There are several things you’ll need to do to help your teens prepare for the tough road that lies ahead when they take on the responsibilities of driving. While you might want to hide your head under the covers until they exit their teenage years and magically turn into adults (you wish!), the truth is that adolescence is the most important time to connect with your kids and give them the knowledge and skills they’ll need to make it in the real world. Unfortunately, that includes driving. So here are just a few ways you can prep your teens for safe driving before they even apply for a license.
- Talk turkey. Safely operating a moving vehicle starts with understanding the dangers involved, so you need to begin with a conversation about the many responsibilities that come with owning and operating a car. Of course, this could easily turn into an eye-glazing lecture that goes in one ear and out the other, so see if you can’t find ways to make it more interesting. Try showing your teens one of the many PSA videos on YouTube about texting while driving (just so you know, they’re pretty graphic and somewhat terrifying). But if it takes seeing another teen covered in blood to understand the consequences of acting irresponsibly, it’s probably worth the initial shock factor.
- Study the manual. Going over the driver’s manual before taking the written examination is an essential part of passing the test, but it also contributes to an overall understanding of proper etiquette on the roadways. It teaches new drivers about the laws they must follow and how to maintain safety while operating in traffic (amongst vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians, signals, and the many barriers that they’ll have to observe). So take the time to go over it with your teens and impart your own experiences so that they know it’s not just a bunch of nonsense.
- Lay the ground rules. In addition to following the rules of the road, you should place some of your own restrictions on automobile usage. Some states don’t allow drivers of a certain age to have other underage drivers in the vehicle (without a licensed adult present), but either way you might want to ban other teens (and the overwhelming influence of peer pressure that they bring with them). You should also set a curfew and impose limitations on where your teens can travel when they’re in the car. Of course, you’ll have to enforce these rules by taking away driving privileges if you want them to be taken seriously.
- Make them pay. Teens that don’t have to earn the right to drive in one way or another are not going to take the responsibility as seriously as those that have to keep their grades up (in order to lower insurance payments) or even get a job to pay a portion of the operating expenses (insurance, registration, maintenance, and so on). If you want this lesson to do double duty, teach them not only to drive, but to work hard for the privilege.
- Practice like their lives depended on it (they do). Every minute you spend practicing with your teens makes them better drivers. So when it comes to preparation, this is one step you can’t afford to miss. Sure they’ll take lessons, but you want to make sure that they are prepared for anything, and that your voice (let’s call it the voice of reason) is the one they hear when faced with difficult decisions behind the wheel.
Evan Fischer is a contributing writer for Volkswagen Engines for Sale, where used Volkswagen engines are shipped nationwide daily.