There’s not much driving action on your average family road trip. The bulk of what goes on behind the wheel involves keeping eyes open during mind-numbingly straight highway miles. The most exciting curves usually come by accident, while you’re telling the kids to calm down in the back. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. The goal of a road trip is to get to your destination and to do so safely.
Still, there are many potentially unsafe situations to deal with, from weather to boredom, distractions and passenger “emergencies.” Parents don’t get professional driving advice for the family car. They should.
This is why we turned to some of the boldest drivers in America, from a pro stock drag racer to defensive instructor to the most-complimented Uber driver, about hitting the road with family.
Greg Anderson, Pro Stock Drag Racer
Greg Anderson has been drag racing for more than two decades, racking up 90 wins in one-on-one, first to the finish line competitions. After spending his early days on the racetrack in a crew, changing tires and adjusting clutches, Anderson made the jump to being behind the wheel for Pro Stock competitions. “It didn’t take long for me to get the bug,” he says. “Being in control, going fast, it was exactly what I wanted.” Now a four-time champion on the National Hot Rod Association circuit, Anderson has no interest in slowing down. Anderson and his wife, Kimberly, have two kids, Brittany, 27, and Cody, 19, who’s already shown an interest in racing. “People tell me all the time not to steer him into racing,” he says of his son. “And I didn’t! It’s completely him.”
Family Driving Tip: Listen to the Backseat Drivers
Anderson’s number one tip for driving with the family: learn to take their criticism. “Everything I do in my career is about being a better driver, and that means accepting and using feedback,” Anderson says. He admits he’s actually not the most careful driver on the street with his family in the car, but it’s something he wants to work on. “My family is pretty upfront that I can be pretty unnerving to drive with. In fact, they tell me almost every time we drive somewhere.” Like that time they were in Hawaii driving a mini-van. “Was the rental supposed to go off-road like that? Probably not,” he says. “It’s not the easiest to turn off my instincts from the racetrack.” Eventually, Anderson listened to his backseat drivers. “I’ve learned how crucial it is for me to listen to advice. Even if my wife is just telling me she wants to take over.”
Fred Lanouette, World’s Highest-Rated Uber Driver
Fred Lanouette, an 82-year-old Seattle native, only started driving for Uber about two years ago, but in the time since, he’s quickly become one of the most-complimented and highest-rated drivers in the entire fleet of over an estimated million drivers in the U.S. Fred spent most of his career as an entertainment director for a cruise line and at a Las Vegas casino before being introduced to Uber by his daughter in 2016. Now, he drives six or seven days a week, mostly for fun, hosting hundreds of new riders in his backseat. Fred’s rapid rise to five-star stardom is still just the start of his driving career. “I’ve never had a bad ride, and I’m going to keep it that way. Talking or no talking, it’s my car but it’s their ride, so we have to figure out what we both want from it.”
Family Driving Tip: Keep them Comfortable
What made Fred a successful Uber driver also made him a great family driver when his kids were still kids: the art of conversation. Or, more specifically, knowing exactly when to be chatty and when not to. When his children were school-age, Fred drove them across Europe for 11 months in a Volkswagen bus, hitting 25 countries on the way. To spend a year in the car with your kids is to learn the art of intimate detachment, the kind that translated well for Uber passengers.“If they get into my car and are already talkative, I know we’re going to chat the entire trip,” he says. “But you have to learn to read the atmosphere. If they hop in silent, with their eyes glued to their phone, I’ll ask a question or two, but I won’t push them to talk.” Sounds like a dad who knows his way around a car conversation.
Jeff Bramstedt, Navy SEAL-Turned Stunt Driver
Most times 47-year-old Jeff Bramstedt gets behind the wheel, he is flirting with disaster. This former Navy SEAL became a stunt driver after 13 years of military service, including multiple deployments to Asia and time with the SEAL Parachute Team. He’s flipped, crashed, and spun out cars in action scenes for directors such as Michael Bay (The Island ) and Peter Berg (Lone Survivor). “Just because it was on-camera and just because I’m a professional doesn’t make that perfectly safe,” he says. “Cars can take far less than you think they can, and you can’t afford to discover that limit last minute.”
Family Driving Tip: Think Safety First
Bramstedt still drives with his kids — Micah, 16, Sam, 14, and Annie, 13 — around Southern California, where safety is always top of mind. One of Bramstedt’s frequent reminders of this is his own tactical driving courses, where he teaches complex, aggressive moves like PIT (or Pursuit Intervention Technique, by which a pursuing car can force a fleeing car to abruptly turn sideways) maneuvers. “There’s no situation where I should ever have to use a PIT maneuver, whether my family’s in the car or not,” he says, “but a move like that puts things in perspective. If I’m going highway speed and I get a light push from the side from a lazy driver, I’m going to spin out. That’s physics. And you absolutely cannot fight physics. I see that all the time on the practice course, and that doesn’t change in real life.”