Learning to drive is a significant step in a teenager’s life. They gain greater independence and take on more responsibility. We know you’re worried about your teen getting behind the wheel, but it’s a natural part of growing up. Here’s how parents can alleviate their stress and prepare their kids for the road ahead.
1. Set the Ground Rules
Set firm ground rules and consequences before your teen gets their driving permit. These rules are a good start:
- No cell phones while driving.
- Buckle your seatbelt.
- Follow all traffic laws and speed limits.
- No more than one passenger at a time.
- No driving at night or in bad weather.
- No driving highways or high-speed roads.
It may seem harsh to impose these rules on your teen, but they have to develop their driving fundamentals in a controlled environment before giving them unrestricted access to your family’s vehicle. If they can’t follow the rules, take the keys away. You can’t be too strict about driver safety.
2. Lead by Example
Your teen can’t learn safe driving habits through personal experience alone. You must lead by example and demonstrate the proper way to drive. That means you have to follow some of the rules we just discussed. Put down the phone, buckle up and slow down. When your child sees you practicing your own rules, they will feel more inclined to follow.
The rules you can’t follow, such as driving at night, can turn into valuable teaching moments. Go for a drive in the rain and show your teen the various challenges of driving in suboptimal conditions. Similarly, show them how to merge onto highways and navigate through traffic at high speeds.
Just because your teen can’t drive in these situations doesn’t mean you can’t demonstrate real-world examples. Ground rules are meant to set boundaries for their safety, but you shouldn’t shelter your child from the realities of driving.
3. Get a Safe Vehicle
Choose the right starter vehicle so your teen can learn to drive without worrying about mechanical issues. If you don’t have a reliable second car and need to purchase one, make sure you look closely at the vehicle history before you even consider buying. Ask yourself these questions:
- What are its maintenance records?
- Does it pass interior and exterior inspections?
- Has it been in a crash before?
- Are the driver controls easy to navigate?
- Do you feel comfortable putting your teen in this vehicle?
When you find a car that checks all the boxes, take it for a test drive and see how it performs. See if you can notice any unique features that make the driving experience different from other vehicles.
4. Supervise Their Progress
When the time comes for your child to finally get behind the wheel, supervise their progress from day one. Start in an empty parking lot with minimal distractions and hazards. Have your child do a few laps around the lot to get a feel for the brakes and steering wheel. Let them decide when to move to the next obstacle. You want to be a supportive coach, not a drill sergeant.
Once they feel comfortable enough to drive on public roads, spend as much time with them in the passenger seat as possible. It’s important that you monitor their driving performance to identify bad habits and snuff them out as they emerge. You can also be there to guide them through difficult driving situations the first time your child encounters them.
Teens with permits need to log a specific amount of parent-supervised hours to become eligible for a driver’s license. The number of hours varies by state, but it usually falls between 50 and 60. Those hours also need to include time spent driving on highways and in bad weather.
If you want to take your teen’s driving education to the next level, you can download a driving program app with lesson examples and helpful pointers. It’s okay if you need help teaching your teen. Not everyone is a perfect driver or driving instructor. Use the resources at your disposal to give your child a well-rounded learning experience.
5. Encourage Communication
Driving is such an unpredictable activity that your teen probably won’t get the whole experience within 60 hours. With so many variables to account for, it’s easier to sit down and have honest conversations about driving with your teen. Make sure to discuss these sensitive topics:
- Dealing with road rage
- Watching for pedestrians
- Driving under the influence
- Handling a car accident
- Getting roadside assistance
- Performing routine car maintenance
Driving involves a lot more action than getting from point A to point B. You want to inform them of potential challenges, not shelter them. Encourage open communication throughout the learning process so your teen is prepared to face any situation.
Set Your Teen up for Success
You can’t stop your teen from becoming independent drivers, but you can take precautions to ensure they learn the proper fundamentals along the way. Set firm ground rules, practice what you preach, find the right vehicle for your child and spend a lot of time with them. Talk to them as they learn so they can absorb your lessons and become the best drivers they can be!