Parents not best choice to teach teens

Parents are well-intentioned, but most often lack the basic teaching techniques and knowledge for training teens. The dramatic changes in licensing make acquiring a driver’s licence much more difficult for teens today than it was for their parents.

If a teen needs dental work, parents will have procedures such as a root canal or a wisdom-tooth extraction performed by a dentist. If an appendectomy is required, a surgeon is the natural choice. To ensure success, it is only natural to employ a professional, to protect good health and enhance the chances of a long life.

Neither of the above professionally administered procedures has as much inherent risk of serious injury or death for a teen as driving an automobile. Some parents consider themselves qualified to teach their teens to drive, when it is universally known that an automobile crash is the leading cause of death for teens in North America. Why would they trust a neighbour, friend or relative to do the job of driver education? Would they trust the same people to do the above-mentioned medical procedures? I think not.

At the beginning of the instruction process, it is best to have new drivers travel on straight roads with light traffic volume.

Many parents try to orient the new driver and begin instruction in a parking lot. That’s not a good idea for several reasons.

There are few noticeable parameters on parking lots. Students have a tendency to look where they drive. Copilots mistakenly point out hazards only. Students look at the very hazards they wish to avoid and close calls often follow.

The best co-pilots reinforce the instruction of a driving teacher. The learning process is not all oneway. Many parents are surprised to learn not only about the new rules of the road, which have a dramatic effect on safety, but also new techniques used to enhance driving skill.

They are also very concerned about passing on bad habits to their new driving teens. This is a concern to driving instructors as well, but not a major one.

The most important factor for parent-taught new drivers is what is being left out.

Here are some examples of what is left undone by parents.

Night driving is very important. Teens see as poorly as a 70-year-old at night. Eyes do not mature until sometime between 20 and 25 years of age.

A vehicle window should always be lowered before crossing railroad tracks, to hear what cannot be seen.

A left turn onto a oneway street from a solid red traffic light is always a tricky move. The exact stop position at any intersection must be reinforced: it is always prior to the natural walking path of pedestrians.

Utility poles can be used to measure how much time and distance it takes to pass another vehicle, and also serve to measure when the decision to make quick evasive actions and emergency stops must be executed.

Speed-judgment exercises, without glancing at the speedometer, will often enlighten new drivers.

Training drivers to be aware of velocitization (when you are going faster than you thought you were) and the magnet effect (the tendency of drivers to speed up when a vehicle passes them) must be done in a supervised manner with a professional instructor.

A viewing sequence and hazard identification is important to practice during every drive. Parents will drive the same route to and from school or other routine destinations without the valued exposure to a variety of driving terrain or alternate locations.

The instructor can design the right practice route to maximize every drive as a learning experience.

New drivers are usually more interested in passing the road test than learning lifelong skills behind the wheel. Parents are far more concerned with safety and skill in everyday driving tasks. A performance partnership between a professional driving educator and a parent is a very productive combination indeed.

Steve Wallace is a member of the College of Teachers and the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and the Interior of B.C.

Kathy Purdy, left, classroom and driving instructor of approximately 20 years, goes over a check-list with Jeremy Mailloux in this file photo.
Photograph by: Tim Fraser, Windsor Star