Parent Takes Passenger Seat to Teach Son Good Driving Habits

In honor of National Teen Driver Safety Week in October, we caught up with one of our own seasoned professionals who has had his fair share of experience teaching teens how to drive.

Matt Clift, manager of one of the Les Schwab Tire Centers in Clovis, Calif., has already taught his two oldest daughters how to stay safe when behind the wheel. Now he’s hitting the road with his youngest driver, Lane, who recently earned his learner’s permit

Q. Matt, what made you decide that you and Lane should practice for a driver’s license together rather than using a professional driving school?
Matt: In California, you have to have at least six hours of professional drivers’ school, so we will be doing both. After the first 1-hour lesson behind the wheel at a school, Lane will be able to drive with his mom and me. He has his permit for six months, so between the driving school and practicing with us, he should be ready to go.

I feel that a driving school is important to teach him the rules of the road; we sent our last two drivers to a school that was run by retired police officers. But at the same time, I think that driving with us will put him in more real-life, day-to-day situations.

Q: Do you enjoy driving?
Matt: I love to drive. In fact, when we go on long trips, I would rather drive than fly. You get to see so much more when you can stop in little towns along the way. Sometimes I just drive up in the hills and explore.

Q. Did you also learn to drive from a parent?
Matt: I learned how to drive from my grandpa in an old stick shift Chevy truck. He would take (me) to some fields north of the small town I grew up in and let me drive around on the dirt roads. The first time (I drove) on a paved road, (I) was with my other grandpa. I did not have my license yet, but he said he was too tired to drive, so I drove us home. It was a 3-hour drive.

Q. Lane, as a beginner, what skill do you think will be most difficult to learn?
Lane: Probably driving on the highway, learning how to merge and being able to judge the other cars’ speed as I am driving in heavy traffic.

Q. What are you most looking forward to or what are you most nervous about?
Lane: I’m looking forward to being able to drive to school and to drive around with my friends. I’m nervous, though, about driving downtown with all of the one-way streets and impatient drivers.

Q. Do you both like the same kinds of cars?
Lane: We do like a lot of the same cars, but I tend to like newer sports cars while my dad leans more toward older big trucks and muscle cars. We both like street bikes.

Q. Matt, what do you think is the best advice you’ve given all your kids as drivers?
Matt: Make sure and give the other drivers plenty of room. You never want to get into a situation where another driver either does something wrong or doesn’t see you and causes an accident. I also tell my kids to never drive aggressively. If someone is trying to merge in front of you, don’t get into a chess match with them, just let them in. It’s only one car, and you’ll get where you’re going just as fast.

Q. Lane, what was the best piece of advice you received?
Lane: That I should always pay attention to what is going on around me. You never know what the other person is thinking or trying to do, so don’t try to guess. Just give them the room to do whatever they are doing. He also taught me to walk around the car, kick the tires to make sure the tire pressure is good and that everything looks safe before I get in.

Q. Matt, where was the first place you drove when you earned your license?
Matt: I drove to school, and it was an awesome day. It made me feel like I was much more independent and proud to be able to accomplish getting my license. The first out-of-town trip I took was about a 5-hour trip each way with some friends on the weekend just to get out of town.

Q. Lane, when you earn your license, where will you go on your first independent drive?
Lane: I will probably drive back and forth to school, but I can’t wait to take a trip back to Washington state to see my sisters, my nephew and some of my old friends.

Q. What was your proudest moment when teaching your kids how to drive?
Matt: I was very proud when (my daughters) passed their driving test at the D.M.V. It was great to watch them make progress. How nervous they were their first time driving versus when they passed the test and received their license. This time around, I am looking forward to spending time with Lane and passing down what I have learned over the years. It is enjoyable one-on-one time and makes for great memories.

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