[Written by DriversEd.com Contributing Writer Grace Keller, who is keeping an ongoing drivers ed diary for us, detailing her experiences going through one of our online drivers ed courses. Check out her earlier entries here and here.]
I’m currently on the fourth lesson module of my online driver’s ed course. It’s definitely taking a sharp turn (driving pun) from the previous, rather intense lessons I was taught in the last module, “Being Fit to Drive”. In my last driver’s ed diary entry, I talked about what I’ve learned about being in a healthy emotional state for driving. I described my own experiences being a teenaged driver, putting my safety first by always keeping myself focused and with a clear mind while driving.
The 2nd half of the lesson touched on the sensitive topic that is drunk driving. This is something I’ve always been terribly afraid of—I’m sure almost everyone has. The first time I was ever exposed to the world of people who drive while under the influence, I was in a car with my older cousin, and he started to slow down in order to gain distance away from the car in front of us that was slightly swerving off the road every few seconds—my cousin said that he thought the driver might have been drinking. I’m thankful to be able to say honestly that I’ve never been in a car with a driver that was under the influence, and I’ll make sure to never let myself get into a situation where this might happen. While going through this lesson, I was hit with the unbelievable statistic that in 2007, there were 12,998 deaths alone just caused by a driver being under the influence of alcohol. That’s 32% of the total fatalities in the whole year! The phrase “drinking and driving don’t mix” is far from being a cliché: it’s completely true and something that I believe should become a sort of mantra for anyone who is of age to drink and to drive. The last section of the lesson showed a short film called “Red Asphalt V”. This movie, though short, showed the very extreme consequences of people’s actions while driving, whether they be caused by aggressive driving, drunk driving, etc. With interviews with parents of children who passed in car accidents caused by driving under the influence and parents of children who did not see the outcomes that their aggressive driving might cause, it was eye-opening to how seriously driving must be taken at all times.
The module I’m on now is “The Vehicle”. It is teaching me all I need to know about operating a car by being safe, and by being familiar with the vehicle and what it is capable of doing. It’s also teaching me everything I’ve ever wondered about the history of cars. Cars have definitely transformed since their initial invention—at first they just looked like strange, four-wheeled bicycles. Now they’re slick and cool-looking (which is probably a huge part of why I can’t wait to get my own!) I have also been learning about the effect cars and their fossil fuels have had on our environment. This is something I’m also learning in my astronomy class at school right now, so it’s perfect timing that I’m on this particular lesson of my course right now. The issue of climate change is one that I hold very close to my head and heart, as I know how serious it is for us, and for future generations of people. Though I am very much anticipating driving a car of my very own in the near future, I’ll be sure to stay cognizant of the effects it may have on the planet if I am driving excessively. I can hardly wait to get even further in my driver’s ed lessons, since I know that every day I recall information from the course, I’m preparing to become an even better and even more knowledgeable driver than before.
[Written by contributing writer Amy Tarczynski.]
Today I rowed a boat for the first time in six weeks. As a collegiate rower, it’s a big deal to be back on the water after a stretch of only training on land. The first few minutes always feel a little bit wobbly, but my body still remembers the basic motion of the rowing stroke. Within minutes, I’ve got a feel for the boat again. After a few days, I am pretty much back to the level of technical skill that I had when I left off.
Driving a car seems to work the same way. When I went home this winter break and started driving regularly for the first time in months, I had to think twice about the harder stuff, like parallel parking. The basics though, like checking my mirrors or using a turn signal, came naturally.
Both rowing a boat and driving a car are intuitive to me now. However, they are not instinctual behaviors because humans are not born knowing how to do either thing. Learning to row took boatloads of practice and concentration, pun intended. Similarly, those first driving lessons when I was fifteen-and-a-half exhausted me with things to remember: checking my blind spot before changing lanes, which way to turn the wheel when backing up, deciding whether to go through a yellow light, etc. Only after time did those things start to become second nature. For me it was probably after having my license for several months.
Our ability to turn a thought-intensive, novel activity to an easy, routine one is “muscle memory”—a process of first learning something consciously, but using experience to learn to do that task subconsciously. After repeating a complex task enough times, our minds can start to execute the procedure without the help of conscious instructions.
You can see why those six months of required driving practice for teenagers* are so important. It is the time when you begin to train your brain to execute driving tasks. With the help of your instructor at first and a parent later on, you have an experienced voice guiding you through the procedures and helping you form good habits. I remember rolling my eyes a little when my dad would repeatedly tell me simple things that sounded obvious, but the repetition would lead to muscle memory. Nowadays I always check for other drivers getting into their cars when I’m about to back out of a parking lot. When I start to go at a green light, I do a quick scan across the intersection to make sure it’s clear. Again, these things seem easy—but it makes all the difference to do them with intention so that they eventually become automatic.
I was lucky to have someone who took an active role in helping me form good habits. That can be rare since people often forget how unnatural driving is when they first start. That forgetfulness is the source of expert bias—that frustrating conundrum when your parent, for example, doesn’t understand how something straightforward to them, like merging, might be more difficult for you.
So if you’re a new driver wondering when this stuff is going to get easier…don’t worry. It will happen with disciplined practice and the help of your instructors and guardians. But if you’re a longtime driver helping someone learn, remember that driving wasn’t always easy—and try to be a little extra patient.
*[Ed. Note: This is a state-specific requirement. In California, new drivers are required to:
- Take 6 hours of professional driving lessons
- Complete 50 hours of supervised driving practice (including 10 hours at night)
- Hold a permit for at least 6 months
Other states have different requirements, but all states require a supervised practice driving period before a new driver can receive a license. If you have questions about your state's practice driving requirements, check the FAQ page for the state-specific online driver education course from DriversEd.com, and look for a question like "How do I earn my drivers license?"]
As the year winds down, I find myself thinking a lot about making 2017 … better than 2016. I don’t have control over much other than myself, of course, so most of the ways I’ve identified to improve the future start with me (and, I hope, don’t end there). My list might look a little like yours: read more; write more; lose twenty pounds; be more involved in my community—and drive better.
Like everybody, I’ve got my share of driving vices. The image you see here is a whiteboard here in our Oakland office, where people wrote down their vices, pledging to try to get past them in the coming year. (I’ve written about driving vices before: speeding; road rage; bad trip planning.) And, like everybody, I’m sometimes a pedestrian, sometimes a driver, sometimes a bike rider, sometimes a user of public transit, sometimes a passenger, and all of those roles come with their own vices, too.
Sometimes I’m the pedestrian staring at his phone. Sometimes I’m the guy who forgets to put his bag on the ground when he’s standing on a BART train. And sometimes I’m the bike rider wearing headphones and pulling his phone out to change a podcast. Again, maybe my list looks a little like yours?
All of this needs to improve. The question, of course, is “How?”
The key for me has been to take a four-step approach:
- Identify the desired outcome: “Get past my driving vices.”
- Break the outcome down into actionable steps: “No speeding. Keep cool behind the wheel. Don’t set out for new environs without a map.”
- Create measurable goals out of those steps: “Go one week without speeding. Go one month without speeding.”
- Build daily habits to attain those goals.
For me, habits are the key. And I have not found a better way to build new, better habits than the approach usually called “Don’t Break the Chain”. “Don’t Break the Chain” tells you to identify things you can do, every single day. Every day you do these things, you mark it on a calendar you see every day. For me, this is incredibly motivating: seeing the Xs crawl across the calendar makes me want to, well, not break the chain!
So there it is: I’m resolving to be a better driver in 2017, to get past my driving vices. Of course, to try to do better, you have to know what you’re doing wrong. As an employee of DriversEd.com (an eDriving company), I’ve got a great team around me who are diligent about identifying my areas for improvement. If you need to know what your weaknesses are behind the wheel, you can use our RoadRISK® Self-Assessment by signing up here. If you’re not yet driving, why not resolve to get your license in 2017? It’s an immensely important, and rewarding, set of skills to have, and we’re there for you every step of the way. If you’ve been waiting to learn to drive, resolve to make your life better in 2017 by gaining more freedom, more responsibility, and more control over your own life. Resolve to get your license in 2017. We’ll resolve to help you identify and conquer any bad habits you may have behind the wheel. Together, we can make next year all that it can be.
Whether you’re just starting to think about drivers education, are already taking in-car driving lessons or are almost ready for your road test, you might have one thing on your mind: “Exactly what’s on the road test, anyway?”
We’re here to give you an idea of how to prepare for the road test, what to expect during the road test and importantly, how to pass the road test.
The Road Test Basics: How Long Will it Take and What Will Be Assessed?
The first thing to be aware of: the DMV road test does vary between states. Therefore, exact timings and assessments will differ from state to state, but the road test might be shorter than you think.
Dylan Russell, Regional Operations Manager for DriversEd.com in Georgia, said: “The test in most U.S. states takes 10-15 minutes to complete and is the most basic assessment of a driver’s ability to control a vehicle. Interestingly, many people call our office all the time simply asking if we can teach them how to parallel park or pass the road test, even though they have no basic driving experience.
“The answer I’ve always provided to potential clients is ‘As a by-product of our all-encompassing methodology of instruction, passing a simple road test will not be an issue for you. Our goal is to ensure you have the fundamental skills to interpret your driving environment and make the correct decision each time you are behind the wheel.’
“Passing the road test and getting a license does not mean someone is, by default, a ‘safe and crash-free driver.’ We need to ensure everyone understands the importance of obtaining the correct type of driving experience.”
So, what does this mean for you? It means, learning to drive should be about learning to drive safe, and drive SMART. The goal is not simply to pass that road test. Although, passing the test is of course an important milestone on the journey to a lifetime of safe driving.
How to Prepare for the Road Test
As with any test, the road test requires preparation. Make sure you have plenty of sleep the night before, try to remain calm and leave yourself plenty of time to get to your appointment early.
To be able to take the road test, you’ll need to have the following:
• A registered vehicle in good operating condition
• Proof of registration and insurance for the vehicle
• Valid learner’s permit
• Proof of your completed and signed parent/teen driving log, if applicable *
• Certification of completion of drivers education, if applicable *
Some states have additional requirements. For example, in Texas, you’ll need to take your Certificate of Completion of ITTD Impact Video and DL40 form/have a parent sign for permission for you to take the test. In Georgia, you’ll need to take Alcohol Drug Awareness Program (ADAP) certification and school attendance record to your road test.
*State requirements vary; always check with your local DMV office.
Vehicle Knowledge for the Road Test
Being familiar with your vehicle and how to operate the controls is at the heart of safe, SMART driving. And that’s why your knowledge of your vehicle will be assessed during your road test!
In the road test, you will most likely be asked to demonstrate things like:
• Turning on the windshield wipers
• Turning on the headlights
• Switching the heaters on and off
Of course, by the time you take your road test, you should have spent hours and hours behind that wheel – in all traffic and weather conditions – so will already be extremely familiar with all of your vehicle’s controls.
Basic Maneuvers on the Road Test
During the road test, your examiner will want to see evidence that you can perform basic maneuvers – these shows that you are able to control your vehicle. You’ll usually head to a parking lot or a quiet residential area, where the road test examiner will ask you to perform maneuvers such as:
• Starting and stopping
• Acceleration and braking
• Backing up
• Using signals
• Parallel parking
• Checking mirrors
Evaluation of Driving Skills on the Road Test
The road test examiner will want to see how you drive on roads with other traffic. This demonstrates your ability to share the road safely with others, respond to road signs and traffic signals and also adapt your driving behavior to suit conditions.
Usually, the road test examiner will be assessing driving skills such as how you:
• Change lanes
• Approach corners/intersections
• Make a left turn
• Make a right turn
The road test examiner might also assess your understanding of right of way, traffic signals and traffic signs. The examiner might even want to see evidence of the correct posture when driving, so be sure to sit in a way that enables you to safely control your vehicle and see around you as clearly as possible.
Demonstrating Knowledge During the Road Test
It is important to remember that road test examiners are not only making assessments each time they ask you to do something. They are also very alert to your attitude and your knowledge of the road environment. You’ll be expected to demonstrate a safe following distance without being asked to, for example. And you’ll also be expected to automatically fasten your safety belt and hold the steering wheel with both hands.
You’re unlikely to know which roads your examiner will use for your road test until the test itself, so you need to be confident in all driving situations. This includes:
• Driving through school zones
• Knowing how to respond to school buses with flashing lights
• Dealing with emergency vehicles
• Stopping at railroad crossings
• Handling a traffic jam
• Giving way to pedestrians
• Merging safely
• Using roundabouts
If you are not 100% comfortable in every driving situation, not just those listed above, you might want to practice driving a bit more before signing up for the road test.
REMEMBER: Being a Safe Driver Extends Beyond the Requirements of the Road Test
Taking any test can be nerve-wracking. But taking your road test shouldn’t be. Why? Because, if you’ve completed all the steps required by your state and fulfilled way beyond the minimum teen-parent driving hours, you should have gained more than enough driving experience to prepare you for the road test.
Kris Kluis, Regional Driving Instructor Trainer & Recruiter for DriversEd.com, said: “Our goal is to create crash-free drivers for life vs. just passing the little road test. Therefore, the best thing our instructors can do is focus more on crash-free tips and techniques vs. intense focus on the road test.
“Of course, we do prepare students for the road test. In California, toward the end of lesson #3 (or the 6th hour), our instructors go over our road test sheet in detail. This test sheet is very similar to what the road test examiner will have and grade them on during the actual road test. The sheet is also left with the students and parents to have for future reference. They can ask any questions they like about it, so there is no secret about what is going to be expected of them on the road test.
“Even though a student might not realize it, our lesson plans prepare them for the skills that are expected on the road test. However, our focus remains firmly on crash-free driving, rather than simply the mindset of just passing the test.”
Want to find out more about learning to drive and preparing for the road test? Click here.
Got any questions? Just drop us a line here.
[Written by DriversEd.com Contributing Writer Grace Keller, who will be keeping an ongoing drivers ed diary for us, detailing her experiences going through one of our online drivers ed courses. Check out her first entry here.]
Since I got my permit back in the spring, on most mornings, I drive to school with my mom in the passenger’s seat. First, I drop my younger brother off at his bus stop, then I’ll drive to my school, pulling into the drop-off lane, then switching places with my mom so I can go to school and she can drive herself to work in Washington D.C. Since I’m passing by two different schools (one where my brother’s bus stop is located, and my own school) I see two different “school zone” speed limit signs, telling me to slow down since I’m in an area where there may be children crossing the streets, unaware of possible risks. These signs, as Lesson #2, Signs, Signals, and Markings, of my online drivers ed course taught me, mean that there is a reduced speed limit when there are children present.
Currently, I’m on the 3rd lesson module of my course—Being Fit To Drive. This lesson, so far, has educated me more on when I should and should not be driving. Two times in the past, I have had panic attacks while driving and pulled over so my mom and I could switch seats and she could drive instead. I’m now realising that while at the time, these actions of deciding not to drive the car seemed like acts of weakness and incapacity, in reality, this is exactly what a good driver should do. It’s crucial that you are in a stable emotional and physical state before you decide to drive a vehicle, as I’m now learning while taking this online course. Before I even learned about how my cell phone can distract me from driving, I would make sure to keep it away from where I could see or hear it, whether that be in my backpack thrown into the backseat somewhere, or in my mom’s pocket in the passenger seat. I know now that this is what I should keep doing, since 21% of teen drivers involved in car accidents are distracted by their cell phones. In order to be a safe, capable driver once I can finally get my driver’s license, I’m going to make sure to not use my cell phone while behind the wheel. I’ll also be sure not to let passengers in the car, loud music from the radio, adjusting my car controls, or anything else distract me from my driving. Lesson #3 teaches me that to be a good driver, you have to be an alert driver.
I’d like to think that I’m a pretty good driver right now, but in reality, I still have quite a ways to go in my education as a teenage driver. I hope to finish Lesson #3, Being Fit to Drive, by the end of this coming week! I can hardly wait to further my abilities as a driver, so that I can be more calm and confident behind the wheel.
If you’re starting to think about taking online drivers ed, you might have a few questions. Like, ‘What will I learn from an online drivers education course?’, ‘How do I know whether a course is right for me?’ and ‘What makes the best online drivers ed course anyway?’ eDriving’s Lead Curriculum Developer, Shawn Saler, explains exactly what you can expect from a DriversEd.com course.
Tell us what you do, Shawn.
I’ve been working at eDriving since 2011. One of my main responsibilities is developing new online courses and maintaining and updating existing courses for DriversEd.com.
The courses I help develop for DriversEd.com enable students to take drivers education online, which can be more flexible and convenient than studying in the classroom. The courses are state-approved and cover all the material taught in a classroom course.
When do teens usually take online drivers ed?
Usually, prior to applying for their learner’s permit and before they take their first professional driving lesson or, at the very least, to coincide with their first professional driving lessons. Most teens start online drivers ed at 14 or 15, depending on the state.
In your opinion, what makes a great online drivers ed course?
It’s important that the course is easy to use and that every aspect of the course builds confidence. It’s also critical that the course is accurate, that lessons are clear and thorough but not overly detailed where they don’t need to be.
What will teens learn by taking a DriversEd.com course?
The courses we offer are broadly based on standard national drivers ed curricula that were developed by national driving safety organizations to provide a systematic course of instruction. This covers the topics that all drivers need to know, whichever state they live in, including basic driving skills, rules of the road, how to drive on city streets, freeways, and other roadway types, how to share the road with other vehicles, such as motorcycles and large trucks, and important issues such as distraction, aggression, impaired driving, and speeding.
Our state-approved courses are designed to ensure that they fully cover the specific rules of the road for each state, as well as address common driving situations and conditions local drivers might encounter. We go beyond the basics to make sure our students gain a thorough understanding of what it’s like to drive where they live. This includes local environments, roadway types and state-specific risk factors.
How often do you develop new online drivers ed courses?
Whenever a state’s policies allow us to offer an online drivers ed course, we will design a course specific to that state. We carry out extensive research before we even begin designing a course. The most recent online drivers ed course we developed was for Wisconsin.
How often are existing online drivers ed courses updated?
We want our students, and their parents, to be confident that our online drivers ed courses are giving them information that is both relevant to their state AND relevant at the exact time they are taking the course. Because of this our courses are constantly evolving.
What does a DriverEd.com online drivers ed course look like?
Our courses have a strong visual aspect as well as a strong written aspect. They include a variety of interactions, activities, animations and movies. We’re very aware that people learn in different ways and we want to make sure we are employing a range of strategies so our online courses provide every student with a great experience.
We continue to develop and employ new interactive elements to help simulate the actual experience of driving, and we have a number of exciting plans for the coming year.
How confident are you that students will retain what they learn in a DriverEd.com course?
We have a strong commitment to making sure we don’t just explain WHAT to do when driving but WHY to do things in a certain way.
The images and visuals help make sure we are not overloading the student with too much information at any one time. Visuals are an effective way of helping students remember the material.
And how do you know DriversEd.com courses give students all the information they need to prepare for driving?
At eDriving, we have unique access to DriversEd.com’s professional driving instructors, so our courses can be vetted by the experts. These are driving professionals who are on the road day in, day out, seeing the exact issues we’re talking about in our courses. When we put together new courses, we’re able to draw on the expertise of a strong team that collectively possesses hundreds of years of knowledge and driving wisdom! The dedicated e-learning team takes this knowledge and applies their understanding of the ways people learn best to produce thorough and effective courses.
Tell us a little about the actual process of taking an online DriversEd.com course.
One of the things that has always been a feature of DriversEd.com courses is that students can take our courses on their computer, laptop, tablet or phone. They get the same course however they are taking it and can pick up exactly where they left off, even when switching between devices.
This is an important factor to many people, being able to take it at their own convenience. Some students want to study just 20 minutes a day for several months. Some want to progress through the course more quickly. One advantage of online drivers ed is that it is more convenient than having to go to the classroom. In high school, teens have so much going on that adding just one more fixed responsibility can be a disruption. Being able to take their online drivers ed course at their leisure is very important to many teens, and their parents too.
Can you sum up a DriverEd.com online course in five words?
Quality, expert, comprehensive, engaging, interactive.
Interested in taking one of our drivers ed courses? Find out more.
[Written by contributing writer Amy Tarczynski.]
It’s finals week for most colleges, meaning that a lot of us are several exams and many cups of coffee away from finally going home for the winter break. I don’t have a car at school, so going home also means driving again. Before I jump back in the car, there are a few things I’m reminding myself to consider. Whether you’ve taken a few months off driving or this is your first winter behind the wheel, keep these tips in mind as you gear up for driving around the holidays:
Plan for unexpected traffic. As people get busy with holiday shopping, gift-buying, and travelling, the roads get busy too. Give yourself a little extra time to go places so that atypical traffic jams don’t ruin your holiday spirit.
Watch out for road rage. Not everyone will plan ahead for the extra congestion. If you encounter stressed-out drivers on the road with you, understand that they are probably just overwhelmed by the strain of the season. Your best response in the situation is to leave them plenty of space and be as polite as possible. It also would not hurt to brush up on your defensive driving techniques.
Be ready for the weather. If you are dreaming of a white Christmas, be ready to take extra precautions for driving in the snow. Remember that slush reduces the traction of your tires on the road, so avoid fast turns and quick stops.
Don’t drive on New Year’s Eve. As the 31st approaches, make sure you have a plan for your transportation that night. New Year’s Eve is one of the worst nights of the year for accidents caused by drunk driving. If you can avoid driving after midnight, do. If you must drive, watch out for drunk drivers. You can spot them if you notice drivers swerving, braking erratically, not using their headlights, or even driving way below the speed limit. Your plan of action here should be to create distance between you and the driver. Then, when it is safe, pull over to call 911. You might end up saving someone’s life–and that’s a not a bad way to start off the New Year.
Excited. Nervous. A mixture of the two? However you’re feeling about your first in-car driving lesson, it might help to have an idea of what to expect. We can help with that.
Here are ten things that are likely to happen during your very first in-car driving lesson.
1. You’ll need to show your license.
To legally be allowed to drive during your first in-car driving lesson, your instructor will ask to see your learner’s permit or student license. At DriversEd.com, you must carry it with you every lesson.
2. You won’t jump straight into the driver’s seat.
No need to worry about your friends videoing you driving off for the very first time. Your instructor will drive you away from your pick-up location to either a parking lot or other quiet residential area.
3. Your nerves won’t get the better of you.
It’s normal to feel anxious about your first lesson. But, your instructor is trained to put you at ease so learning can take place. Take a deep breath and relax. You’ll soon find yourself enjoying the drive.
4. You’ll look in the mirror. A lot.
During your first in-car driving lesson, the instructor will discuss the car’s instruments and controls. And, you’ll discover why the mirror is important. So important that you can expect your instructor to discuss it in even more detail during another lesson.
5. You WILL drive.
Of course you will – it’s what you’ve been waiting for! But during your first in-car driving lesson, you won’t have to worry about other cars or traffic. You’ll get to try out a few basic maneuvers and learn some important techniques. These are techniques that will set you up for a lifetime of safe driving.
6. You might switch seats. Several times.
At DriversEd.com, our instructors know that you learn not just by listening through your ears, but by observing skills and actions performed correctly. That’s why you might switch sides with your instructor several times. If this happens, watch carefully. Whether it be showing you how to hold the steering wheel, do a smooth start or stop or use your eyes, you can’t beat a real-life demo combined with explanations on paper.
7. You won’t drive for miles and miles.
You’ll probably only cover a total of 4-6 miles during your first in-car driving lesson, sometimes less, sometimes a bit more. You will not just be “driving around,” but will experience lots of pulling over, where the car will turn into your classroom.
8. You can ask as many questions as you like.
Don’t understand something? That’s normal. During your first in-car driving lesson, you’re almost certain to have questions. Ask your instructor about anything you do not understand or do not feel comfortable with. Even better, ask them to show you. Believe it or not, your instructor can learn a lot from you too!
9. You won’t be alone.
You + your instructor = a great TEAM! Remember, your instructor is highly trained and wants to help you succeed. And they do have an instructor brake which they can use if need be, so rest assured your instructor will be there, for whatever reason!
10. You’ll get a personalized report.
At DriversEd.com, our instructors evaluate your progress after your very first in-car driving lesson, and every subsequent in-car driving lesson. They then put together a personalized report which you and your parents can access online. So, even though your parents already know how great you are, you can now give them something else to be proud of!
First-lesson nerves. What nerves? Hopefully you’re now feeling a little more prepared for that first in-car driving lesson.
Still need to sign up? Click here to get started today.
[By DriversEd.com Contributing Writer Christina Tynan-Wood]
Want to get your teen to stop playing video games and go outside? Here’s a trick that always works: Walk into the game room. Jingle the car keys to get his attention. Ask, “Want to drive the car?” You might get panic. You might get enthusiasm. You might get a hug. But you will definitely get his attention. And if he jumps up and puts his shoes on, you have to be ready to follow through.
If this is his first time behind the wheel, this might be one of those parent/child moments neither of you forget. So calm down and be patient. You don’t want to hear the story of how you freaked out, screamed, and made him panic and crash the car over Thanksgiving dinner for the rest of your days. He will be nervous. So you should be calm. Pat yourself on the back now for the valiant effort you are bringing to this. And then use our expert plan to make sure this first drive goes well.
I asked Keith Russell, regional director for DriversEd.com, I Drive Safely, and eDriving and Hale Gammill, director of driving school operations for Southern California’s eDriving, what they would do if they were taking your teen out for this first drive. Naturally, they offered terrific pointers. These guys are the foremost experts on driver education and traffic safety in America. So you’ve got this. All you have to do is follow this plan.
Before You Start Practicing Driving in a Parking Lot
Start in the Driveway
You said, “Drive the car.” You didn’t promise a hot lap on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Sitting in the driver’s seat is a big deal. So start in the driveway and introduce him to the controls in this completely unfamiliar cockpit he is about to helm. And remember that every future drive will start right here in the driveway. So let him get it right. Work on backing straight down your driveway. When he’s got that, let him get out of the driveway and practice turning left and then right.
Before he begins backing, make him take a thorough look around the vehicle. Environmental awareness doesn’t necessarily come naturally. So reinforce that it is his job—no one else’s—to ensure there are no toys, bikes, or kids around. Clear? The next lesson is to look only in the direction he’s traveling. That means looking to the rear of the car the entire time he’s backing up until he comes to a complete stop. This is a necessary habit to build. Feel free to repeat till he gets it right.
He doesn’t want to drive fast. Not yet. Not in reverse. Not even if he claims he does. This should all happen in slow motion. He is learning and he needs to maintain complete control of the car. He can drape his right arm behind the front passenger seat but he should have his left hand at the very top of the steering wheel. If he is too short to see, he might need to lift his body off the seat for better rear viewing. Make him stop at the end of the driveway before going in either direction. Remind him to look in both directions before backing onto the street. Then look one last time—just to be sure—before proceeding.
Practicing Driving in a Parking Lot
Beginning with Parking Lots
Next, let your teen drive to a quiet local parking lot. The lesson for the road portion of this drive is how to constantly scan the road while driving. Explain that he should begin a new scanning pattern every twelve to fifteen seconds. That pattern looks like this: Look straight ahead, glance in the rear view mirror, look straight ahead, glance at the left side mirror, look straight ahead, glance at the right side mirror, look straight ahead. Repeat. And he must do this while always remaining aware of what is in front and behind him. This is a very important part of defensive driving and environmental awareness.
Once you are at the parking lot, practice a quick stop. It seems simple. But it’s important. Stopping should eventually be so familiar that it comes naturally—whatever the situation. Today, do this at ten—or even five—miles an hour. First explain that his foot should pivot off the accelerator to the brake pedal and that looking down at his feet is not allowed. Reaction time is important here so practice this until it’s easy. Then, get up to today’s slow speed and… Stop! Do it again. Practice makes perfect. Feel free to come back to this one again and again.
If you’ve got a nice empty parking lot, use the rows of parking spaces to practice making right and left turns. Look for smooth turns with even speed control. He’s going too fast if he has to brake excessively and too slow if he’s hitting the accelerator. Remind him to use the turn signal, even though there are no cars. You are building an important habit. So pretend there’s city traffic behind you and explain how to give an early warning of at least 100 feet.
Plan to Do It Again
That was fun, right? Maybe even more fun than a video game. Your teen learned something about driving. You learned something about your teen. And, while this is a bittersweet moment for parents—this is a big step toward adulthood—getting over this hump has some real perks. Pretty soon, he will be able to run to the store to pick up groceries. So, before either of you get tired or annoyed, call it a day and plan to do it again soon.
Christina Tynan-Wood is a freelance writer living in Northern California. She covers technology, cars, and parenting for national magazines and blogs at GeekGirlfriends.com.
[Written by contributing writer Amy Tarczynski.]
Mindfulness. Perhaps you know about it, or maybe it’s that term you have heard thrown around in your yoga class. If you’re not yet familiar, it’s a simple concept. Basically, it’s about bringing your attention to the current moment and simply recognizing what is going on around you and in your mind.
Anyone who wants to learn about the practice, or realize some of the holistic health benefits that come with it, could read books full of 8-week plans, enroll in a class, or take up meditation as a daily routine. But ever since I learned about mindfulness, I have wondered if there’s a shortcut application—a way I can leverage some of the beneficial aspects of mindfulness in my own life without having to think about it all the time. It turns out that’s the great thing about the practice—you can do it anytime, anyplace. All it requires is awareness.
I discovered that driving is the perfect setting for practicing mindfulness. It started when just a few months into getting my license, I was in a car accident–with a parked car. Rushing to a job interview, I tried to parallel park by pulling FORWARDS into a spot, inevitably bumping into the innocent car next to me. Oops. I was able to leave a note for the driver and speak to her when I returned after my meeting, but my mistake still weighed on me. Later on, I realized that the stress of rushing to the interview and frantically searching for parking had demanded so much of my attention that it had clouded my driving ability.
We deal with stress each day while driving. Most of the time, pressures like traffic, bad drivers, and even parked cars present unavoidable little tests to our abilities. The question is, how can we respond to these challenges without becoming blind to our own mental strain?
My response has been to become more aware of my own natural response to everyday troubles on the road. Again, mindful driving is such a simple intention that you could almost call it “mindfulness-lite.” I am merely making a point to take conscious notice of my automatic reactions. Granted, I may be more of a worrywart than most. But take it from someone who constantly gets nervous on the road—simply noticing your own stress when it arises helps you prevent it from getting the better of you (and in case you saw my last post, it helps you avoid texting and driving too).