My 10-year-old is years away from driving. Since she was a baby I have practiced car safety with her. It is never too early to teach your preteen car safety. As a mom I know that my preteen is watching my every move in the car. The bottom line is that I want her to be a safe driver.

For all parents, the prospect of your teen sitting behind the wheel of a car is a scary prospect. I am no exception. I want to foster good driving habits in my preteen, so that when my preteen gets her learner’s permit she is on her way to becoming a safe driver.

Seat Belt Usage for Preteens

From the time my children were babies we have talked about seatbelt use. I would tell my toddler that she needed to sit in her toddler seat with the 5-point harness in the same way that the baby needed to sit in the infant car seat. My toddler would fight the toddler car seat, but I did not give in to her. Our discussions when she was a toddler prepared her for the transition to the high back booster seat that she sat in until she was 8 years old. Once she was tall enough she started sitting in the car without the booster seat, but always with a seat belt.

In our family we have the following rules about the seatbelt.

  • All passengers in the car use a seatbelt.
  • Everyone sits in the back of the minivan/car until the age of 13 due to the passenger side airbag. My teen is on the small side, so I did not feel comfortable letting her sit in the front seat as a preteen.
  • Only one person should sit in a seat. No double belting. This is especially important when I transport a group. I will only transport as many preteens as I have seats.
  • All passengers will wear the seatbelt across the shoulder. You would be amazed at the number of preteens who I drive who will put the shoulder strap behind their backs. Preteens who drive in my car know that Miss Jill will not drive until everyone is wearing a seatbelt in the correct way.
  • When stopped at a gas station, everyone will remain seated and belted.

Inside the Car Safety for the Preteen

For the most part, my preteen is a quiet passenger. Once in a while she will get zany and crazy. I’m all for a bit of craziness, but the golden rule is “Don’t distract the driver.” When I drive groups of kids to activities, I know that the preteens will want to chat, but yelling and screaming is a no-no.

Outside the Car Safety for Preteens

Preteens are a preoccupied bunch. My preteen is no exception. When we arrive at our destination it is not unusual for my preteen to step out of the car without looking where she is going. The preteen has the following distractions: mind thinking about something else entirely, ipod plugged in to ears, and hair draped stylishly across face. I have more than once had to tell my preteen to look where she is going or else I will hold her hand. Holding your mom’s hand is a fate worse than death for the preteen. The threat worked and my daughter started paying attention in parking lots and when we arrived at friend’s houses.

Teaching Your Preteen the Rules of the Road

As I drive I will often give my preteen instruction on driving safely. Sometimes she listens and sometimes she does not. Here are some of the things I talk to her about:

  • Erratic drivers- If a driver is driving in an unsafe manner, I will let my preteen know that this person is not driving safely. I have a policy of not swearing or yelling at other drivers. I have honked my horn from time to time.
  • Directions- On the way to a familiar location I will have my preteen point out landmarks and signposts to see if my preteen is aware of where we are going. When I drive to new places, I will have my preteen read out the street signs for me.
  • Map- I will show my preteen where we are going on a map. I taught my preteen how to use for finding directions to a destination.
  • Maintenance- I am not what you would call a car maintenance expert, neither is my husband. My husband has taken the children to the auto repair place to get the oil changed on the car or the tires rotated.

The instruction and advice I give my preteen is not meant to replace a driver’s education class. I hope that when my preteen participates in a driver’s education class that she remembers all that I have told her about driving safely.

Jill Berry blogs on kids, preteens, and teens at Mom On the Run Chronicles