Your first in-car driving lesson. Here’s what to expect.

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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.

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Let’s Go Practice Driving—in a Parking Lot!

[By DriversEd.com Contributing Writer Christina Tynan-Wood]

Overhead view of an empty parking lot.

An empty parking lot is the best place to start practice driving.

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.

Clear! STAT!
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.

Go Slow
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.

Stop! Fast!
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.

Making Turns
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.

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Mindful Driving: Simple Intentions for Coping with Stress on the Road

[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.

A young woman practicing mindful driving behind the wheel.

Mindful driving: focused on the driving task, the environment, and the driver’s own reactions.

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).

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Drivers Ed Diary: Entry 1

[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]

I’m currently on Lesson #2—Signs, Signals, and Markings—of my online driver’s ed course. In this lesson, I’ve been learning all about different road markings, right-of-way laws, traffic control devices, and of course, all types of road signs. Until now, I didn’t even know that they were separated into three distinct categories—regulatory, guide, and warning. The further into my online course I’m getting, the more confident I feel about going out onto the road. Even though my course is online and not in a traditional classroom, I’m still getting all of the vital knowledge I need as a teenage driver.

teen using laptop to write a driver's ed diary

Working on the drivers ed diary.

Lesson #1 taught me about how being allowed to drive is not a right, it’s a privilege. It also taught me all about being an organ donor and the benefits of it, how to get and keep a drivers license, and how to take financial responsibility as a teen driver. My mom was extremely impressed when I told her about all I’ve learned so far taking this course—I think it’s making her feel much better about letting me drive with her in the car.

Did you know that over 98,000 people nationally are on a waiting list for organ and tissue donation? I’m definitely going to be an organ donor when I can finally take the behind-the-wheel test to get my drivers license. I may not have even known about this option if it hadn’t been for the great information I’m getting from doing my course.

I’m glad I chose to take my drivers ed course online, since I’m always so busy between school, extracurriculars, and social activities like hanging out with my friends. I’ll also never have to worry about making up a class if I miss it, since I get to decide when I start each lesson! Even just a couple lessons in, I’m already seeing the benefits of getting to choose where and when I do my classes, along with what pace it goes at. I usually tend to prefer a much slower pace, so that I can fully understand what I’m being taught, but DriversEd.com has proven to explain things so well, with all of its visuals, like videos and pictures, and its end-of-lesson tests, that I hardly ever need to worry about whether or not I’m processing all of the information. DriversEd.com is preparing me for going out on the road by simulating real-life driving situations that I might run into, and asking me questions on how I would conduct myself in dealing with them.

I’ve hardly gotten into the course yet, but I know the further I get into it, the better it’ll be! I’m already so excited to use this knowledge in my everyday life, whether it be learning how to drive on the roads, helping out a friend who has also started their driving education, or who knows—maybe even giving my mom some reminders and pointers on what I see with my view from the backseat!

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Safe Driving Tips As The Clocks Go Back

Safe driving tips as we put clocks back to standard time

The long light evenings of summer have come to an end and it’s time to exchange that air conditioning button for your car’s heating control.

Yes, at 2 a.m. this Sunday (November 6), we officially say goodbye to summertime as the clocks go back one hour, marking the end of Daylight Saving Time for 2016 and a return to standard time.

Changing the clocks means it can be dark by late afternoon and, before long, darker in the mornings too. Darker roads mean riskier journeys, for all road users. And that’s why, as the clocks go back, we need to think about adapting the way we drive, building winter driving techniques into our existing safe driving skills.

Here are our tips for driving safe when the clocks go back:

Keep your car in tip-top condition

  • Check lights, including indicators and brake lights
  • Keep your car clean to help improve visibility through the windows
  • Keep wiper fluid topped up so you can clear your windshield
  • Now is also a great time to think about other checks, such as tire pressure, fluid levels and oil

Be prepared

  • De-mist windows before you set off
  • Pack a basic emergency kit, just in case you get into trouble

On the road

  • Keep your speed right down as you are less likely to see vulnerable road users such as children, the elderly, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists in the dark
  • Maintain a safe following distance, at least three seconds in good conditions
  • Adapt your speed to suit the weather – it takes around twice as long to stop on wet roads and ten times as long on icy roads
  • Look out for others and anticipate the actions of all road users
  • Stay focused on the task at hand
  • Remember that familiar routes can look different in the dark
  • If you use high-beams, don’t forget to switch back to low-beams when another vehicle is approaching

Collision rates generally increase after the clocks go back and as visibility and weather conditions begin to worsen. But, with a little planning ahead you can be certain you’ll be ready for a whole new season of safe driving. You might just need to turn up that heater another notch.

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Hands off your phone! The distracted driving law is getting tougher in California

texting and driving texas

Recently, a new law was signed in by California Governor Jerry Brown, which makes it ‘an offense to drive while holding and operating a cellphone or electronic communications device’.

What does this mean? It means that if you so much as pick up your phone while driving, you’ll be breaking the law. Here’s what you need to know.

While driving, it will be illegal to use your phone for activities such as:

  • Taking pictures
  • Streaming music
  • Using messaging apps
  • Using social media
  • Reading a message
  • Entering an address into GPS

What IS legal?
You may use your phone while driving if it’s mounted to the windshield or dash AND can be activated with just a finger swipe.

If you break the law there is a $20 fine for the first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense.

Why is the distracted driving law changing?
People use their phones to do more and more – and this is leading to dangerous behavior behind the wheel.

Assemblymaker Bill Quirk wrote the bill (AC 1785) which proposed the law. He said he wrote it to bring the law up to speed with technology.

“Technology has improved so rapidly, and our cell phones are more capable of much more than just calls and text messages. Smartphones have an abundance of available features that demand a driver’s attention, leading to very dangerous driving behavior. However, such activities are not clearly prohibited by law,” Assemblymember Quirk stated.

“This bill targets the deadliest cause of distracted driving related crashes, the use of an electronic device while driving. The accidents, injuries and deaths associated with this form of distracted driving are completely preventable. I am proud that Governor Brown has agreed that it is time that we update our archaic laws on the issue and do our part to make sure drivers are focused on the road. This bill will save lives.”

Prepare for the law – stop distracted driving now
The law comes into force in January 2017, but, of course, using your phone while driving before then is still dangerous. Our advice? Put your phone out of sight to resist temptation while driving. If it’s necessary for you to have your phone in sight, to use navigation software for example, be sure to use an approved dashboard or window mount, set up your route planning before you start driving, and make sure you can use the phone with just a swipe, so that your eyes, and your attention, can remain on the road.

We all know we shouldn’t use a cellphone while driving. It’s a distraction – and is involved in around one in four collisions. But it’s so tempting. There’s Snapchat, messaging apps, Facebook, Instagram…the list goes on and will only get bigger. And that’s exactly why the distracted driving law is getting tougher.

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What’s the Best Age to Start Teaching My Teen to Drive?

[By DriversEd.com Contributing Writer Christina Tynan-Wood]

Teen girl and mom using a computer to learn about defensive driving.

Picking an online course to learn about defensive driving can be fun. Seriously.

Is a five-year-old too young to learn to drive? When my daughter, Ava, was five, she got behind the wheel of a pink, battery-powered Barbie car. Everything she knew about driving, she’d learned from watching cartoons. So she closed her eyes, floored it, whipped the steering wheel back and forth maniacally, screamed, and headed straight for traffic.

I barely caught her before she careened into an oncoming car. It was terrifying—and straight out of Looney Tunes. Except my daughter is not made of celluloid. I know that driving is not something kids are born understanding. But I was suddenly intensely aware that—without my help—she was learning driving skills inadvertently from the information she was consuming. She was too young to drive. But her mind was a sponge and she was soaking up driving lessons from cartoons—and watching me drive. I taught her to cross the street and not play in the road. I realized I could take more control over what she was learning from the back seat, too.

“Every time you get in the car, whether your kids are buckled into a car seat or a traditional seat belt, it’s a teaching opportunity,” agrees Hale Gammill, Director of Driving School Operations for eDriving in Southern California. “Don’t waste any of them.”

First I pointed out that if had she been driving an actual car, she had to look where she wanted the car to go. So closing her eyes wasn’t her best decision. (Though the scream was a nice touch.) She nodded. She didn’t have to be behind the wheel to see the logic. “They always crash in cartoons,” she explained. “I was scared.” I pointed out that we don’t always crash when I drive so I would teach her to drive safely. So, every time we got in the car, I found lessons she could learn easily from the back seat.

In fact, just buckling her into her car seat was an opportunity to teach. “Explain why you use a seatbelt when you drive,” says Gammill. “And the importance of this safety harness for the driver, as well, in keeping you safely in one place in case of a collision or emergency stop.”

“And then move on to the importance of a proper seat position adjustment,” suggests Keith Russell, Regional Director of Business Development and Operations for DriversEd.com, IDriveSafely.com, and eDriving. “Tell her why you don’t want to be too far from the pedals or the steering wheel, that your arms should always be bent at the elbow so that there is no tension in your hands or arms, and so you are comfortable while driving.”

When I was fixing the head rest before driving, I took a minute to explain why. “The head restraint should always easily support the middle of the back of your skull,” says Russell. “To prevent whiplash in the case of an accident.”

Once I started this, she started asking questions. So I knew I was onto something. “What’s that for?” She asked when I used my turn signal. “That’s a good opportunity to explain how important it is to use turn signals to communicate with other drivers,” offers Gammill. “They should be used on all turns and whenever you want to make a lane change or exit the road.” While I had her attention, I thought. Why not mention the hazard lights? “Those are not just for emergencies,” agrees Gammill. “Hazard lights are important to use if you drive in a torrential rain, when making a parallel parking maneuver, and for any unique occurrence on our roadways to inform other drivers of a safety issue.”

“Why don’t you hurry up and catch those cars?” Ava asked when I was driving on the freeway. “It’s not a race,” I told her. “And that’s an opportunity to discuss the importance of having a proper space cushion between you and the vehicle you are following,” says Russell. “This will help her to begin to understand one aspect of defensive driving. The proper space cushion is determined by road conditions, time of day, and weather. Explain that you want to give yourself a minimum of a 3-second following distance in dry daytime driving and more in worse conditions.”

By the time Ava got behind the wheel herself as a freshman in high school, she had internalized a lot of these lessons. She did well in that class. And anytime I forget to use my turn signal, drove too close to a car in front of me, or put my hands in the wrong place on the steering wheel, she still corrects me. I don’t think she remembers any of the driving lessons she learned from Looney Tunes, but, when I listen patiently to her lectures correcting my driving, I know she remembers what I taught her.

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.

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Parents: Tools to help your teen resist using their phone while driving

[This article is being published in support of National Teen Driver Safety Week. If you have any comments or have a story to share about this topic, please send them to email@edriving.com.]

Why do teens text, use social media, film and take pictures while driving?  The tools they ned to resist distracted driving

Teenagers live an ‘always-on’ lifestyle. Whether calling, texting, using social media or taking selfies, many teens barely go a few minutes without tapping away on their phone.

A study carried out in 2015 found that 92 percent of American teens reported going online daily, with 24 percent saying they went online ‘almost constantly’. Added to this, teenagers use all kinds of messaging apps, such as Snapchat, WhatsApp and Kik.

In fact, teens are so addicted to their phones they have been described as having a ‘Fear of Missing Out’ (FoMO) – an anxiety about being excluded; not immediately seeing a message or app notification, for example.

How does an ‘always-on’ lifestyle affect teens while they are driving?
This fast-paced way of life has manifested itself in dangerous driving behavior, according to a study by Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions).

Almost half (48 percent) of teens reported texting more when alone in the car. A third (34 percent) admitted to taking their eyes off the road when an app notification came in, and the majority (88 percent) who considered themselves to be ‘safe’ drivers reported using apps at the wheel.

A surprising finding was who teens were texting while driving: their parents! The survey found that teens felt their own parents – more than anyone else – expected immediate replies to texts. Fifty-five percent of the teens reported texting while driving to update parents, with 19 percent believing their parents would expect a reply to a text within just ONE MINUTE.

PROVIDE YOUR TEEN WITH THE TOOLS TO RESIST DISTRACTED DRIVING
Sometimes, basic solutions are the most effective. Below, we highlight some everyday reasons your teen might pick up their phone while driving and give simple solutions – the tools your teen needs – to address these.

1. Your teen…IS TEXTING YOU
As mentioned above, some teens use phones while driving to update their parents. Yes, it is worrying when you have a newly licensed teen driver and it’s natural to request updates when they’re out and about. But, give them the tool to do this safely.

The tool to help your teen: Make it clear that your teen must never update you while driving. Not a ‘quick’ text while stopped in traffic, not a ‘quick’ call, even on hands-free. Ask your teen to get in touch when they have arrived at their destination or are stopped in a place where it is safe and legal to use their phone. And parents, never text or call your teen when you know they are driving.

2. Your teen…KNOWS NO DIFFERENT
Teens sometimes behave the way they have seen others – often their parents – do things. For example, your teen may drive with their cell phone on the passenger seat because they’ve seen you do this too.

The tool to help your teen: Model the correct behavior – phone on silent and away in the glovebox! Insist everyone in your family does this. Note that hands-free phones do NOT reduce risk, because research shows they do not reduce cognitive distraction.

3. Your teen…THINKS A QUICK GLANCE IS OK
All teens know they shouldn’t use a phone while driving. Most teens are aware of the reason for this. But, does your teen fully understand what they will NOT SEE by taking a quick glance at their phone?

The tool to help your teen: Give a practical demonstration. Ed Dubens, General Manager and Executive Vice President of eDriving FLEET, has a great tip: “Next time you are in a car with your teen as a passenger, ask them to pick a moment to imagine they are driving, to take a final look around before closing their eyes and counting three seconds – 1,000 and 2,000 and 3,000, and then to open their eyes and see how far you have traveled and how the scene around has changed – scary!”

4. Your teen…FEELS SINGLED OUT
Teenagers sometimes feel they are being asked to do something that no one else does – driving safely is one example. Your teen sees others engaging in risky behavior that seems socially acceptable, so why shouldn’t they?

The tool to help your teen: Empower your teen. After all, what’s really so bad about valuing their own life and the lives of their friends too? Encourage them to make a pledge to drive safe – do this across the whole family and across your teen’s peer groups too. Any friend who isn’t willing to drive safe or ride safely as a passenger must not travel with your teen.

5. Your teen…JUST CANNOT RESIST
We know teens have a fear of missing out. So, even after discussing the risks and putting suitable consequences in place, you may still worry that your teen is going to find it difficult to resist using their phone at the wheel. This is not a risk worth taking.

The tool to help your teen: It may sound ironic, but technology can actually help prevent your teen being distracted by technology! Many organizations, including cell phone companies, have ‘apps’ that help disable a phone while driving. These are not fool proof but – combined with your efforts to encourage your teen to avoid distractions – they can be a useful addition to the toolbox.

Ed Dubens commented: “Most parents will be aware of how dangerous it is to drive distracted but might not know what to do to tackle the problem beyond talking with their teen and establishing rules and consequences. They may not have considered the small, practical ways in which they can help. By highlighting some of the everyday reasons for teenagers using their phones while driving and offering simple solutions, we are demonstrating that, with the correct tools, parents can have a big impact on the driving behavior of their teens.”

We are running a National Teen Driver Safety Week contest!

We are inviting teens to turn the tables and help make their parents aware of distracted behaviors while they drive. Our #viewfromthebackseat contest is designed to empower teens to be part of the distracted driving solution. So, let your teen know about the contest and leave the rest to them… and remember to be on your best driving behavior.

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Lead by example: A parent’s guide to modeling good driving behavior

[This article is being published in support of National Teen Driver Safety Week. If you have any comments or have a story to share about this topic, please send them to email@edriving.com.]
Father Modeling Good Driving Behavior
Do you know how long you have been teaching your child about driving?

From the moment your child began to observe the world around them from the backseat of your vehicle, they were subconsciously learning from your behavior.

And, with research finding that teens often replicate their parents’ driving behaviors, it’s important to be the best role model you can be.

Here are five best practices to help you model the right driving behavior to your teen.

1. Start outside the vehicle
Safe driving goes beyond the skills required behind the wheel – and includes everything from maintaining your vehicle to ensuring you are fit to drive. For example:

  • Fitness to drive. Avoid driving while tired or when particularly emotional or stressed.
  • Vehicle checks. Involve your child in this process from a young age to emphasize the importance of having a safe, well-maintained vehicle.
  • Planning ahead. Plan your route, avoid rush hours and check the weather forecast – put off journeys if conditions are bad.

2. Set up a routine
Establish a regular routine – buckle up, adjust mirrors and set up GPS before hitting the road. Position your device so you don’t have to touch it while driving.

Show your teen how to avoid cell phone distraction by putting your phone on silent, in the glovebox. Never check it while you are driving, even in a jam or at traffic lights. Research carried out by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, found that distracted driving was a much bigger problem for teens than previously thought, with distraction a factor in nearly 6 out of 10 moderate-to-severe teen crashes.

Teens are known to have a “Fear of Missing Out” so could be tempted to sneak a glance at their phone if it pings while driving. Making phones silent and out of sight removes this temptation.

3. Resist all distractions
While cell phones are amongst the biggest distractions (and laws related to their use vary greatly), they are not the only distraction for drivers.

In reality, there’s a wide range of far-too-common non-driving activities that can increase your chance of crashing. Even if it’s not against the law, set a good example to your teen by avoiding anything that could be distracting. Such as:

  • Actively using the GPS/mapping software
  • Meddling with the radio / playlist / Podcast app
  • Eating or drinking
  • Reaching for objects in the car
  • Grooming – shaving, brushing hair, applying make-up
  • Smoking
  • Horsing around with passengers
  • Watching TV – even if glancing across at something a passenger is viewing
  • Reading – yes, people have been caught doing this while driving

4. Have the right attitude
Being a good role model also involves demonstrating how to deal with unexpected situations. For example, what you would do if another driver almost caused a collision with your vehicle? Would you lose your patience and shout? Instead, show your teen how to handle the situation correctly. Take a deep breath, stay calm and let it pass.

If your child is currently going through the process of learning to drive, they will have probably started to take more notice of how you act behind the wheel. Do you obey the speed limit? Do you keep a safe following distance?

In a recent interview, Robert Foss, senior research scientist at the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center, said: “We don’t so much learn ‘how’ to do things by observing, but we very much learn ‘what is appropriate to do’ by observing. So teens won’t learn how to be skilled in reading a roadway environment by observing, but they may learn that ignoring speed limits, or traffic controls is ‘the way we drive’ from observing what parents do.”

5. Take a hard stance
It is important that your teenager knows there must never be any exceptions or excuses. Distracted driving must not happen, ever.

Talk to your teen about the reasons for avoiding distractions. There are plenty of facts around that convey just how huge the problem is. Here are a few you might like to share with your teen:

  • Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. If traveling at 55mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded (2009, VTTI)
  • The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found distraction to be a factor in 58 percent of teen driver crashes
  • Cognitive (mental) distractions can continue for up to 27 seconds after the activity has ended, according to a 2016 study. So, if your teen texts while stopped a traffic lights, they may still be distracted once the light turns green, even if they have put their phone down

Discuss the penalties for distracted driving, as well as what punishments you will enforce or privileges you will take away if you discover they have been driving distracted.

Also, make your teen accountable for their own actions. One way to do this is to encourage them to sign a safe driving pledge. Of course, to set a good example, you should sign the pledge too. This will help commit you to the project of modeling good driving behavior.

eDriving CEO Celia Stokes said: “It is important for parents to recognize that teaching safe driving starts at home. Of course, driving is a skill that develops with experience, but there is no better place to begin than with the parent being the best role model possible. It’s really quite simple; if you show your children that you drive smart and that you are committed to distraction-free driving, they will learn from your example.”

We are running a Teen Driver Safety Week contest!

We are inviting teens to turn the tables and help make their parents aware of distracted behaviors while they drive. Our #viewfromthebackseat contest is designed to empower teens to be part of the distracted driving solution. So, let your teen know about the contest and leave the rest to them … and remember to be on your best driving behaviour.

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Texting and Driving: Some New Thoughts

[In honor of Teen Driver Safety Week, we're handing the keys over to contributing writer (and Actual Teen) Amy Tarczynski!]

Texting and driving is bad. You already know this because you’ve watched the videos and maybe even read the statistics. Most of us admit it’s bad, and a lot of the time we don’t actually intend to text and drive before we get in the car. So why do we do it anyway?

Part of the problem actually has to do with hearing those scary statistics: we don’t really believe they apply to us. It’s a phenomenon that cognitive scientist Tali Sharot named The Optimism Bias. Basically, when we think about our own futures, we tend to overestimate the likelihood that good things will happen to us and underestimate the likelihood of bad things. In the context of driving, that means we overestimate our own capabilities. In fact, one study showed that 93% of U.S. drivers think that they’re in the top 50% of safe drivers. We also underestimate our likelihood of being in a car accident. This would explain why so many teen drivers will agree that texting while driving is bad but admit to doing it anyway: we know it’s dangerous in general, but we don’t quite grasp how much of a risk it is to ourselves specifically.

So half of the problem is that we don’t acknowledge our own risk. But even when considering that texting and driving is inherently dangerous, it still doesn’t always feel wrong in the moment.

The issue here is that we can’t perceive the magnitude of the distraction. Unlike driving while sleep-deprived, where you can physically feel your difficulties concentrating on the road, using a phone while driving creates a much more insidious set of distractions. Psychologists have studied impairment to visual attention from talking on the phone while driving: people talking on the phone (including hands-free calls!) miss visual cues like traffic signals and road signs and don’t know that they didn’t see them …and these are the people who are looking at the road the whole time. When you’re texting, your eyes aren’t on the road.

And there are two other forms of distraction besides visual distraction: cognitive distraction, and manual distraction. Texting and driving causes both of these types, by requiring a hand on the phone, not on the wheel (manual distraction), and by pulling attention away from the driving task (cognitive distraction).

Attention is a limited resource. So by looking up and down from your phone to text, it’s not just that your eyes are off the road for a second. Even when you’re looking up, your ability to perceive the visual field in front of you is impaired without you realizing it.

There is more to this conversation than just our perceptions of danger, from how social norms can affect our texting and driving behaviors to what government and nonprofits can do to spread more awareness. Nevertheless, because texting and driving is still such an “I know it’s wrong, but I do it anyways” type of problem, permanently shifting people’s mental models around texting and driving may require more than the prescriptive warnings and scary statistics that we’re so used to hearing.

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