Parent’s Corner

Driving Between the Lines

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I am about four months into teaching my teenager how to drive, and she still really struggled, until recently, with driving squarely in the middle of her lane. She could usually stay in her lane, mostly, but she was rarely, if ever, in the middle of that lane. I would think it had gotten a little bit better and then I’d hear myself saying something crazy like, “Do you feel those bumps we’re going over?” as we hit every little white reflector for about half a mile down the road between our lane and the one to the right of us. I would wait as long as possible to point it out if no one else was on the road, thinking any second she was going to try to correct it, but she just seemed to ignore it. Was she doing it to mess with me?

I first noticed it when we were practically driving in the gutters. She always hugged the right side of her lane, never the left, which I guess was good when oncoming traffic was involved, but when we were moving down the road to her high school at 45 miles per hour I found myself bracing for the impact and the potential flipping of the car. I mean, that could happen, right?

Last week my daughter was reading her driving materials and stopped to read a paragraph of it out loud to me. The topic was something about how parents tend to overestimate their teen’s ability to drive well. She snickered. “You are not quite there yet, Mom.” She claims that I’m really nervous and scared the whole drive. That might be true, but it wouldn’t be if she would just drive down the middle of the lane.

A couple weeks ago I was catching up with some mom friends who are also teaching their teens to drive. One said that staying in one lane was a problem, but after a couple months it just went away and her daughter got the hang of it. Another mom told me that it was a huge problem for her daughter so they took her to the eye doctor. It turned out she had an astigmatism that interfered with depth perception and that once they got her in glasses the problem was instantly solved! Hmmmm.

I finally took my daughter to her first vision appointment ever. It was weird because I was kind of hoping that vision was the problem, easily fixed with glasses, but I was also hoping it wasn’t. I mean, who wishes vision problems on her children? In the end, the outcome was a relief of sorts. She has 20/30 vision which is pretty good and can be corrected with a light prescription for driving, but there is nothing going on, vision-wise, that is making her hug the right side of her lane.

After a little research, I found out that sometimes new drivers tend to hug the right side of the lane because they try to center themselves in the lane, not the car. Interesting. I’ve also started making her look further up the road while she drives. I took for granted that she would do this while driving because it is something she definitely does when riding her mountain bike. I’ve also angled the side mirrors down a bit so she can peek at where she is in her lane and that seems to have helped a bit too.

Now that she’s consistently in the middle of her lane she’s insisting on driving on the freeway. I don’t know if I’m ready for that …

My Daughter’s First Drive With DriveBetter

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When I first heard about DriveBetter I read all about it. Then I explained it to my kids. “Isn’t this cool? It tells you where you made mistakes in your driving. You can look at it after your drive and see how you did.” I got very little reaction.

My 15-year-old got her permit three months ago and despite summer vacation, we’ve had few opportunities to get her behind the wheel. When the DriveBetter hardware arrived I plugged it into my car and announced, “Ok, I think it’s set! Want to go for a drive and see how it works?”

The first words out of her mouth were, “Why? So you can track me?”

First of all, she’s 15. She has to ride in the car with me or another adult. She’s learning. She’s being “tracked” with or without DriveBetter.

Second of all, she’s glued to her phone. I have plenty of ways that I could track her if I wanted. And if I did want to track her I would not announce it to her.

So I explained it to her again and told her I would drive around with it for a while so we could “track” my driving and she could see what it was all about before I subjected her to it.

Turns out it’s painless. I forgot it was even in the car. I went from errand to errand for a couple days and then opened the app to see how I was doing. Whoa! I wondered if there was a way I could erase some of my driving before I showed my teen how my driving was graded. I tended to stay just above the speed limit frequently, and apparently, I made a few sudden stops. Each drive gives you a score between 1 and 5. I’m happy to report most of my drives were 5s, with a 1.6 tucked in there to remind me to take my time the next time I have to pick both kids up from school.

Then it rained. And rained. And rained. I thought I would never get her behind the wheel again.

Finally, this weekend, my girl got behind the wheel bright and early on a Saturday morning. She drove on familiar roads, crossed a highway, and then merged in light traffic on Southwest Parkway before reaching our destination. Her score: A wonderful 4.7.

It was fun looking at the trip together and figuring at where she might have lost the .3 points. At the end of that drive, she wasn’t weirded out by the app or the fact that it pointed out mistakes. She thought it was cool like I did.

We didn’t get another chance to get her behind the wheel all weekend, but we’re both looking forward to the next drive. Maybe this will help reinforce good driving habits for both of us, especially knowing that we’re BOTH going to be seeing the scores the next time I open the app.