My oldest has had his learner’s permit for about 4 months now. Unlike a lot of teens his age, he is very motivated to drive. I think teens are less interested in driving in general because they are already so connected with their friends via social media and other technology. Back when I was a teen, if we wanted to hang out with our friends, we had to physically meet up with them someplace.
There are also a lot more rules around driving now, which I think is a good thing. In our state, you have to log 60 hours with a parent. 10 of those hours have to be after dark. And, of course, there is a handy app that you can use to log those hours.
Here are some thoughts after being the front seat passenger for 4 months (we are about a third of the way into his needed hours).
- The nice yellow magnet that alerts other drivers that your child is a student driver does not make people less of an asshole. One of the first times my son drove us home from school, another parent from our school (and hello, I not only had the yellow magnet, but also a school magnet on the bumper of my car) passed him on a double line. My only satisfaction is that mom has 2 boys that she will be riding with in the not so distant future. That’s karma, people. I have also heard from parents of teen girl drivers that the magnet makes some very immature assholes behave even worse.
- Take it slow and think it through before you put him behind the wheel. My son was super excited about driving until I asked him to stop at the Whole Foods to pick up our Thanksgiving turkey. Seasoned drivers hate that parking lot, especially close to the holidays. He did not drive for 2 weeks after the Whole Foods trip. For now, we are taking the most rural routes to places, and trying the highways that are less busy so learning how to merge onto the highway is less stressful.
- Do not make driving optional. A friend learned this the hard way with her first teenage driver. If you ask if they want to drive, you are giving them an out. They have to learn to drive unless they plan on living in a big city with public transportation options (which we don’t). I usually say something along the lines of “do you want to drive your sister to a friend’s house or practice another route to school?” This way he has some say in the decision making, but cannot opt out completely.
- Use every drive as a teaching opportunity. This week on the ride home from school there was a very serious thunderstorm that came on quick, like a lot of spring storms. My son was saying he could not see the road, so I told him to pull over. We switched seats for the rest of the trip home. I shared that if he is driving in a storm like that by himself, he should put on his hazard lights and pull over on the side of the road until the storm passes. Nowhere he needs to be is so important he should drive when he cannot see the road.
- Try not gasp, wince, use the imaginary brake you would like on your side of the car. (I am super guilty of this one). My son says it stresses him out to know that I am that nervous with him behind the wheel. So I try my best to be encouraging and not react in the moment. But damn, I really would like that brake pedal on my side of the car.
- Know that they are going to make mistakes. That is the reason for logging the hours with you. Better that they make the mistakes with you instead of when they are driving on their own.
- If possible, designate the less anxious parent to log more hours. My husband is much more relaxed in the front passenger seat. Parenting team work, folks!
So how are you helping your teen learn to drive? When you think about it, driving is a complex skill to learn. The rules can change depending on the situation you are in, and people will be assholes (even with the yellow magnet).
Want to chat about parenting in the teenage years? Check out the Let’s Talk Parenting link and get in touch. I would love to talk with you!