Has the time come for teaching your teenager to drive? If you’re like many parents, you are probably proud that your teen has reached this milestone, but it also makes you fearful.
Considering the Center for Disease Control reports that the leading cause of death for teens is motor vehicle accidents, your fear is justified.
As a parent, the best thing you can do is prepare your teen to drive as safely as possible. And, it will make you both feel more confident during the process.
Here are eight tips for teaching your teenager to drive safely.
1. Don’t Rush Your Teen to Drive
Not everyone is ready to drive just because they meet the minimum age requirements for their state. The Washington Street Journal reports that the number of teens with a driver’s license has dropped in the past few decades.
Talk to your teen to see how they feel about learning to drive as they get closer to the age requirement. If they seem hesitant, simply encourage them to let you know when they are ready to discuss it.
2. Familiarize Your Teen With Your Vehicle
To be a successful driver, your teen will need to be familiar with your vehicle. If you have your car’s manual, have them read it.
Make sure they know how to adjust the driver’s seat and seatbelt so they are comfortable. Then teach them how to adjust the side view and rearview mirrors to ensure maximum visibility. Explain any nuances such as the side view mirrors showing objects closer than they really are, if applicable.
Go over the dashboard interface so they understand what they should be monitoring and what the various lights mean. Let them know the display will tell them when something is wrong. Such as a door is ajar, the oil level is low, etc.
Show your teen how to turn on and off the headlights, running lights, and interior lights. Tell them how to turn on the windshield wipers and how to adjust the speed of the wipers.
3. Have Your Teen Read the Rules of the Road
Prior to any hands-on experience teaching a teen to drive, they should read the rules of the road pamphlet prepared for new drivers by your state. This pamphlet will cover all the rules they will need to know to pass their driver’s test and give them a good foundation for what they should and shouldn’t do when behind the wheel.
4. Scout Out a Large Empty Spot for Practice
In most communities, there will be a time when you can find a large parking lot for your teen to practice driving in. Parking lots are ideal because they will give your teen an opportunity to practice many important first skills.
Have your teen practice accelerating to a slow speed, then practice stopping smoothly. Once they have this down, you can proceed to have them drive in slow circles up one lane of the parking lot, stopping, then proceeding around the turn to come back down the next lane, and so on.
They can practice using their blinkers then they are turning these circles in both clockwise (to the right) and counterclockwise (to the left) directions.
Then you can move on to having your teen practice parking in a parking spot, back out, then move to a new spot to practice parking again. Be sure to let them get out of the car (once parked) to check to see if they are between the lines and to see how far from the stop bar they are. This will help them get familiar with the size of your vehicle.
5. Practice Driving on Quiet Residential Streets
Once your teen driver is comfortable with stopping, starting and making turns, it is time to move on to driving on actual streets. By picking a quiet residential street, you can limit the number of interactions your teen will have with other drivers and pedestrians.
While they are driving, let them know what type of hazards they should be aware of. Such as cars backing out of driveways, children or pets running into the road, etc. You can also make sure they aren’t driving too close to parked cars.
Have your teen drive around the blocks in residential areas so they get familiar with how to handle the various types of stops (two-way, four-way, etc.). Also, have them practice U-turns and three-point turns.
Quiet residential areas are also a great place to practice more complicated parking. Such as how to park when facing either up or down a hill.
6. Move On to Multi-Lane Roads
Once your teen is comfortable and confident enough, you can move onto practicing on multiple lane roads. Here they can practice how to keep a safe distance from other cars and how to change lanes.
Ask your teen questions about their surroundings to make sure they learn what they need to pay attention to. Question them about the speed limit, what the lines painted on the road mean, and other signs and conditions you come across.
After plenty of practice on busier streets, have your teen move on to driving on the freeway/interstate. Have them practice merging into traffic, changing lanes, and how to exit back off the freeway.
Explain any designated lanes you encounter, such as carpool lanes, bus-only lanes, etc. Encourage your teen to also ask you questions if they aren’t sure what a sign means since you may overlook signs you know and take for granted as common knowledge.
7. Be a Good Role Model
Being a good role model is one of the best ways of teaching kids to drive. This is the perfect time to “do as you say to do”.
Follow the rules of the road, and don’t use your cellphone while driving!
8. Prepare Them for Emergencies/Accidents
Have discussions with your teen about what to do in case of an emergency so they know how to handle situations like having a flat tire, a car that won’t start, etc. Let them know what to do in case they are involved (or see someone else who was) in an accident. Such as finding a witness who explains how an accident occurred can be helpful.
Use These Tips for Teaching Your Teenager to Drive
Teaching your teenager to drive should be a memorable experience for you both if you use these tips to make the experience a success.
And, remember to be patient with each other and don’t rush the process.
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