Tips for Teaching a Teenager to Drive
July 12, 2018
Every parent anticipates many long-awaited milestones in their child’s life — learning to ride a bike, going to kindergarten, graduating from high school, going off to college or the exciting and highly stressful learning how to drive. Car crashes are the No. 1 cause of death for teens, and before graduating from high school, almost half of all teens will be involved in some type of car crash. You can prevent many alarming statistics regarding these fatalities with proper education. Parents are the best resource for prevention, as well as education — whether it is teaching them to wear their seatbelt, warning them about the dangers of distracted driving or just obeying the speed limit.
One of the most stressful times in a parent’s life is the teenage years of their children. In fact, a recent survey found parents of teens are equally as stressed as single parents. One of the biggest achievements of a teen is the highly anticipated day they earn their driver’s license. This time can be an extremely tense and anxious one for both the teen and the parents. Included below are valuable tips and information to prepare parents and teens for such an overwhelming, yet exciting, time of their child’s life.
How to Successfully Prepare to Teach Driving Skills
There are several things a parent should consider before getting on the road with their teen driver to ensure a successful training session. To prepare ahead of time, consider the following checklist for teaching someone to drive.
- Don’t push: If your teen is not ready to get behind the wheel yet, do not push them to do so. Teens are most likely already anxious to get in the driver’s seat with you as their first passenger. Having their parents push them to get behind the wheel can be even more nerve-wracking. An overly stressed and anxious driver is not the best way to start the training process. Instead, present the opportunity to the teen and let them come to you when they are ready.
- Have a game plan: Before getting on the road with your teen, plan a specific route you will take, and inform your teen of this route. For the route, choose quieter streets and avoid busy or tricky intersections. You may want to consider the time of day as well to avoid any rush-hour or lunchtime traffic congestion when first starting. Also, be sure to know what skills you will be working on during that practice drive, so you can plan the route accordingly. Ideally, the skills you work on correspond with the skills they are learning in a driver’s education course at school.
- Start slow and steady: To ease into the process, as well as provide comforting reassurance to both yourself and your teen, start off slowly and small by choosing some practice times in an empty parking lot. Practice simple techniques and practice your defined role as their driving coach.
- Plan for conditions: Depending on the time of year your teen will begin driving, the road conditions could be more dangerous than normal. Be sure to check the road conditions prior to taking your scheduled practice route. It is better to begin teaching your teen to drive in daylight hours before taking them out at night. Once your teen has acquired foundational driving skills, it will then be time to take them out during more difficult conditions to be fully prepared.
- Be a good role model: As your teen begins to look forward to driving on their own, they will begin to pay close attention to and model the driving practices they see from their parents. Be sure to use proper techniques and model the behavior you want them to exhibit as a driver.
Another way parents can improve their skills for teaching their teenager to drive is to refresh their own driving knowledge by taking a driving course online. A lot of things may have changed since you first learned how to drive.
Session Tips for Teaching Someone to Drive
The more practice teens and inexperienced drivers receive with varied roads and conditions, the more confident and reactive they will be facing challenging situations in the future. Tensions can be high and nerves can be on edge during the driving session. During the training session, consider the following guidelines for how to teach driving skills.
- Be calm, clear and specific: Be aware of your tone of voice, and do not raise your voice to the driver. Learning to drive should be a positive learning experience. When directing your teen, be very straightforward with directions and proper techniques. Provide them with adequate time to make turns, changes to the route and any other factors that may come into play.
- Ask effective questions: When prompted to answer a question regarding a mistake, your teen will be forced to think through what they did wrong. Instead of telling them what not to do or what they are doing incorrectly, prompt the question to them regarding their speed or forgetting to put their turn signal on and see if they catch their mistake.
- Set realistic expectations: The more time you spend out practicing with your teen driver, the more skills they will acquire. However, instead of trying to cram too many techniques in one driving session, set your session time to 15 to 20 minutes. As your new driver gains confidence and feels more comfortable, you can then increase the sessions to 30 to 40 minutes.
It is a good idea to discuss your expectations with your teen before your first driving lesson. You should include “house rules” you will have established for when they are driving independently.
Important Checklists for Teen Drivers
Before getting started on the road, it is important for teens to understand the basic functions of the vehicle they will be driving. Demonstrate seat and mirror adjustments so your teen is comfortable and properly situated. The most crucial items a teen should be educated on in the vehicle include the following:
- Steering wheel and seat adjustment
- Mirror adjustment
- Dashboard controls
- Controlling the car — gas and brakes
- Turn signals
- Seatbelts and air bags
- Windshield wipers
- Emergency lights
- Shifting gears
- Backing up safely
- Dashboard warning lights
When determining the routes you plan out, take into consideration the checklists below to ensure you cover the beginner skills followed by the more advanced. Take notes on how your teen does each time on the road, and continue to build on these skills until they have mastered them.
- Speed and use of turn signals
- Slowly and gradually braking to a stop
- Steady and smooth acceleration
- Approaching intersections — lights or stop signs
- Evaluating right of way
- Navigating single and multi-lane highways
- Changing lanes
- Maintaining a safe following distance
- Sharing the road with other vehicles and pedestrians
- Identifying hazards
- Three-point turns
- 90-degree parking
- Parallel parking
- Night driving
- Driving in snow and/or wet conditions
While teaching these skills, you should include some examples of situations your teen may encounter on the road they may not encounter during your lessons with them.
Learning Steps of Driver Education
You can simplify the overwhelming process of teaching your teenager to drive or to ease the tensions when teaching a scared teenager to drive by following the steps outlined below. Once your teen has mastered each step, both of you will feel more assured and comfortable. Breaking the complex process down into simplified steps can guide you through the process from start to finish smoothly.
Step 1: Learning How a Car Works
For step one, educate your teen about how the vehicle they will be driving works. Newer vehicle controls can vary drastically from older models. Be sure to include things such as:
- Starting and stopping the engine
- Turning on and off the headlights
- Adjusting the windshield wipers
- Fastening seatbelts
- Identifying dashboard lights
- Fueling the vehicle
Step 2: Beginner Skills
For step two, be sure to teach the driver how to maneuver and properly handle the car. It is a good idea to give your teen practice in various vehicle sizes, such as an SUV versus a compact car, once they become comfortable. You can impart a lot of these skills in an empty parking lot or on a quiet street.
- Making safe left and right turns using signals
- Bringing the car to a smooth stop
- Shifting gears, if the car has a manual transmission
- Backing the car up
Step 3: Dealing With Distractions and Other Drivers
This step allows your teen to gain valuable practice operating their vehicle with distractions — such as other drivers, pedestrians, parked cars and other environmental factors. These skills are usually scaffolded — from starting on quieter streets to more busy highways and intersections.
- Negotiating varied intersections — signals, four-way stops, two-way stops
- Making smooth and cautious lane changes
- Maintaining safe distances when in traffic
- Driving politely
- Obeying posted speed and traffic signs
- Using mirrors and checking blind spots
Step 4: Navigating Parking
Parking and safely getting in and out of parking spots can be tricky for drivers of all ages, particularly teens. This step will provide them with ample practice to handle various types of circumstances in parking situations.
- Parking safely on hills — both facing uphill and downhill
- Correctly parallel parking
- Pulling into and out of 90-degree parking spots
- Pulling into and out of diagonal parking spots
- Making safe and proper U-turns and three-point turns
Step 5: More Advanced Skills
Once your teen has obtained and mastered the skills in the first four steps, they will be ready to take on more challenging techniques. Before proceeding to step five, reflect on the progress you’ve made, and determine if your teen is ready for the last step.
- Driving on a busy freeway — merging or changing lanes
- Driving at night
- Navigating safely in more treacherous weather, such as rain, snow and ice
Use the steps outlined above as a guide. You should individualize the process to best fit the needs of your driver. You may need to spend more time working with them in one specific area before moving on to the next step.
Is Your Teen Ready To Drive Alone?
You have spent countless hours being the perfect driving coach, you feel more confident in their abilities and your teen has mastered all the necessary skills to be a safe driver — but how do you know if they are ready? Legally, they may have passed the written and physical exams, but it is ultimately up to you as their parent to make the final decision. There are some questions you can analyze before making that determination.
- Does my teen understand the importance of not using their cell phone while driving?
- Has my teen demonstrated mastery driving in varied road conditions?
- Has my teen shown they can identify and quickly react to hazards?
- Do I believe my teen will always wear their seatbelt, and remind others as well?
- Does my teen speed, or drive aggressively?
- If my teen is angry or upset, do they know to pull over?
- Does my teen understand and agree to the driving rules we have established?
If you feel your answers to the above provide responses you are comfortable and confident with, it is time for your teen to become an independent driver. If you feel some of the responses caused uneasiness, it is a good idea to revisit those specific areas with your teen prior to making the final decision.
The Dangers of Teens Texting and Driving
Once you have all the checklists and important tips down pat, there is one other topic parents need to thoroughly educate and discuss with their teen drivers — the dangers of texting and driving. Teens are more glued to their cell phones than ever before, and pairing that with a new driver can be a deadly combination. In fact, teens are the worst culprits out of those who admitted to distracted driving. Some alarming statistics regarding teens texting and driving include:
- Each day, 11 teens die while texting and driving.
- Teens are four times more likely than adults to get into a car accident while texting or talking.
- One out of every four car accidents in the U.S. every day is caused by texting and driving.
- Drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 have the highest cell phone use.
While these statistics are scary for parents, discussing and educating your teen on this topic can prevent accidents for them, as well as their friends. A great way to begin education early on is to be a good role model to your child by pledging not to use your cell phone. Remember, your child’s biggest teacher is you.
Even if your teen is well-prepared and exhibits all the skills of an excellent driver, accidents do happen. If your teen has been involved in an accident, let the legal experts at KBG Injury Law review your case to ensure you and your teen are protected. Contact KBG for a free consultation online or call us at 800-509-1011. We will help you and your teen get the results you deserve.