Tips for Parents
Our classroom instructors have impressed the student of his responsibility for the safety of his passengers & other motorists, as well as the grave dangers that exist on the road that he needs to anticipate. Coupled with the fact that the student has been long awaiting this rite of passage, he is experiencing the excitement of finally being allowed to drive, anxiety about his performance, & the stress of now performing all of this safely & responsibly with no experience. In a nutshell, expect the student to be overwhelmed!
We have some suggestions to help ease the tension of this training period for you & your student.
- Start student with basic steering maneuvers to understand relationship between the steering wheel & the movement of the car. Figure 8’s & S’s are good for this.
- Progress slowly with acceleration & stopping smoothness.
- Remember that EVERYTHING the student is about to do behind the wheel is a very new experience. NOTHING is natural or second nature to him as it may be to you.
- Call student by name to insure you have his full attention before giving him any directives.
- Give student simple, POSITIVE direction. State WHERE to do–HOW to do–WHAT you would like him to do.
- Allow PLENTY of TIME to process & execute the maneuver you are expecting him to execute.
EXAMPLE: “Ryan, as we approach the next corner, I would like you to prepare for a right turn. Remember to signal, check your blind spot, & check for cross traffic.”
EXAMPLE TO AVOID: “Okay, let’s make a right here!”–“What are you doing? You forgot to signal!”
- Don’t expect him to execute maneuvers perfectly–anticipate that he might not remember ALL of the details for some time. So gentle reminders help BEFORE the maneuver! Be patient!!!
- Don’t expect him to KNOW things just because he has been a passenger in your cars for years. He needs to be told basic things like how to adjust mirrors, how to depress accelerator & brake “As though there is a raw egg beneath them. The object is DON’T BREAK THE EGG!”
- Humor helps to diffuse a tense situation when mistakes are made. E.g., when the student overreacts, slamming the brake, responding with “oops, scrambled eggs!” gets the point across better than yelling “I told you not to do that!”
- Avoid using the street names to locate where you would like the student to turn, rather say something like “Not at this signal but the signal after this one, I would like you to make a left turn.” At first, recognizing a street by name is one too many details for most students. His concentration will be diverted from the safety issues to search for the particular street. Let him get enough experience to become comfortable in traffic before using street names.
- Starting in industrial parking lots with figure 8’s & S’s is a good way to help the student become familiar with steering & acceleration.
- Remember that for 15 years as a passenger, the student has never been aware of the close proximity the car has to a center line, or for that matter, the other vehicles approaching from the opposite direction. Now that he is in the driver’s seat he is suddenly aware of just how close everything seems to be on the left. It is only NATURAL for him to move closer to right where it FEELS more familiar.
- Remember that you are nearly as UNFAMILIAR with sitting on the right with the heightened awareness of having an inexperienced driver at the wheel. So you will tend to OVERREACT as well. Those parked cars are going to feel awfully close! Talk about this issue of mutual discomfort. It helps.
- To help the student get over the fear of the center line, it is often helpful to try this exercise. When you are stopped for a red light in the center lane, have the student open the door so he can see the actual distance between the car & the line. Students are usually quite surprised that it is not as close as it feels.
- When working on the lane position with the student, the fear of oncoming traffic can be reduced by discussing what the student believes would actually happen if he did cross the line. You might ask him, “If an approaching vehicle crossed the line what would you do?”–“Would you stay here or would you swerve?” He will, no doubt, answer that he would swerve. “Do you think that the other car would allow you to hit him? Or do you think he would also get out of your way?” This discussion is NOT to encourage crowding or crossing the centerline, only to give him some truth & logic to lessen the exaggerated fear. In other words, it may help strike the balance between total paranoia and a healthy fear & respect for the divided highway.
- Don’t expect him to spread his attention in too many directions for a while. You will need to see the signs for speed, lane ending, etc. for him. Give the student plenty of advance notice. Until he has the basics down he will need you to point out the end of a lane or a right turn only, etc. These discipllines will be assimilated as the student becomes more comfortable in traffic & less overwhelmed with other details. When you feel he may be ready have him begin to inform you whenever he sees a traffic sign so he can begin learning to scan. It all comes one step at a time.
- Encourage a student who weaves when looking over his shoulder to make lane changes, to merely loosen his grip on the wheel for the quick second blind-spot check. He must not remove his hands from the wheel, only release momentarily. AND he must not look back more than a second or 2. If he is unsure of what he does or does not see, he is to look back at the road & then do another 1 or 2 second check until he is able to trust what he sees.
- Please reinforce the practice of the student driver ALWAYS walking around the car checking for children, pets, toys & other objects before his drive!!!!
- Encourage student awareness of safe following distance & escape routes.
- When the session gets too stressful, head for home or change drivers–and try to remember your first attempts to drive. We’ve ALL been there!!!