By Alex Perdikis
If you have a teen driver in your family, or will soon, sit down and take a deep breath. Now is not the time to panic. Parents everywhere survive this moment and you will, too. All it takes is a little fortitude.
“It’s hard to believe, but some people choose to teach teens how to drive. Thank goodness for driving instructors, though. Otherwise, it would all be on you.”
— Alex Perdikis
One thing driving instructors don’t run short on is stories to tell. Here are a few of the funny and sometimes bizarre happenings from the day in the life of a driving instructor.
It’s a Beautiful Day to Die
Instructor Mac Demere jokingly claimed those words as his motto over the course of his driving instructor career. Anyone who sits in the passenger seat next to an unskilled teenager can relate.
Demere sees this story as a cautionary tale for parents. It was the first lesson for a 15-year-old. As the teen pulled up the first stop sign, he hit the brake hard. Both driver and passenger lurched forward.
Recovering from the abrupt stop, Demere suggested a gentler approach to braking next time. Unfazed, the teen managed to brake hard no matter what Demere said or did for the next 30 minutes. Realizing the futility of continuing that day, Demere went back to the teen’s house and invited Dad into the driver’s seat.
Demere’s plan was to give Dad some pointers to help his son practice before next week’s lesson. As Dad approached the same stop sign where his son slammed on the brakes, guess what Dad did? He slammed on the brakes. Pounding the brakes was apparently a family tradition.
An Army of Jack Russells
Drivers have to be ready for anything, but driving instructors try to eliminate distractions on the first lesson. Most instructors head out to the country or find a quiet, little-used road and give first-time drivers a low-pressure experience.
With this in mind, the instructor took his young student to a quiet road. A large bush lined the road on the left, but the lane was free of traffic. “It’s the perfect starter road,” he thought.
Though a bit nervous, his young student was ready to take her first short drive. She set off and reached a speed of approximately 10 mph when three Jack Russell terriers shot out from the bush and surrounded the car, yapping away.
Seconds later, their owner jumped out from the bush as well looking very much like the Incredible Hulk. The young driver slammed the brakes; the instructor controlled the stop and, happily, everyone survived. The instructor earned a few gray hairs, though.
Pajamas and Pit Stops
After instructor Saeed arrived at a student’s home and sent a text message letting her know he was there, he was surprised when she didn’t come out. She was usually right on time.
Saeed knocked on the door of the student’s home. Her mother answered. Mom said her daughter was still in bed but would wake her up and send her out. Saeed went to the car expecting to wait at least 20 minutes.
Instead, Saeed’s student came out immediately — in her pajamas. It was a first for Saeed, but he decided to go with the flow.
Not surprisingly, the student needed to make a stop to use the restroom before they’d gone too far. They stopped at a nearby restaurant, and the student went in. Saeed waited and waited, but she didn’t come out. He texted her. There was no answer. What could’ve happened?
She finally reappeared after 40 minutes. What was her explanation? When she dashed inside to use the restroom, she saw the guy she had a crush on eating breakfast with friends. She hid in the bathroom until he left. After all, she couldn’t let him see her that way, could she?
Tips for Parents from Driving Instructors
Driving instructors are never at a loss when it comes to stories, but they’re also a great source of tips for parents. Each state requires a minimum number of driving hours to get a license, but the more time you devote to helping your teen drive, the better driver your teen becomes.
Follow these tips from professional driving instructors:
- Stay focused: Remember, you’re sitting next to an inexperienced driver who’s in control of a very large vehicle. Focus your attention on the task at hand.
- Rest up: This one goes for both you and your teen. Don’t practice if either of you is overly tired.
- Review before leaving the driveway every single time: Pay particular attention to reviewing brake and accelerator locations. Your teen might protest, but it’s worth the trouble.
- Don’t push too hard: There’s no law that says a teen has to get a license at 16. You know your child better than anyone. If driving seems a bit too difficult or too much at this stage, don’t push.
- Practice for a reason: Don’t make the mistake of thinking that letting your child drive you on errands is practice. Set aside two hours of practice driving time per week. Spend extra time on skills your child needs to work on.
Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.