“If you drive like you’ve been watching dad drive for the last 15 years, forget about passing the driver’s test!”
Mom breaks up when she hears that. Dad pretends to laugh. The kids guffaw and their heads bob knowingly as if to say, “Oh yeah, teach, you got that right!”
As a driver’s education instructor, part of my job is to prepare our teenagers for the dreaded state road test. In some states it’s a trip around the block and like, “Okay, you’re good to go.” Not here. In Utah the road test is tough. I know a couple of the examiners – Cruella and Stromboli.
After a week or so in our class the kids loosen up and start talking about their in-car conversations with dad.
“Hey dad, did you know you just made an illegal turn back there?”
Dad’s comeback depends a lot on his mood at the moment but it’s usually something warm and fatherly like, “Hey, I’ve been driving since before you were born kid, so just put a cork in it!”
And, mom too. “Mom, you want me to show you how to parallel park?”
Halfway into the parallel park and making a total mess of it, mothers reply will likely be something like, “One more peep out of you young lady, and kiss your iPad goodbye!”
My personal favorite is, “Dad, you’re following too close! My instructor says that’s a major cause of crashes!”
Irritated because the driver ahead won’t go over the speed limit, dad snaps back, “You can tell your instructor where he can stuff his crashes!”
But, let’s be real. For 15 years our kids watch us ignore speed limits and stop signs, drive distracted, tailgate, get angry behind-the-wheel and do other bad stuff. Then we tell them they’re supposed to “drive like adults.” Really?
I’d like a quarter for every time I’ve heard one of my kids say, “But, dad always told me I could get away with 10 over the speed limit.”
They’re thinking, “If dad does it that way, it must be cool,” and in a healthy household that’s the way it’s supposed to be. So many moms and dads set great examples when preparing their kids for sports, dance, scholastics or whatever, but set miserable examples when it comes to driving.
I’ve been in the business for 30 plus years and trained more than 70,000 kids and I’m still trying to work that one out.
Here are just a few of the things Stromboli and Cruella will not let you get away with on the test. Keep these in mind when the kids are in the car. They’re watching and will surely imitate you!
Are you in the habit of not stopping completely at stop signs? Do that more than a couple of times on the test and your toast. Why? You’ve just shown the examiner you don’t know the reason for stop signs.
Do you think speed limits are just for jerks? Exceed the speed limit on the test and you’re out-a-there. Why? You’ve just shown the examiner you don’t know the reason for speed limits.
Are you in the habit of not doing head checks? Fail to do that a time or two on the test and you’re done for! Why? You’ve just shown the examiner you don’t understand the reason for checking your blind spots! Oh, by the way, forget to signal a turn or lane change a couple of times and see what happens.
Driving and riding with other teens is the leading killer of our kids. Shouldn’t we start them out right?