Addressing Tunnel Vision: How to help your teen scan the road
Updated: May 24
I’m sure at some point, you’ve been frustrated with your teen for having tunnel vision–only focused on what’s directly in front of them, not taking in other points of view. And that was before they were learning to drive! Well, tunnel vision happens on the road too, in a more literal sense. When new drivers experience tunnel vision their eyes get fixated on one spot on the road.
This is by far one of the most common mistakes that I address with teen drivers. Let’s remember that learning to drive can be very overwhelming. There are so many things to keep an eye on–other cars, traffic signs, stoplights, your mirrors, let alone the road. Being able to scan all of these things, while keeping an eye on the road, is a learned skill...and most teens do not have it yet!
When I talk to parents about tunnel vision, inevitably I get the question, “But how can I know what they see?” The answer is simple, you can’t. But it’s our job, as parents and as coaches, to keep ASKING them what they see. By asking questions and actively watching your teen while they are driving, you can begin to pick up on signs that signal they are fixated on one spot and not scanning the road.
Here are some questions you can ask your teen to find out how much they are processing:
What are the traffic signs telling you?
At any given moment, your teen should be aware of the traffic signs around them and in front of them. This includes things like speed limits, upcoming stop signs, lane merge signs. Since these signs are usually to the side of the road if your teen can’t name them, it’s likely they are focused directly on the road in front of them...aka tunnel vision.
Where are you looking?
This is a pretty straight-forward question but it works! If you suspect that your teen’s vision is fixated, you can ask this question to give them some awareness that they should be scanning, not staring.
What’s the color of the car behind you?
This is a good question to ask to encourage your teen to use the mirrors. If they can name the color of the car behind you, what about the one to the left and to the right?
And the best follow up question to any of the above...what else? After all, you can’t let them off too easy!
If you’d like more strategies and tips for coaching your teen driver, check out my free Parent’s Guide: 5 Solutions for Common Teen Driving Mistakes.
You can also earn more about The Parent’s Survival Guide for New Teen Drivers online course for parents who want to know how to better coach their teens how to drive!