7 Essential Tips for Teaching Your Teen How to Drive

Teaching teens to drive
Chad Baker/Jason Reed/Ryan McVay / Photodisc / Getty Images

After you’ve had your driver’s license for a long time, driving becomes like second nature. As an experienced driver, you don’t have to consciously think about when to step on the brake or how hard to turn the wheel. Because those skills come so naturally, it’s often hard to teach them to a teen who is learning how to drive.

In fact, much of the research shows that parents aren’t teaching the skills teens to drive.

That’s not to say parents aren’t trying hard. Teaching a teen to drive is complicated and most parents aren’t trained teachers.

Yet, doing a good job could be a matter of life or death for your teen. It’s essential to take every step you can to make sure your teen is prepared to be behind the wheel. Here are 7 essential tips for teaching your teen how to drive:

1. Educate Yourself on the Dangers

While the basic rules of the road have remained the same, some of the dangers to teen drivers have changed over the years. Distracted driving – mainly cellphone use - and driving with passengers are just 2 of the 12 biggest dangers teen drivers face. Familiarize yourself with the other major hazards that pose risks to young drivers so you can take steps to reduce the risks.

2. Familiarize yourself with the Skills Teen Drivers Need

Driver’s education teaches many of the basic skills, but teens need ongoing practice behind the wheel.

Talk to the driver’s education instructor to learn more about the specific skills you should be working on with your child. Driving through parking lots, driving at night, and parallel parking are just a few of the skills that often need a lot of practice outside of driver’s education. Basic skills, like changing lanes and backing up the vehicle also need to be addressed.

3. Create a Driver Contract

Before you allow your teen to get behind the wheel, create a driver contract. This contract should clearly outline your expectations for safety and responsibility. It should also say what the consequences are for breaking the rules. For example, if your teen tries to answer a cellphone call while behind the wheel, take away driving privileges or electronics privileges as a consequence.

4. Give Clear Instructions

It’s easy to get into an argument when you're trying to teach your teen new skills. Before you get started, talk about how you’re going to give instructions. For example, rather than say, “right,” if your teen asks a question, decide that you’ll say, “Correct.” Otherwise your response may be mistaken for “turn right.” Avoid shouting out useless commands like, “Be careful!” or “Watch out!” Instead, make your instructions as clear as possible.

5.  Start Practicing

Start by practicing in an empty parking lot. This will give you an opportunity to get used to being the passenger and you can practice giving your teen instructions.

It will also provide your teen with a chance to practice taking your instruction. When you’re feeling confident, try driving on a road that won’t be heavily travelled. Make your initial practice sessions shorter in length and gradually work your way up to longer driving time and more complicated situations.

6. Go at Your Teen’s Pace

Don’t feel rushed or pressured to teach your teen everything all at once, even if the time to apply for a driver’s license is nearing. Just because your teen is old enough to drive, doesn’t mean the maturity level is there. Make it clear that driving is a privilege that needs to be earned by demonstrating specific skills consistently.

7. Sign Your Teen Up For Additional Safety Training

Many communities offer driver training programs that go beyond driver’s education. Some of them offer additional classroom instruction while others provide driving simulations to help teens see the dangers of distracted driving first-hand. Look into various programs in your area to see if there are courses available that can help keep your teen safe behind the wheel. 

Continue Reading