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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Driver Education: Designated Passenger Role

Whew, your teen has received their Learner's Permit and has been driving for a few months. The hard part of the jerky brakes, sudden starts and grabbing the steering wheel or grasping to the door handle for support is over. No major catastrophes, property damage or traffic tickets. You have entered the easy phase of having your own personal chauffeur. It is a great time to catch up on your to do lists and return phone calls, right?

Not so fast, you still have quite a bit of work to do. The "Designated Passenger" has the responsibility of making sure that the teen you are supervising is getting the most out of their learning experience. You want them to have the right driving habits and practice them consistently. Trying to correct or change a bad habit becomes harder to do as time goes by.

Besides teaching driving skills, what are some things that the “Designated Passenger” should be doing? Start by asking them questions as they are driving. Questions to pose include:

  • What do you see ahead?

  • Who has the right of way in this situation? What if the other vehicle was there first?

  • What can you anticipate happening with those kids playing in the yard? How would you react? What should you start doing now just in case?

  • What does the law say about sharing the road with bicyclists? What extra precautions should you take for them?

  • If the dog up came running out into the street, what would you do?

  • Walk me through what you would do right now if you had a tire blow out? What if the blow out was in the car ahead of you?

  • That motorcycle behind you is coming up quickly, why is that important to know?

  • What driving behaviors tell you that someone may be a distracted driver? How should you handle sharing the road with a distracted driver? What if they are impaired?

  • What can you do to overcome the glare of the sun, while you are driving? What if the fog rolled in?

  • Your traffic light just turned green, what should you do before accelerating?
  • If the vehicle went off the road right now, what is the right way to get back on the road?

  • If another car was headed straight towards us head-on, what is the first thing you would do? Then what next? And so on.

Once they exercise strong control of the vehicle, have experience and understand the different types of driving environments and have the necessary driving skills down, the “Designated Passenger” has to change their focus to teaching defensive driving skills. You may also want them to take a defensive driving course and an advanced car control course to help them gain knowledge and experience on handling driving emergencies that you won’t be able to simulate for them.

Even after they are fully licensed, continue to monitor their driving from a “Designated Passenger” role. Driver education is continuing education and there is ongoing work to do to help keep new drivers safe.

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