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10 Ways to Teach Kids About Safe Driving

In Alberta, kids as young as 14 may qualify for a learner’s driving licence.  In order for your child to be a safe driver, the best time to start instilling safe driving practices is while they are still learning.  Here’s how to make it a fun experience for both of you.

Sponsored by the Alberta Motor Association 

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Try to Relax

Do you remember the first day you dropped your kid off at school?  You knew that if they saw you in tears, they would naturally get upset too.  It’s the same thing with driving.  If you are anxious and uptight about your new driver taking the wheel, it’s likely they’ll be anxious too.  Although your teen should be alert, anxiety and stress will only add to the pressure they feel.  Try and relax (or at least try and hide your anxiety) but still remember to be watchful.  A good mood and positive attitude will make everything easier and more enjoyable.

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Practice Makes Perfect

Get out on the road often.  No one was ever perfect the first time they attempted a new task and driving is the same thing.  If you want your child to be a fantastic driver, they are going to have to practice driving in a variety of situations and conditions.  Making mistakes is just a part of learning, so make sure you have an open mind and lots of patience.  Also remember that safety should always come first.  “Teens don’t have to make the correct move every time – but they do need to be able to avoid an accident every single time,” says Lewis Smith, Communications/Media Program Coordinator at the Canada Safety Council.

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Drive in a Variety of Situations and Conditions but Start Simple.

A bright sunny day is the best way to start driving, but remember that not all days are filled with sunshine. Try driving at night and in any adverse conditions that your teen is likely to experience.  Remember to try a variety of maneuvers gradually increasing the difficulty.  These may include parallel parking, merging and exiting a highway, and changing lanes during rush hour.  Allow your child to drive in these trickier situations only when they have the experience required.

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Know the Rules of the Road

If you want to instill the rule of law into your child, you better know them yourself.  Your own confidence will instill confidence in your child’s driving.  A quick review of the rules and regulations never hurt even the most experienced driver and will impress your kid when you can answer the most difficult of questions.

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Lead by Example

Do you have road rage?  Are you a bit of a speeder?  Kids learn by example, and if mom and dad are racing red lights they are likely to do the same.  If you want your child to be a model driver, take a look in the mirror and see what type of example you are setting.  “If you are telling your kids not to text and drive but as soon as you are driving you are texting, the message won’t stick and kids will dismiss it out of hand,” say Smith. 

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Educate Your Child About the Statistics

Teens feel invincible and a ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude is common.  Unfortunately, it does happen to teens and the statistics speak for themselves.  According to a 2010 report from Alberta Transportation, casualty rates for motor vehicle collisions in Alberta were highest between the ages of 15 and 24 and male drivers between the ages of 18 and 19 had the highest involvement rate of all drivers involved in casualty collisions.  Don’t scare them but be realistic about the dangers involved. 

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Discuss Distractions & High Risk Situations

Mobile devices, stereos, friends in the car gossiping about the latest news at school… There are so many distractions for your teen these days that it can be hard to convince them to concentrate on the road.  Speed and driving while under the influence also continue to be risk factors for teen drivers.  Talk to your child about why it’s important from a safety standpoint to concentrate on the road.  Besides the danger involved, mention some of the penalties and fines too.  “You’ve got to ingrain good habits early because if they don’t get the right mindset when they are starting out it’s very hard to break those habits,” says Smith.

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Make it Fun

Your child is not going to look forward to driving with you if every time you hop in the car it feels like a driving test.  The first step to making it fun is putting a smile on your face and trying to put aside any fears.  This is a major step towards your child’s independence and they are probably very excited about it.  Make it a special time together that they look forward to.  Maybe you can share some stories of when you learned to drive, or drive towards a special destination such as lunch together or a special treat.  Praise or encouragement for good driving will go a long way.  The atmosphere should be open so that your teen feels comfortable asking you any questions.

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Communicate Effectively

Barking out orders such as “turn left,” and “stop here” for an hour is probably no fun for you or your teen.  If your teen knows the route, let them drive on their own without directions being thrown out (but still remember to point out obstacles and dangers).  Also remember to provide clear feedback and advice.  Comments that both praise and demonstrate good driving skills work best.  “You really did well checking your blind spot.  It would have been easy to have missed that car beside us,” is an example of a comment that clearly shows the driver why their action was needed.  Diagrams also work well to illustrate points.

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Know When to Take a Break

If you find yourself stressed out and screaming at your child, or if you see that your child has had enough for the day it’s probably time to park the car and leave it.  You want driving together to be an enjoyable experience and something that you will both look forward to.  Knowing when to stop and go separate ways is important so that you will both looking back on your time together positively.

For more information, visit the Alberta Motor Association’s website.