ROAD TRIP! Parents – use a road trip as a driving exercise. Part III


Driver, Start Your Engine!

Now that you have done all the pre road trip inspections and adjustments, it’s time to fire up the engine. As the driver does this, have them inspect the dashboard as they turn the key and identify each of the lit up icons and explain them. Most importantly, have them explain what to do in an emergency situation if one of the lights goes on.

Time to Hit the Road

A good prep time for a road trip is going to be about 15 to 20 minutes before you even leave the driveway, where you will sit and go over these things with your driver. DO NOT RUSH. The highest cause of death among older teens is vehicle crashes. There may be one thing you go over that will really ring true to your teen and may make a difference. One of the important things is to LISTEN. Sure, you’re imparting information to your child but you also need to listen to them so that when they tell you what they think/know about driving, you have the chance to open some dialog.  

The Drive

When starting out the drive, don’t be too overbearing or pushy about your instructions. It is best for parents to bring along a clipboard or use your phone to make notes so that you can discuss some potentially bad habits you may notice. Don’t interrupt the driver while driving unless it is a life or death situation.

KEEP CALM during the road trip

They are going to make mistakes. That is what this is all about. The goal is for them to make their mistakes while they are driving with you so that you can catch and correct them. But do it in a constructive manner. Be patient, be kind. For a lot of families, this can be a very stressful thing. With a little effort, it can be one of the most rewarding experiences for both of you that you guys will remember forever.

Running Commentary

A great tool that is highly recommended for any road trip is what is called “Running Commentary.”  This is used by both the driver and the monitor at different times. In a nutshell, it is the person describing everything they see and their comments about it.  

What is Running Commentary?

Running Commentary is a reading of the traffic picture aloud. It is important to speak out by naming observations, interpretations, evaluations and intentions. This gets the student thinking and looking ahead before passing a particular scene or hazard.

We suggest that the monitor start out by describing the visual aspects and other things that they would pay attention to with its years of experience driving on the road. They should describe possible actions and why a driver could or should take these actions to make them understand what can be done in different situations. Any signals, signs and hazards should be pointed out and described. One of the really important things for the monitor to do is to point out other cues that they notice other drivers are doing–things that may be too subtle for a new driver to notice. For example, the monitor will point out that a driver will start checking their mirrors and surroundings before changing a lane or that a car will move over to the side of the lane before changing a lane or turning.


  • Creates awareness of problems
  • Allows for practice of decision making
  • Dramatically emphasizes number of factors to be considered
  • Reviews and reinforces prior to learning
  • Monitor knows what the student is thinking
  • Develops students ability to establish sight distance
  • Shows when to start taking action
  • Helps evaluate students progress during the road trip

The Destination

When you reach your destination the road trip lesson isn’t over until you are out of the car. They will need to park properly, which is an important skill. So until the car is off, the lesson is still going! Once it is off, take a minute to recap yourself before you hone in on your list. You don’t want to barrage your teen with all of their mistakes right off the bat. Start with some things that they did well.  Praise them for what they did right. 

But you’re going to need to go over the things they didn’t do so well, too. And this is where friction can come in. No one likes to hear that they made a mistake, so be considerate in the ways you discuss this with your teen. You might even want to wait until you are about to leave so that the visit to your destination isn’t hampered by a heated discussion.

Enjoy this time. You’re training your teen to drive. Very soon they are going to be asking for the keys and taking off by themselves so that they can start to build their own lives as young adults. You won’t see them or spending nearly as much time with or around them in the near future. Cherish this time and make this a truly memorable experience.

The Return Drive

The return drive is really important because you should have reviewed all of the things you’d like to see your driver do better. You’ve had a chance to explain what they could do better and now it’s time for them to put it in practice. Have them use Running Commentary and describe what they didn’t do so well the last time and what they have learned to proceed correctly.  

With a couple of road trips you should be able to get a real good feel for how your teen drives and also have the time to help them make any corrections you see fit. Before you know it, they are going to be taking their own road trips with their friends and then soon with a significant other and not long after that… their own families.  [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]


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