I have been in this business for over 15 years and what is abundantly clear to me is the chasm between the research on young drivers and parents. The research indicates, and it has been our experience as well, that the role of the parent(s) is critical in the development of driving skills in their children. Parents are the single greatest influence on how their children drive. While the education and training they receive is an important piece, it is not “the sole solution” to the young driver crisis we have in this country.
In my experience a multi-pronged approach is most effective. What does that mean? It means that education and training play a role, young drivers need to be taught the rules of the road as well as the proper way to drive. Driving has changed, vehicles have changed and there is a right and a wrong way to utilize the technology in our vehicles. Parents, like any of us that have been driving, have bad habits and unknowingly pass them down to their children. Even young children in their booster seats are picking up information from their parents. The question is, is it information you want them to pick up?
In 15 years, our most successful students have been those whose parents have worked with us to develop their children’s skills. We hear it over and over again, when parents take our Parent Coaching Class and do the practice we recommend, those students are good drivers at the end of the process. The key to this is also recognizing that “learning to drive” is a process, not a class to be taken or a test to be passed. It is a process and the process is different for every new driver.
If parents were so inclined there are some very good resource materials to assist in “teaching their young driver how to drive.” However, what I have learned over the years is that parents are uninformed and make assumptions about preparing their teenager to be on the roads. Most are lulled by the fact that their teenager is “doing well” driving back and forth from the same destination over and over again. Then they “pass the test at the MVD” – YAY, they’re good to go! NOT! The test at the MVD is focused on vehicle handling. There is not enough time to be able to assess an individual’s true ability to drive, particularly their observation and planning skills or their decision making and judgement skills.
Most driving programs around the country follow suit as most focus on “passing a test” when there is so much more to becoming a safe and competent driver. In a recent study teenagers were found to be 8 times more likely to be involved in a collision within their first few months of driving. Why? Think about it, if all they have done is familiar drives while being supervised by their parents, when they find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings or situations they have no idea how to handle it.
I recently posted a study about Arizona drivers being the least skilled. It is one of my posts that has garnered the most interaction from folks. There are lots of opinions about “why” Arizona ranks in that category, but if you spend any time on the roads, it is easy to see that drivers don’t always know the rules or care to follow them. For example, What is the rule for pedestrians in the crosswalk? I have personally encountered my fair share of drivers who are oblivious to the fact that when I am in the crosswalk they must yield to the pedestrian. If I wasn’t paying attention, my dogs and I would have been mowed over more than once.
If you are interested in reading the articles I mention, click on the links. Arizona are some of the least skilled drivers.In a nationwide study. Arizona ranked #3 as one of the most dangerous states to drive in. Arizona continues to rank amongst the top states for Red Light Running and while municipalities within the state, such as Glendale, have cell phone restrictions, the state does not. Unfortunately, it has taken the death of a State Trooper to get the attention of our Legislature and we may see some new legislation this year.