I am teaching my 11 year old daughter to drive. “When you merge into traffic, be aware that you have to keep up to speed for the cars behind you and also for the cars that you are merging into. And be sure to check your mirrors to make sure that you have enough space to merge.”
No, my daughter is not behind the wheel. She is sitting in the car next to me as I drive. And every single instance on the road is a teachable moment. After all, in less than 5 years she will be the one behind the wheel, handling a vehicle that weighs 10 times more than her. And she will be responsible for all those on the road or in the car with her. 5 years is a relatively short time to teach her all she needs to know about driving before that day arrives.
“When it’s raining, drive slower. The roads are more slick and slippery, and the water can coat your brakes, making it hard to stop the car on a dime. Leave enough room between you and the car in front of you so that you don’t have to slam on the brakes.”
As if to prove my point, we passed by a car that had spun out and was stuck in a muddy field. The driver and passenger were busy pushing the car in the mud to no avail as the tow truck driver was on its way. We had chosen to take the long way around to avoid merging into the heavy traffic, and I was glad that we had. This rainy day was not the day to try and merge into fast moving traffic on these slick roads.
We got onto the freeway and I merged into traffic. The spray from the water created a shield of mist between each car. Just 20 yards up, a truck in the fast lane was merely a blur except for their red backlights.
“See how hard it is to see that car in front of us? That’s why you have to drive with the lights on when it is raining.”
“Are your lights on?” she asked. “Because it doesn’t look like it.”
“They’re on, but it’s not so that we can see better, it’s so that other drivers can see us.”
My daughter is very interested in learning about driving. Even when she rolls her eyes at me at times when I am speaking to her about anything else, she never fails to pay close attention when I give her driving tips. “Where are the brakes?” “How am I supposed to hold the wheel?” “How do you keep your eyes on the road and know that there’s a car next to you?” Almost every time we are in the car with each other, there is something new I can tell her about driving.
I dropped my son off first at school, then my daughter at hers. After wishing her a good day, I got back on the road and back on the freeway to home. Traffic slowed to a crawl. Up ahead there were flashing lights of a police car and a tow truck. Upon first glance I thought that it was a traffic stop. But then the third car came into view. It was on its side, the top of the car caved in against the middle barrier. It had obviously slid off the road and catapulted against the dividing wall with incredible force. The car appeared almost flat. The officer was next to the vehicle. It looked grim. I breathed a sigh of relief as a baseball capped head emerged from the passenger side window, the side of the car that was now the top. But it was unclear whether there was anyone else in the car with them. I said a little prayer as I drove past, and thought about my own children driving one day in these conditions.
Yes, it is never too early to give your child driving tips. They don’t even need a learner’s permit to learn.