How to Overcome New Teenage Driver Anxiety
A parent’s guide to creating a safe and confident teen driver
Adults have a lot of anxiety. But there's nothing like the anxiety that comes with a teenager getting ready to get their driver's license. In this article, we're focusing on how parents can overcome the fear and anxiety that is accompanied by a new teenage driver.
Build your confidence by building their driving confidence and skill
The best tactic to overcoming new teenage driving anxiety is to be confident that your teen is a safe and confident driver. The only way to truly accomplish that task is to educate your teen on the rules of the road.
If your state doesn’t require a driver’s education course prior to receiving their learner’s permit, it is a good idea to sign them up for a voluntary driver improvement course for your state. These courses are typically offered both online and in-person.
The course will teach them the basic principles and laws they need to become a safe driver but only in the car training will provide your teen with the necessary experience. Many states require behind the wheel professional training once they receive their learner’s permit. If your state does not require behind the wheel training it’s a great idea to have your teen take a course voluntarily to help build the confidence and experience needed to be a safe driver.
Once your teen has finished the driver’s education course and behind the wheel training the rest is up to you. You are the one who will need to build the confidence in your teen driver and provide them with the experience necessary to be a safe driver so you can relinquish the car to them in complete confidence and not have to panic about their well-being on the road.
That is typically where the new teenage driver anxiety and fear comes in. The best way to overcome your fears is to face them head on. Tell your teenager what your concerns are and find a solution to overcome them. Identify the driving skill you are concerned about and have your teen practice and demonstrate that particular skill to you.
Remember, the key to overcoming new teenage driver anxiety is to ensure your teen has the experience necessary to be a safe and confident driver. Here are some steps you can take to build confidence in your teen driver.
Practice the basics in an empty parking lot
Find an empty parking lot. It doesn’t have to be very big. Have your teen practice all of the basics first in a safe area where they can learn how the car handles. Start with accelerating, then braking. Once the accelerating and braking is becoming smoother and more natural have your teen start working on turning and parking. Choose a particular parking spot for your teen to park in. Have them making any turns necessary to get in the spot and then park the car. Once the car is parked have them get out and walk completely around the car to see where they are in the lines. If you do this enough they will start to learn not only how the car handles but also get a better idea of how wide and long the vehicle is. You can also have them practice reversing out of the spot or even around the entire parking lot to get a good idea of how it feels.
As skill increases, move up to larger, more crowded parking lots
Once your teen has the basics down take them to a larger parking lot. First, find a parking lot that is large enough to pretend there are streets. Give your teen a few scenarios in the larger parking lot involving accelerating, braking, and turning. Once your teen is feeling very comfortable with the parking lot take them to a parking lot with a few cars. Have your teen practice their basic skills with some other cars around. Have them park in a nearby space and as confidence and skill increases, have them start parking adjacent to other cars.
Practice on various types of road
Make sure your teen gets use to how a car handles on different types of road. Have them try driving on asphalt, dirt, and gravel. Make sure they have a good sense of how long it takes to brake and how to handle a turn on all of the different types of road they might encounter.
Drive on roads with varied speed limits
Have your teen driver practice driving on roads with varied speed limits. Let them see how it feels to drive at 25 mph versus 40 mph. Have them learn how the car feels and handles at various speeds.
Practice driving in different weather and visibility conditions
Make sure your teen not only gets practice driving at night time versus day time but also practice in the different weather conditions. Make sure they practice driving in the rain, and then combine driving in the rain and driving at night. If you live in an area where snow is common, they should practice not only driving in the snow but also dealing with any equipment that would be necessary (putting on snow chains, equipping four wheel drive, etc.).
Focus on entering and exiting freeways
When you feel that your teen has enough driving skills to drive on the freeway make sure you start simple. Start on an area of the freeway that is typically less congested and make sure the day/time is not a high commute time. Start by having your teen focus on how it feels to get on and off of the freeway. Have them enter the freeway, see how it feels to get up to speed, then get off the freeway and see when they need to start slowing down. Have them work on just entering and exiting the freeway to help build their confidence.
Drive often in controlled environments
Make sure you continue to control their driving environment. If the particular area you want your teen to practice driving in goes through a busy area then drive the vehicle to the practice area and then switch seats. It is important for your teen to drive almost every day to continue to build and develop their driving confidence. Even if there is only a very short stretch of road or limited time the teen can drive, as long as it is a driving environment you feel comfortable with your teen driving they should have the opportunity to drive.
Continue Practicing, Even Once They're Licensed
Once your teenager is licensed, the best way to feel better about their safety is to give them a chance to demonstrate their driving skills and driver responsibility. Consider letting them take the wheel the next time you head out to a restaurant for dinner. The state trusts them to drive. It's only fair that you do, too. The more they apply their driving knowledge and skills, the safer everyone will be.
While they're behind the wheel, you'll be able to take note of how they're driving. If they're doing a great job, you can take comfort knowing that you've raised a responsible driver. While they're out there driving in accordance with everything they've learned in driver training, you can relax at home without worrying. If, however, they're violating the traffic laws and not adhering to what they've learned in driver training, at least you'll be aware of their driving skills (or lack thereof). You can then work with them to correct their mistakes.
Even though your teen is licensed, your teen is not an experienced seasoned driver. As the seasons change, remind your teen of the risks of seasonal changes. They might not remember how slick the first rain of the season could make the roads. Also, help reinforce any graduated license provisions your teen might need to abide by. If they aren’t allowed to drive after a particular time according to the state, make sure their curfew complies with that rule as well. You can also look into tools that can encourage teens to drive safely.
As long as you continue to educate your teen on the rules of the road they will continue to learn and develop their defensive driving skills so both of you can be more confident and less fearful of their driving.