|image from dreamstime.com|
We aren't ready for him to try the humongous mini-van yet. We'll ease into that eventually. Maybe.
|image from kozzi.com|
This seemed like a really smart idea, until we got in the car (already pulled out onto the road, since I wasn't prepared to have him back out of the driveway yet) and he violently hiccuped the car into the lane. (I later learned that Hubs saw this through the window and almost had a coronary.) About 2 minutes into the drive, I realised I had no plan in place. I'm a Capricorn. I need to have this mapped out. I also have control issues. I may have made a horrible mistake.
It took him a while to get used to the car and how it braked. He was wearing boots, which didn't help. He couldn't feel the brake as well as he would have with sneakers on. But he got progressively smoother as we drover around.
I eventually developed a plan, and decided that we should focus on stop signs and turns. So we did right turns with and without stop signs. Then left turns, with and without stop signs. We also did left turn across a crosswalk with a woman and her dog crossing. Everyone escaped unharmed. Thank God. He has the turn radius down quite well, and I made sure to praise him for that. It softened the fact that I was squeezing the life out of my arm rest I think.
I got a little cocky, since he was doing so well, and decided he should try pulling away from the curb while parked behind another car. I talked him through how close to come to the car in front, which he did fine. Then I reminded him there was an imaginary car behind him the same distance away. He completely destroyed that imaginary car when he backed up. Since it was invisible I can't really blame him. And we found we will need to work on speed control and turn recovery when coming out of a parallel park situation. But again, everyone came out unscathed. Save for the nerves of the parked car owner whom I didn't realise was watching the whole thing. Sorry lady!
Based on my experience this weekend, here are my tips for driving with your new teen learner*:
1. Choose the smallest and oldest car available to you. One you wouldn't be too upset getting beat up. (Not always realistic I know, but if your family has two or more vehicles, choose your least favourite. Just in case.)
2. Choose a quiet neighbourhood at a quiet time of day. When the streets are dry and there is still light. Avoid known street hockey locations.
3. Have a plan. What will you be working on today? What does he or she need to practice?
4. Don't overestimate their readiness. A car is a powerful thing and a whole lot of damage can be done in very little time. To you and to others.
5. Make sure they wear appropriate footwear. No flip flops. No heels. No boots. You want safe feet that can feel the car through the pedals and won't get hooked up in them.
6. Try really hard not to yell. Be sure to acknowledge the positives, what they are doing well. Be quick to point out the areas where they need more work, but do it in a calm way. If things aren't going well, have them pull over and park. Or stop and park in the middle of the road if necessary, then switch places to get home safely. If you can't stay (or appear to stay) calm, you are not the one to be helping them with this.
7. Most importantly - Sign him or her up for proper driver training. There really is no substitute for a trained professional teaching your child. With their own brake. And no close personal ties which will make them feel it's ok to yell. Plus, you'll save on their insurance, which is a HUGE deal. Our guy is signed up for a four-day intensive course with Young Drivers of Canada over the holidays. It's best for all of us.
*Disclaimer: I am in no way an expert in this, just a parent in the trenches. These are some things I noted this weekend, and also from many years ago when I was in charge of teaching my 23 year old boyfriend to drive. Maybe some of this will help you too. However, I do stand firmly behind point #7. Proper driver training from a recognised, professional organisation is truly the best and safest way to go.