3 Tips For Turning Your Teen Into A Safe Driver

Posted on: 14 October 2015

There's little that's more terrifying to a parent than realizing that your teenager has finally reached driving age. Even if you're excited about the idea of having someone else to run errands or chauffer younger children around, the idea of letting your child out on the roads alone and in charge of a potentially dangerous vehicle can be nerve wracking. However, as the parent, you have a lot of influence over what kind of driver your teenager turns out to be. Take a look at some tips for teaching your teenager good driving habits without losing your sanity.

Pick a Safe Place to Start

Don't jump right into driving on the road. For your sake and your teen's sake, start slow. The best place to get started is an empty parking lot. You need a vacant spot with plenty of room to maneuver. You can practice a lot of the basics in this kind of space. Accelerating, braking, shifting gears, signaling, turning, and parking.

This is also a good spot for you to practice your patience. Being in the passenger seat with a new driver behind the wheel isn't an easy spot to be. You'll be tempted to slam on the imaginary brake pedal on your side of the car or yell when your teen makes a mistake. But it's best if you can control the urge. Instead, tell your teen to stop the car when they make a mistake, and calmly ask if they know what they did wrong.

The driving dos and don'ts will sink in better if your teen recognizes them and can express them. Furthermore, they'll interpret any signs of panic on your part as an overreaction and ignore what you're saying, so you really do need to stay calm, and that will be easier to do in an empty parking lot where your teen can't do too much damage. Once your teen is comfortable handling the car, it will be easier for both of you to practice driving in real traffic.

Don't Stop With the Basics

In a study of what happens during parent-supervised driving practice, researchers observed that parents tend to focus on vehicle handling and often fail to emphasize higher-order driving skills like merging, hazard-recognition, and navigating in bad weather. Instead, they often stick to drilling their teens on driving test maneuvers like parallel parking and practicing familiar driving routes.

Once your teen is comfortable with vehicle handling and commonly-driven routes, take them out on the highway, go driving in the rain, and practice driving at night. Remind your teens to slow at crosswalks where there may be pedestrians approaching and not to look away from the road for more than a second or two. These kinds of skills will protect your teen – and the people that your teen shares a road with – more than multiple repetitions of how to make a three-point turn or how to parallel park will.

Use a Drivers Ed Course

Parental training is an important part of teaching a teen to drive, but using a professional driving instructor can also be a big benefit to your teen. For one thing, completing a drivers education course can get a discount on car insurance for your teen – and once you get a look at the insurance rates for teen drivers, you'll be happy to try anything that will save you some money.

Furthermore, practicing with a professional instructor can help fill in any gaps in your teen's driving education. Plus, it gives you a break. The number of hours of supervised driving practice that your teen needs will vary depending on where you live – for example, New York requires 50 hours of supervised driving practice, while other states may ask for more or less. As a busy parent, it can be tough to fit all those hours in, so why not let an experienced driver's ed instructor take some of them off of your hands?

Finally, try to stay calm, not only throughout the driver training process, but also through your teen's first days and weeks driving solo. Before long, you and your teen will grow more confident in their driving skills, and it will seem natural to see them behind the wheel.