Being a parent means being a lot of different things. You work hard to bring in the money that keeps a roof over the heads of your family and food on the table. You provide that guidance and comfort when things are uncertain and your kid begins—for better or worse—to get a better understanding of how the real world works beyond what a Disney or Pixar movie tells them. And, even though you may not be aware of it all the time, you are a role model and set an example to your children about the way they are supposed to conduct themselves in this world.
Sometimes, that can be good, like looking both ways yourself before you cross the street. Sometimes, it can be bad, like lighting up a cigarette and telling your child, “By the way, don’t do this.” The thing is, even though your kid is now getting old enough to get a driving license, in the years before that, he, she, or they have been watching everything you do when you’re in the car. Their first, formative impressions of what driving in a car should come from watching what you did when you were behind the wheel.
If you have any younger children, you are exposing them to your driving habits as well. The initial impression they will form of what it means to drive a car is going to be informed by what they see you doing. As with other things in life where you are the first point of contact, the role model, and you have to ask yourself, do you want your children to drive like you?
Cigarettes & Smartphones
One of the clearest analogies of “do what I say, not what I do” is often the parent that smokes while strongly advising children not to do it. Of course, the argument usually fails to convince when a parent is regularly smoking cigarettes, whether that’s in the presence of children, or leaving the home to do it. The message is still clear; even if you as a parent are saying it’s a bad thing, you, as a parent, have no intention of stopping because you like it too much, and there must be a reason for it. It’s natural for a child to want to find out what that reason is.
In the same way, the use of a phone in the car can often have the same effect. If you are frequently breaking out your smartphone, while driving, to take calls, send text messages, snap photos, shoot videos or consult and reply to social media, that says something to a child or teen in the car. If you then turn around and say “this is bad, don’t do it,” but then clearly can’t stop yourself from engaging in it, or even showing how much you enjoy it by laughing at tweets or text messages you receive, and continuing to reply, even when the car is moving, you’re sending a clear message your child or teen; this is a lot of fun, and I don’t want you having any of it, it’s grown-up stuff.
If you don’t want your teen to run the risk of getting a distracted driving fine from the police, how are you holding yourself up in this regard?
Observe Seatbelt Habit
When teaching your kids how to ride a bike, you will always tell them to wear a helmet. The same goes when riding a car, kids should have the habit of wearing their seatbelts.
Nowadays, teens tend to use seatbelts less. Wearing a seatbelt is crucial because it can reduce the risk of death in case of a car crash or accident. That’s why it is important to get them in the habit of using the seatbelt.
Zero Tolerance for Drunk Driving
Drinking while driving is one of the leading causes of death by car accidents. Driving while in the influence of alcohol is against the law.
If your kids or teens see you driving while drinking, they will most likely follow in your footsteps. Teaching your teens about safe driving is important. But don’t forget to set a good example, too!
Control Driving Speed
Most drivers get traffic violations because of speeding. Speeding can also lead to accidents. If your teen is just learning to drive, they should know how to adjust their speed based on the traffic and road conditions.
Teaching your teen the dangers of speeding will help them keep in mind that they should not be driving too fast because they will encounter school crossings or pedestrians along the way.
Don’t Be Aggressive and Set an Example
This is often overlooked by adult drivers, but observing non-aggressive behavior will help your children to be safe when driving. It has been reported by the Automobile Association of America that over 56% of accidents are a result of aggressive behavior when driving. As parents, you should set a good example for your children to follow.
Another area beyond distracted driving is your driving behavior when under pressure. Traffic jams and other unexpected obstacles on the road aren’t fun, especially when you’re in a hurry. How does that affect your driving? Have you ever tail-gated people? When someone overtakes you on the freeway, do you get angry and overtake in retaliation? Do you shout and swear at other drivers on the road, or even deliberately block others who may be trying to pass and overtake? Do you drive calmly, irritable, or even outright angry? How much of this has your child or teen seen over the years being in the car with you? And if they’ve seen a lot, do you want them to integrate these kinds of driving habits into their driving style?
Ultimately, as a parent, you may not have ever given it much thought, but your style and temperament of driving have been influencing your children in some way all these years since they’ve been in a car with you. What kind of influence has it been? Do you hope that your children drive as carefully, calmly, and considerately as you, or are you now worried that on the road, you may end up hating your children even more than other drivers because they drive as aggressively or distractedly as you do?
One thing you can do to mitigate any negative influences you may have is to ensure that they get the right education. Drivers ed classes and online traffic schools are different ways to ensure that when your teen learns to drive, they only pick up good habits and techniques.