Do you have a teenager who recently got his or her driver’s license? Have you allowed them to drive more than a block away yet? It can certainly be nervewracking to let your child leave your sight, especially when they are in control of a motor vehicle. But it’s necessary. Just like you once had to get used to dropping them at nursery school every morning, then saying goodbye for a week when they attended summer camp, this is another step on the road to their independence. And it’s important that you respect that.
Of course, highway driving is an entirely different matter than tooling down to the neighborhood grocery store or a nearby friend’s house. When your teen has to make a longer-distance trip or venture onto the highway for the first time, it’s OK to intervene and teach them how to do so safely. We’ve got some valuable tips that will help you do just that!
1. Be a Good Example
When you know your teenager will need to be on a busier, multi-lane road, drive that road with them in the passenger seat. Explain what you are doing and why at each step of the way. There will be plenty of examples of what not to do, too — but don’t get angry with other drivers. Model calm, patient behavior when you are behind the wheel.
You might also ask your new driver what she thinks you ought to do in certain situations. For example, have her tell you when to signal before changing lanes, or how early to change lanes in advance of exiting. That can help her learn without risk.
2. Talk Things Through
Sit down with them — in the living room, not the minivan! — and explain some of the important highway rules of the road. Cover such topics as merging, exiting, changing lanes, how far to follow, how to pass, and how to deal with emergency vehicles. Give them tips for handling angry or careless drivers, as well.
3. Start Slow and Short
On-the-job training is great in some situations, but highway driving is not one of them. Well in advance of their trip, take your teen out for short trips. It’s OK to go only as far as the next exit until they gain experience and confidence.
You’ll also want to choose times when highway conditions — traffic and weather, in particular — are optimal. Don’t try to teach your child how to handle rush-hour traffic or icy roads on her first time out.
4. Stay on the Right
New freeway drivers should stick to the right lane whenever possible. Between modulating their own speed and letting drivers merge onto the highway, they will have enough to deal with. If they have to pass a very slow driver, have them do so and head immediately back into the right lane. Here, they can go a little slower and get their “sea legs.”
5. Emphasize the Importance of Breaks
If your child is driving off to college or taking a long-distance road trip, even if they have highway experience, emphasize how crucial it is to take frequent breaks. Interstate driving can seem tedious, but they actually take a lot of concentration and brainpower and therefore can be draining.
Drivers should stop whenever nature calls or they begin to feel a bit droopy. Teach your teen that on some remote highways, rest stops and exits might be few and far between, so they should take advantage of them. During each break, ask your teen to call or text home (so they’re not tempted to do so on the road), use the facilities, grab a cup of coffee or soda if they’re feeling sleepy, and stretch or walk around.
No matter what kind of a hurry a driver is in, these breaks are essential, says a Denver personal injury lawyer with Lampert & Walsh. They make it possible to get back on the road with a clear head, ready to pay attention to the road once more.
A Few Last Words of Advice
Lastly, take a couple of deep breaths! It might be a while before your heart stops racing every time your teenager grabs the keys and heads out the door, but know that you have taught them well. Their driving instructor and the DMV employee who road-tested them are also experts. And remember, too, that with every trip your teen driver takes, he or she is gaining valuable first-hand experience that will help them stay safe in the future.
Have you taught a teenager to drive on the highway — or at all? Let us know how it went by leaving a comment below!