Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Teach Your Teen: Where To Start

The Look
So, your teen just got their learner's permit and they are so excited to finally be able to drive. For real this time and not just sitting in your lap as a child or backing out of the garage. You on the other hand are experiencing some trepidation and possibly are even breathing into a paper bag. I mean, your life is on the line. You've already had this conversation. So what's next?

Three Great Practice Areas
Finding the right practice area keeps your nerves calm and anxiety in check. Choose a place where there aren't too many cars are things to hit. Good practice areas act as a protection. Students learning to drive need to be shielded somewhat from the consequences of missing a stop sign and other common mistakes. Three recommendations:

1. A quiet neighborhood.
2. A large parking lot that doesn't have too many cars in it (a church on a weekday).
3. A cemetery (they have lots of little roads and you have no worries about hitting anyone since most occupants are already dead).

Each area should have very few cars or people, straight stretches of road and several intersections. The goal is to make these first sessions as comfortable as possible for both the parent and driver. Basic skills need to be perfected before moving into busier traffic situations.

First Train Your Eyes
When I first started playing basketball, I looked at the ball each time I dribbled. I got to be pretty good at it, but in games I'd dribble myself into a corner and then look up to see who was open for a pass. Most drivers start out by trying to do the same thing in the driver's seat. They look just over the hood and then wonder why they can't drive in a straight line. Or perhaps, they missed seeing a stop sign or even worse, a pedestrian. The first training item must be the driver's eyes. Just like I never made a basket by looking at my hand dribbling, a driver will never make it down the road without a collision if they are looking right over the fender. Teach your teen to raise their eyes. They must see what is 100 feet in front of the car. Vision should then be expanded to a block ahead and then several blocks ahead. Training eyes to see potential hazards well in advance improves the odds that good decisions will be made when problems arise. In addition, looking well ahead or aiming high will cure lane weaving problems, wide turns, cutting turns, parking difficulties, timing issues and more. It's pretty much the cure-all for lousy driving.

Smooth Starts and Stops
Vision cannot be improved without addressing basic driving tasks. On a straight stretch of road, new drivers can practice smooth starts and stops. Knowing how a car behaves with varying degrees of pressure on the gas and brake must be experimented with to be perfected. To stop smoothly, direct your teen to press down on the brake gently and steadily until it's about 85-90% depressed. Then lift up 5% (creating a slight hesitation) and press the brake down to the floor. It will feel smooth and keep the jolt to a minimum. When starting, hesitate when moving your foot from the brake to the gas. Let the vehicle idle a moment before gently pressing the gas. This will prevent any sudden change in movement and you won't feel so queasy.

The art of turning includes two basic parts. Hand positioning and speed. When steering, your hands should be in a balanced position (at 9 and 3 o'clock) with the thumbs up for optimal control. Whether you choose hand-over-hand or push/pull turning techniques is up to you. The wheel rotates about 3/4 of a turn to go around a 90 degree corner. Be careful to resist putting extra spin in the wheel. It will require increased effort to recover and drive straight in your new path of travel. For speed, slow down about halfway into a turn and then accelerate out. Steady pressure on the gas will help the wheel glide back to its straight position.

Skill Mastery
Keep practicing in your practice area until driving straight, stops, starts and turns are mastered. Having confidence in your teens abilities to perform basic maneuvers will help you keep you at ease when you progress to busier driving.

Trouble Shooting
If you are unsure of a good practice area near your home, call your local driving school and ask them where they practice with their students. Drive your teen to that area and then practice the basics above.

1 comment:

  1. Very informative and useful blog. Today teens tend to do things hap hazzardily, one should teach them from where they can start. Thanks for sharing it.


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