Turn left NOW! No, your OTHER left!! The joys of teaching your teenager to drive.

If you’re like me, then you’re a 57-year-old male living in Seattle, with a slight overbite and a two-inch scar on your left hand from a kitchen accident in 2004. But that’s beside the point. My point is, if you’re like me, then you may also be about to enter one of the most terrifying stages of life: The age when your teenage son or daughter starts learning how to drive.

Having somehow endured this traumatic experience with two daughters, I’m happy to say there is a reasonable chance you and your teenager will get through this period unscathed, and by reasonable chance I mean less than 15%. Let’s face it, being a parent is hard enough without having to experience the harrowing adventure of teaching your precious offspring how to drive. But there comes a day when your teenager might utter the phrase every parent dreads: Hey, Dad. I got into Stanford. But even before that day, there is another phrase that terrifies every loving parent: I want to get my driver’s license.

There is no way to avoid it. Sooner or later, it’s going to happen. The sooner you can con, I mean convince, your spouse to sign up for the thankless task of teaching them, the better. In our family, I was the sucker, er, volunteer. As a result of my anguishing experience teaching our daughters how to drive, I’ve learned several valuable tips to pass on to you.

Tip #1: Don’t have children. I can’t stress this enough. Oh sure, you may miss out on a few fun things like teaching an impressionable young child how to throw a baseball. But consider the alternative: Never having to pay thousands of dollars in car repair bills and jacked-up insurance premiums because there would be no daughter of yours who might be jabbering on their cell phone, thereby accidentally backing your Toyota minivan into your neighbor’s mint-condition 1967 Porsche 911 roadster – hypothetically speaking, of course.

Tip #2: Bribe your child. If you did not react in time to apply Tip #1, then do whatever you can to persuade them not to drive until they turn 35. You could make a thoughtful, cogent slide presentation showing the cost-savings of getting a bus pass and the reduced carbon footprint from not driving.  Of course, you’ll have a greater shot of becoming the next winner of American Idol than convincing your teenager to delay their desire to drive.

So when your slide presentation crashes and burns, proceed directly to Tip #2: bribery. For starters, you might offer to buy them the latest Samsung Galaxy 4G phone if they promise never to drive over 30 mph and only in sunny weather on country roads, with the radio off and no friends in the car. (This paragraph sponsored by Samsung – makers of the cool new Galaxy 4G.)   

Tip #3: Model safe driving habits. If the first two strategies fail, face it. Your kid is going to start driving. This means don’t crank up the radio full volume or read a map while driving. And never drive 15 mph over the speed limit in a 30 mph zone, failing to come to a complete stop at the stop sign at the intersection of Buford and 27th Place, while talking on your cell phone to your wife about dinner. That driving infraction will cost you a tidy $250. Just trust me on this and please don’t ask questions.

Tip #4: Remain calm and let ‘em drive. There is only so long you can stall by reviewing the location of the warning lights for the 11th time. It’s time to let them get behind the wheel. No matter what happens, it is critical for their confidence that you remain calm. So what if your child just barely missed hitting a jogger pushing a baby stroller. Stay calm. Nobody was hurt. So they took that left-hand turn way too tight and almost clipped a Mercedes-Benz. Please remain calm.

And so what if they drove a bit too fast as they entered the garage, screeching to a halt only after they ran over… MY BRAND NEW TAYLORMADE GOLF CLUBS???!!!??? What the F**k?!!? Don’t you tell me to remain calm!! Those were TaylorMade clubs, for God’s sake. I swear the only vehicle she’ll be driving for the next century is a Hello Kitty tricycle with training wheels. Ahem, not that my daughter ever did anything like this, mind you.

Tip #5: Help them find a safe car. Young drivers tend to be careless drivers. They make mistakes behind the wheel. So it’s important to help them pick out a vehicle that scores well in crash tests and comes loaded with safety features. That’s why I strongly recommend purchasing your child a Type 10 MBT Battle Tank, or if you’re looking for a bit better gas mileage, perhaps the Alvis FV103 Spartan Armored Personnel Carrier. Choose between two new colors for spring: desert sand and camouflage green. You will sleep soundly knowing your child will never get hurt in a car accident – although I can’t rule out the possibility of being taken out by a drone strike.

Good luck as you merge onto the dangerous highway of teenage driving. It can be an anxious time for any parent. That’s why I urge you to seriously consider Tip #1. It makes the process so much simpler.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base. 

Tim Jones - Profile at Safeco - TinyPS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a thumbs up or sharing this post on Facebook. And if you happen to be in the market for a car for your teenager, I can make you a screaming deal on a minivan with less than 200,000 miles and only seven dents caused by teenage drivers – most of them barely noticeable in the dark. 

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2013

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  • Published On May. 03, 2012 by TEJ

    1. 5/3/12

      Reasonable is <8%, trust me. And safe driving is, what, like driving with a helmet on, right?

    2. 5/3/12

      I remember my remarkably calm father teaching me how to drive. Since I was the fourth son in a row he had done this with, nothing could phase him. Of course, that stiff drink of whiskey before each driving lesson probably helped.

      Contrast my father with my mother. She would sit in the shotgun seat as I drove expecting certain death at any moment. If she saw a hazard ahead, her arm would shoot out like a piston and her hand would smack the dashboard in front of her. She looked a bit like the Heisman trophy sans football. It was always fun to pretend that I didn’t see that old lady walking across the street just in front of me, just so I could get mom’s arm to flash out and hear her gasp. Why was she so worried? I only hit a couple of kids and a dog during my permit year.

    3. 5/4/12

      Yeah, going through all this; tried to offer my daughter a thousand bucks every year she would wait. I wanted to hand her a nice tidy check for $17 grand at the birth of her second daughter.

      Didn’t work. She didn’t want to wait.

      She got the license, and the first time she drove herself home from work, she hit the house.

      So what did I do? Bought her her own car, so she can stop wreaking mine.

      She’s had the car for five days. And I drive about 80% less now. It’s liberating.

    4. Drew Fisher

      Amazingly, without ever having to worry about them getting their licenses, I have two sons, aged 20 and 32, who are already highly-accomplished drivers. Here’s the secret: They are STEPsons, and I married their mother last year.
      My father delayed my getting my license as long as possible by insisting that I be able to pay for the more expensive car insurance my driving would require. Then he sent me to a college in New York City, where having a car is particularly burdensome. Eventually, I got my license because no other newspaper reporter covering the town meeting in Colonie, NY, needed to be driven to the meeting by his daddy.
      After I had been driving for four years without killing anyone, my brother got his license at the age of 16 by asking at least 500 times a day for permission to get it. I’m not sure, but I think our even younger brother was able to get his license when he was 12.

    5. Jim Hopkins

      I set the rule that they must get a job first to pay for the car, gasoline, license and insurance. That sent my oldest over the edge at the thought of her having to pay, so I didn’t teach her. The fact she didn’t like to follow any rule (mine or the DMV) was not my idea of fun sitting in the death seat anyway. She left at 18 to live with friends, they taught her and at 21 still refuses to work.

      My youngest got a job, her permit at 17, license at 18 and waited until she was 19 until her first accident. She had saved the money for repairs not covered by the insurance, and is doubling down on her insurance budget for the forseable hike in premiums. Teaching her to drive was easy, as I think she was more scared than I was at “hurting her car.”

    6. Eleanor Rushworth (Yer MiL)

      I learnt how to drive in Ontario, while on our honeymoon way back in 1954. On a back country gravel road, I got behind the wheel of a rented, standard transmission car and no learners licence. Instructiions from my husband were very clear. Foot down on the clutch, change the gear, press lightly on the gass until you are at a comfortable speed and go. Well, I went…at about 80 miles an hour, down a hill, through a stop sign, and across the old #2 highway. That highway was the only east/west highway in Ontario at the time so you can imagine how busy that roadway was. Something like I-90 today. I came to an abrupt stop on the other side. We were both trembling at the thought of how close we were to a disaster. Ron did the rest of the driving on our trip. (I wonder why?)
      Now, doing 95% of the family driving I’m still accident free. Touch wood.

    7. Mike Praskalo

      I really enjoyed this blog – well thought of , entertaining , humorous but so true in many ways…….keep them coming !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    8. Eleanor Rushworth (Yer MiL)

      Post script to my previous comment. How much do you want for the mini-van? If I put a load of groceries in the back or if my husbgand puts in a tremendous load of lumber in the rear of the vehicle, will you guarantee that the underside is not rusted out to cause the merchandise to fall through? I’ll only drive it at night so no one else will see those dents and scratched. I would require personal delivery of the van. Please reply!!!

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