Updated: Oct 19
“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
Do you believe in luck, even if just for the fun of it on St. Patrick’s Day? Sometimes, what looks like luck is really just mathematical probability. Winning a raffle, getting excused from jury duty, or calling a coin toss means that you were the 1 success in the pool of chances.
Most of the time, though, luck is not luck at all. What seems like luck - getting a professional sports contract, winning a scholarship, avoiding a major car crash - is actually the cumulative result of years of preparation, practice, and hard work. As a driver, the application of your skills and habits have the greatest impact on how well you avoid disaster. Sometimes it looks or feels like luck, especially when there’s a close call, but it’s more likely a result of split-second good decision making.
Practice Creates Habits, Habits Create Instinct
There are a lot of hairy driving situations that we experienced drivers tend to chalk up to luck. But I would caution parents to refrain from calling anything out on the road a matter of luck. The last thing you want is for your teen driver to believe that they have no real control over their circumstances. In reality, your experience as a driver is what helps you react quickly, maintain control of your vehicle, and avoid crashes.
If your teen is in the car when you do have to handle a difficult driving scenario, rather than say that you got lucky, turn it into a teachable moment. Ask your teen questions to help them understand how you knew what to do, why you maneuvered the way you did, and how they might handle the same situation. Ultimately, much of what you did correctly was probably instinctive. But you can only train your instincts for rapid response in driving when you have enough practice to make them a habit.
When you and your teen practice driving, don’t let them skip over the skills that they think have been mastered. Revisit those skills for more practice so that they become ingrained habits. Then when your teen driver has to react quickly, their instincts will help them manage the car safely.
Avoid Bad Luck by Avoiding Bad Driving Habits
Coaching your new teen driver will most likely expose a few bad habits you’ve gotten into over the years. While this is common, there’s no time like the present to make a commitment to safe driving skills for the whole family.
If you have had to deal with several near misses, traffic tickets, or even a few fender benders in the past several years, it may be time to consider what’s really causing your bad luck. Now that your teen is a driver, it’s vital to make changes that ensure their safety, your safety, and the safety of everyone else out on the road.
Start by going through your teen’s driver education manual. If you find anything you have been doing incorrectly over the years, call it out and ask your teen to keep you accountable. When your teen is driving, reinforce safe driving skills rather than teaching them shortcuts or minimizing the need to follow the law. Remember that when your teen starts driving on their own, their safety should not ever be a matter of luck. It should always be a result of practice, good habits, and lifelong safe driving skills.
If you need to brush up on best driving practices to get ready for coaching your teen driver, The Parent’s Survival Guide for New Teen Drivers will get you off to the right start. Or consider professional lessons with a Safe Driving Coach. Our coaches work with teen drivers every day to prepare them for their license exam and a lifetime of safe driving skills.