Blogs about the challenges of teaching your teen to drive

Blogs about the challenges of teaching your teen to drive

Safe Roads Alliance
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on July 08, 2021
There are so many milestones in an 18 year old man’s life, they can often slip by without notice. In the past two months, my son received his college acceptance letter. Then came, in short order, Senior Awards Night at his high school, the AP tests for calculus and chemistry, and last week, Prom and Commencement.
So it was almost an afterthought for him when  he mentioned that, after weeks of delay, he had finally scheduled his driver’s license road exam for mid-July. 
“You’ve got some work to do,” I reminded him, which elicited the now-common eye roll. My oldest knows that dad cares about his welfare, but often wishes dad didn’t worry so much.
Still, I said it would be necessary to step up the number of hours he spends behind the wheel in the weeks ahead, including some remedial work on the basic items every new driver must pass on the Massachusetts license road test. It’s time, I said, to go back to where we started with three-point turns, parallel parking, hill starts and all the rest.
This weekend we will be able to tackle all of these items without distraction. His mother and brothers will be away on a Scouting trip, so it will be our time together. That will mean our usual itinerary of large pancake breakfasts at the diner of our choice, Chinese takeout for dinner, and an excursion to the local short-track to watch a night of racing.  Only this time my son will do most of the driving, and I will be wearing my seat belt extra tight and watching the roads closely from the front passenger seat.
The looming date for the road test means one other deadline is coming up fast on the horizon: In two months, license or no license, my son will be leaving home, and the Bay State, for college. I’m only hoping things will run smoothly and we will be sharing the driving.
0sc
on March 23, 2021
When you’re the parent of a teen who is learning to drive, you can often live in a state of heightened anxiety.
And while traditional driver’s education programs are designed to prepare inexperienced operators to pass the state licensing exam, they do little to teach new drivers how to avoid hazards on the road.        
To fill this void in road safety education, New England has access to the In Control Family Foundation, which hosts what it terms “Crash Prevention Training” courses for drivers of all ages and experience levels.
My son Dominick and I were privileged to partake of In Control’s 4 ½ hour class on a recent Saturday morning on the site of the old South Weymouth Naval Air Station. In Control offers a combination of behind the wheel exercises mixed with brief classroom instruction sessions during these intensive classes.
Thanks to the generosity of In Control Family Foundation, Safe Roads Alliance, and the Hummingbird Foundation of Wrentham, MA, my son and I took the course together and were able to compare our talents and knowledge in a setting that promoted familial bonding.
The In Control classroom instruction advises drivers on numerous ways to prevent crashes. These range from keeping a properly maintained vehicle to staying alert and focused while operating your vehicle.
For example, In Control emphasizes the importance of having the right tires, and replacing them before they become too worn (and taught us how to measure if our tires are no longer safe). Reminders are also given on the need for always wearing seat belts, and how to best use your vehicle’s side mirrors and back-up cameras to avoid collisions.
The instructor also mentioned the perils of distracted and drowsy driving, two subjects of particular importance to those of us with the Safe Roads Alliance.
The dangers of distracted driving were demonstrated, quite effectively, during the road course portion of the class. The initial driving test involves taking one of In Control’s fleet of Honda Accords up to highway speed (we topped out at 61 mph) then braking to avoid a series of cones set up on the tarmac of the course. After 3 or 4 attempts, my instructor then  handed me a calculator, as a cell phone simulator, and told me to punch in my birth year while driving at full speed. The results were. as you might expect, not pretty..
My son Dominick, who has had his learner’s permit for 5 months, found the road course especially valuable. He enjoyed the emergency braking session, which is designed to demonstrate the benefits of anti-lock brake systems (ABS) and how to properly use them.
Dominick particularly enjoyed the Slalom challenge, under which students must navigate between 7 cones placed 60 feet apart. The goal is to successfully steer between the cones, while gradually increasing the speed of your vehicle. Dominick excelled at this, while I managed to make it to 37 mph before destroying the sixth of the seven cones..
In Control is also valuable for older folks like me, because a lot has changed since I got my license in 1983. For example, because of advances in technology, we no longer are supposed to grip the steering wheel at “10 and 2.” In fact, “9 and 3” is the new 10 and 2, because it gives the driver easier control when steering and turning.
But the last of the four road course exercises reminded all the participants of the seriousness of road safety. In this challenge, the student driver must follow another car (driven by an instructor) that is pulling a flag on a tow line   .
The goal of this test is to brake as soon as the other car brakes, and stop as quickly as possible, ideally before passing the tow line. This simulates a real-life highway emergency. Both Dominick and I reacted as fast as we could, but the car did not come to a stop until it was a good 25 feet beyond the pace car. “We would be waiting on a hearse,” the instructor told us. It was lighthearted, but the message was clear. Poor reaction times, and failure to focus can have lethal consequences.
The In Control Family Foundation provides these trainings to teach young drivers how to avoid crashes and other hazards while navigating our roadways.  The classes remind us that even those who consider ourselves “safe drivers” can benefit from these refresher courses. 
For more info about In Control Family Foundation or to sign up for their Crash Prevention 101 course visit  www.DriveInControl.org  You can also find their podcast where you download your own by searching 'Drive In Control' or visit www.DriveInControl.org/podcast  This podcast does a wonderful job of reviewing Safe Roads Alliance's The Parent's Supervised Driving Program,  with each episode focusing on a new skill in the guidebook. 
I am grateful to Safe Roads Alliance for arranging this day out for Dominick and myself, and also grateful to the Hummingbird Foundation, established  in memory of Elizabeth Giordano of Wrentham, for underwriting the cost of this excursion. To learn more, visit  www.hummingbirdmusicandarts.org/
 
9sc
on March 16, 2021
During the February school vacation week, my son and I went out on the road twice. The first was to practice driving in inclement weather, which turned out to only be a light drizzle. He was able to successfully navigate both local back roads and a portion of our nearby interstate with the windshield wipers set to intermittent.
The second excursion was arranged to be a review of the items that will be on the Massachusetts RMV license road exam, which my son had decided to schedule for the month of April, giving him (and me) 6-8 weeks to hone his talents.
This was intended to be a review of what he had already learned, but it wound up serving as a reminder that inexperienced drivers need to engage in regular repetitions in order to master the skills needed to pass a licensure test.
My son had no difficulty backing up in a straight line, although I did need to remind him to use his right turn signal when pulling over to the curb. Similarly, his three-point turns were flawless, and he has remembered to come to a complete and full stop prior to crossing the solid white stop line ahead of stop signs.
The difficulty, as with so many young drivers, manifested itself at the parallel parking test location. Despite having performed this task on numerous prior occasions, my son could not get the proper feel for when to cut the wheel while backing into the space. The first time he waited too long, and the second he turned the wheel too soon. Finally on the third attempt he managed to execute the drill successfully. Of note was that two other families were also using the test lot behind the RMV that morning, and we all kept taking turns using the parallel parking test area. All of the teens practicing seemed to face similar challenges.
After some coaching, my son was able to remember the correct procedure for a hill start. Again, the use of turn signals was a problem, but the actual steps such as engaging the parking brake and turning the wheels toward the curb were not an issue.
However, that is not to say everything is rainbows and butterflies. When practicing parking in a lined space in a parking lot nearby, my son drove over a small patch of ice left from a previous week’s snowstorm. The car slipped a bit, and wound up in a slightly crooked angle. Ever the anxious parent, I audibly (and regrettably) let out a brief gasp. 
My son was not appreciative, and responded, “Your making that noise will not make me drive better.” I apologized for the outburst, explaining that I was still new to being a driving instructor. Then I  had him back the car up and redo the parking exercise. This time the car was straight and we both felt much better for the experience.  
Afterward we agreed that we would need to go back out and practice the exam sections--especially the parallel parking portion--a few more times before the April test. And despite my nervousness, I reassured him that he was doing fine and had my full support. I came away feeling as though I had failed a much more important test, but promised myself I’d work on improving. 
 
9sc
on March 10, 2021
My first born got his learner’s permit this week. And as a friend wrote when I told him about this, “and now the fun starts.”
While learning to drive has long been a storied rite of passage for teens in America, it is also a period of transition for worried and anxious parents. We tell ourselves to be patient when our teen driver makes mistakes during the early morning practice session at the local office park or empty train station lot. We must be supportive, encouraging, yet ready to provide the wisdom of our experience during what can be some stressful moments.
And we must also be mindful that this time is stressful for our teen as well. They have cleared the first hurdle--acquiring the permit, a test that is not terribly taxing. Now comes the hard part: the hours of required road time, selecting and enrolling in a driver’s ed course, and studying the rules contained in the state-issued driver’s manual.
For parents, there are other emotions as well. We sit in the front shotgun seat, and watch our child, our baby, to our left, trying to navigate this large machine that, if not operated properly, can endanger both of our lives.
And we think back to all the times we watched patiently (that word again!) as our child tried to learn something new and difficult. Whether it was riding a bicycle or hitting a baseball or solving algorithms, every child’s struggle to tackle and overcome obstacles prepares them--and us--for the period between obtaining the driver’s permit and passing the license exam.
These months ahead will be an adventure for both my son and myself, and there will be moments that will not be fun for either of us. Thankfully, one tool at our disposal to get us through this learning period is Safe Roads Alliance’s Parent’s Supervised Driving Guide,   which we will have at the ready and consult whenever we feel overwhelmed or concerned about our child’s progress--or lack of same--behind the wheel. Safe Roads is grateful to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles for providing free copies of the Parent’s Guide to every new driver who receives a learner’s permit.
My intent is to update you, the reader, on my son’s progress in the months ahead, as well as mine. For as he becomes a better driver, my goal is to become a better parent, and better teacher, as well as someone who can provide guidance and assistance on my boy’s path to adulthood.
on March 10, 2021
I had told myself I was ready.
In the first few days after your child returns home, triumphantly, in possession of his Learner’s Permit, you begin mentally preparing yourself for the first foray into the unknown.
In our case it was early Sunday morning, on a cul-de-sac located near our local Registry of Motor Vehicles branch, the very street where the RMV holds its road tests. In addition to being a seldom traveled dead end, this street is ideal for practicing most of the items on the License road exam. The road is straight, with a high curb, perfect for backing up. It contains a steady incline for hill starts. And across the street sits a sturdy guard rail, should the driver trainee fail to properly execute a three-point turn. 
My son switches places with me, and takes a seat behind the steering wheel. I am in the shotgun seat, staring at him as he adjusts the mirrors. I thought I was mentally prepared for this, but in this moment I find myself nearly overcome with emotion. This is one of those moments, like a child’s valedictorian speech or first role in a school musical, that marks the passage of time for a parent. I can only think of my first born now as a young man, and myself as someone aging, who will eventually cede the wheel to him permanently.
 
But for now there is instruction to be given, and I am still the teacher. I remind my son to  always use his turn signals long before engaging the wheel. I’m impressed by his ability to back the car up 30 feet in a straight line. His three-point turns are slow but flawless. I tell him he needs to stop before the white stripe in front of the stop sign, and not after, and he gets it right the second time.
 
Later, in the empty lot behind the Registry building, I work on the daunting task of teaching him to parallel park. This is the bane of most new drivers, and he finds this very challenging. The first time he cuts the wheel too late, the next time just a mite too soon. I tell my son he’s doing fine and we will continue to work on this. I know he is focused and wants to get his license, and I’m confident that, as we go out each successive weekend, that these turns and wheel cuts will become sharper and more precise. And that, maybe next week, or perhaps the week to follow, he will tell me he’s ready to move on to the next challenge and tackle the back streets of his hometown. And I will tell myself I’m ready. 
on March 10, 2021
From Permit to License, Part Three: A parent’s journey with a teen driver
Anyone who has obtained a Massachusetts driver’s license can probably memorize the series of tasks that comprise the Commonwealth’s road test: Three-point turns; backing up in a straight line; hill starts; and parallel parking.
My son’s first few times behind the wheel were devoted to practicing each of these steps, on a dead end road near the local RMV branch. And now it was time for him to actually take to the streets and operate his father’s Corolla.
We agreed that on the Sunday morning of Labor Day weekend, my son would drive on the local roads for the first time. It’s just under a mile from the RMV parking lot to the mall that anchors the city shopping district. I told my son that navigating this small stretch of road would be a good way to get a feel for the wheel and ease into his driving career.
When the time came, my son was ready. Without prompting, he adjusted the driver’s seat, side mirrors and rear view mirror before starting the car. We reviewed all of these important steps in the past lessons, which are clearly laid out in  The Parent’s Supervised Driving Program guidebook . I explained to him how, in months to come, the officer administering his driving test would be sitting in the front seat, where I was currently situated, and that I would be seated behind the driver for the duration of the test.
My boy backed out of the space, and drove out of the lot, coming to a full stop at the stop sign and using all requisite turn signals. The road was not busy, but he still had to execute a proper left turn onto the street. It was a tremendous relief to his father that this went flawlessly.
He adhered to the posted speed limit of 30 mph as we climbed the hill, and he waited his turn at the four-way stop intersection at the hill’s crest. At the next stop sign, he again slowed and came to a full stop, then turned into the mall parking lot, and at my urging, parked in a lined space.
When he put the car in park, my son turned to me, shut his eyes, and said, “That was stressful.”
“It gets easier,” I told him. Then I asked, “What are you stressed about?”
“I didn’t want to wreck your car,” he said.
Strangely, although I had my own free floating anxiety about this excursion, that thought had never occurred to me. “Don’t worry,” I told him. “The car’s already paid for, and I probably need to buy a new one soon anyway.” 
 After taking a few minutes to compose himself, he pulled the Corolla back onto the road, and drove us back to the RMV lot. Only this time a woman in a black subaru was tailgating us during the entire trip. Which is, of course, another lesson about driving in Massachusetts.  
9sc
on March 10, 2021
Up until this week, my son’s driving time had been conducted in controlled settings with limited risk. At first, we had practiced the tasks for the Massachusetts Road Test on a cul de sac used by the Registry of Motor Vehicles for its license exam. Then, on a Sunday morning with few other cars on the road, I had my son drive from the RMV parking lot to the local mall, practice parking, turning and backing up, and return to the Registry lot. 
But this time the driving would be done in a more organic setting. It was a late autumn afternoon, a Monday, with all the requisite traffic and hazards that come with city driving. I believed my son was ready for this, even if he didn’t quite trust himself at first. That’s because he had always been very level-headed, even cautious, when embarking on new endeavors. He possesses an impulse control and maturity unusual in teenage boys, and I had faith in him now.
He was surprised when I handed  him the car keys right away. We were in the lot of a restaurant across the street from his mother’s house. “Where are we going?” he asked.
“You’re going to drive us to your high school, then back through downtown,” I said.
He gave me an uncertain look but took the keys anyway. Without being reminded, he adjusted the mirrors and turned the ignition. 
The street we turned on to winds past the city Middle School, and because of that there are multiple speed bumps in front of the school building. My boy navigated the speed bumps well, slowing down for each, and deferring to oncoming traffic aiming to make a left turn across our lane.
My son adhered to the posted speed limits and knew that school zones have a lower speed limit than regular thickly settled areas. One half mile up the hill we came to a traffic light, which was green for us. This was where we needed to make a right turn to drive to his high school. My son shot me a quick side glance and asked, “do we have to stop?”  
“Not if it’s green,” I reminded him. The light stayed green, but my son, not used to making right turns without stopping, made the turn a bit too wide. He didn’t encroach on the other lane or screech his tires, nothing dramatic. Just a bit too wide. “That’s okay,” I reassured him. “You will get better.” And I remembered this from The Parent’s Supervised Driving Program: “Coach your teen about easing up on the gas pedal to reduce speed.”
After we navigated the road to the high school without incident, I had my son take a side street that would connect to the main street of his hometown. This would be the most difficult section of our trip. There was a delivery van illegally parked ahead of us on our side of the street, and a line of cars heading towards us from the other direction. My son did not panic, however. He stopped behind the van, waited for the traffic to pass, then carefully passed the van and proceeded to the next intersection.
I’ve been driving for nearly 40 years, and to see these challenges through the eyes of a new driver was enlightening for me. I remembered back to when I first became a parent, asking God to bless me with both strength and patience for difficult and stressful times. I often fell short of having both when needed, but today things were going well.
I directed my son to the main intersection in the downtown area, and he waited at the red light behind several cars. When the light turned green, this time he made the right turn flawlessly and was almost back home when an older man on a bicycle rode out into the crosswalk just ahead of us. My son hit the brake in plenty of time, and this gave me the chance to point out the bicycle travel lane to our right, which many communities now have. I reminded him that the designated bicycle lane was one more thing to watch out for when driving, and to always anticipate the potential presence of a cyclist on these roads.
Moments later we turned right and returned to the restaurant lot where we started. My son looked at me and said, “That wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.” We agreed to keep practicing this route. Soon we plan to advance to a longer trip on a country road, then two-lane highways and, eventually, an interstate. And of course we will continue to work on the basics of the road exam. All the while I will pray for strength and patience.    
on March 10, 2021
 
The second Sunday in November was an unseasonably sunny and warm day, the type made for the joys of a drive in the country.
My son has had his Learner’s Permit for 3 months. By now, he has become accustomed to driving on local roads, as well as performing the various tasks that are required to pass the state driver’s license exam. We are taking the gradual steps toward learning how to safely operate a car under all conditions, as put forth in The Parent's Supervised Driving Guide.
After consulting the guide's lesson Adapting to New Landscapes , we prepared to set out into the wilds of southeastern Massachusetts to face our next challenge.
The Parent’s Supervised Driving Guide advises: “When driving in rural or country areas, there are a number of situations that require special attention. The road surface can be affected by loose gravel, slippery conditions after rain or snow, ruts in the driving lanes, and washboard conditions. When approaching oncoming vehicles, watch for soft shoulders or the absence of shoulders.”  
The guide also instructs motorists to watch out for farm animals in the road.                                                                                                   
We didn’t see any of those, but we did encounter pickup trucks hauling muddy ATVs; dozens of motorcyclists out for a long day’s jaunt; and even a couple of those three-wheeled vehicles that are now favored by older riders. Mostly we saw other folks out navigating these often poorly paved two-lane country roads. 
I didn’t push my son too hard, agreeing that we would drive 3-4 miles up the road, then turn around and circle back. My goals were to see how he would handle the higher speeds, and adjust to the constant need for braking and accelerating.
My biggest stressor was when I sensed my son was either following too close to the slower vehicles ahead of him, and whether he would be able to brake fast enough should other traffic come to a sudden stop.  
Most of the roadway had a speed limit of 45 mph. My son  hadn’t driven that fast previously, and he remarked that he enjoyed operating at the higher speed. I was quick to point out to him each time that the speed limit dropped to 35mph as a “business district” approached, which was usually a gas station with a liquor store inside. We stopped at one of these places so I could teach my son how to pump gas, another lesson teens need to learn prior to setting out on their own.
As it turned out, my son was perfectly capable of accelerating and decelerating in concert with the pickup trucks and horse trailers with whom we shared the road. The only potential issue that we had not considered involved stepping on the gas after waiting at a stoplight. My son said he found the gas pedal on my Toyota different from that on his mother’s car, and that he did not yet have a feel for how hard to step on the accelerator when the light turned green.
But other than a couple of these jackrabbit starts, we completed our journey without incident. When my son returned to the origin point of the day’s lesson, a convenience store parking lot, he pulled into a vacant space next to a phalanx of nine motorcycles. He shut his eyes and let out a deep sigh as he put the car in park and turned off the ignition. “I liked that,” he said. “But I think I’m done for now.” And I remembered that this is still a learning process for him, as well as for me. 
As we switched places and I took the wheel for the drive back to my house, we agreed that we probably wouldn’t have many warm sunny days left this season. And so we decided the next lesson would likely involve not just driving on local highways, but perhaps in winter conditions as well.
9sc
on March 10, 2021
Winter school break presented a terrific opportunity to schedule driving time with your teen. Since they were not in school (either in-person or remotely) there was more time for the two of you to plan car trips that will boost your young driver’s skills and confidence. In addition, the roads tend to be less crowded, allowing more chances to teach situational driving without your teen being overwhelmed. 
The Sunday after Christmas, my son and I took advantage of these conditions and engaged in a ten-mile drive that afforded him the chance to practice operating my Corolla along two-lane state roads that posed a host of challenges, including:    
Rotaries (traffic circles)--To drive in Massachusetts, one must encounter the dreaded Rotary. There were two of these on our Sunday trip, and I instructed my son to follow the rules put forth in the Massachusetts Drivers’ Manual. The most important lesson is that the driver already in the rotary has the right of way. When approaching the traffic circle, my son adhered to the “yield” signs and was careful not to proceed until he had a clear path. Still, he noted, it is difficult to judge which vehicles are exiting and which ones might be circling in front of you.
Multiple traffic lights within a short distance--Knowing when and how hard to brake for a yellow light is a talent experienced drivers take for granted. However, when you are driving your dad’s car at the speed limit (40 or 45 mph depending on the signage) it can be difficult to gauge when to hit the brake. I told my son that it’s okay to stop a couple of feet before the stop line when learning to drive, as it’s much better than not stopping soon enough. I also reminded him to check his rear-view mirror when the light turns yellow to make sure there isn’t a car behind him planning to accelerate, as sometimes occurs in our part of the world. My son also is trying to get used to the frustration that occurs when you accelerate at a light after it turns green, only to have to stop for another red light a few hundred yards ahead.   
Flashing yellow lights--This was one that I had to explain carefully. My son was driving on a two-lane highway when he came upon a flashing yellow light, with cross traffic having a light that flashed red. I reminded him that he had the right of way, as yellow means “slow down and proceed with caution,” but was careful to add, “however, the person with the red light might not remember that they are required to stop.” Therefore, the “proceed with caution” instruction is always extra pivotal in these instances.
In addition to all of the above, state road driving gives inexperienced operators valuable experience in navigating everyday potential hazards. These include slowing down and, when possible, navigating around vehicles in front of you that are trying to make left-hand turns. 
My son also noticed that a key part of driving is, as he put it, “watching out for the other guy,” whether they are entering or leaving the roadway, or stopped at a traffic light ahead that has just turned green. And truly, if we all watch out for the other guy, we will all have a safer experience on the roads, no matter how long we’ve been driving.
As my son returns to school, the date for his eligibility to take his license exam draws closer. We have a couple more driving skills to focus on before he sets his appointment with the Registry. These will include a turn on the interstate, and perhaps practicing his driving in the rain, should the opportunity present itself. Through it all, I will consult  The Parent’s Supervised Driving Program  guidebook, as well as the state driving manual, because someday soon my son will be driving a car without my presence. And I will have to trust that he’s learned everything he needs to be safe. 
 
on March 10, 2021
 
In the five months since my son acquired his Learner’s Permit, his driving skills have improved measurably. This is reflected in his confidence when he takes the car keys from me, adjusts the driver’s seat and side mirror settings, and engages the ignition.
No longer a novice, he has tackled all of the tasks on the license road exam with aplomb. In addition, he has driven on city streets, country byways, and two-lane state roads safely and without incident.
And now as we close in on the date for him to schedule his license test, we decided last weekend to embark on his first trek down an interstate highway.    
My home is a six-minute drive to the nearest exit onto Route 3, best known as the highway linking Boston to Cape Cod. For my son’s foray into highway driving, we decided to travel 10 miles south, towards the Cape. Then we would turn around at the exit 7 miles from the Sagamore Bridge and return to our starting point.  
I had cautioned my son that the toughest part of highway driving is often merging onto the freeway, attempting to blend in with high speed traffic while establishing a safe rate of speed. This day was no exception.  
Despite exercising caution and using his side mirrors, my son had to ease up on the gas to slide into the right travel lane behind a pickup truck and in front of an SUV. Once we were firmly established on the highway, my son noticed that his adherence to the 65 mph speed limit did not dissuade most other vehicles on the road from passing him,  usually at speeds in excess of 80 to 85 mph.
“They’re blowing by like we’re standing still,” he said to me at one point.
“I know,” I said. “It’s Massachusetts. Just stick to the speed limit and follow the traffic.”
Which he did, for the most part. On occasion, in an attempt to keep up with the other vehicles, we found our speedometer approach 70, at which point I’d delicately remind him to ease up on the pedal.
When traveling at high speeds, it can be a challenge for inexperienced drivers to decelerate when taking an exit ramp. My son experienced this when it was time for us to leave the highway. Along the steep curve of the off ramp, he was slow to engage the brake and we came somewhat close to the traffic island that served as a barrier for the off-ramp. 
“That comes up fast,”  he said.
“That’s okay,” I said. “You just need to learn to slow down sooner.”
This exchange reminded me of the skill section of the Parent’s Supervised Driving Program that recommends inexperienced drivers practice merging on and off highways between 10 and 12 times, minimum. Nervous parents need to be reminded that patience is needed, and repetition is necessary for their teens to master these skills. 
After crossing the overpass to reverse direction, we had better luck getting back on the northbound on-ramp. This time there were no vehicles obstructing our merger back on the highway.
One problem that did arise, however, was the disparate speeds of the other motorists. Like many highways, Route 3 north has two travel lanes. And in the right lane, on this day, there was a work van moving forward at just about 50 mph. This stood in contrast to the aforementioned speeders in the left lane. My son was somewhat flummoxed, so I advised him to remain in the slow lane for now, as it was his first time out. 
“After you’ve done this a few times,” I assured him, “you’ll be able to safely pass these slow cars and then get back in the right lane ahead of them.”
And so we made the rest of our trip back to our initial exit at a slightly slower rate of speed. This time my son handled the exit and off-ramp flawlessly, and was able to navigate the local roads back to my home without any problems whatsoever.
He said it had been somewhat difficult to drive that fast for the first time, but that highway driving was in many ways easier than taking local roads around town. For one thing, he noted, there are no pedestrians or bicyclists to watch for on the highway, and no traffic lights requiring intermittent stops and starts. 
We have now covered most of the driving situations contained in The Parent’s Supervised Driving Program guidebook, which remains a trusted resource for me during this period of transition. My hope now is to take my son out for a driving lesson at night, so he can experience those unique conditions. Then, in the weeks to come, when the exam date is scheduled, we will revisit the earlier tasks such as parallel parking, hill starts, etc. in order to sharpen those vital skills.