While I will admit right up front that I do not have any experience parenting or teaching young kids how to drive, there are certain things that kids need practice at in order to become good, safe drivers. It doesn’t take much to pass the licensing exam these days and I think there’s a need for a better young driver educational system, but that’s another story. Here are a few ways to make sure little junior becomes a strong, confident driver.
My first and most adamant plea to parents of young drivers is to make them learn how to drive a manual car. The reasons behind this are numerous, but the most important is that driving a manual requires the driver to have a better understanding of the vehicle that is transporting them around on a daily basis. They will have to understand what happens I they don’t shift up, or if they downshift when going too fast. A better understanding of your car is just one part of what makes someone a better drive.
Additionally, learning to drive a manual car requires that more time be spent on paying attention to the car, and not the texts, tweets, and instagrams their friends are sending them. Having to shift the car from 2nd to 3rd gear means they have less time to read that text from their friend that will take their eyes off the road. Here’s the simple math: More time concentrating on operating the car = less time concentrating on everything else. How much time have you spent trying to get them to put the phone down around the house? Well, here’s one thing that can do that for those times when they aren’t under your watchful eyes.
Of course, as is applicable with many other things, practice makes perfect. Time spent behind the wheel is time spent learning more about how the car behaves in all situations. Take them driving in different weather conditions so they can see what happens when it starts to rain or snow and how other drivers react to the changing conditions. Learning to read the road and the other drivers will prove to be invaluable down the road.
Lastly, if possible, I would HIGHLY recommend sending them to a defensive driving course such as those offered by Skip Barber or other driving schools. Now I’m not talking about a classroom where they talk and take notes about the different situations (which is helpful in some ways), I’m talking about getting them into a car to learn how to handle a panic brake situation, or how the rear of the car can break loose in slippery conditions. These schools get them behind the wheel and teach them how the car behaves in different circumstances in controlled, safe environments with trained instructors in the passenger seats. While these schools are not cheap, they are irreplaceable as hands-on, real life practice in situations that would otherwise be very dangerous.
It is crucial that you go above and beyond what is required of your kids to be drivers, you want them to be GREAT drivers, and that requires a little extra effort on your part. That effort however, I promise you, will pay off when they are able to safely swerve around that deer that came out of nowhere and keep control of the car. If you want to keep them safe, make sure you start early and get them comfortable behind the wheel, extra hours spent developing their skills early on will mean a much smarter driver years down the road.