How to Teach a Teen to Drive

My daughter just completed her classroom instruction required to get a learner’s permit in our state. Next is the in-vehicle driving instruction that will take place over a couple of days. After that, we’re on our own as far as formal driver’s ed goes and onto the practice drives where the parent is in the car guiding the education and coaching. That’s a lot of responsibility and something I’ve known about for awhile but am just now starting to fully comprehend. I guess what little “parental intuition” I have actually kicked in. A few thoughts and questions came to mind:

  1. There are quite a few ways to do this that probably have varying degrees of success

  2. There are some serious consequences to doing this wrong

  3. I wonder what the best approach is - while being relatively easy and inexpensive.

Yes, it’s my kid but why not try and keep things simple and affordable if possible? So, I set out to learn a little about how I might get to this better place of above-average teen driving instructor / parent.

Drivers License - Teen Driver from State Farm https://www.flickr.com/photos/statefarm/9731140727 CC by 2.0

Do you really care?

That may sound a little harsh but you might have some hurdles to overcome to do this right as a parent. After all, your transition into a driving instructor may be much like coming off the bench and being forced into the big game all of sudden. It’s peculiar how we can easily spend time practicing a sport and researching the options for a big purchase or job opportunity but spend very little time preparing how to educate a teen to drive. I’m as guilty as the rest of us. If it is so important, why do we not get more prepared? Teachers get a four year degree from a university with on-the-job internships along the way to get fully prepared.

Without spending too much time on this, one key driver is the instinctive behavior known as the pleasure principle by psychologists. I’m not talking about any specific pleasure here but just the general idea that people are biased toward actions that provide some pleasure vs all the other options. The odds of your teen being in an accident are relatively high but, based on your current accident avoidance rate, you are not in mindset to react and protect. As it is only a threat of an accident, we’re wired to not do much unfortunately even though we know of the importance more than likely. Even for the highly productive folks out there (you know if I’m talking about you), it’s so much easier to work on something that we want in our life such as a new car, new house, new job (status). We want to believe that our teen will become a good driver no matter how we go about it and that they will be fine and not experience a horrific accident.