Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of teen deaths in the U.S., so it’s no wonder that parents feel some anxiety when they think about their child getting behind the wheel. The good news is, when safe driving habits are instilled from the get-go, both parents and teens can have confidence and peace of mind knowing they have learned the skills early on that will help them to become safe and capable drivers.
Amy Lee, owner of Road Star Driving School in Fishers and Geist, recommends parents start discussing driver’s education close to the student’s 15th birthday. One of the things to consider during those discussions is if your child is ready to get behind the wheel. Just because a child can receive a permit at 15, does not necessarily mean it may be the right time.
If you do decide your child is ready, then what?
The first step is obtaining a learner’s permit. According to in.gov, a learner’s permit allows Indiana residents to practice driving before obtaining a driver’s license. You may obtain a learner’s permit if you are at least 15 years old and enrolled in an approved behind-the-wheel training course. In order to obtain a permit, you must show proof by presenting a valid Certificate of Driver Education enrollment form from the behind-the-wheel training course provider. You must also present documents of identification, pass a vision screening and pass a knowledge examination.
Once the learner’s permit is obtained, it’s time to get behind the wheel. Does that sentence make your heart race and your palms sweat? If so, you aren’t alone. It’s hard for parents to imagine their baby driving off on their own, but the good news is, they won’t be driving on their own for some time. While they have their permit, you will be right there by their side.
“Students should always practice with parents before driving lessons with an instructor,” Lee says. “Driving is a serious matter and should be treated with respect. It takes a significant amount of practice, at least 70 hours, to become a decent driver. So, as often as they can drive, the better off they’ll be. It is no different than playing a sport, or an instrument, or passing a chemistry test. You can’t go without practice or studying and expect to do well at a task. Our motto is, practice makes progress!”
So what can parents do to help their child once the car is in motion? First off, remaining calm goes a long way. Your child may already be a ball of nerves, and hearing the nervousness in your voice has the potential to only make an anxiety-provoking situation worse.
“Try not to yell,” Lee says. “Sometimes, nervous energy comes out of us in a voice we’ve never heard before. This comes from a place of not being in control of the situation. You’re letting a new driver take you around the city while you’re in the passenger seat without the wheel in your hands, or the brake at your feet. It’s also important to take it slow and breathe! You know your kid better than we ever will. They will let you know when they’re ready, but still be there to give a gentle push in the right direction.”
Imagining your child behind the wheel may be a bit nerve wracking, but with the right preparation, you can be confident that your teen will be ready to go. And you can rest knowing everyone on the road will be safer because you have put in the time and energy necessary to give your child the skills and knowledge they need to become successful drivers.