Driver’s Ed is just the beginning. Even after they’ve gotten their permit or license, teens still need lots of guidance. Coaching kids who are learning to drive isn’t always a cinch for parents, but these tips from Rachel Withers, manager of Bridgestone Teens Drive Smart, a national program designed to educate teens about safe driving, could make for a smoother ride.
Road Rule #1: Keep Your Eyes On The Prize
“Many new drivers keep their eyes straight ahead, even when they’re turning,” says Withers. Remind your teen to look where he wants the car to go.
Road Rule #2: Brake Room
“It’s important for teens to understand that braking distance grows exponentially with the car’s speed,” Withers says. “For example, doubling your speed more than doubles your stopping distance. Always brake earlier than you think you need to.” There are times when all drivers need to brake quickly, and for new drivers, the sensation created in the brake pedal when the anti-lock braking system (ABS) kicks in can come as a surprise—vibrations can deliver a pump and grind sensation. Make sure your teen driver is familiar with it so she’s not startled.
Road Rule #3: Speed Up Slowly
“You want to squeeze the gas pedal, and never jump on the gas,” advises Withers, so apply pressure slowly. “Always scan the area around you before you accelerate, and watch out for unexpected hesitations or sudden stops from other drivers.”
Road Rule #4: Lead By Example
“We encourage families to make a pact to never text and drive,” says Withers. (Check out GEICO’s parent-teen driving contract.) “Discussing the many, many reasons why texting and driving is dangerous will make the pact more meaningful.” Distracted driving isn’t limited to texting. Fiddling with GPS and music are other major culprits, so remind your younger driver to enter the destination into the GPS before pulling out of the driveway and to make a playlist in advance.
Road Rule #5: No New Friends
In most states, teens are allowed to have only one other teenage passenger in the car, because it’s too easy to be distracted by pals. (Find out your state’s rules by visiting the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s website.) “If you don’t live in one of these states, and it seems like your teen is becoming a taxi service for friends, enforce this rule in your own house, too,” Withers says.
Want more advice for new drivers? Check out our tips to help teens focus on the road.
By Celia Shatzman