Smooth Ride

Teaching your child how to drive is no easy task. Senior editor Anne Dingus offers ten tips to make your assignment successful—and enjoyable.

THINK OF IT AS GAINING a free chauffeur. The prospect of your child acquiring his or her driver’s license is alarming, yes, but it’s also inevitable. Just as little Sissy will get her first job and young Bubba will suffer his first heartbreak, so too will they soon be piloting a large piece of metal down crowded roads at high speed.

One thing can make it easier for Mom or Dad to accept: Teach them yourself—that way you maximize the chance they’ll hit the road safely and minimize the chance they’ll hit anything else. The one-on-one instruction of parent-taught driver’s education means kids learn more and learn faster, and you, the teacher, will know when they’re really ready to go it alone. National studies have shown that teenage drivers who are parent-taught have far fewer accidents than do those who take good ol’ driver’s ed in school or at a private facility. By teaching your own teen to drive, you also can rack up some points in the family-togetherness department, and—let’s face it—most longtime drivers can use a refresher course. To that end, I offer a few tips to help both instructor and student get up to speed on driver’s ed in Texas.

1. Register with the DPS. To insure your child actually receives that coveted learner’s permit, you must obtain the Department of Public Safety’s Parent-Taught Driver Education Packet. (For details, call your local DPS office, or refer to the agency’s easy-to-navigate Web site, txdps.state.tx.us.) You have to write off by snail mail for this information—no exceptions, y’all—and wait as much as a month for it to arrive. The packet costs $20, explains different options available, and contains essential forms such as a driver’s license application. The DPS packet also includes the all-important driver’s handbook, a mini-textbook that teens must pore over to learn things like what that squiggly black arrow means and how fast can you drive

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