Ready for a kinder, gentler driver's ed?

There is nothing more terrifying than your kid piloting a few thousand pounds of steel at up to 65 mph. (Or more, when you’re not around.) That’s why we think a lot of you will totally get where Tom Bodett’s coming from in his latest blog post.

Tom’s writing about a new philosophy in drivers’ ed that advocates motivating young drivers with kindness, rather than classic, time-honored fear. (You can listen to it right here, courtesy of our pals at NPR.) Tom, who already taught one teen to drive and is now confronted with the horrifying prospect of teaching two more, wonders if he should embrace it. Trouble is, he’s not sure if he can respond to yet another dented fender with, “You know it’s been nice getting to know Hal at the body shop. We should have him to dinner.”

What you think -- are you ready for a kinder, gentler driver's ed? A bold new era of parents being kind and supportive to their kids, and no one freaking out?

If you’ve ever taught a kid to drive, or suffered through your parent’s barbaric methodologies, we want to know: What was it like? Are you still on speaking terms? Let us know -- and share your teaching-to-drive stories right here... no matter which of the front seats you were occupying.

"The teen driver whisperer"
Sounds great, I’m game.

Already taught two teens who are now 35 & 29. My dad taught my 35 year old daughter the manual transmission with a whisperer style and she absolutely loved her old Ranger pickup standard so much that after she rolled it and the replacement was an automatic, she was actually dismayed at the loss of her stick shift.

Second family of sister-in-law’s grand kids who are currently 7,9, and 12teen will get the next go’round soon.
I have already put the near 13 year old new daughter behind the wheel just to familiarize her with the machines. With my recent heart problems and my wife’s eyesight there’s a slim probability of needing an emergency driver sooner than 911 response. We’ve been talking about driving functions for a year now already.
– You would not believe how incredibly well she did the very first time in the Expedition ! ( Yes , a boat…08 expedition EL ) One could swear she’d spent hours already practicing. She had it correctly on her side of the un-marked rural road, had a good slow speed for a novice, braked well and took the corners with ease.
The problem with her will be reining her in when it’s truly time to drive.

Then there’s all the laws and other technical knowledge that comes with truly learning to drive and hopefully the whisperer technique will work best here.

I started teaching my girls to drive when they were 6-7 years old. They started with the boat. Then the dune buggy and tractor. By the time there were 10 they were pretty good. My oldest could drive my road bike with me on the back at age 12. The youngest is now a pretty good off roader. There both in their 30’s now and can drive anything. I watched with pride when the oldest drove her great grandfather home from the woods. She was driving the tractor pulling a trailer loaded with wood. She was 13 at the time.

The most fun with them was when I got a old beater car. I took them out to a field and showed them how to dough nuts! I then would put the in a slide and show them how to get it back under control. After a few try’s they started doing good at it.

I think it does not matter how you teach them as long as you start them at leased a few years before the drivers Ed class starts. That way its not so new to them. I look back at the kids I grew up with and the ones who like me learned to drive at a young age. We were the ones who did not have accidents in the first few years of driving. I had two good friends killed their first year they drove. Both died because of a lack of skills. Their parents would not let them drive till drivers Ed class. Then after that it was, here are the keys, see you.

I can say something about this from the kid’s perspective. When I was 14 or 15 or so, my dad would let me drive (always with him in the ca on country backroads, 25 mph dirt roads and the like, with little to no other traffic. Mostly it was roads going through orchards, and the only other traffic was farmers driving slow moving tractors was about all you had to contend with.

We’d be going down one of these roads on the way to somewhere or the other and he’d say “You wanna drive?”, and of course I’d say “sure”. Then he’d pull over and let me drive. He had a hard time holding his tongue as I grinded the gears and forgot to remove the parking brake and all the things new drivers do, but for the most part he would just sit there and let me do my thing. One time I veered too far to the right for some reason and ran over a big bump on the shoulder of the road, so he told me to “stop” and he walked me back down the road the way we had come from, showing me step by step the wheel tracks (in the dirt road) and how I’d veered at just the right spot to hit the bump at the worse possible spot. It was pretty revealing and a good lesson to always pay attention. I still remember in fact. (I still have no idea why I did that! It might be like when I ride my Mtn bike these days, if I stare at a rock, I am almost sure to run over it and get thrown off the bike. I have learned the hard way when Mt Biking to always look at the path where you want to go, not at obstacles you want to avoid.)

By the time I took the driver’s education classes, I already knew how to drive, and had no problem. My dad didn’t like the way the instructors told me how to make a left hand turn, so he re-learned me on that topic.

Not sure it this all helps or is even applicable in these modern days where the biggest problem seems to be distracted driving, but it all worked out for me.

George, you bring up a good point that most people don;t realize; your bike and your car follow your eyes. Look where you want to go, not at what you want to avoid. We used to call it “picking a line”. The tendency for your cehicle to follow your eyes is that reason rubberneckers so often veer toward an accident.

I, in conjunction with driver’s ed, taught both my kids the MECHANICS of driving. I alone taught them to THINK while they drive. I taught them to look well ahead, to anticipate, to expect others to do dumb things and how to avoid letting those dumb things cause them to be involved in a crash. And the rules are simple;
(1) look well ahead of where you are
(2) leave plenty of room between yourself and everyone else.
(3) expect dumb. If you see a driver stopped at a stopsign at am intersection you’re approaching, be prepared for him to rurn the stopsign and pull out in front of you. If you see someone in the oncoming lane with his left directional on, and you too are planning a left hand turn, expect him to go straight and don;t make a left in front of him until you actually see him turn the steering wheel.
(4) try to make eye contact with the other drivers.
(5) don;t be afraid to communicate with the other drivers. Wave them in front of you, blink your highbeams to tell them that you see them and are yielding the right of way, tap the horn if you think they might not see you and might do something that will put you in a dangerous situation.

I used to tell my daughter that every time she’d go out she’d see somebody do something stupid that could involve her in an accident. Every drive is an opportunity for a crash. Ironically, being prepared to avoid crashes is what will keep her out of crashes.

My driver’s ed teacher, Tom Weaver, who was the football coach at my high school, was one of the best teachers I ever had. The first thing he did was teach us how to check the oil and change a tire (bear in mind the three of us were all girls). He also said one of the smartest things anyone has ever said to me: “Always assume the other driver will do the stupidest thing possible.” I have lost count of the number of accidents I avoided by following his advice!

My sister is 4 years older than me and I remember when she had her driver’s permit must have been 1959 or so, I would have been about 11, we were on the back roads of Wisconsin and my Dad let her drive. He was co pilot, I was in the back seat. No seat belts in those days in our 58 Chevy wagon. Sister always did drive a little fast and was taking the curves at a pretty good clip. My Dad got so nervous he kept saying “go faster” “go faster” which she did. He meant go slower. She must have been doing 65 or so on the curves. Good thing it was a 6 cyl or we’d all be dead.

When I taught my son to drive, after spending time on the lawn mower, we went out to the FIL’s farm and practiced there. Starting, stopping, backing, going forward, etc. Pretty painless and wasn’t much to hit.

My father let me drive the lawnmower for practice too, but the one he bought didn’t have any brakes, and we lived on a large hill.