Driving Lessons from a Mother to her Teen

My daughter just turned 15 and I am gearing up for the inevitable; my baby will be driving soon.  She keeps reminding me that in 6 months she will get her learner’s permit and a year from now she will have her driver’s license. This scares me to death. Not because I don’t think she’ll be a good driver; in fact, I think she will be. It’s all the other drivers I’m worried about. Being a good driver means having to not only navigate yourself in your own car, it means having to navigate being on the road with a million other drivers in a million other cars and not having ANY idea what their next move or misstep might be.

We were in the car together right after her birthday and she said, “If you notice me staring at you while you’re driving, I’m not being weird;  it’s because I have to start paying attention to how you drive. I need to learn from watching you. I’m getting my permit on May 16th, Mom.”  I’ll admit, I am thrilled that she is taking the privilege of driving that seriously. Of course, I know there is a big difference between watching and doing but I plan on taking full advantage of all the time we have in the car together to prep her for this huge (and potentially dangerous) milestone, even if it’s just talking it through.

And talking it through is exactly what we have begun to do. And through it all, it’s helping to remind me of some of the most important rules of the road. Showing her how to be the best driver she can be, means that I am being the best driver I can be.

These are some of the things I keep hearing myself say:

  • Turn the music down 1 of 12
    Turn the music down
    Since listening to tunes is one of the pleasures of driving, I won't ask that you turn the music off. I only ask that it be turned down enough that you can hear the noises that you need to hear (like an emergency vehicle). If your bass is thumping louder than the car next to you, it's way too loud.
  • Never assume anything 2 of 12
    Never assume anything
    Never assume that the car with its blinker on will turn. Never assume that the car without its blinker on will not turn. Never assume that the other car is going to stop at the light. Never assume that the other car sees you. You know what they say about assumptions, so I won't even go there.
  • Use your turn signals 3 of 12
    Use your turn signals
    Always. Always. Always. Let other drivers know exactly what your intentions are even before you make a turn. By making them aware of your next move, you're keeping yourself safe. Seriously.
  • Leave early 4 of 12
    Leave early
    Give yourself plenty of time to get to where you are going. Being in a rush to get anywhere will impede your best judgment. Even if you are in a rush, do not drive like it. And if you're late, so be it.
  • Miss your exit 5 of 12
    Miss your exit
    If you realize you are going to miss your right or left turn on the road or your exit on the freeway, don't panic and don't try to make it at the last minute. Just stay calm and take the next turn or exit and get back on track. Going out of your way by a mile or so isn't a big deal at all and will only add a few minutes to your drive. This is when building in extra time to your trip pays off.
  • Your mirrors can’tsee everything 6 of 12
    Your mirrors can'tsee everything
    Use your mirrors to assess other cars around you but, also make it a habit to look over your shoulder. I cannot stress this one enough. By taking a quick glance over your shoulder before you change lanes you are ensuring that no one is sitting in your blind spot. This has saved me from a potential accident more times than I can count.
  • Don’t sit in someones blind spot 7 of 12
    Don't sit in someones blind spot
    Never assume that other drivers will look over their shoulder before they change lanes. If you're keeping the same pace as the car next to you (on the street or the freeway) just be sure to be in front of or behind their blind spot.
  • Watch the road ahead 8 of 12
    Watch the road ahead
    Yes, it's important to watch the car right in front of you but it's also smart to pay attention to what's going on up the road. The most important thing to look for are lights. Signals, yes, but other car's brake lights are equally important. To be ready for any unexpected slowdowns or abrupt stops, watching for brake lights in the distance so you can anticipate what might soon affect the car right in front of you. Oh, and leave plenty of room between your car and theirs while you're driving so you have plenty of time to stop if they do.
  • Green means go (but not right away) 9 of 12
    Green means go (but not right away)
    When you're the first at the red light and the light turns green, pause enough for a quick look to the left and to the right. The cars that are coming from the other directions are supposed to stop at their red light, but that doesn't mean they always will. Pausing for a beat when the light turns green before you hit the gas is one of the smartest, safest things you can do. No need to jump the gun.
  • Be seen 10 of 12
    Be seen
    Going back to one of my first points, you can never assume that the other drivers out there actually see you. It's never a bad idea to turn on your lights when you drive especially on the morning commute, at dusk or in bad weather. Your headlights better your chances of being seen.
  • Ignore the horns (sometimes) 11 of 12
    Ignore the horns (sometimes)
    Sometimes the honk of a horn can be a lifesaver (literally) BUT, if someone honks at you to get out of the way or move faster, don't get flustered. Move at your own pace, turn only when the road is clear and take the time you need to be safe. Just because someone else doesn't have patience on the road doesn't mean you have to rush for them. They're not the boss of you.
  • Put the cell phone away 12 of 12
    Put the cell phone away
    Away away. As in tucked in your purse or backpack. And if the beeps coming from your bag are still too distracting or tempting, then turn it to silent before you put it away. As simple (and trite) as this one seems, it's harder than you think. Tucking the phone away on silent keeps it out of sight and out of mind (no beeping). You can check the phone again as soon as you reach your destination. And if you get a text from me (your mom) when you're driving, I will be thrilled to wait a few extra minutes for your reply. Just text me back the minute your car is parked. Agreed?


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