Written by: Laura Saldivar
Learning how to drive is one of many responsibilities for teens. My parents played a vital role in my learning to drive and did whatever possible to ensure I became a safe driver. The first time my dad took me driving I felt I had all the freedom in the world. I was not worried about any of the crash statistics or dangers of distracted driving. However, my dad was a driver’s education teacher at the time, so he made sure to make me the best possible driver I could be.
When I received my learner permit, I drove frequently with my parents. Their goals were to make me a safe driver and to prepare me for when I would drive on my own. At the time, I thought this was silly, but in reality these simple lessons made me the responsible driver I am today. Even though I only had to have 50 driving hours by law to obtain my license, my parents made sure I went above and beyond that requirement. They took me driving in all weather conditions and even had me drive out of state when we would visit family. These added experiences better prepared me for the future.
When I received my license on my sixteenth birthday, I felt like I had the ability to drive anywhere. Little did I know this would not be the case. My father had me slowly earn freedoms. He would have me practice driving to different locations, and if the route was far, he would come along for the first time. These practice sessions taught me how to drive in different areas, properly change lanes and be aware of my surroundings. My parents also followed my state’s Graduated Drivers Licensing (GDL) laws. These laws set curfews, passenger limits and limit cell phone use for new drivers.
My parents also worked with me to establish their own sets of rules. The week before I got my license we sat down to create a list and they reminded me they were in control of my license. If I would break a rule they would ground me from my license; however, if I was a safe driver they would help me pay for gas. They would not allow me to be a distracted driver. I had to write down the names of friends who would drive me places. I had a curfew. I had to tell them where I was going. I was not permitted to drive when the weather was bad. These rules seemed harsh at the time, but they helped me to mature faster as a young driver. They also helped me to be prepared for the unexpected when I was driving and allowed me to continue to learn best safe driving practices. My parents even educated me about how to get out of sticky situations with my peers and to never get in a car with a distracted or impaired driver.
Now that I am past my restricted license phase that does not mean my parent involvement has disappeared. When I drive my parents places they offer me tips and still make sure that I follow best safe driving practices. They even have me call them after I reach my final destination to make sure I arrived safely. These simple actions are perfect for any family to use. Parents are role models to youth and teenagers will copy their every driving behavior. After all, I would rather have my parents be super involved than have me or a fellow peer become another statistic.
So parents, keep in mind…we’re watching you. Be the example you want us to follow.