April 19, 2014

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Driver's Training Time Again

It's time for the second teen to take driver's education...and a very simple way to avoid accidents and indecision behind the wheel.

THIS IS MY PERSONAL BLOG, AND AS A RESULT, YOU'LL HEAR MY THOUGHTS, NOT THE STATION'S OPINIONS NOR ANY FORM OF NEWS STORY.

Now, where were we?

Oh yes, it's that time of life again. Every parent goes through this, as their child comes of age and begins to sit behind the wheel of the family car.

Are they ready? Do they know the rules? Will they use good judgment? Will they be a wild child? How can we help them?

In most states, it is required that you take a Drivers' Education course before you apply for the privilege of driving a motor vehicle in that state.  In our community, there are at least two competiting drivers' training schools and you must pay a pretty penny for them.

Back when I was a teen in Michigan, everyone looked forward to getting your hands on a set of wheels, cause that's what the culture was all about...the beach boys, hot rods, and driving your girl to the drive-in theater, just to name a few activities we engaged in.  But the Drivers' Ed course was taught by the football coach during the summer months in two sessions, and then you got about ten hours behind the wheel with another instructor. It must have been boring for these out of work teachers during the summer, but I enjoyed my class, and I found the experience of driving to be helpful, but not enough.

These days, in Ohio, you must log 50 hours behind the wheel with your parent before you can get your license.  And, if you've completed the drivers' training course, your in-car test is waived.

I have heard that many kids do not want their license at age 16, but many will wait until 19. I'm not sure why that is, but it may have to do with the lack of need for a car, and lower insurance rates, as well as not having to take the expensive driver's training course.

But in our family, my wife is tired of driving the kids around town for errands, appointments, play dates, etc.  So she's been encouraging them to read the manual, sign up for the class and start practicing with her behind the wheel.

We started in the deserted city park, showing them how the car steered, accelerated and braked. My wife was very big  on parallel parking and practicing with cones and flags so the kid could guide a vehicle right into the slot without hitting anything. She may be right.

I remember the pressure of parallel parking, but not that it was that much of a worry for me. I had been taught to line up your rear bumper, and then shift into reverse, turning the  wheel to 45 degrees while rolling, and straightening out again.  If you didn't get it at  first, there was always a second chance.

My concern for my kids has always been that they anticipate what's coming up, and move the car into position so when they stop, they are in the right spot... in their lane. Not blocking traffic, and that they know when it's their turn to move and to take their opportunity promptly.

To aide in this, we talk about what's coming up, and where they will want to be ahead of time. Bit by bit, they get to anticipate and glide to a stop or into their lane. It's going well.

But the absolutely best thing that I have done to help my kids, in addition to signing them up early for a driver's education class, is the purchase of magnetic "Student Driver" signs.

I've mentioned these before. For a minimal $16 dollar investment, you get three bright yellow reflective bumper stickers that can be positioned on any metallic surface. (This is important because bumpers are frequently plastic these days.) I got a set of 3 (and then another set of 3 when we lost two because they weren't flattened against the door of the family car.)

So we have four, one for each side door, one for the back tailgate and one for the hood.  They stand out and look smart.  And I leave them on, flat and magnetically adhered as much as possible.

I find everyone "cuts us some more slack" whenever they are on the car.  From additional courtesy to a friendly nod, allowing us to take our time at the light and not laying on the horn, these signs are worth their weight in gold!

It is the best investment I ever made, and I urge everyone to consider ordering a set of 3 off eBay for their new drivers in their extended family. It's just cheap insurance!

I can't tell you how many times I have noticed drivers giving us an extra measure of room and courtesy when our car is so marked. How many accidents it has prevented, I don't know.

But I would do it again in an instant if the need arises.

in fact, for Christmas, I'm thinking of giving a set to my aged mother who will winter down in Florida. She doesn't drive much, but when she does, I worry about her. A few fender benders over the last few years have been worry-some enough that I'd like her to leave the signs on the car whenever she drives.  It's not illegal and it can't hurt.

And it might just make driving safer.  What do you think?

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