Driving instructors

What happens when parents become the driving instructors on Long Island

WWhen the pandemic struck, it put a red light on the road driving lessons offered as part of the driving lessons, where typically three or four teenage students in a car took turns behind the wheel under the supervision of a professional instructor. .

While the classroom portion of training is still offered virtually, the practical applications – K-turns, parallel parking, highway mergers – must be taken care of by a sometimes reluctant replacement: mom or dad.

“Parents hate it. The fear of parents is that they will argue with their children. Sometimes they are a little offended by what you say.

Drew Biondo, director of communications at Suffolk County Community College.

Take this scenario to a stop sign described by Jennifer Dickson, 47, of Centerreach, an office manager who had to teach her son, Christopher, 17. “I asked him, ‘Did you look both ways? “Of course he said he did.” Mom’s response: “How did you look on both sides if your head wasn’t moving?”

“It was a lot of fighting, a lot of stress, I told her to slow down earlier or slow down on the turn,” she said. Luckily, all’s well that ends well, and Christopher got his license in the fall.

Surprisingly perhaps, some teens say they prefer to be taught by a parent. “We actually had a great time,” said Jacob Robinson, 17, of Melville, of driving with his mother. “I felt more relaxed in the car because he wasn’t a complete stranger.”

Plus, when Jacob was learning, the roads were less traveled because everyone was staying at home, says mom Megan Plapp, 42, chief financial officer of a financial group. “We took him on roads that would normally have been excruciating to learn,” she says, including the LIE and the Northern State Parkway.

Many parents already expected to be the only driving teachers for their children. But others enroll their children in the optional driving and road safety education course offered in high schools and colleges because they want them to learn the rules and have their first instruction led by a driver. professional.

Where Liers learned to drive

The fear of banging your head during class isn’t the only reason some parents are reluctant to resume training. “The biggest concern is teaching them properly,” Biondo says. “I’ve been driving for 43 years… I’m sure I’ve developed some habits that may not have been well practiced. You don’t want to transfer them to a young driver.”

Typically, students enroll in a driver education program to become eligible for a full driver’s license at age 17, says Lena Grasso, one of the administrators of the program offered by St. Joseph’s College. Patchogue. Without taking the course, they can receive a junior license at age 17 and have to wait until age 18 to obtain a full license.

Driver education has two parts. In weekly class meetings, students learn rules such as what a solid white line means and what a dotted line means. In addition, the high school or college may contract with a private driving school to conduct the lessons on the road in a car with an additional brake on the passenger side (so that the instructor can override any student mistakes) , explains Grasso. . Usually there are three or four students in the car at a time, and they take turns behind the wheel.

Now that parents assume the 24 hours of practical time required by the state to complete driver education, they are given tasks such as taking the child to a main road or a parallel parking lot. They must document completion in order for their child to obtain the coveted certificate to present when they take their driving test at the DMV.

“It’s scary,” says Vanessa Murphy of Selden, who works in the supply chain for a vitamin company. “You don’t have that brake to push if they’re doing something wrong. We have people around us. In a driving school car, people know there is a student driving. When you are in a regular car, they don’t see that. “

Murphy has delegated most of the teaching to her husband, Neal. “My husband is a very poor passenger so I can’t even imagine what it is. He squeezes. I can see the expression on his face when I drive,” said Murphy, expressing sympathy for his son, Adam, 16 years old.

However, some parents and administrators point out that temporary changes have advantages. Normally, some children would have to show up to school 90 minutes earlier for the drive-through portion of the lesson, says Dagoberto Artiles, deputy principal of Jericho High School, which offers driver education. Instead, “They can say ‘Mom, let’s go to Starbucks, this will be my driving lesson’ Saturday afternoon,” Artiles says.

It also costs less without the part in the car. For example, St. Joseph’s lowered its price from $ 515 to $ 300, says Grasso. Jericho High School charges $ 385 for the post-pandemic course, $ 100 less than it charged when in-car training was included, says Artiles.

Jericho High students Chloe Liu, 17, and Davesh Valagolam, 17, say they plan to pay for one-on-one instruction from a driving school instructor in addition to their parents anyway. train with them.

“By just having a one-on-one with the instructor, he can focus more on me,” Liu explains. She also feels less responsible for the safety of others while she is learning. “I don’t have to worry about the other passengers sitting behind me,” Liu said.

But the parent-led option can create funny memories between parent and child, says Artiles. “99% stress and 1% funny,” he jokes.

Averie Sanchez, 16, from Westhampton Beach, currently in driver education at Suffolk Community College, says being taught by her parents felt safer and more beneficial because she was in a familiar car and because she trusted them. It was worth all the downsides, she said. “They were a bit more strict on some things, like if you make a turn a bit narrower or steeper they might freak out a bit more than a driving instructor.”

Heather Campbell, 42, from Islip Terrace, isn’t looking forward to starting training with her daughter, Naomi, who turns 16 on February 1, but it’s not because of what her daughter might be doing, she says. “We tried it alone with our son, and it wasn’t fun. It was horrible. I made him nervous, I made him worse. The poor kid has to take care of me. I’m the problem. “