Parents can supplement driver education

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

After a few sessions in a driver-education course, many teen-age students begin to think driver education is dumb. Usually the room is crowded and hot, and all present hear the monotonous drone at the chalkboard about stopping distances. They see endless slide presentations and listen while community leaders lecture on safe habits behind the wheel of an automobile.

In an attempt to improve the situation, many families are devising instructive plans to help newly licensed teen-agers become more responsible drivers. The key to the plan is parent or guardian involvement.

''Most teen-agers completing a driver-education course are still not ready to tackle normal traffic situations,'' cautions the National Highway Safety Council. To develop good driving attitudes, coordination, and recognition of immediate driving solutions to traffic problems, the council says, beginners need additional hours of practice after the formal course work. Teens should spend this time with licensed adults before attempting any unsupervised driving.

Recommended: Got your driver's permit? Top 5 things to know about your car.

The National Congress of Parents and Teachers offers these suggestions for parents:

* Know the state driving laws regulating an automobile operator who has only a learner's permit. The learner's permit is usually issued for 60 days to a year after completion of a driver-education course.

* Check with the course instructor before following any step-by-step extra driving practices with teens. State driver-education courses require student drivers to complete satisfactorily a definite sequence before even attempting road practice or driving at night.

* Require the new family member driver to share a part of the increased insurance premium and operating expenses to balance driving privilege with automobile responsibility.

* Use good judgment on when to allow the young trainee to drive at night or in heavy traffic, when to enter and exit highways and expressways, and how to handle wet or slippery road conditions.

* Be patient, calm, and understanding with a new driver's mistakes.

* Make sure to cover the most common new-driver errors: lane changing and weaving, cutting too closely, tailgating, and poor judgment in quick-reaction situations.

For a copy of a 16-page brochure, ''How to Talk to Your Teen-ager About Drinking and Driving,'' parents and teachers can write to the Consumer Information Center, Pueblo, Colo. 81009. Ask for booklet No. 518F.

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