Below are six tips to help you choose a great drivers ed program for your teen.
Find out which driver’s ed program has an orientation program. Parent Night presentations are very helpful for families with kids who are about to learn to drive. Instructors who are really serious about training novice drivers know how important it is to get mom and dad “on board.” Your local branch of the National Safety Council may be sponsoring those events, too.
ARE THEY PLAYING DEFENSE?
Check on whether the curriculum includes any defensive driving information.
“77% of all crashes are preventable if you know what to do,” according to expert instructor and veteran crash investigator Mike Pehl. “Knowing what to do and how to do it BEFORE you are in a crash situation is truly the difference between life and death.”
The rise in distracted driving makes this even more important than it’s been in the past. Today’s teens are navigating on roads and highways where many other drivers are impaired and distracted. This means that our youngest drivers need to be doing more than driving responsibly. They need to know how to protect themselves from the carelessness or mistakes of all the other drivers around them.
BEHIND THE WHEEL OR BEHIND A DESK?
Understand the difference between the classroom instruction and behind-the-wheel training in the car.
The book-learning that happens before getting a learner’s permit is important, but nobody ever becomes a good driver sitting behind a desk!
If you’re considering a specific teen drivers ed program, ask who does the behind-the-wheel training and how they’re chosen. There should be a very good answer to that question.
DO THEY CARE ENOUGH TO BE HONEST?
Ask what happens if your teenager isn’t ready to be an independent driver after the standard number of behind the wheel sessions. There may be laws requiring driver’s ed teachers to sign your teenager’s paperwork after the minimum amount of practice … but a good teacher will speak honestly to a student’s parents about whether their teen is going to be a hazard on the road if they “luck out” and pass the road test. Someone who really cares about the safety of their students will do that. That’s the kind of teacher you want for your son or daughter.
As Mike Pehl tells parents of his students: “I get them for six hours. You get them for life.”
YOU LEARN, TOO.
Finally, educate yourself. Being the parent of a teen in drivers ed means you need to learn some new things now, too. As Julie Smith, a part-time behind-the-wheel instructor says: “Knowing how to drive is not enough when it comes to teaching someone else!”
When my sons were learning to drive, this message about parent involvement wasn’t clear. I didn’t know of any resources to help us know what to do during or after our boys took drivers ed. Today, there are good resources available for parents and teens.
“Roadworthy: a Parent’s Guide to Teaching Teens to Drive (12 Lessons to Keep Your Teen Alive Behind the Wheel)” is one option, which I helped produce as part of DriveSafeRideSafe’s mission to create “Smarter Drivers, Safer Roads.” It was a project I was delighted to work on, because my personal experience with my own sons made it so easy to understand why parents need a resource like this!
This DVD includes practical tips for the entire training process, as well as a great deal of defensive-driving insights related specifically to the types of crashes most common for teen drivers. Mike Pehl’s expertise is unique, his style of teaching is compelling, and his methods have been proven successful with tens of thousands of teen drivers ed students. The information in “Roadworthy” can significantly improve the entire teen driver experience for everyone in your family.
So do your research, and remember that not all teen drivers ed programs are created equal. You can find a program that isn’t boring. You can educate yourself about training methods that are proven to work. You can help your son or daughter learn defensive-driving skills they’ll use for a lifetime on the roads.
You can choose a great teen drivers ed program. Our six tips will get you started. Let us know how it goes!