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How to Teach Driving Safety to Teens without Scare Tactics

Learning to drive is an important step for teenagers to take as they prepare to become more self-sufficient. It also can be one of the more stressful times in a parent’s life, as a great deal of responsibility comes with the operation of a vehicle. Many adults fall into the trap of using scare tactics to impress the weight of that responsibility to their teen. However, this often backfires and makes teens, especially those already wary of the dangers of driving, too terrified to want to even try driving and become jittery and anxious while trying to learn. Scare tactics aren’t necessary, however, in order to teach responsibility, and here are some of the best ways to accomplish that in a way that will prepare, rather than scare, your teen.

Teach By Example 

Before and during hands-on learning, your teen should have ample opportunity to see how driving is done correctly. As adults, many of us have bad driving habits that we don’t want to pass on to our kids during driving lessons, so it may be good to take the time to review local and federal traffic laws before doing this. Describe what you do and why as you signal before changing lanes, how to merge and allow others to merge, back into or out of spaces, and so on. Doing this shows your teen how driving is done correctly in real-life situations without the stress of controlling the vehicle themselves.

Use Low-traffic Areas

When you take your teen out to drive, you may want to start out in a low-traffic area like an empty parking lot. This space will give your teenager plenty of room to learn to handle the car. This allows your teen the chance to get a feel for the controls of the car in a low-stress environment with minimal risk. You might choose a parking lot with clearly marked parking spaces if you want to teach your teen parking and backing out.

Teach Awareness

While you are encouraged to let your teen take the lead in driving, you should still encourage responsibility in their driving methods. Talk to them about the costs of speeding tickets, and discuss the responsibilities that inherently come in operating a large, fast-moving vehicle like a car. They need to be aware that, as the driver, they are responsible for the safety of those in the car with them and for other drivers. Let them know the process that takes place should they get into an accident, as well, such as coordinating with insurance and hiring an auto accident attorney. Knowing how liability works and their involvement in it is a non-traumatic and helpful method to impress responsibility without causing paralyzing terror.

Stay Calm 

Finally, it is important for you to stay calm. Even as a teenager, as independent as they try to be, your teen takes cues from you on how to feel about certain situations. If you are clinging to the arms of your seat and barking out “turn now” or “slow down,” they’ll be stressed and be unable to properly focus on driving. Show them the route you’ll be driving on and make sure to give directions with lots of advance warning so that your teenager can prepare themselves and position the vehicle accordingly. Speak calmly and refrain from anger when they make mistakes. Phrases like “I used to do that when I was first learning” or “everyone struggles with that at first” can really help your child move on from mistakes and understand that the learning process doesn’t have to end in mutilating collisions like they show in driver’s ed. Maintaining a calm learning environment while they drive will help them learn faster and prevent them from developing an aversion to driving in general. 

Teaching your teen to drive does not have to be a nerve wracking experience. By working patiently with them and discussing their responsibilities in a calm and constructive manner, rather than trying to scare them, your teen will swiftly develop safe driving habits. This can also strengthen your relationship with your child as you demonstrate a level head in the face of mistakes and guide them in what otherwise could have been a stressful experience for you both.

Tim Esterdahl

Tim Esterdahl is the editor of IFCS blog. He is a married father of three and enjoys golf in his spare time.

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