Before your child is ready to hit the open road by themselves, it’s important they get the most out of your driving lessons. Why? Well, they need to learn the basic skills, and drivers 16-19 are approximately three times more likely to be in a fatal crash than those 20 and older, according to the CDC. In other words, learning to drive from a parent or parent figure isn’t just a rite of passage; it’s a safety matter of the highest importance. If you’ve ever wondered how to teach a teen to drive, you’re not alone. Here are some helpful tips to help keep them safe and hopefully keep any arguments to a minimum.
Before Your Young Driver Gets Their License
Lead By Example:
Teaching doesn’t start when your child gets their learner’s permit, and it doesn’t stop when they get their license. Younger individuals are always watching and taking note of what adults around them are doing, including driving. Therefore, it’s important to make sure you’re always intentional about using your blinker, following speed limits, checking mirrors, and maintaining a proper following distance. In other words, drive how you expect them to drive! You can even verbally walk them through what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. This will help them connect the road conditions to the act of driving.
Locate a Driver Education Course & Help Them Get a Learner’s Permit:
Whether you choose an online class or an in-person course, driver’s education gives children the knowledge they need before they get behind the wheel. They’ll learn basic principles about operating a vehicle, roadway signs, laws, and more. When they complete the course, they should be able to use their knowledge, along with any required documents and vision screenings, to get a learner’s permit. The requirements for obtaining a permit vary from state to state, so be sure to check where you live. Once your teen has their permit, they can begin to work on their driving skills.
Notify Your Insurer:
If you’re driving a vehicle, you need proof of financial responsibility (almost always through an insurance policy), and teenage drivers are no exception to state insurance laws. Different states and insurance companies handle permit drivers differently, so your best bet is to contact your insurer directly when your child gets their permit. They’re the experts, and they can answer any questions you have about insuring a young driver.
Oftentimes, your existing policy will cover them until they reach driving age, but some insurers require all household members of driving age to be listed on your policy. Talking with your insurance company helps ensure your loved one is covered and should prevent your insurer from being surprised in the event of a crash.
Before you begin, decide what skills or concepts to focus on for the day’s lesson. Try starting with basic driving skills, like stopping at a stop sign and making left-hand turns. By tackling these easier driving maneuvers upfront, you can help build the confidence and comfortability needed for tougher tasks. Once the driver feels good behind the wheel, move on to more advanced skills like parallel parking.
Pick a Location & Time Carefully:
You’ll want to consider where and when the lesson will take place. You don’t want your teen’s first few times behind the wheel to be on a busy highway. Locate a large parking lot (like a stadium or office complex) and find a time when no one else will be present. This should enable your child to get accustomed to starting, stopping, and turning without the risk of a crash. You can even bring cones to simulate lanes, side streets, or other cars.
Be Kind with Your Teaching:
Getting behind the wheel of a car for the first time can be a nerve-wracking experience for teens. Try to ease their stress and help them improve as a driver by following the University of South Carolina’s tips for meaningful student feedback and applying it to driving. They say feedback should be:
- Educative in nature: It’s important to give feedback on what the student is doing right and wrong, but it’s important to focus on the positive.
- Timely: Try to give positive feedback quickly when it’s deserved so it will stick with your kid.
- Sensitive to the student’s needs: You know your child better than anyone, so try to tailor feedback to them specifically. They might respond better to more direct criticism or shut down entirely when corrected. Keep their personality in mind when you are providing feedback.
- Able to answer four key questions: If you can answer these four questions in a positive nature with your feedback, you’re probably doing a decent job
- What can they do behind the wheel?
- What can’t they do behind the wheel?
- How do they compare to other drivers?
- How can they improve as a driver?
Also, keep your eyes open and be ready to point out oncoming traffic, pedestrians, changing conditions, and anything else that could affect how they should be driving. Don’t overdo it and be a backseat driver; just be ready to say something if needed.
Fulfill Supervised Driving Time Requirements:
Again, each state has different requirements for teen drivers, but after getting their learner’s permit, most states require that your teen fulfill a set number of supervised driving hours. These hours are designed to help teens feel more comfortable on the roads and test their knowledge of roadway laws. Many states also require teens to have a certain number of driving hours performed at night. For example, in Tennessee, teen drivers must have 50 hours of supervised behind-the-wheel experience (including 10 hours driving at night), according to the Tennessee Department of Safety. Follow the requirements where you live because the more practice your teenager has, the better.
Help Them Prepare for the Knowledge Test:
Supervised driving time should help your teen ace the driving portion of their driver’s license exam, but they’ll still have to answer questions on the knowledge portion of their driving test. Help them review the material from their driver’s ed class. Quiz them on road signs. Find places with online practice tests, like Driving-Tests.org. Review as much material as possible before the test to boost their chances of passing.
After Your Teen Gets Their License
Make Sure They’re Aware of Driving Restrictions:
When a teen gets their first driver’s license, they don’t have unlimited freedom in many states. All over the country, there are restrictions in place to try to keep first-time drivers safe. For example, in Texas, drivers with a provisional license can’t carry more than one passenger under the age of 21 (excluding family members) and they’re not allowed to operate a vehicle between midnight and 5:00 a.m. unless the trip is for work, a school event, or a medical emergency, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. Learn the laws in your state, and make sure your young driver is aware of them.
Prepare Them to Handle an Emergency
It’s a great idea, if your insurance offers it, to pay a little extra for roadside assistance for your teen. Even if they don’t need it right away, they’ll eventually pop a tire, lock their keys in the car, or encounter some other situation that could require a helping hand. In addition to roadside assistance, you can make sure your young driver’s car is stocked with these important items year-round so they’re ready for whatever the road throws at them. You can also teach your teen to change a tire, jump-start a car, and other basic car repair and maintenance skills.
Set House Rules for Teenage Drivers:
Nobody knows your child better than you, so you might want to set driving rules for your own household. Here are a number of things you could consider:
- Your own driving curfew
- Passenger limits
- Make buckling up a requirement
- No music while driving
- Ban multitasking
- Avoiding certain roads or areas of town during busy times
- No toleration policy for moving violations
Whatever rules you come up with, make sure they’re clearly communicated, as well as the consequences for breaking them.
Teach Them What to Do If They’re Pulled Over:
Even if your young driver obeys driving laws and follows your household rules, they could still get pulled over by a police officer for a faulty taillight or turn signal. In these circumstances, it’s important they know how to act. Here are some helpful steps to follow if they get pulled over:
- Turn on hazards
- Find a safe, nearby spot to pull over
- Roll down the windows and turn off the vehicle
- Remain calm
- Be polite
- Apologize if you did something wrong
- Notify the officer before reaching for anything
- If you get a ticket, sign it
- Be careful when merging back into traffic