Distracted Driving

Distraction Drama Dismay

The twitchier I get, the more inventive I get.

What with the youngest dude, Hyper Lad, starting to get behind the wheel now that he’s 15, I’m probably more twitchy then I’ve ever been when I consider having to teach this guy how to drive.

I feel like one of those short-timers from any movie about Vietnam. As the date they will rotate home gets closer and closer, they get more and more paranoid about something happening to them before they get out.

I’ve made it through teaching two other young dudes how to drive, but now that the last one is come around, I’m starting to freak out more than I ever have before.

Fortunately for me, I actually have made it through two other driving debuts so I do have a couple of tricks in my bag.

The first big trick in the bag is repetition, which is the trick I take out of the bag first. This is one trick I have been using for a long time with things like texting. Knowing I have/had three sponges sitting behind me, I make sure to loudly and often refer to the fact that I got a text, but can’t read it because I was driving. Or I will ask one of them to read aloud the text and respond.

They have heard again and again, seen again and again and again, that they should not text and drive. I get the feeling that they’re more likely than not to follow in those footsteps, if only to avoid having to hear me talk about it again and again and again and again. . .

Since the spawn couldn’t see my face while I was driving and they riding, I made sure to continually talk about how I was keeping my eyes on the road even when I had to change the radio or something similar. I recommend them getting to know their car/dashboard well enough that they don’t have to look to hit the radio buttons.

While this next step might be corny, I think it really does work. Before I allowed any of the young dudes to drive on their own, I sat them down and went over point by point exactly what was expected of them. For each point, they had to tell me specifically that they would not or would do that point. You also can do the same thing in a written contract they must sign.

Include repercussions that will occur to the young driver should he or she violate the terms of the promise/agreement. And enforce those terms.

While not necessarily distracting, one thing I have made sure they know is something that my mom made me understand. If I was ever out with friends and either I, as driver, or my friend, as driver, had been drinking, I could call my mom and she would pick everyone up, no matter the time, and never say another word about it.

I only ever called her once, but she was true to her word. I’ve made sure that my young dudes understand that as well. If there is any sign of impairment, they always know they have a free, safe ride without any sort of blowback for them. Knowing that we trust them enough that we’ll offer that kind of thing, actually helps them to do the right thing because they want to live up to that trust.

Or at least that was how I felt when I was on the other end of the bargain.

In North Carolina, new drivers aren’t allowed to stuff the car with their friends. Neither are new drivers with the last name of Jones, who live in Casa de Dude. We make it a point for our young dudes to understand that their first job as drivers is to make their way from Point A to Point B safely. Bringing along anyone else is way, way down the list.

Friends in the car can be even more distracting than driving by a 10-car pile-up of a circus truck, a shipment from a marble factory and a funeral home for mimes.

The two big takeaways from this would have to be make sure you model good driving behavior and communicate with your neophyte driver, which means both of you talk and both of you listen.

Distraction starts behind the eyeballs. Fortunately, safety does as well, so make sure there’s more room for safety.

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