Teach Them Young

Posted on 11 February 2020

We typically don't wait until our kids are almost old enough to visit a beach independently with their friends before commencing swimming education. So why do so many wait until that stage before commencing driver education?

Parents spend countless hours sitting inside their mobile metal boxes with their children. Every one of those hours provides learning opportunities. Skill and knowledge alone generally won't sufficiently compensate a novice driver who has developed within a culture devoid of self-awareness practices and low-risk driving values. Should our children's driver education begin when they become a legally permitted learner driver - or should it begin much earlier than that?

From age 13, why not get them to sit next to you in the passenger seat whilst you're driving so that they may observe the driving scene? To keep them engaged, consider placing a detachable rear-view mirror on their side of the windscreen so that they can become comfortable in using it.

At age 12, why not introduce them to the concept of blind-spots and visual block-outs? Walk around the outside of the car with them in the driver's seat and ask them to observe you through the mirrors and tell you to stop once they can no longer see you. Demonstrate how to adjust the seat, including the head restraint, and steering wheel for optimal posture; and how to grip the steering wheel.

At age 11, why not walk them through the entire vehicle? Demonstrate how to correctly position mirrors and operate various controls such as - pedals, indicators, windscreen-wipers, lights, demisters and park-brake. Explain the easily forgotten features such as the night mode on the internal rear view mirror that reduces glare from the headlights of vehicles travelling behind.

At age 10, why not introduce them to scanning principals? Visit a crowded shopping centre and ask them to walk around for five minutes whilst just looking at the shopper immediately in front of them. Then ask them to walk around for five minutes whilst looking forty metres into the distance. Ask them to describe the difference. Take five minutes to sit and watch other people walk around - observing the different styles. Which people have to keep slowing down and stopping (braking)? Which people keep bumping into others (crashing)? What's happening to the shoppers who are looking at the floor, their phone, or friend whilst walking? Another effective exercise is to ask them to hold the palm of their hand one inch in front of their face and then move it to five inches to see the difference it makes to their field of vision.

At age 9, why not advise them what different regulatory and cautionary road signs mean whilst you're driving?

At age 8, why not play some driving games with them? Challenge them to be a detective and look for such things as parked vehicles with front wheels turned outward; a driver behind the steering wheel; turn signals and/or brake lights on. When travelling near schools and sporting fields why not ask them to look low in-between and underneath parked vehicles, for feet and rolling balls; etc. Ask them to describe what they can see reflected in the windows of buildings and panels of parked vehicles when at intersections.

At age 7, why not ask them to spot drivers on their phone, tailgating, running a red light or driving distracted?

How much self-awareness do we possess as parents and guardians – are we driving in a way that we would be comfortable seeing our sons and daughters drive? What behaviours are we currently modelling to our biggest fans?

A novice driver's road user culture is not developed exclusively via their experiences as a learner or provisional driver. Rather, it's underpinned by at least a decade's worth of various modelling, motivations and values.

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