This question was raised earlier this week by Dylan Campbell, Editor of Motor Magazine;
“Are parents the right people to teach their children how to drive?”
Mr Campbell suggests that young people should undertake mandatory professional driving lessons instead of learning from their parents, but I think he’s got it wrong. I think instead of listening to Dylan Campbell, maybe we should take a leaf out of Britney Spears’ book and teach our children how to drive from the day we take our babies home from the hospital after they are born. Let me explain…
Okay, I’ll confess. I know that Ms Spears wasn’t teaching her baby how to drive when she had him sit on her lap as she sped away from the paparazzi, but when I planned this article and thought about a picture to use, it was the first that came to mind. But I am deadly serious. We should be teaching our children how to drive from a very younger age.
Now I am not talking about sticking a toddler in the driver’s seat in the hope that a child who is not even tall enough to see over the steering wheel let alone reach the accelerator, clutch and brake will be able to drive the car. What I am talking about is teaching your children the right behaviour, the correct mindset, and the responsibilities that go along with being a driver of a motor vehicle.
Teach Your Children How To Obey The Road Rules
Believe it or not our toddler has been a very angry back-seat driver of late. When I am stopped at a red light, even if there is clearly a line of traffic in front of me he yells out “go Daddy, go.” He wants me to keep driving. The other day we were on our way home and I promised him that once we arrived home we could watch some of the songs from Frozen on YouTube. Of course being stuck at a red light wasn’t going to get us home fast enough for this to happen.
But I calmly explained the red light, amber light, green light scenario to him. I pointed to the cars in front and got him to acknowledge that Daddy couldn’t go until the light was green and the cars in front started moving.
It frustrates my wife that I stop on the amber. It has frustrated her since we first started going out and egged on by her in our early days of driving together, I accelerated against my own better judgement and went through an amber light that was more red than amber. Seeing we were on holidays together and it was an unknown town we were in, I promptly received my ticket in the mail a few weeks later as this was at an intersection with a red light camera. Never again. I would rather have her disappointed with me but my family still alive, and no nasty fines in the mail.
Teach Your Children To Be Alert; Pay Attention To The Road
I know it can be hard with screaming kids in the car. My own boys are always trying to take my attention from the road. It is hard at 5-years-old and 2-and-a-half-years-old for children to understand how much pressure they are putting you under, but you need to explain to them that it is dangerous for you to interact with them while you are driving.
If you must interact with them, pull over and then do it. Do not reach around while you are driving to pick up the plush toy that has been dropped out of your child’s reach.
If You Are Drinking Any Amount, Consider Not Driving
There have been countless advertisements on television discussing the problems of drinking alcohol in front of children. But we do it. I do it. I really don’t drink that much, especially when I am driving or when I have the kids with me.
This is more of an idea you should take into consideration as your children get older and are approaching the (illegal) under-age drinking years which normally arrives the same time as their learners permit appears in their hands.
Maybe even a few years before that you should heavily reduce the consumption of alcohol in front of your children, especially when you are out as you are telling your child it is okay to drink and drive. Consider public transport, getting a lift or organising a taxi or hire car.
Don’t Be A Reckless or Aggressive Driver
If you are an aggressive driver, or one that has reckless abandone on the road, there is a greater chance that when your child starts driving they will develop your bad habits. Even if your child is sent to professional driving lessons and you don’t teach them to drive, not even a trip down the driveway, they will pick up your bad driving style and adopt it to their poor style of driving.
Keep calm on the road. If someone does you wrong, don’t turn a minor incident into road rage. Do not swear at the other driver. Do not engage in cat calling and bird flipping. It’s not worth it, and it doesn’t give your child the right mindset to go into their long tenure of driving.
Be Organised Before Your Trip
Don’t speed. There is no need and speed can lead to dangerous accidents occasioning serious injury or death. You know that. I know you know that. But did you know that one of the most common reasons why people speed is because they are running late?
Sure there are many other reasons why people speed including being thrill seekers, being impatient, and the insane notion that they are on a racing track and they need to compete with the other drivers around them. But being late, late, late for a very important date is high on the list of reasons why we speed.
So if you plan your trip, know where you are going, if you make sure you wake up in time, get ready on time and are out the door on time you will find that there is less reason to speed. And if you are a fast driver on the road your child will believe that speeding is okay.
Always Wear A Seatbelt and Teach Your Children Why Seatbelts Are Important.
Both our boys will yell out if either my wife or I start to drive off before they have their seat-belts on. This is because we rammed the seat-belt saves lives safety message down their throats.
“My see-bell. My see-bell Daddy…” is one of the first complete sentences that both my sons yelled at me. Now I know that sounds like me being a crap dad and all forgetting to put the seat-belt on in the first place, but it can happen. It has happened maybe half a dozen times with the older one, and twice with the younger one.
BUT, they remember and remind me before I get any further than backing out of our driveway, or driving out of the parking spot at the shops. And I have to say that I am proud that they both do this because mummies and daddies can forget things with so much going on in our heads, especially if planning our car trip is one of them.
Now Is The Right Time To Teach Your Kids TO Drive
Long before your child is old enough to be promoted from a booster seat to not needing one bat all, long before they are eligible to legally sit in the front passenger seat, and much longer than before they are in the driver’s seat, you should be teaching them to drive through good practices of your own.
And no, Britney wasn’t right. Never let a baby sit on your lap while driving, no matter the circumstance.
What good or bad practises are you teaching you children when it comes to driving?