Sometimes in our school the student will not get the required 6 hours of observation time in the drivers-ed car. To get these hours the student can observe a parent's driving. When utilizing these strategies do not sacrifice safety for education purposes. Driving safely is the first goal. Don't let implementing these strategies distract you from safe driving.
Here are some strategies to make observation educational for both of you...
1. Before doing anything, ask your student to tell you what to do. Turn them into the teacher. This can include what to do when approaching your vehicle, entering your vehicle, or your *pre-drive adjustments. It can also include what to do at intersections. You might have to pull the vehicle over to discuss these situations before entering them. *Your student will have learned the correct pre-drive adjustments. The pre-drive adjustments, especially adjusting mirrors, have changed over the years. There is a good chance that the way you were taught is not the correct way of doing adjustments. Use this as an opportunity to learn something new.
2. Ask your student to identify any potential problems (risks or hazards) on the road. This is good practice for the them to keep their eyes moving. [If they know how to scan there is less chance of them scanning their cell phones.] Remember vehicle control and rules of the road are usually easy for a new driver to learn - scanning for potential problems is a skill that has to be taught and practiced constantly in order for it to become a habit. Once they see a potential problem ask them how they might avoid it and what they would do if it did happen? A potential problem can be a blindspot. See numbers 8 and 9.
3. Have them give you simple directions to a destination. When students get better at giving you clear and early directions they're actually training their brains to think in advance. This will help when they get behind the wheel because they will be less likely to space off. The directions can be 1 part, 2 parts, or 3 parts. For example...1 Part: At the stop light turn left. 2 Parts: At the stop light turn left, then turn left down the first street. 3 Parts: At the stop light turn left, then turn left down the first street, and then take a right down the next street. If it is a 2 or 3 part direction and you are at an intersection with 2 right or 2 left turn lanes - ask them which turn lane is best to avoid an unnecessary lane change after turning onto the road. The goal is reduce the amount of unnecessary lane changes and thereby simplifying driving.
4. Quiz them on markings, signs, and the Rules of the Road (laws). If you aren't sure what something means, please ask your student. Kids love teaching the "grown ups" something new and it's an opportunity to learn something new for you.
5. Have them keep a log sheet of the tailgaitors, distracted drivers (texting/talking on phones), speeders, and vehicles without headlights. Be sure to write down the time frame of this activity. This will help them become more aware of the 4 major causes of accidents: Speed, Space, Distraction, and Visibility. They can also write down the number of incomplete stops, improper turn signals, or anything else illegal or unsafe.
6. How far is an object? Most young people have trouble approximating distances. Pick an object along the roadway and ask them "how far away do you think that is?" Once they answer, tell them the current speed and ask how long it will take to get there. (Speed X 1.5 = feet traveled per second). If your student guesses an object is 150 ft away and you are traveling 35 mph, it should take roughly 3 seconds to reach the object. If it takes longer, let's say 5 seconds, then the object was around 250 feet away. This is because at 35 mph you are traveling a little over 50 feet per second. This good brain work for both of you - just don't let it distract from driving. Sometimes it helps to use real world examples when talking about distances...50 ft is half a basketball court, 100 ft is a basketball court, 300 ft is a football field. Before doing this it is best if both you refer to page 2-3 of the Idaho Driver Manual for information of feet traveled per second.
7. Look for vehicle clues that could indicate an unsafe vehicle or driver. As a parent, look at other vehicles for anything that might indicate an unsafe vehicle or a driver that may not be totally focused. This can include out of state license plates, handicap license plates, low tires, broken side mirrors, poorly secured cargo, multiple passengers, young drivers, texting drivers, or anything that catches your eye while driving. Once you notice something, ask your student "Is there anything about that car that seems unsafe?". This is a helpful habit that will keep their mind on driving and not on their cell phones.
8. Where could people be coming from? Notice I said "people", not cars or bicyclists. Students need to scan for potential people. (I usually don't do this in the city because people could basically be coming from everywhere.) This helps them learn to scan effectively. Once they identify where people could possibly be coming from, then ask them to identify the blindspot area they would not be able to see the person until the last second. See number 9 below.
9. Ask your student to identify the blind spots on the roadway. A blindspot is anything which block your view. In driver training we emphasize that visibility issues are a major factor in many wrecks. Many times students will identify a blindspot area that is far away, this is good, but they might miss a blindspot area that is much closer. This again, helps train them to keep scanning the roadway for potential problems.
10. Quiz them on street names. Knowing street names will help them make good decisions when planning routes.
11. Ask them what speed you are traveling? If they begin to answer relatively close to your speed, this is a good sign that they won't have to look at speed quite as much, which means they they'll keep their eyes on the road more.