My son took driving classes this past winter and received his learner’s permit in January. Since we live in the Northeast and have snow, sleet, and slush almost once a week from November into April, it wasn’t the ideal time for me to give up my driver’s seat to my teenage son.
But, in order for my son to get his license, our state has a 60-hour driving requirement he needs to complete. We needed to get a jump on his harsh weather training while his driving lessons were still fresh in his mind.
My anxiety peaks when the weather or roads aren’t perfect, of course, but I ignored my urge to tell him I’d do the driving in the snow, rain, after dark, or if it’s a cold morning and there may be black ice on the roads.
To prepare him, I allowed him to drive under decent road conditions to get a feel for the way he merges onto a highway, comes to a stop, uses his blinker, and how fast he accelerates before I let him drive in less than ideal weather conditions.
The goal wasn’t to endanger other people (or ourselves), but I had to let go of my hesitation and force myself to teach him to drive on all different conditions. I have the white knuckles (and high blood pressure) to prove it.
I want him to have the experience needed before he gets his driver’s license and he is off driving on his own without a mother who is two feet away from him directing him along the way.
We live in a state where they don’t shut towns down if there is a blizzard, our kids go to school if we are getting a few inches of snow, and the roads are a mess almost half of the year. His driving skills need to match our weather conditions.
He’s never going to improve at navigating a less than perfect commute if he doesn’t learn how to drive in it.
This doesn’t mean I grab the keys during a blizzard and tell him we need to take a 30-mile drive and hope for the best, of course. It does mean, however, I’ve had him drive after dark every time there is an opportunity, or if the weather is messy, but not so bad that they are expected to go to school, or he would be expected to report into work.
In Maine, all students need 10 hours of driving after dark as a requirement to get their license, but what about accumulated hours in the rain or snow?
They need to get a feel for what the roads are like, how other people drive, and build their confidence to drive in all types of weather before they get their driver’s license.
While it’s not the most fun I’ve ever had as a parent, I feel so much better about the experience he is getting behind the wheel than if he never got a chance to drive in dicey weather. I’m not above continuing to teach him after he gets his license, but I’d rather not put off the inevitable.
Besides, the last thing I want is for him to join the real world then freeze every time he has to go to a class or work when it’s slippery outside.
Teenagers think they know more than their parents, and that they are invincible. But more than that, they don’t have the instincts that older drivers have developed. Like knowing when to start braking if the roads are wet or slippery, or how to gain control of the car if they start to slip around, or what speed to go over wet roads to avoid hydroplaning.
In order to keep themselves, and other drivers on the road safe, teens not only need to know how to do that, they need to experience hazardous driving conditions more than a few times before they really get the hang of driving.
I’d rather have my son get into a sticky situation, or better yet, have me help him prevent one because I’m sitting next to him talking him through the road hazard.
I’ll take the extra gray hair and increased heart rate now instead of having him pass his driver’s test and feeling like he’s not experienced enough to drive the wind, rain, or snow thank you very much.