Driving Instruction – Ready for Prime Time

You’ve completed the Intermediate Skills phase and your teenager is now ready to move to the most advanced phase.  The following exercises and checklist items are important if you want to turn over the keys with confidence.  Many of the items are best practiced or demonstrated on a country road at a time of day when there is very minimal traffic.  And due to increased safety risks with the proposed exercises, don’t start with this phase until you really feel your teenager is ready.

Here’s the checklist for this phase:

  • Driving on a narrow, curvy, country road
  • U-turn at an intersection – including looking for signs to make sure it’s legal
  • Driving at night
    • Including use of low/high beam lights
    • What to do if an oncoming car is blinding you with their lights (look a little towards the right side of the road, using the white stripe for guidance)
    • Try the navigated journey exercise (explained in the Intermediate Skills phase) one time, but at night
  • Driving with one wheel on the shoulder, then recovering back to the road
    • Good for a country road with minimal traffic.  Do it first while driving 10 mph and then again at 30 mph.
    • You want your teenager to learn not to panic but rather slow down a bit and find the right time/place to make a deliberate turn back onto the main road rather than a very gradual easing that could cause slippage.  Doing this at 10 mph is different than 30 mph.
  • Advanced parking
    • Parallel – Put a trash can in front and behind, near the curb.  Start with them way far apart and move them 2’ closer with each success.  Might also need to put a box on top to make it easier to see over the hood and trunk.  But usually the front hood of most cars isn’t taller than a trash can.  You might also be able to practice at the exact location where your teenager does their official driving test.  This is ideal to do after they have the basics down.
    • Backing into a parking space.  Check the space on both sides after finished.  Start with an empty parking lot.  Then do it next to one car (empty space on other side).  Then do it with cars on both sides if you have the guts.
  • Freeway driving
    • Proper speed for on-ramp entrances and off-ramp exits
    • Yielding rules for on/off ramps
    • Changing lanes – incl use of mirrors first, then looking over shoulder every time
    • Safe back-off distance from the car in front
    • Leaving “outs” (not putting yourself in a position where you’re boxed in)
    • What to do if the police signal to pull you over
    • Driving 70-75 mph and noticing how much more sensitive steering is at this speed
  • Passing on a 2-lane road – probably out in the country
    • Use proper signaling and pay attention to the road stripes to know when it’s legal
  • Driving in the rain (actually do it, if at all possible)
  • Simulating loss of power while driving (running out of gas) – best on a country road with light traffic
    • Turn off the ignition, which will result in losing your power steering and power breaks.  Come to a stop on the shoulder.
  • Simulating loss of brakes
    • Glide as much as possible, downshift to lower gear, use emergency brake as last resort.  After explaining this and trying the basic concepts, do an exercise where you tell your child “You just lost your brakes, navigate to a stop somehow”.  Of course, do it on a country road or somewhere with minimal disruption to other drivers.
  • Anti-lock brakes demonstration
    • You don’t need to do this at 50 mph.  But, at minimum, show how the brakes can be pushed all the way to the floor in the event of an emergency – maybe at 20-25 mph in your neighborhood.  Your child needs to know they can push the brakes as hard as possible in the event of an emergency.

This phase concludes the actual driving instruction sequence.  From here you can check out my Golden Rules of Safe Driving, my ideas for teaching Basic Car Maintenance or the Driving Contract I executed with my teenagers.

Author: Gordon Daugherty

Over the past 15 years Gordon has seen nearly 1,000 startup pitches, advised more than 200 entrepreneurs and been involved with raising over $45M in growth and venture capital. Throughout his 28 year career in high tech, serving twice as President and three times as CMO, Gordon has both an IPO and a $200M acquisition exit under his belt. Now his emphasis is purely focused on helping startups and early stage tech companies. Through his Shockwave Innovations advisory practice and as Managing Director for Austin’s Capital Factory startup accelerator, Gordon is an active angel investor, VC and startup advisor.

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