Q: Now that my son has his probationary driving license, how can I adequately prepare him to drive responsibly? I’m more than a little apprehensive about him becoming a driver at such a young age.
A: Most young drivers do really want to learn how to drive safely and this is a time to influence their behaviour for life, passing on skills and knowledge that may save lives many years in the future.
First, be patient. Sitting in the car when your son is driving may be a nerve-wracking experience for you, but it’s even more so for him. Give directions calmly and clearly, and be generous with encouragement and praise.
Second, it’s important to model safe driving habits yourself. Observe traffic laws and be courteous of other drivers. For better or worse, children imitate their parents.
Third, consider granting driving privileges on an incremental basis. For example, initially allow your son to only drive in the day, then progress to driving at night. This allows him to gain experience while reducing some of the risks.
Fourth, emphasise basic safety rules (seatbelts, etc.). This is another area where your example speaks louder than your words. And your son should never drive if he is drowsy or otherwise impaired. While there are many good reasons for him to abstain from alcohol and drugs, let him know that he can always call you for a ride in order to avoid being in a car with an impaired driver — whether himself or someone else.
Finally, if he refuses to correct unsafe driving patterns or habits, don’t let him have the keys. He needs to learn that driving is a privilege, not a right. Your first priority is to keep him — and others on the road — alive and well while he learns to drive safely and skilfully.
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