Dr. Larry Larsen
---- — Dear Doctor,
We have a new driver at our house. He is a great boy, but we are not certain that he should be trusted, alone, with the car. His license was something he worked for. He is a good student and seems to have values we approve of. We know you have written about this in the past. His grandmother sent us one of your columns. We would appreciate your insight.
Thank Grandma. You do well to think about the issue of the youthful driver.
Think about teens. They are a gifted lot. They are sharp, at the top of their visual motor game, and filled with energy. They are also at risk, mainly because of this period in their lives. Because they are competent in doing, they are less so in thinking. “It can’t happen to me” is their mantra. Lack of inhibition and crossing behavioral lines is at its apex. Driving is certainly included in risk-taking behavior.
Your job is to teach thinking, the thoughtful, cognitive aspects of driving a car. You do this in several ways. First, do not make driving his divine right simply because he has a license. Continue to drive with him and to praise him when he uses good judgment. Discourage taking risks. Encourage thinking about the other guy on the road.
When you do finally allow him the use of the family car, make it clear what your expectations are. Begin with short trips where you know exactly what he is doing and where he is going. Stress thinking and do it over and over. Ask him to evaluate situations on the road.
No doubt about it, this is scary for parents, even more so when we recall our early driving career!
Dr. Larry Larsen is an Andover psychologist. If you would like to ask a question, or respond to one, you can email Dr. Larry Larsen at lrryllrsn@CS.com.