Your Teenage Daughter* Is Learning To Drive… The Conversation You Need To Have
So you’ve got your licence – you go, girl! It’s not that long (from Mum and Dad’s point of view) that you were just heading off to school for the first time, so it definitely won’t be long until you will be on your P-plates and really getting some independence.
During this learner licence phase, we’re going to get the basics in place so you become a competent driver who can hold her head up high and won’t give berks an excuse to sneer about women drivers. OK, there will always be some berks who do this, but if you know what you’re doing and you actually are driving well, you can ignore them (and don’t respond – the rule about not feeding the trolls applies to real life as well as on social media).
For a start, I don’t care if your friends are learning to drive in a vehicle with automatic transmission, blind spot monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, cameras and all the rest of it. You won’t be. If you learn to drive on a vehicle that has all the driver aids out there, you won’t learn how to do it for yourself and cope when you buy your first car… which will probably be some second-hand thing from the 1990s or early 2000s that isn’t quite as likely to have any of these things. Yes, this means you will be doing heaps of gear changes up and down the street and the boys from school may see you when you get it wrong… and you will get it wrong occasionally. If they laugh at you, they’re not the sort of guy you want to impress, so just brush them off. Doing it the hard way now will mean that you don’t look or act like a dumb bimbo later.
Before you get behind the wheel, you will hand your cellphone over and remove those high heels. Trainers are fine, but you can’t drive properly in heels. If your outfit requires heels, then change when you get to your destination and don’t wear them when you’re driving. Ditch the flip-flops as well, as they can flip and flop into nasty places, like under the brake pedal so you can’t apply it properly.
Adjust the mirror before you start driving. You should be able to see the road behind you; it’s not for checking your lip gloss.
As well as learning all the basics about driving a car, you are also going to learn a few maintenance basics.
It’s a nasty fact, but there are a few mechanics and similar types who try to rip off women on the grounds that they don’t know anything about mechanics. The more you know about your car and the more you can do yourself, the less likely you are to be ripped off. You will also learn how to change a tyre. If you do get a puncture on a lonely road (or anywhere, really), you want to be the one holding the big heavy metal wheel jack even (or especially) if some guy comes along and offers to help. He may be genuinely trying to help a damsel in distress or he may see you as a vulnerable target. If you have a flat tyre and a guy pulls up and offers to do it for you, smile nicely and tell him “I got it – thanks for the offer.” And keep hold of that jack and your phone just in case he’s a creep.
When the time comes for you to get your P-plates, don’t take it for granted that you’ll be just able to use the family car Shakira-style (whenever and wherever – although you probably think this song is horribly old-fashioned and so yesterday). With privilege comes responsibility, so if you do get the use of our car, you’ll be helping us out either with money for fuel or running errands. We will also be particularly tough on you keeping to the conditions of your licence.
As you learn to drive and start loving it, you may start thinking about what you’d like as a car of your own. Never let anybody tell you that girls don’t drive big bush-bashing 4x4s and vans, or that little hatchbacks are girlie cars. Although cars have names like Megane, Mercedes, Clio and Octavia , they don’t have gender and you can drive what you want to. In any colour you want. In spite of what some people tell you, there is no such thing as a woman’s car or a man’s car. It’s not like bikes, where seat style and frame style make things awkward for skirts or knackers. Cars are built for all humans.
Now grab those keys and let’s get driving!
* The majority of the advice in this article applies to guys as well (although the bits about lip gloss and high heels may not be applicable). It’s just that my daughter did just get her learner’s licence last week. Tailor it to your situation as applicable.