We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

A parent’s guide to teaching your teen

By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, April 14th 2017

A teen’s first time behind the wheel will be stressful, so a parent instructor’s first guideline is “be calm.”

Parents of teens learning to drive are well-intended copilots. Here are some of the less-than-obvious situations they often overlook.

Parking lots are the most common locations used by new drivers to practise, but they’re not the best places to begin.
Parking lots are fraught with hazards.
Curbs, lamp posts, planters and a host of other obstacles make for a very confusing situation for most learners, let alone panicky parents.

Steering in an unregulated parking lot is intimidating for both student and parent.
The first drive should instead be on a relatively straight road in light traffic.
A neighbourhood connector with a wide shoulder or a multi-lane road is a much better choice than a restrictive parking lot.

The fewer turning and braking actions made on the first drive, the better.

On that first drive, parents should give and receive verbal feedback.
It is very important for direction to be given well ahead of any perceived hazard.
New drivers are excited to be behind the wheel for the first time.
They might react to an instruction immediately, rather than process it.

Many a learner has been told to turn right, only to end up in some unsuspecting resident’s driveway, as opposed to the upcoming intersection.
It is always best to tell a student driver where they’ll be going first, then what they’re going to do, so as not to have them get ahead of themselves and the parent.
Learning to squeeze the brake and accelerator, instead of stomping on it, will make for a more enjoyable ride for both teen and parent.

Student drivers have a tendency to fixate on certain objects, whether inside or outside the vehicle.
It is best to have them look outside the vehicle to their intended direction of travel, rather than check the speedometer on the first drive.
Parents should simply request more gas or brake in order to get the speed desired.

Right turns are definitely safer than left turns. Conversely, left turns are easier to execute, because of the larger arc.
When practising turns, it is better to do right turns when there is other traffic present.
On the first drive, left turns should only be practised with no other traffic in the area.
Learners will usually drive where they look. It is important for them to look ahead in the lane they wish to travel.

The same goes for turns.

If they look through the turn, they will be much more likely to do a good one and end up in the proper position of the desired lane.
Pointing out hazards ahead on the first drive is a good idea. It is not a good idea to have learners look at lateral hazards on their first drive.
They have a tendency to drive where they look and will often steer toward the cyclist they intend to avoid.

It is very important to make sure the learner can touch the floor with their right foot, behind the brake, to insure a proper seating position.
The best driving position for a learner is to have the arm angle and the inverted leg angle about the same.
The hand flopped over the top of the wheel at the wrist is a good measurement for the seating position.

Parents should never raise their voices during the drive. Maintaining a calm voice tone will help the learner to absorb information.

Introducing the various functions of the vehicle, such as signals, lights, seat and wheel adjustment, mirrors, windows, wipers, locks, horn, gears, and any other pertinent information, is a good start.




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