My son is almost 16, which means he’s going to learn how to drive this year.
Whether we realize it or not, our first information about driving comes when we are passengers. I remember hearing the sound of my dad shifting gears when he drove, which made it easier for me when I was learning to drive. I had the timing down without even realizing that I learned it! I also got a sense of when it was best to put on a turn signal – not too early, or too late. Just remember that both good and bad habits can be picked up when watching others drive. That’s important to know whether you’re the driver or the observer.
When you’re getting ready for your learner’s permit, that’s when the intense learning begins. One important thing that some people might overlook is the preparation before-hand. If you think about it, there are many small steps that children learn long before they’re old enough to drive. For example, they should already have the habit of putting on a seatbelt as soon as they get into the car. Of course, they need to know how to unlock the door, too. The first pre-driving lesson I gave my son happened a while ago. I gave him the keys and told him to open the door. I had him sit in the driver’s seat while I was in the passenger’s seat, and made sure he put on his seatbelt. Then I explained that he had to make sure to adjust his seat and the mirrors. He’s about 8 inches taller than I am, so that is an important step! I told him which pedal was the gas pedal, and which was the brake. I then had him practice pushing on the pedals while I said, “gas” and “brake” so he could remember. I told him he wouldn’t be starting the car any time soon at that point, but he really needs to know which of the pedals will make the car move, and which will make it stop. It needs to be automatic – you don’t want to have to think about it, especially in an emergency! This entire lesson probably only lasted between five and ten minutes, but is a very important one. Of course, I have him practice it every so often to make sure he doesn’t forget.
Until he gets his permit, another thing he can do to prepare is ride a bicycle. Doing so allows him to get used to the idea of steering, and judging distances.
I also made sure to remind him to start studying the manual so it will be easier to pass the written exam. I just found a website that allows people to take a practice test to prepare, and can’t wait for him to have a chance to try it out. I like that the written test needs to be passed before the learner’s permit is given. It’s important to understand the rules of the road before getting behind the wheel.
After he passes his permit test, then we can move on to practicing in empty parking lots. That’s the best way I know how to allow him to get used to the feel of a car before he tries out being on the road. I want him to be very familiar with how a car functions before he attempts to maneuver around other cars. I think it’s best to tackle one new part at a time. Doing it this way lets me not worry (much) about allowing him to drive.
I look forward to continue helping my son learn to drive so he can get his license. It’s helpful that my car is as old as he is – less pressure!