If your child is reaching the end of their high school years, chances are, they’re looking to get their license. Getting a license and owning your own vehicle are some of the most rewarding life goals for young teenagers, allowing them the freedom to travel the local area, when and where they want.
Unfortunately, 17-year-old P-plate drivers are four times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than 26-year-old drivers. These statistics are staggering and should serve as a warning sign as to how important it is to get your children the best possible driver training starting at a young age.
Here are some of the best tips to ensure your kids are ready for the open road.
Start Teaching Kids Road Rules from A Young Age
As your kids are growing up and joining you for car trips during their childhood, speak about common road rules and tips to keep them interested. Play games such as “guess when the light will go green” to give them an understanding of how traffic lights operate.
Speak out while you’re driving so they get a feel for what’s involved when they learn to drive. For example, when you arrive at a roundabout say out loud “look right, look left, right again and make sure no vehicles are coming”.
Your children will learn driving habits at a young age by following the actions your take. One of the biggest challenges currently facing road users is inattentiveness due to mobile phone use whilst driving. Never, ever use your mobile phone while driving as your children will learn the habit from you which could lead to poor driving habits when it’s their turn to get behind the wheel.
Book Your Free Keys2Drive Driving Lesson
Keys2Drive is a great Australian Government funded initiative which provides a free driving lesson to learner drivers accompanied by a supervisor (usually a parent or guardian). The driving lesson is carried out by a Keys2Drive accredited professional driving instructor and usually runs for approximately 60 minutes.
Joining in on your kids driving lesson is a great way to refresh your own driving habits and knowledge of local laws. You never know, you might even learn something you never knew before or perhaps laws have changed since you sat your test and this will work as a refresher.
Sign Up for a Pre-Learners or Defensive Driving Course
Reputable driving schools have instructors that are trained in a range of technical and defensive driving techniques. Enlisting your child (even before they reach the legal age to learn to drive) will ensure they’re most prepared for the open road. The courses will take your children through the best practices to follow while driving and explains the local driving laws in detail.
Ask Questions Rather Than Providing Answers
By asking questions, your teen will start to reassess the situation and provide a solution by themselves rather than relying on your advice. This will give them more practice to real life situations when they’re driving unsupervised once passing their driving test. For example:
- Instead of: “That’s not how you should drive!”; Say: “Do you think that was the right way to drive?”
- Instead of: “Slow down!”; Say: “What’s the speed limit here?”
- Instead of: “You’re too close to the car in-front!”; Say: “What distance should you stay behind the car in-front at this speed?”
It’s always a good idea to test your kid’s attentiveness by asking questions about the street name of a street you just passed or the colour of the vehicle driving behind them (without checking). This will train your kids to pay close attention to even the smallest details when driving on local roads.
Walk Through the Car Features with Your Teen
Take some time to walk through the features of your vehicle so your child understands how the car works. This will also help them diagnose a potential problem when they are stranded on the side of a road with a flat tyre for example.
This walkthrough should be done every time your child enters a new vehicle as many vehicles are laid out and operate differently. Some of the most important features you should walk your teens through include:
- Changing a car tyre;
- What the dashboard gauges and lights mean and what to do if maintenance lights come on;
- Importance of checking the fuel and temperature gauge regularly;
- How to fill up a car and how to check which petrol to use;
- How to start the vehicle;
- Understanding the steering wheel levers (car wipes and light intensities);
- Using the gear stick (manual and automatic);
- Adjusting the mirrors;
- Even the basics such as refilling the wiper fluid.
“Mum, Dad, I Just Had a Crash, What Do I Do?”
It’s one of the worst calls you could ever get from your child and you’re stress levels and heart rate is sure to rise if you’re unfortunate enough to receive the call. The average driver crashes once every 17.9 years. Drivers are most at risk in the early years of driving when they have limited experience and are only just learning to drive unsupervised.
Teenagers can get a bit overwhelmed when they’re involved in a crash. They start to freak out and wonder what they should do, who will pay for the damages and what will their friends and family think. Teach your kids that if they’re involved in a crash:
- Stop immediately, stay calm and take deep breathes;
- Switch your vehicles hazard lights on;
- Assess the area and call emergency services if needed;
- Even if you’re under the impression that you’re at fault, never admit responsibility until a proper crash assessment can be done;
- Collect driver details (name, address, licence number, registration information, vehicle licence plate, make, model and colour);
- If there are witnesses, record their statements;
- Take photos of the incident, vehicles and surroundings.
The future of your child on the road ultimately rests in their hands. However, to instill the best practices and a proper understanding of local laws, it’s important that you start young and teach them the safest way to operate a vehicle as they grow.