ROAD TRIP!  Parents – use a road trip as a driving exercise. Part I

ROAD TRIP! Parents – use a road trip as a driving exercise. Part I

One of the biggest rights of passage from being a kid to becoming an adult is gaining the freedom to drive ourselves around and build our own lives. This independence helps us define who we are and who we will be. But make no mistake… for parents, this is one of the biggest nightmares in life. Allowing your child to drive is one of the toughest things to do.

It is the number one cause of teen death – period. For teens reading this, please, let that sink in for just a sec. We repeat it so many times that it seems to get ignored. Not to mention that we never think it will happen to us. As a teen your parents are giving you permission to do the thing that is the highest cause of death for you and your peers. They’ve just spent the last 16 years raising and getting to know this person and teach them right from wrong. But on the road anyone can be an unsuspecting victim in a traffic crash and taken away from their loved ones forever. At such a young age it just doesn’t sink in.  But for parents, this is terrifying.

For the teen learning to drive much of this you will hear over and over again from many sources. The reason it is repeated over and over is because it is so important. There are thousands of parents and teens that have lost someone in a crash that can tell you that this isn’t a joke. There is nothing more painful than losing someone you care deeply about. It is a pain that never goes away. The saying about time healing all wounds doesn’t include the loss of a loved one. The pain never goes away, we just learn to live with it in our own way. So please, do all you can not to be a statistic.

We share all this information with new drivers to keep you safe. To help you through the learning curve.  A lot of people think learning to drive is all about learning how to operate the car or truck.  That is a really just a small part of driver’s education. It is part of it, but most of us already have the basic skills from video games. Or, if you live in a rural area, you’ve probably been driving on the farm for years already.  

Driver’s ed classroom instruction is really about learning the laws of what you can and can’t do.  There is a lot of effort to teach students other things like learning to watch for impaired drivers but reading or watching a video only helps so much. You need real world experience for it to mean something to your brain so it catalogs it and you can formulate ways to respond that become second nature.  This only happens over time and with practice and experience.

road rageWhen you’re out practicing driving after you have acquired the rudimentary skills to physically operate the vehicle, what you are really doing is learning how to drive and react with other drivers. Some of those other drivers may not be paying attention. When you are practicing driving, you’re really learning how to drive around bad drivers. But you don’t find them all the time, so you need to spend many hours behind the wheel learning to recognize bad driving habits and what you need to do when you encounter them.

The other thing you should really be learning during driving practice is how important it is for you to stay focused all the time when driving. You grew up seeing your parents multitask, so to you it seems like the natural thing to do. The thing is, in most cases, your parents were driving for years, even decades before you came along. Most of you haven’t done anything in your life consistently for 10 – 15 years. So you don’t even have a basis to understand it. A big part of driver’s education classes is getting you to realize how dangerous driving really is. But another big part of it is making you understand that in most situations, when you are alert and responsible, you can either get yourself out of a bad situation or position yourself so that the damage is mitigated.

OK, so teens need to practice driving.  Parents need to monitor and chaperone new driver’s with their learner’s permits. So why not combine the two into a great road trip experience that the both of you can enjoy?

A road trip is a great way for a parent to observe pretty much all of the skills required to pass a driving exam while spending some quality time with your teenager that you won’t be seeing very much of much longer.

Part II Coming next week, check back!