You’ve mastered the parking lot lessons, driven through the neighborhood, and maybe even ventured into some 35 MPH zones with your teen driver at the wheel. You’re ready to tackle a higher speed limit and the challenge of lane changes, but you aren’t quite ready to test your nerves on the PA Turnpike. If you’re a parent of a teen driver in the Hatboro-Horsham area, Horsham Road is my recommendation for these next lessons.
Also known as PA-463, Horsham Road is a 2-lane, higher-speed limit roadway. It’s also not a highway, and it has plenty of cross streets where your teen can exit in case they need a break. This is a great area to practice changing lanes before heading out on Rt. 309 or the turnpike.
Even though this is a great practice drive, it’s still a good idea to work up to it on the day of your first lesson there. Drive around smaller streets first to warm up, go over key driving concepts, and make sure that you and your teen driver are both comfortable with the lesson so far. As your teen drives, carefully coach them to pay attention to the rearview and side mirrors for upcoming traffic. Have them safely signal and complete lane changes a few times. Try to accomplish these lane changes in lighter traffic, and space them out so that other drivers don’t think your teen is confused or driving erratically.
Pay attention to the time of day you set out. This isn’t the best practice opportunity during rush hour, so aim for less busy times and days. Eventually, you will want your teen to deal with rush hour, but not in the first few lessons. Once your teen has a number of lessons on Horsham Rd that make you both comfortable with the experience, make the move up to Rt. 309. Remember to back up a few steps in the lesson plan; don’t just let your teen hop on and take off. Set clear expectations, and give instructions before you take that next step. Teens who think they’ve already been there and done that because they got comfortable on a lesser route are more likely to make careless mistakes.
Eventually, you will want your teen to work their way up to driving the turnpike. This is not an early lesson, and it’s certainly not one you want your teen to try before you are both really comfortable with their experience level. Your teen has to be comfortable driving, changing lanes, exiting, passing, and being passed at 55 MPH before they ever attempt 70 MPH. Set yourselves up for success by not trying to accomplish this too early in the driving experience.
So what if your teen is safely driving along Horsham Rd, and it does get a bit hairy? Maybe someone cuts too close in front, your teen checks the blind spot a split second late, they get stuck in the left lane and are going faster than you want, etc. When these things happen, it’s vital to remain calm. Your teen can handle this if you are a great driving coach. Keep a calm voice, say your child’s name, and reassure them that they can do this. Then give clear, step-by-step instructions until your teen can safely exit the road. Finally, take a break. End the lesson, switch seats, go over what went well in handling the problem, and agree to try again another time. Don’t dwell on the mistakes other than to discuss how to avoid them in the future. Remember that the goal is for your teen to get better at driving, so lessons need to end with encouragement, even if they have been stressful.
If reading this blog is making you think that maybe you’re not quite ready to let your teen out of the driveway, you can download our free Safe Driving Coach Parent’s Guide: First Time Driving Behind the Wheel Checklist. Or maybe you’re realizing that teaching your own teen how to drive isn’t going to work for you (and that’s totally okay). If that’s the case, give us a call to learn more about our teen driving lessons to coach your teen to be a safe, responsible, defensive driver!