GoogleIt Mail IT Print IT PermaLinkTeaching My Daughter To Drive: Lesson One
08:46:12 PM

Today was an interesting day. It's school vacation week and today my oldest daughter reached the age where she's eligible to start learning to drive. We went out this morning for her first lesson. I drove to the high school, where the parking lot was conveniently empty -- it being vacation week, after all. We switched seats, went over the basics of the controls (which I know she knew, but being careful, methodical and thorough is a good thing), and had her adjust the seat and mirrors. Then it was time for her to drive.

She pulled out of the parking space and I guided her through several laps, following the lanes and turning around the islands. My goal was to give her a feel for how the car reacts to the controls, and actually to give her a meta-lesson on how to get the feel for how a particular car reacts to the controls. I had her acclerate to hard (but not too hard, given the size of the parking lot) and brake hard a couple of times, and do some tight circles and then figure eights, and then a few more easy laps. All told, we spent around 15 minutes in the parking lot.

By that point I judged that it was time ask her if she wanted to leave the parking lot. Confident understanding of your own skills, IMHO, is a the single most important part of being a good driver, so right from the very beginning I want to put her in a position where she needs to make realistic assessments of what she's ready for. She said she was ready, so off we went for about a 15 minute ride around town, along both main and side roads, and then the next question: did she want to turn around and retrace her steps or go onto the highway for a two mile stretch for the quick route home. Nothing builds confidence like a show of confidence from the teacher. Again, she said yes, so onto the highway we went. From there we went home.

Through most of the ride I limited my comments mostly to advance instructions about what to expect, with only the occasional immediate suggestion like "slow it down a bit", "you can take it a little faster now" or "you might want to drift left just a little bit here, because those branches up ahead are actually hanging right into the lane". Her control of the vehicle was excellent for a first-time driver, but I made a few mental notes as we went along about some specific skills that we need to work on tomorrow: e.g., basics like smoother braking and acceleration, primarily, and more advanced concepts like changing lanes smoothly. A lesson on how to anticipate the way the car's handling will react to terrain changes is also on the agenda. The most important thing we really have to work on, though, is gaining total awareness of the road. Things like understanding what lane to be in and what lane to turn into, and more importantly: how to observe the road, the traffic all around, and any potential hazards, and to judge safe speeds and following distances based on all the information available. The mechanics of how to scan the road and check the mirrors can be taught, but learning to do it automatically and make the judgements with thinking about it consciously will only come with practice and encouragement.

Like I said, an interesting day... as much for me as it was for her.

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Comments :v

1. Jackie Horowitz03/03/2006 10:59:12 AM

I think my parents aged visibly when my brother and I started to get behind the wheel . But the best driving tip I ever got was from my driver's ed instructor. Three or four different times while we were stopped at a red light, he would cover my eyes and say, "Quick, tell me the colors of the cars immediately around your car." Of course, eventually I began to catch on and expected the question. But it has proved invaluable because I still have much better recognition of the traffic around me and could still answer that question most of the time.

2. Richard Schwartz03/03/2006 11:32:27 AM

Jackie, that's a great teaching tip. I'm going to use it. Thanks!

3. Gregg Eldred03/03/2006 02:32:56 PM

Don't you think that this is an amazing lesson in how much you know about driving? Anticipating other drivers, stopping distances, etc.? Things that you do as a second nature, and then attempting to teach it to your daughter. I think that it confirms that we know quite a lot about driving, but are never really forced to think about it until you need to to show someone else. Good luck with the lessons.

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