Top 10 Lessons I Learned Teaching My Daughter to Drive

So my daughter got her driver’s license today after many months of practice. (You can find reflections on that practice in a post from last March here.) In recent weeks, with the basics well in hand, I have placed a heavy emphasis on the finer points of the enterprise, and, considering all the verve and occasional vituperation of her teenagehood, she has been a rather surprisingly dutiful student.

We might consider these last weeks before Exam Day a kind of Dad’s Finishing School To Become a Truly Excellent Driver (and Person).

The other point sinking in here is more for me than for her: that one never learns anything as well as when one has to teach it. And that learning anything in depth always carries within it the seeds of learning about Much Larger Matters.

So herein are the Top 10 Things Dad Learned (or was at least reminded of again) from all his teaching.


1. Pay close, close attention at all times. This rule is the foundation of all the other rules. You can’t perform the others successfully unless you get this one down.


2. Consider everyone around you. Be kind and courteous to all you meet because your life, in many untold ways, is in their hands.


3. Always be deferential to cyclists and pedestrians. They’re small and defenseless against you, so always give them the benefit of every doubt.


4. Expect the unexpected, because it happens all the time, without fail. (Just as you expected…)


5. Be quick to forgive, because others will frequently do stupid things, as will you. Usually because they haven’t attended to Rule # 1, nor, often and unfortunately enough, to Rule #2 either.


6. Don’t go too fast. You won’t really gain much, you won’t have enough time to react if there’s a problem, and you’ll miss all the good scenery along the way.


7. When making a U-Turn, swing wide. Gain the maximum possible latitude at all times, because maneuvering room is precious, and always a good thing.


8. When there’s a stop ahead, get off the gas early and roll into it with ease. Be smooth. Hurrying up to a stop makes no sense at all.


9. When pulling into a parking space, attend closely to subtle turns of the wheel. This is strange, I know, because you’re going very slowly and barely turning your wheel, but it’s amazing how subtle changes in direction—even at the very last moment!—make a huge difference in reaching your goal of a straight and tidy park.


10. When in reverse, recede with caution, and keep it short. Sometimes going backwards is necessary and it can even help get you out of a jam, but it’s unnatural and uncomfortable, and meant only for very short distances. Driving is all about going relentlessly forward.


And, dear daughter, since you did so well in helping me learn these lessons, a bonus 11th lesson for your own consideration through all the rest of the long driving years ahead of you—and even for times when you’re not driving at all:

11. At the end of your drive, consider the places you’ve seen! Take a moment to appreciate where your car has been able to take you. Keep it well-fed and clean, with regular maintenance, and thank it for all it does on your behalf.


And so out you go, into the yonder of all that awaits, all the horizons you have yet to observe and explore—as you were exploring last week when driving me west toward the horizon on Highway 12:

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7 comments to Top 10 Lessons I Learned Teaching My Daughter to Drive

  • Moon Malin  says:

    All Excellent points, and in today’s world, even more important than when we were learning how to drive. I learned on a 54 Plymouth, from my 17 year old sister (these days one needs a competent, adult teacher). The Plymo had a “three on the tree” stick, which was difficult, at the best of times, to shift, and in the worst of times, impossible. There were no air bags, seat belts, questionable brakes, semi-bald tires, and, of course, an inattentive older sister in the passenger seat. It is an absolute miracle I am here today. So, congratulations to your daughter…her driving career has an excellent beginning, for which I’m sure she is thankful (what is the correct font for sarcasm???)

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Moon, I can’t but laugh at the thought of a 17-year-old teaching a younger brother to drive. It’s truly a wonder it didn’t devolve to homicidal rage on one, the other or both your parts. They’d put her under arrest for trying it today. Come to think of it, that’s one among multiple offenses we’d be facing the pokey for if we didn’t happen to grow up in the Dark Ages as we did. Thanks for sharing this priceless imagery. Also: I know there’s a font called “Zap Dingbat,” but not sure about it reflecting sarcasm. I’ll have to get back to you on that…

  • Kevin Feldman  says:

    A major KUDOS to your dear daughter Mr Hidas! I would add one seriously helpful tip as a fellow road warrior of many K per year – don’t trust your mirrors, crank that head around and check by actually looking, even the new cars (I drive a 2015 and still check!) with fancy mini-mirrors embedded within the larger ones… I can relate to Moon too – I learned how to drive on a “3 on the tree” stick – ’62 Rambler Ambassador – a boat cleverly disguised as a car – but took the test in my Aunt’s 56 Ford automatic – came home (Seattle – many hills) – got my parents car and immediately got into major trouble trying to go up the fist hill around the corner from our house in my zeal/panic as a newly minted fool hearty 16 yr old driver!

    • Moon Malin  says:

      Love the Rambler…I also had to drive a 54 Ford, a 55 chevy (not the cool, Nomad, but a real pile of crap), before I finally settled into my “Dream Car”, affectionately called the “Moon Wagon”: a 57 Ford Station Wagon, painted by Earl Scheib a hideous Red.

  • Andrew Hidas  says:

    Most excellent point, Mr. Feldman! Complete oversight on my part, given that she heard “Are you scanning your mirrors?” from me at least as often as anything else I said over the months, and when she’s ready to change lanes or make a right turn, “Take another look over your shoulder!” (She’s way habituated on this last point, and does a fine neck swivel.)

    So here it is, sliding in at #11 and bumping the current #11 to its rightful place at #12:
    “Make friends with your mirrors, and always give a last look over your shoulder before changing lanes. It’s important to know where you’ve been, and its influence on where you are right now.”

  • joan voight (@shapelygrape)  says:

    Love the lessons Andrew, and I don’t give a hoot about driving.
    “Swing wide”…. no kidding. Excellent advice.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      So glad you noted that, Joan. It was the most striking point of all over the months—how she most always cut corners too closely when making a U-turn or heading into a diagonal parking spot, how she never gained enough ground initially by going as far as possible to the opposite curb or parking spot so she could position herself to best advantage. And oh, how the metaphors abound on that matter!

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