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Commit to the Challenge: Safe Driving Resolutions

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? Have you made them in the past and failed to follow through on them? Most people do not successfully keep their resolutions. I found this list of New Year’s resolution statistics that offers an overview of what happens when people make resolutions.


A lot of what it comes down to is failure of planning more than failure of follow-through. There’s an old proverbial saying that “Failing to plan is planning to fail,” and that tends to hold true.


So what does this have to do with coaching teen drivers? I’m glad you asked!


Think about the anticipation of learning to drive. 15-year-old teens are preparing for their permit exam, picturing themselves behind the wheel, imagining all the places they think they are going to drive, and building excitement for that special 16th birthday. Meanwhile, parents are getting more and more nervous thinking about how they are going to teach this vital life skill.


And then the day comes when the teenager can finally get behind the wheel. What happens next, both parents and teens come to a sudden realization that neither one of them is prepared for this moment. The teen doesn’t realize how much there is to driving, and the parent doesn’t realize just how uneducated their child is on the basics. So they are suddenly unsure of how to get started.


Now, unlike a poorly planned New Year’s resolution, you can’t just give up on teaching your teen to drive. What often happens is that parents teach their kids to drive in a bubble. The bubble is the safe, routine, unexciting driving to school, work, the grocery store, and a friend’s house. The parents pretend like highways and rush hour don’t even exist. Some parents don’t even teach their teen to park the car!


The problem is that eventually the teen driver will need to go beyond the bubble. But that failure to plan for more complicated driving could result in a plan for drastic failure out on the road. That is the kind of plan we must avoid.


To be successful with New Year’s resolutions, you need to:

  • Set realistic goals

  • Create a plan to reach those goals

  • Review the plan as you take each next step

  • Track progress as you reach milestones

  • Celebrate your success and consider lessons learned


The exact same principles should be applied to teaching your teen to drive. If your teen is not yet old enough to drive, you have time to plan. Even if you’ve already started, step back and think about whether or not you’re in the bubble. If so, give yourself a second chance and start planning.


Another key to successful resolutions is accountability. People who work with a partner on their goals are more likely to commit. Your teen driver is a participant in this process, so include them in the planning and be accountable to each other. Remember, your teen is likely to be every bit as frustrated as you are. If you’re both completely demoralized about learning to drive, you’ll both lose motivation to keep going. That’s not practical, is it? Your teen really does need to learn to drive. By setting realistic goals together and laying out a manageable timeline, you can both stay motivated to face challenges and achieve milestones. And if you incorporate the positive reinforcement aspect of celebrating milestones, the whole learning process might actually be fun!


To help you kick off your planning, download our First Time Driving Behind the Wheel Checklist, a free resource for parents of teen drivers. But if this all seems too overwhelming, maybe your better option is to let us help! Learn more about how we can help your teen get out on the road as a safe driver with our Safe Driving Coach lessons.

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