As a teenager we are impatient. Impatient for everything. We want it all now. We want to live our own lives. Not be told what to do. We want to be adults and come and go as we please. We want to have all the coolest stuff without even having a job to pay for it. We just want! And the way to get around to get things we want is driving.
Truth is, driving is dangerous. Even though it may not seem like it, it is the most dangerous thing the average person does. Ever heard of anyone getting killed while reading a book? Probably not. But I’m sure you know someone that has lost a loved one to a traffic accident. Most of us have. Some of you have even already lost young friends.
We mitigate the gravity of driving to cope. If we were constantly worried about people crashing into us we’d never drive but every single day people die in traffic accidents. It is like how police officers or firemen make jokes about things that are not really funny to us. We find ways to deal with stuff. One of the things we ignore we should deal with more is that every year 6,000 young people die in car crashes. That is about 9 people a day. 9 kids a day just like you or your children won’t be coming home tonight.
Think of 10 people you know. Who would you get rid of? No one? I don’t blame you but driving is so dangerous that chances are someone in that group will be affected by a tragic crash if one of those very people don’t lose their lives.
Notice I didn’t say “accident”. That is because if both people were paying attention and using good driving practices an “accident” would never happen. If two people run into each other that is because either one or both of them were not paying attention. That split second when you reached for a napkin or looked down at your phone just happened to be when the guy in front of you hit the brakes. Or while looking down, there is a slight dip in the road you need to compensate for that if you don’t will take you off the road.
But here is the real deal. Humans were not designed to be whipping around at 65MPH. We have feet and legs that get us up to about 12 MPH. If you fall running full speed not much happens. You get scraped up. But hit something going 65 MPH and the results wouldn’t be the same. Our bodies are actually pretty fragile. So unless you are in a parking lot going 5 MPH any accident you have has the potential to hurt or kill someone. That is why we have built in all these safety features.
Bottom line – this all boils down to responsibility. You need to behave like a responsible adult. You need to approach driving like that straight laced, does everything right kid. You need to sit up. Keep alert. Do all the things you are taught in Drivers Ed Classes. Practice them. That is why you get a Learner’s Permit. Not to just hop behind the wheel and go. But to learn to discipline yourself to drive the right way.
Parents, make sure you correct your teens and don’t let them get away with anything. Help them develop good, basic habits now and you know they will keep them their whole life. But in correcting them there is a time and a place. There are tons of resources out there for you. Google is your friend. Here are some to get you started.
One thing I want to share with you that I’ve noticed with my own family is that we tend to be very short with one another when working together on something. We spend so much time together growing up that we expect our family members to never disappoint us and they should intuitively know what we are thinking and do just that. Because they don’t do what we expect we tend to be very short. When, in that same situation with a perfect stranger we would be very kind and considerate.
This is a stressful event. It is serious. You are teaching your child to do the most dangerous thing they will do in their life. You need to convey the seriousness of driving while still making it enjoyable for both of you. Try to anticipate what your teen driver is doing and don’t yell. It never helps. You’ve been yelling at them for a decade to clean their rooms and how is that working out???
Be kind and patient. The best time to go over things that are not life threatening is when not driving. Do like a debrief. Take a notepad with you to jot things down so you can remember to bring them up. You can stop in the middle of your driving for a refreshment and go over some of the things you noticed and get them to practice the right way when in the second part of your driving practice. This way they are learning the good habits right then and there and you can be a bit more confident they are learning the right way.
You should get better too!
The best way to learn how much you really know about something is to teach someone else about it. But keep this in mind. Just because you may have been driving 20 years doesn’t mean you drive perfect. Some things have even changed. They used to teach us to have our hands at 10 -2 but now it is 8 and 4. Do you know why? I bet your teen does.
So when you are doing this you’re going to notice a lot of the things you could do better. Be a good example for your kids. Grow. Change. Learn to do something that might be different than the way you have been doing it if the way you do it isn’t right. Show them that this stuff matters. And NEVER EVER use a cell phone in any way when practicing driving with your teen. Give them and the exercise 100% of your attention. This is probably going to be one of the last things you will do alone with your child. Once they get that license they are not going to be around much.