Teaching teens to drive can be stressful for parents and students.
Fear is always there, said Jenny Vutich of Kansas City, who is teaching her third son to drive. “Many times I wanted a steering wheel because they would hug the curb and I was afraid they were going to hit it,” she said.
Before getting started, Vutich tries to put herself in the new driver’s position by reviewing the basics that adults take for granted, such as location of the light switch and emergency brake, and how to start the car.
Still, her 15-year-old son Ryan said there’s a lot of pressure. “I feel like if I do something wrong they will yell at me and may not let me drive for a while,” he said.
When Danny Rider got behind the wheel the first time, it was hard to tell who was more nervous. “Probably me,” said the Kansas City, North, 16-year old. “Even though we were in an empty parking lot, it was a new experience for me, while (my mom) knew it would be hard for me to hit something or damage the car in an empty lot.”
Rider, who earned his driver’s license a few months ago, would advise parents to “calm down and don’t just yell when your teen needs to do something quickly.”
Raising your voice just adds to the stress, said Kraig Taylor, director of the Olathe School District’s Driver’s Education Program. “Be positive and give very direct and detailed directions.”
Fifteen-year-old Lauren Johnson of Raymore hasn’t had much road time yet, and she said her mother had more faith in her driving ability than she did. “When the car started moving, I was scared. I thought ‘God be with me.’”
Lauren’s mother, Jennifer, said it helps that she is a nurse trained to remain calm in stressful situations. “The hardest part is making sure that what you are telling them as they are driving is actually received and heard.”
It’s often less stressful for the whole family if a third party handles the instruction.
“I actually sent my own child to driver’s education,” explained Sandy Cutler of the Lee’s Summit School District, who has taught driving for 20 years. “I wanted him to see and hear that what I was telling him was not just Mom, but was the correct way to drive safely and responsibly.”
She also often heard that those who take driver’s education do better on the driving test.
For parents who prefer to do it themselves, Cutler recommends going to an empty parking lot first to give students the feel of starting, stopping and making basic turns. After mastering the lot, take them to a residential area with wide streets to work on staying in the proper lane and meeting a few other vehicles.
“If they say they are not ready to move to the next situation, don’t,” she said.
Liberty School District’s Dennis Blochlinger, a driver’s education instructor for two decades, said it’s also important for parents to drive the way they want their teen to drive. “Don’t drive distracted, no texting, talking on the phone, eating in the car. Also, no rolling stops or speeding. They are observing your driving behaviors.”
Whether a driving pro or a parent, there are bound to be a few tense moments. Blochlinger said, “I once had a student that told me he was legally blind … after he finished his last lesson!”