Parenting is a full time job which doesn’t come with an ‘off’ button. Once you are a parent you are in permanent parenting mode and everything you do and say, or don’t do and don’t say as the case might be is likely to be mimicked by your child. This also applies to driving, and the question all parents should ask themselves is, “would I be proud of my teen if they drove the same way that I drive?” Let that sink in for a moment because for some parents that is a prospect scarier than the threat of bankruptcy.
Here are a few tips for how best to prepare your teen and yourself for their first few months of driving.
- Model Good Behaviour:Your teen has consciously and subconsciously been absorbing your driving example for years. Each time you broke the speed limit, or sent a text, or drove under the influence of alcohol, your teen subconsciously registered that as the right, if not normal thing to do. When the time finally comes for them to drive, don’t be surprised that their subconscious memory will bring up the colourful memory bank of your driving patterns and begin to exhibit exactly how you have been driving over the past few years. So, if you don’t want your child driving as recklessly as you sometimes do, change your behaviour because the adage “Do as I say and not as I do” is most applicable in this instance.
- Make them earn it:Instil in your teens that driving is not an entitlement but a privilege, even though they may need to be ferried to and from school and social activities, a healthy sense of respect for motor vehicles is critical so that they understand that cars are not toys but rather lethal weapons if in the wrong hands. In the same spirit, do not rush to purchase a vehicle for your teen but rather give them an opportunity to work for it so that a strong sense of responsibility is achieved.
- Control the Keys:Parents should still control the keys to all the family vehicles and teens should ask for permission to use them. All cars should be fitted with tracking devices linked to apps on each parent and caregiver’s phone. Not only will teens be forced to ask for use each and every time they need to use the car, but the app will also help you monitor their movements when you do hand the keys over. Don’t forget that some industriously mischievous teens may make their own copies of your car keys which is when the app comes in handy as well.
- Make them Drive You:At every available opportunity, allow your teen to drive you, this will give you the opportunity to guide and monitor their motoring development skills. It will also help create a sense of trust within you as you would be aware of what areas of their driving still require attention.
- Limit night time and bad weather driving:Your teen has more enthusiasm than experience and would unlikely have had any real behind the wheel time driving in conditions other than broad daylight. Gently introduce driving after sunset when they are driving you. If possible, book yourself and your teen for a defensive driver training course which will not only act as a ‘team building’ experience but also give you an opportunity to touch up on your own driving skills.
- Draw up a contract:Irrespective of if your teen uses your car or their own, a good way to teach them responsibility is to enter into an agreement. Here are a few items to consider when drawing up their contract:
- Your teen is not permitted to have peer passengers without permission from you.
- Your teen should keep the car clean inside and out at all times.
- Your teen’s car is subject to spot checks.
- Parents should only pay a portion of either the monthly fuel or insurance bill.
- All fines/tickets of any nature are for the teen’s account.
- Your teen is responsible for ensuring that the vehicle is serviced timeously as per the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Your teen is required to learn (among other things) how to:
- Change a flat tyre
- Check engine oil and water
- Conduct a pre-trip safety check
Evidently, parents play a crucial role in the safety of their teenage drivers and it is in everyone’s best interest that a tight rein is kept on their car usage. The idea is not to be a wet blanket and keep teens from having fun. If your teen is ready and mature enough to be entrusted to drive, they should be mature enough to understand the responsibility which goes with car ownership and driving.
If you truly love your teenager, you will show your love by ushering them safely into the world of motoring.