How Not To Teach Your Teen To Drive
On NPR, Patti Neighmond describes how not to teach your teenager to drive: with stern warnings and scare tactics.
“Car crashes are the number-one killer of teens by far, on the order of five times more than poisoning or cancer. Does that mean you should scare the daylights out of teens to encourage safe driving? Traditional driver education classes tend to do exactly that, with gruesome videos and photos of fatalities and smashed-up cars.
But experts from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the auto insurance company State Farm say this is not the way to go about teaching kids to be safe drivers. Pediatrician Flaura Koplin Winston is scientific director for the Center for Injury and Prevention at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a public health researcher with expertise in adolescent health and safety. She says scare tactics may grab attention but do nothing to help build the skills needed to actually learn how to drive safely. ‘We’re always telling them, “Don’t do this” and “Don’t do that.” Scaring them about what would happen if they did do that bad thing is not a way to get them to do something good.’
One way to keep things positive is to help kids gain mastery over each driving skill they learn. It will make them feel competent — and you less nervous. That process is slow, says Chris Mullen, State Farm’s director of technology research and a former engineer with major car companies.
‘Let’s start with a parking lot and everything you need to understand and before we even put car into drive,’ Mullen says. ‘We’ll go over safety behaviors like wearing seat belt, checking around car, making sure you’re ready to take off.’
Then practice each skill: how to stop, start, drive straight without swerving. Practice, practice, practice, says Mullen, before moving on to the next step.
Research shows when a new driver has one other teenager in the car, the risk of a fatal crash doubles. Add more teenagers and the risk goes up by five times. The good news: teens are at their lowest lifetime risk of getting into a crash as a learner with their parent sitting in the passenger seat next to them, according to Winston. So, ‘stay in the learner phase as long as possible,’ says Winston, ‘because that is the safest time for your teen.’” Read more here.
The positive approach makes sense, but because parents are so often afraid for their teenagers’ safety—because of exactly the kind of statistics quoted in this article—that they reflexively turn to warnings and admonitions instead of helpful information and encouragement. Another example of how emotions are so central in teaching and learning.