You’ve completed the Before Getting on the Road checklist and your teenager is now ready to set the car in motion. Obviously, the setting should be some country road, neighborhood under construction, or somewhere with minimal traffic. Ask other parents with recent new drivers where they started out.
Here’s the checklist for this phase:
- Staying in the proper position within your lane (left-to-right)
- Proper following distance
- Proper signaling for turns and lane changes
- Not too far in advance but also not too late
- Explain hand signals, if ever needed
- Always looking over both shoulders at blind spots when changing lanes – always, always, always
- Always turning into the proper lane – the nearest lane
- Always have an “out” on multi-lane roads
- In other words, if you find yourself right next to someone in the adjacent lane, either pull ahead of them or let them drift in front of you so that you always have an escape route to the right
- Paying attention to the stripes in the road, and their meaning – white or yellow, solid or dashed. Their instruction book explains these so make sure to be consistent with what they’ve learned.
- Regularly scanning mirrors and the road ahead – both near and far ahead
- Paying attention to signs
- A good method is to randomly ask a question after passing signs of various importance. For example, 2-3 seconds after passing a speed zone sign, ask what the speed limit is. Or after passing a sign that says lanes will merge ahead, ask what’s about to happen to the road. You can also say something like “We just passed a yellow sign. What did it say and what does it mean?”
- Managing yellow lights
- Obviously, the key issue is when to stop and when to proceed through the intersection. I taught my teenagers to ask themselves if they can safely stop before the intersection after seeing the light change to yellow. Unfortunately, most people ask whether or not they can make it through the intersection before the light turns red.
- After an example or two where you dictate the action, try to let your teenager make the decision rather than always telling them to stop or proceed.
- What to do when two lanes turn
- Use the signs and road markings to determine if one or two lanes can turn
- Pay close attention to the dashed line as you turn to make sure you’re not encroaching on the other turn lane
- Proper stopping position at stop lights and stop signs. Make sure to be consistent with what their instruction book says for this.
- Being prepared when passing a car parked on the side of a neighborhood street – hidden kids can easily come out of nowhere
- My teenagers and I used the code word “danger” for these situations. When we saw this scenario up ahead, one of us would say “danger, danger”. After a few weeks of this it sinks in without having to say it.
- Being prepared when approaching a kid on their bike – same as above with parked cars
- Filling up with gas – really just the basics of how to do it, but let them do it
When you’re done with this phase, move on to the Intermediate Skill phase.