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Giving your teen the gift of safe driving habits

Parents are often apprehensive about the first time their teenage son or daughter gets behind the wheel of a car and drives off alone. We worry about a motor vehicle crash and injuries, of course, and try not to think of what would be even worse.

Though we understand that our kids are going to one day leave the nest we have created here in Belleville, we worry about their safety. The best way to help them stay safe on the road is to help them acquire good driving habits that will accompany them into adulthood.

Of course, driver’s education courses – taken either in high school or after graduation – are a great place to start. Your teen will be taught proper driving techniques that will help keep her or him safe.

Experts say there’s more to helping mold a young person into a careful driver than driver’s ed classes, however. These tips are important as well:

  • Practice: It’s more than taking your son or daughter to an empty parking lot to stop, start and turn the vehicle. There are important lessons about how to merge onto an Illinois state highway, change lanes, enter and exit an interstate, etc. – lessons best taught and learned in real traffic with mom or dad in the passenger seat.
  • Distractions: The fewer distractions drivers have to take their attention off of roads and traffic, the safer. A great tip: if you’re going to listen to music, select it before you begin driving so that you (or your young driver) don’t have to fiddle with buttons en route. Even better tip: No texts and no calls while driving. Ever.
  • Focus: It’s important to focus on more than the car directly in front of you. Drivers should also learn to look beyond that vehicle to see what is coming up. That will help them anticipate stops, delays, curves and more. Check behind your vehicle as well to see if tailgating or speeding vehicles could cause problems.
  • Tailgating: It’s more than rude, it’s dangerous.
  • Blinkers: Use ‘em. They alert others to your intentions and keep everyone safer in the process.
  • Drinking: An obvious rule that every parent should make clear: no drinking and driving for any reason. And don’t ride along with someone who has been drinking either.

You will undoubtedly think of other important tips to help your loved one stay safe. It can be difficult to let go of them, but when we pass along lessons we’ve learned ourselves, we can feel better about this important stage in life.