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ADD and teen driving


MegP
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My teen son (17 next month) has his permit and now has to drive 50 hours with parents until he take take the tests to get his license.

 

He has ADHD (diagnosed when he was ten) and is not currently (and has not for years) taking any meds for this. It has seemed mild to me and I have not pushed him and he has not wanted meds.

 

 

Ok so in the past two weeks when he was driving with me, he-

 

1. Hit a neighbor's trash can (the passenger side mirror hit the trash can, and the trash can did not fall over.  He did not hit it hard, but still)

 

2. Almost ran a red light. The light had turned yellow and the car ahead of us continued on, but that driver was very close to the light. We were not that close at all and my son did not even break and it seemed he had no intention of stopping. I yelled for him to  stop and he slammed on his brakes and stopped. He later told me that because the car ahead of him went through the light, he thought it would be ok for him to do so as well. 

 

3. Today while driving, after having gotten take out food, he was following the car ahead of him too closely  and when the car stopped, he slammed on his brakes (he did not have to slam them on but I think he panicked) and when he did, the food went flying. Then he turned his head to look at the backseat at the food and when he did that, he took his foot off the brake and almost HIT the car in front of us. I had to again yell at him and he did slam the brakes on again and VERY NARROWLY missed hitting the car. We are talking inches.

 

So what do I do?  He is almost 17. He also has dyslexia and slow processing speed issues. I know he is not ready for his license at all.

 

Do I insist that he start taking ritalin or something like that again? I will not put him and others at risk by the way he is driving. So we need help...but I don't know where to go or what to do. 

 

 

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Well, it might be ADD plus inexperience and being nervous with Mom in the car?  

 

But to tell you the truth my oldest son (ADD/dyslexic) barely drives at all even though he got his license.  He got lost ALL.THE.TIME.  No sense of direction in the car, never could plan ahead enough to be in the right lane to make the turn, etc.  He was nervous and drove under the speed limit.  Now (he's 24) he lives in a city and walks or take the subway everywhere.  Last time he was home, he borrowed my minivan and scraped a parked car.  

 

My now 18 yo got too anxious in the car (he also is ADD, dyslexic and spectrum) when he was 16 so he waited.  He is now taking drivers lessons again and doing well.  So waiting might be good thing.  Plus, at least in our state, once you are 18 you do not have to go through all the hoops that a younger teens does.  It is much less burdensome.

 

Just my 2 cents.

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Dd18 is adhd and dyslexic. I just spent lots of extra time with her driving so she got to the point of muscle memory. We drove at least 100hrs probably more like 150plus. She is a great driver because she sees so much that is happening around her (we live in tbe city). She drives a manual car and honestly, I think the extra movement helps to keep her focused. She is always the driver for her friends. They go in to the city or on road trips quite often and it is a given in her group that she will be the driver.

Edited by Tap
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Your son sounds a lot like mine.

 

We gave him extensive practice and he did have professional driver's training. But we were still not satisfied with his abilities.  We took him to a local rehab hospital for adaptive driving lessons.  (The doctor who had done his neuropsychological evaluation had suggested he might need that.)  Adaptive driving lessons are typically for people who have had strokes and have to relearn, or people learning to drive with hand controls, etc.  But I guess more and more it is sought out by young people with ADD who need more help than the average driver.   Here is a New York Times article on the topic.

 

The occupational therapist there gave him an evaluation, then took him driving in the parking lot, and then out on the road for a bit.  He noted all the problems and gave some recommendations.  One was to get a driving app (only available for ipad, unfortunately) called Drive Focus. He said he'd seen good results with some of his other clients.  He told my son to use that app for a while, get some more practice driving with an adult, and come back for a few lessons.  

 

My kid is 19 and has his license.  He drives to and from just a few places alone - places he is familiar with and that we've practiced a lot.  We are still practicing.  Our next thing is to drive through a busy city area where there are lots of pedestrians.  That was the biggest concern to come out of the evaluation.

 

So, if you are really concerned and it seems that practice alone isn't going to help, google "adaptive driving lessons" and see what comes up for your area.   It was expensive but it has really helped with our peace of mind about his driving. 

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He just got a permit and is already driving on the road? That seems dangerous for any driver. We spent 20 or 30 hours just driving in empty church parking lots before getting out on the road. Then there was probably another twenty hours on deserted or less busy streets. Going through a drive through for food did not happen until after the license, and I was still driving with her for another month or two.

 

Your son's problems seem to be related to being thrown on the road too soon, not an ADHD problem.

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In our state, teens first take driver's ed. Then they drive for 6 hours with an instructor. Then the instructor gives them their permit. Then they drive for 50 hours with a parent and have to wait 6 months-then they can take their written and road test and get their license.

 

He has driven for 6 hours with the instructor and about 30 with us.

 

 

We went inside for food-did not go through the drive-through.

 

I do not control the process or state laws.

Edited by MegP
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I wouldn't panic. That sounds normal to me from my older two. They both had some terrible near misses. Oldest nearly killed me merging lanes after I told her not to but she was sure she could do it. My youngest totaled my Prius on her way to her driver's test last fall, and I had to realize she wasn't ready to drive alone. She ran a red light because she couldn't see it had turned red because a big truck was ahead of us. 

 

I would get through your fifty hours and see where you are at. He may just need that fifty hours. 

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Stressful I'm sure, but really not out of the ordinary for a brand new driver. He needs more time on roads with no other cars or people.

 

ETA: I would also enroll him in drivers ed and have someone else driving with him for a bit.

 

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Edited by ealp2009
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Stressful I'm sure, but really not out of the ordinary for a brand new driver. He needs more time on roads with no other cars or people.

 

ETA: I would also enroll him in drivers ed and have someone else driving with him for a bit.

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

 

You mean he should take Driver's Ed a second time?

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He just got a permit and is already driving on the road? That seems dangerous for any driver. We spent 20 or 30 hours just driving in empty church parking lots before getting out on the road. Then there was probably another twenty hours on deserted or less busy streets. Going through a drive through for food did not happen until after the license, and I was still driving with her for another month or two.

 

Your son's problems seem to be related to being thrown on the road too soon, not an ADHD problem.

Really?  20-30 hours in parking lots???

 

Even the driving schools only do very basic instructions in parking lots.  Starting, stopping, parking, cross walks, stop signs, backing up/around corner (backing out of a parking space) etc.  Maybe 1 hour, 2 if the kid is really struggling...and then on the roads.  All traffic school driving with a permit is on the roads beyond the first lesson.  

 

What can you teach for 20-30 hours in parking lots? They barely get out of first gear......

 

We did an hour in a parking lot for the first experience,  Started in a parking lot and went on to well known neighborhood roads (mas speed 25) on the second drive.  We revisited parking lots when I taught them to drive a manual transmission until they could start/stop without killing it and then back to roads.  Then revisited the parking lot the last time for parallel parking.  Total in parking lots was 3 hours maybe. 

 

 

ETA...maybe laws are different where you live.  Here, a kid takes a written test of basic safety rules and if they pass, they get a permit.  Under 18 have to take driving school to get their licences, but can have their permit and start driving on the roads with a licenced driver in the car at 15 --15 1/2 yo (circumstantial restrictions).  After 50 hours on the road (and driving school if under 18), they can take a driving test and get their actual license. 

Edited by Tap
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Meg - 

 

My son has ADHD. We didn't allow him to drive unless he was compliant with his medication. We considered it a safety issue. That said, only your son's doctor and your family can decide if meds are right for him at this time. 

 

One thing that greatly helped my son was taking a defensive driving course in addition to drivers ed. Drivers ed is required in our state to get a permit, but the defensive driving course was not. He took a class through BRAKES - it was fantastic. His confidence soared after the class and he was much more competent. BRAKES is very inexpensive compared to other defensive driving courses. They do them all around the country, I recommend that you check to see if they come near your area. My husband & son traveled for 2 1/2 hours to get to the class location and it was well worth it. 

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Meg - 

 

My son has ADHD. We didn't allow him to drive unless he was compliant with his medication. We considered it a safety issue. That said, only your son's doctor and your family can decide if meds are right for him at this time. 

 

That makes sense...but what happens when they become adults and can choose for themselves whether to take meds or not? After they move out and are on their own, they can choose to not take meds and still drive.

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My drivers ed teacher had me on the suburban roads on day 1, minor highways on day 2, and the interstate on day 3.

 

I got my license on my 17th birthday with no problem from my ADD.

 

My son is 18 and still struggling. He doesn't have ADD, but he does have spacial awareness issues. All kids are different, with or without dxs. You're ready when you're ready, not when the widely different laws say so.

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Meg - 

 

My son has ADHD. We didn't allow him to drive unless he was compliant with his medication. We considered it a safety issue. That said, only your son's doctor and your family can decide if meds are right for him at this time. 

 

One thing that greatly helped my son was taking a defensive driving course in addition to drivers ed. Drivers ed is required in our state to get a permit, but the defensive driving course was not. He took a class through BRAKES - it was fantastic. His confidence soared after the class and he was much more competent. BRAKES is very inexpensive compared to other defensive driving courses. They do them all around the country, I recommend that you check to see if they come near your area. My husband & son traveled for 2 1/2 hours to get to the class location and it was well worth it. 

 

Thanks for linking this!

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I don't have ADD and when I began driving I was just as bad if not worse.

 

He just is not ready to drive, plain and simple.

 

He needs tons more practice with an instructor or someone else in the car.

 

Looking back I think it was so irresponsible of my parents to let me drive alone.

 

He's only 17, why the hurry for him to get a license?

Edited by gingersmom
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My aspy is 18.  She has had her permit for a year and has very gradually increased driving in more populated areas.  She spent over a month driving in an empty parking lot.  Then 2 months driving around our very quiet neighborhood.  She's worked up to driving around our small town in places with wide lanes at times when there is little traffic.  She's frustrated and wants to do more, but she is just not ready for more traffic.  I'm not going to risk her safety or anybody else's.  Some people just take longer.

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No kids of driving age yet, but we have friends in this boat and kids with ADHD. 

 

This is our current plan for our kids. Lots and lots of practice--I am stunned at how quickly people put their kids on the road--busy roads. I am from a very rural area, and everyone practiced in parking lots, on long country driveways, etc. We had some parks where things were open (vs. parks with windy roads and drop-offs). and we would drive around those parks with little traffic and lots of space to mess up. I had a lot of driving under my belt before I hit big roads (we lived a long way from an interstate and even a limited access highway).

 

Things i watch already:

  • Visual skills--do they notice stuff around them and comment on it (growing up in a rural area, if you couldn't spot deer out of the corner of your eye...not good)
  • Spatial skills--do they crowd people or squeeze through places they don't really fit? My kids try to go through narrow doorways at the same time as other people, though it's better than it was. They do other stuff like this too, particularly with laundry baskets and such. 
  • What do the walls and things look like at your house--do they notice when they splash water all over the bathroom floor or ram their belongings into walls when they walk up and down the hall.
  • Impulse control and responsibility--if they are pushing the grocery cart, and their sibling stops abruptly in front of them, do they blame it on the sibling and run them over, or do they stop the cart in a timely manner? (Yes, teens do this too!)
  • Can they talk and do something else at the same time without a quality problem or without stopping (cut veggies, ride a bike, wash dishes)? 
  • Self-monitoring skills--do they know when they are attending and when they are drifting away mentally? Do they notice when they dishes their washing are clean or not, or do you find bits of crud stuck to dishes after they wash? 
  • Persistance--do they practice stuff until they are reasonably proficient (music lessons, folding laundry, whatever)
  • Taking feedback--do they take feedback well and calmly

My list might sound dumb, but I think there is a direct correlation between other skills/maturity and driving. My older son was not self- monitoring one day when we were in a store, and he had the cart bumping into things all over. An older gentleman commented (nicely) to my son that if he intends to drive a car someday, he might want to rethink his shopping cart skills. I was ecstatic, and my son was less than amused. This older gentleman had some interesting life perspective--doing things meaningfully, talking to people like they are people, etc. I am sure he'd be dismissed as a bit old-fashioned or whatever, but he had some excellent points. It's all stuff they teach you in activities like Boy Scouts.

 

I believe that Russell Barkley, a well-known ADHD expert, had a brother with ADHD who died in a car accident, so he Barkley has studied ADHD and car accidents. You might google to see what he has to say about driving and ADHD.

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My dd whom I suspect has add, but not severe enough to go through the whole diagnosis process, was scary to teach to drive.

 

We had one memorable session where she came sooooo close to turning left into oncoming traffic because she forgot that a solid light meant that they had the right of way. In that same session, she nearly hit a pedestrian. She did one other thing, too. I can't remember. Anyhow, by the 3rd thing I was like- go home, you're done.

 

She's been driving for 2 1/2 years now and had 2 at fault accidents (both minor). I think the biggest part of her problem was overconfidence. She'd spend the whole driving session alternating between telling me to stop correcting her and nearly killing us.

 

She is much improved, though I still don't like driving with her. The biggest factor in her improvement I think is experience. The more hours she gets, the better she is. Also, those accidents were humbling. Especially because she had to pay for the deductibles. She now also has to pay her own insurance (she's almost 20).

 

I would suggest setting his expectations on it taking longer than the usual timeline before he gets his license. Good luck!

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You mean he should take Driver's Ed a second time?

 

Since he had had thirty hours of driving with you, a few more hours with an instructor might help to give you some perspective on whether his driving is outside of the range of normal for a new boy driver.

 

 

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He just got a permit and is already driving on the road? That seems dangerous for any driver. We spent 20 or 30 hours just driving in empty church parking lots before getting out on the road. Then there was probably another twenty hours on deserted or less busy streets. Going through a drive through for food did not happen until after the license, and I was still driving with her for another month or two.

 

Your son's problems seem to be related to being thrown on the road too soon, not an ADHD problem.

I drove home after passing the written test for my permit!

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Since he had had thirty hours of driving with you, a few more hours with an instructor might help to give you some perspective on whether his driving is outside of the range of normal for a new boy driver.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

 

FWIW, my kid's driver training instructor expressed no concerns about his driving.  Since I was not there, I can't say whether he just did better with her, or she wasn't motivated to let us know of any concerns.  I don't think that in his case more hours with a "regular" instructor would have helped.

 

Of course it might help others.  My kid's problems were severe enough that we sought extra help.  Many kids will do better by simply gets lots (and lots!) more practice.   Hard to know sometimes what to do.

 

That BRAKES program looks great!  They are coming near to us, just a squeak before my kid turns 20... but he's already booked up that weekend. I will look for it in the future for my daughter (though she has no ADD issues).  

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Really?  20-30 hours in parking lots???

 

Even the driving schools only do very basic instructions in parking lots.  Starting, stopping, parking, cross walks, stop signs, backing up/around corner (backing out of a parking space) etc.  Maybe 1 hour, 2 if the kid is really struggling...and then on the roads.  All traffic school driving with a permit is on the roads beyond the first lesson.  

 

What can you teach for 20-30 hours in parking lots? They barely get out of first gear......

 

We did an hour in a parking lot for the first experience,  Started in a parking lot and went on to well known neighborhood roads (mas speed 25) on the second drive.  We revisited parking lots when I taught them to drive a manual transmission until they could start/stop without killing it and then back to roads.  Then revisited the parking lot the last time for parallel parking.  Total in parking lots was 3 hours maybe. 

 

 

 

 

That's what I was thinking!  I cannot imagine spending 20-30 hours in a parking lot!  I can't imagine what you would possibly do for that much time?

 

My daughter (16.5) has ADHD (unmedicated, only because there doesn't seem to be any medication that works for her).  She did fine learning to drive.  Of course she made a few "mistakes," but I would be shocked if there weren't a few of them. I just think your son needs more time to practice and more driver's ed might not be a bad idea.  I have made it very clear to both of my daughters that they will not get their licenses until we decide that their ready.  I don't care if they meet all of the state's requirements.  If we don't think they are ready, they won't get it until we decide that they are.

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My dd whom I suspect has add, but not severe enough to go through the whole diagnosis process, was scary to teach to drive.

 

We had one memorable session where she came sooooo close to turning left into oncoming traffic because she forgot that a solid light meant that they had the right of way. In that same session, she nearly hit a pedestrian. She did one other thing, too. I can't remember. Anyhow, by the 3rd thing I was like- go home, you're done.

 

She's been driving for 2 1/2 years now and had 2 at fault accidents (both minor). I think the biggest part of her problem was overconfidence. She'd spend the whole driving session alternating between telling me to stop correcting her and nearly killing us.

 

She is much improved, though I still don't like driving with her. The biggest factor in her improvement I think is experience. The more hours she gets, the better she is. Also, those accidents were humbling. Especially because she had to pay for the deductibles. She now also has to pay her own insurance (she's almost 20).

 

I would suggest setting his expectations on it taking longer than the usual timeline before he gets his license. Good luck!

All three of my kids suffered over confidence behind the wheel, lol. My youngest has had two accidents that didn't seem to humble her and she is my kid the least likely to make mistakes of any kind. I have not allowed her to go for her license, I am working with her until she has enough practice. The oldest made big mistakes from over confidence, but she never has totaled a car. The over confidence is a common teen thing, I assume. But also, one more thing about over emphasis of self esteem that probably isn't good .

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I have two with ADHD, and the thought of either of them ever driving scares me...but they're 11 & 8 so I have a ways to go (though you can get a learner's permit at 14 1/2 and your license at 15 here).  That said, I don't know if what you are describing is necessarily out of the ordinary for a new driver.  I remember almost running someone off the road on the highway when I first started driving...I can't remember if I had my license or not but I know my mom was in the car.  I just didn't see them in the blind spot, and must not have turned my head to check before changing lanes.  I don't have ADHD.  I also remember having a near miss with a friend's daughter shortly after she got her license when she apparently didn't see my vehicle and pulled right out in front of me from an intersection (and didn't even glance in my direction when I honked the horn, so she was clearly off in la-la land).  She doesn't have ADHD either.

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I am ADHD.  When I was in school, driver's ed was part of the gym sequence.  Because there weren't enough older kids in my class, I was thrown into driving very, very soon after getting my permit.  But not just any driving- we had maybe a session or two in the parking lots and then driving in the Virginia area of the Washington DC metropolis during rush hour on both busy multiple lane roads and curvy one lane roads.  I got my drivers license a few days after I turned 16.  Then about eight months later, I was involved in a crash--BUT it was not my fault, it was the fault of the 40 something-year-old commuter woman who crashed into the back of my car while I was waiting for someone in front of me to turn left.  I was completely stopped and the thing I was angriest about was that someone somewhere would be compiling statistics and showing that a 16-year-old had a crash.  

 

Because of this and the fact that my children didn't have a problem caused by ADHD and hitting things, I don't think it is the ADHD. 

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Meg - 

 

My son has ADHD. We didn't allow him to drive unless he was compliant with his medication. We considered it a safety issue. That said, only your son's doctor and your family can decide if meds are right for him at this time. 

 

One thing that greatly helped my son was taking a defensive driving course in addition to drivers ed. Drivers ed is required in our state to get a permit, but the defensive driving course was not. He took a class through BRAKES - it was fantastic. His confidence soared after the class and he was much more competent. BRAKES is very inexpensive compared to other defensive driving courses. They do them all around the country, I recommend that you check to see if they come near your area. My husband & son traveled for 2 1/2 hours to get to the class location and it was well worth it. 

 

Thank you so much for this! One of my boys has SPD (and possibly ADHD) and is constantly walking into walls, tripping over his feet, bouncing off of doorframes. I told his occupational therapist that I'm dreading the day this child is on my auto insurance! I have ADD (inattentive), not diagnosed until I was 40. My driving as a teen was a nightmare, several accidents, ran into a gas pump (yes  :leaving:  ), totaled a car... it wasn't pretty. 

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That makes sense...but what happens when they become adults and can choose for themselves whether to take meds or not? After they move out and are on their own, they can choose to not take meds and still drive.

 

He is an adult now and he makes his own choices just like other adults do, of course. Hopefully our teaching serves him well, but it is his choice just like the rest of his decisions are. 

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My dh is the safety driver trainer for the city employees (in addition to has actual traffic job). He was trained under the Smith system. He works for traffic engineering and is responsible for pulling info on intersections when there are crashes etc. My dh was also diagnosed with ADD as an adult.

 

These are his observations:

1. situation 1 is an environment awareness issue and understanding his space. This will improve with experience.

2. This is a training/teaching issue and shows he needs more explicit instruction.

3. Situation 3 is the concerning one. He needs to understand what's important when he is in control of the car. Spilled food should not rank for what draws his attention. Teaching can address this, but more maturity will also help.

 

My dh recommends forcing your ds to narrate every thought and observation going through his head while driving with you. This will help you to know what is drawing his attention and what is not. 

 

Ideally, if you can afford it, enroll him in an additional private driving course. My dh thinks that our local school driver training course is a joke. At minimum see if you can get an accredited course that will help you to instruct him in a more specific manner. Don't rush the process. Give him lots of practice. Dh has seen the stats on a LOT of accidents where distraction was THE factor that resulted in the accident. 

 

 

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Thank you all! You guys are awesome! Mabel, thank you for the info about the Adaptive Driving program! I googled and found one in my area, called them and then called our family doc to get a referral. They will do an OT cognitive driving evaluation and look at his memory, vision, reaction time, cognition, perception, memory, concentration, attention, judgment, processing, etc.  That is 90 minutes and costs $150. If he passes that, then they will do a driving assessment which costs $100. They make recommendations based on their findings.

 

So we are going to start there, as well as step back from busy city driving and focus more on subdivisions and rural areas.

Edited by MegP
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For a long time, we minimized distractions for my ADD daughter while she was learning to drive. Meaning that the drive through scenario would not have happened because we would either switch drivers or else all the food was stood safely in the back before we left the parking lot. No radio and minimal talking allowed in the car. Everything put away safely. It made a big difference..

 

After she had much more driving practice than her brothers (I was laid up one summer and she had to drive me to and from the doctor five days a week), we let the distractions start creeping back in - food, radio, talking. She still goofed up,occasionally, but nothing serious.

 

She's a very good driver these days, but I think the extra "quiet" practice was the key. I never needed to do that with the other kids, but DD21 needed it.

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