Teaching your teen how to safely drive a car is one of the most important jobs you’ve got. But since they’ve been in the car with us thousands of times, many parents forget that even our older teens have little to no idea how to operate a car, what road signs mean or even where they’re going. They need our help. While teaching your teen to drive might be a frightening thought, when the time comes, most teens are ready and excited, so you’d better be ready too! Here a few tips that will make the job a little easier and safer.
Prepare for the Permit
- Evaluate your teen’s readiness by talking to them about responsibility, following rules and the fact that a car is a weapon.
- Review with your teen basic car operation, driving laws and requirements for getting a permit and license.
- Model good driving and talk through it. Encourage your teen to watch what you do. Start talking through your driving acts as you do them. Explain why and when you put on your blinker or check your side mirror, and keep things simple.
Drivers Permit & Parent Passengers
- Review the controls of the car and its functions: headlights, turn signals, seatbelts, mirrors, pedals, putting the car in gear, etc.
- Get your teen comfortable in the driver’s seat. Have them adjust all the mirrors and seats to fit them. Allow them to drive forward and back up, do some parking, and learn where their blind spots are.
- Chose a low-traffic road or area (like a neighborhood) for your teen’s first on-road experience. Practice stopping at lights and stop signs, staying on the right side of the road and changing lanes.
- Pull out a local map and discuss the route before hitting the road. Again, most don’t know how to get from point A to point B until they actually drive it themselves.
- Gradually work up to advanced driving situations. Don't’ overwhelm your teen, but after they have mastered the low-traffic situations, move up to roads and areas that demand more from your teen, such as inclement weather and freeways.
- Practice for the driving test with your teen, even if you have to make up a test yourself. Give your teen feedback on their performance.
- Go the extra mile. While your child is still required to have you in the car, decide what areas you want them to master even if they’re not on the driving test. Some examples are parallel parking, driving a manual transmission, even driving in inclement weather. Do you want the first time your child encounters these tough driving experiences to be in a car alone?
Driver’s License: Teen Milestone!
- Set ground rules and enforce them. No cell phones, no more than one passenger at a time, no driving after 9 p.m., no driving on the highway, all seatbelts must be buckled, etc. Have your teen sign a written contract so your expectations are clear.
- Use your village. Give other parents permission to call you if they see your teen being reckless. If you have a “no passenger rule” until after six months, have other parents stress to their teens to respect this rule. Reiterate the importance of safety and remaining focused while driving.
- Continue to model for your teen. Just because they are driving does not mean they will not see you drive. Enjoy having a licensed driver and use that passenger seat to be an available coach while they continue practicing.
Do’s and Do Not’s
- Be patient
- Review defensive driving
- Advise instead of yell (easier said than done)
- Turn the radio off while teaching
- Turn text and cell phone temptations off
- Practice, practice, practice
- Obey all traffic laws at all times
- Do Not
- Panic or shout
- Forget to teach courtesy
- Allow other passengers to be a distraction
- Give conflicting instructions (i.e. “Go ahead and stop.”)
- Grab the steering wheel unless it is an emergency