Do as I say, not as I do – teaching our daughter good driving habits

Habits, especially bad habits, are hard to break. I frequently tell my daughter, “It takes 21 days to break a habit.” Whether or not that’s true, I don’t know, but it sounds good and it gives her a goal to work toward. Particularly when it comes to creating good habits that will make her a responsible and productive adult.

As she nears the age of learning how to drive, I have started evaluating both my husband’s and my own driving habits. In many ways, I feel like she’s in good hands. In others, I cringe at the thought.

It’s not safety concerns that worry me most. Yes, we need to ensure she leaves her phone in her purse or puts it in the glove box while driving. Driving while sleepy is something we have discussed, and will continue to discuss, with her, because like all kids, she thinks she’s invincible. And she’s already expressed her own concerns about driving in difficult weather conditions, so whether she chooses to stay home or uses extreme caution in doing so, I think she’ll be fine.

Instead, it is some of our less-than-stellar habits that, while not unsafe, can cause needless wear on a vehicle, that I’m concerned we will pass on to her.

Why does this concern me? Because like all good daughters who head off to college someday, she will undoubtedly ignore the warning signals that her vehicle provides prior to a serious breakdown. Instead of calling or visiting a trusted auto mechanic, she will undoubtedly wait until she plans a weekend trip home. Then, when her dad asks her about it, the response will be, “Oh yeah, I meant to tell you about that.”

I know this because it’s exactly what I did – the second bad car-owner habit that I developed over time.

The first was slipping the clutch – a skill I learned very shortly after mastering the clutch well enough to get out of first gear without killing it every time. My husband is also a “clutch slipper.” While this may keep you from rolling backward when stopped on a slope, it does cause undue wear on the clutch.

This may seem irrelevant, given that most vehicles today have an automatic transmission, but we both insist our daughter learn how to drive a manual transmission. In fact, her first vehicle will likely be a manual. Many may view this as old-fashioned, but as “car folks,” we see it as a valuable skill. Plus, manuals are fun to drive.

One thing that learning how to drive a manual makes it easier to learn is engine braking. In many areas of the country, wearing out brake pads and rotors because of excessive downhill braking may not be an issue. Where we live, however, it is. So it’s important to learn the benefits of effective engine braking and, at least in my opinion, I find learning to down shift comes more naturally when driving a standard transmission.

Other things that come with being a teenager, like being too broke to fill the gas tank, are simply things that the parent of every teen driver must learn to adapt to, right?

As we listen to her talk about driving, what kind of car she wants and what kind of driver she will be, I’m sure I’m overthinking the entire situation. But then, I can’t help but wonder one thing – how on earth did my parents, or any parents ever, get through this?