Germantown, MD,
08:00 AM

Drive 2 Survive

When parents become the students

Teens feel a mix of emotion when they first sit behind the wheel. Throughout the learning process, parents check in with teens, asking:

  • How do you feel behind the wheel?

  • How did you feel driving on the highway?

  • Are you ready to try parallel parking?

What we often forget is to ask moms and dads how they are feeling about this parenting milestone.

“My middle daughter was a lead foot and wanted to jump in with both feet – on the accelerator. She literally scared me half-to-death!” said Maryland resident Andrea Sanford. Andrea’s youngest daughter, however, was the exact opposite. “She was extremely fearful, had very little confidence, and would even pull over and simply stop driving when overwhelmed.”

Teens look up to their parents when learning to drive. A 2012 State Farm® Harris Survey found 69 percent of teens trust their parents the most when it comes to driving information. In contrast, less than half of parents were well prepared to teach driving. In the majority of cases, both parents and teens reported that at best, parents were only somewhat prepared to teach their teens to drive.

As the main driving resource for teens, parents need to be equipped with the right tools to do the job. Beyond just following the rules of the road and practicing safe driving behaviors, parents must also feel comfortable in the role of teacher.

“In retrospect, I wish there was someone who could have trained me to better prepare them (their teenage kids) for the responsibilities and dangers of driving,” said Andrea.

Eliminating Driver Error by Teaching the Teacher

To help parents during this important time in their teen’s lives, one Maryland non-profit is launching a course for parents. “We’ve taught teens how to drive for 12 years,” said Drive2Survive Founder, Eric Espinosa. “But there isn’t a similar course to help parents through this milestone.”

Drive2Survive aims to reduce automobile crashes and fatalities by reducing driver error through training, education, research and advocacy.

Through a grant, State Farm helps teens with the cost to participate in the Drive2Survive program. The relationship grew as Drive2Survive participated in Celebrate My Drive, a teen driver safety initiative sponsored by State Farm.

“This program looks to address lack of skill and experience, a major component in many teen crashes,” said State Farm Public Affairs Specialist Anna Bryant. “Programs such as this give teens additional information to help them become better and safer drivers.”

“Most accidents are not accidents,” says Eric. “They are crashes caused by driver error and distractions/or neglect in training.”

To reduce errors and distractions, young drivers must learn how to react in emergencies where “normal” driving skills aren’t enough.

Explaining the need for the program, Eric recalls, “After having three teens attend the class after almost getting into a serious crash with their family members in the car, a light bulb went off.”

To address this issue, Drive2Survive created a class especially for parents. The class will walk parents through a variety of steps, including how to teach teens proper form, the impact of weight and balance and its effect on traction and control, and other safe driving behaviors.

The final exam will consist of driving on a road course with a new teen-driver that is not their own. The test will allow parents to test their new skills under the watchful eyes of a staff instructor.

“But we can’t teach everything during our one-day class. It requires parents continue to follow up on the skills teens learn to reinforce potentially lifesaving behaviors, “ says Eric.

Keeping the Conversation Going

The class is a great platform to start the dialogue between teens and parents about the driving journey. After teens receive their license, there is a sharp decline in parent and teen interactions about driving despite the fact the first year after receiving a license brings the highest lifetime crash risk. Teens who have just a learner’s permit are two times more likely than teens with licenses to report they talk very often with their parents about driving.(46% to 22%).

One way parents can continue the conversation is through the State Farm Road Trips® tool. This “one-stop shop” provides parents with safe driving teaching techniques in manageable pieces. The web-based tool helps parents build practice drives and log their teen’s progress.

Whether parents take a class or utilize an online tool, it’s important parents teach teens the skills necessary to help them handle many of the situations they might face while driving.

“It was my job as her parent to protect her by ensuring she would gain the skills and experience necessary to help her survive,” said Andrea. “The information and experience she received gave her confidence and assured me that I’ve prepared her as much as possible.”