yourself.
Set an example for your teenager. Do your best to maintain a calm composure behind the wheel, wear your seatbelt at all times, and resist any temptation to accelerate to speed past changing traffic lights. Turn corners smoothly instead of sharply. Remember, your teen isn’t stupid, and much of what you do may inform their attitudes profoundly and subtly.
The driving test has also changed a lot in recent years, certainly since most parents took their driving tests. The theory test is different, the manoeuvres are different and things have changed. So if you are driving your teen somewhere while they are taking their lessons, ask them to comment on your technique, and share with you the things they are learning. It’s a refresher exercise for them, and you may even learn something.
Ultimately, driving is a constant learning experience that needs regular refinement. We all know from our own experience that passing the test is just the start – you can only gain experience and confidence in driving by getting out there in real situations. Once they have passed the test, helping them stay safe on the road can be much easier.
Not only is it a worry that your child is old enough or mature enough to drive at all, but it is very likely that their first car will be quite old in order for the insurance to be affordable. It’s good that the theory test now contains a small amount of information about basic car maintenance and what symptoms to look out for, but anything you can do to help your teen to understand their car will be a good thing.
There is equipment that can help your teenager’s confidence and awareness of their first vehicle. An OBD2 scanner can give your teenager real-time diagnostic and vehicle information and much of this information can be accessed through an app on their phone (though not when driving, obviously). They can conveniently swipe through the information to ensure their car is functioning well.
Of course statistics are all well and good but you need to know what they mean and what normal is supposed to look like. There are some great resources where they can learn more about the OBD code sequences and what they pertain to. That way, they can determine what faults are occurring with their car or know when to visit a mechanic for maintenance and repairs upon not understanding them.
Much about driving comes down to patience. Whether it’s learning to drive, increasing in confidence or learning how to look after your first car, everything requires calmness and patience
You and your teenager must be patient. You should wait for an instructor to inform you when your teen is ready to take a trip out with you, and you may find, if your car is substantially different from the instructor’s car, that sessions with you are not as helpful as you hoped they would be. It’s also really scary letting your offspring drive you when you don’t have an emergency brake, but somehow you have to keep a lid on your panic and not spook them.
Your teenager should also learn on roads they know well, so try to temper any adventurous expectations they have.
Moreover, your teen should not feel like they have a limited number of lessons to get things right. Learning to drive takes longer than it used to. Roads are busier now and the test is more demanding, to take that into account. If funding lots of lessons is a problem, save for the lessons before starting so that they can have a more consistent learning experience. Remember, there’s no deadline, and tests can be retaken, so encourage them to be attentive and patient rather than rushing the process for freedom’s sake.
In a very few years your young person will be fully confident behind the wheel and you will wonder why you ever worried about them. After all, you managed it, and so why wouldn’t they?
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