Picture this. The day you never thought would come is finally here. Your child turns 15, and it’s time for you to take the passenger seat as they learn to drive! Cue the dramatic music as the car pulls out of the driveway and you’re gripping onto the door handle as the new driver is in control…
But don’t stress about that big day! Teaching your teenager to drive doesn’t have to make you break out in a cold sweat. With a calm head, brushing up on your own driving skills and a lot of practice with your new driver, you can help create a pro behind the wheel. Check out some of our tried and true tips and tricks to make it a stress-free process for all.
Tip #1: Take stock of your own bad driving habits. Do you text and drive? Fiddle with the radio or turn around to check on your kids in the backseat? Without even realizing it, you may be teaching your child bad driving habits. Make sure you set a good example for your teen driver; that means putting the phone down, staying focused on the road and driving safely at all times. Consider taking a quick look at their driver’s education manual for other bad driving habits you might not even think twice about now – like running yellow lights, not maintaining a safe distance or passing on a solid yellow line. Your teen learns a lot of their driving habits from you – good or bad – so do your best to set a great example of a safe driver.
Tip #2: Get them behind the wheel. Uh-oh, this one is harder than it sounds. It’s time to relinquish control and let your teen go! Once you and your teen are ready to start practicing behind the wheel, make sure you’re both in the right frame of mind. Limit the number of passengers in the car. Stay calm and don’t (or at least, try not to) shout or talk down to your new driver, it will only make them nervous and anxious behind the wheel. Plus, shouting “Turn here!” may inadvertently startle them and no good can come of that.
For your first foray behind-the-wheel, try starting in an empty parking lot or a quiet side street, it’s best to avoid highways or busy thoroughfares on the first go round, for your sanity’s sake. Start with some basic skills, like:
• Turns: what’s an appropriate speed to turn at, use of turn signals
• Braking: how to smoothly brake and gradually slow to a complete stop
• Accelerating: how to smoothly and steadily increase speed to posted speed limits
• Backing up: using mirrors to back up and be aware of what’s going on behind you
• Right of way: determining who has it in a multitude of situations
• Approaching intersections
• Scanning and identifying hazards on the roads
• Safe following distances
Tip #3: As the old adage goes, practice makes perfect. Encourage and allow your new driver to drive on short trips often, like to the grocery store or weekend activities. As your teen starts to feel more comfortable behind the wheel, you can start moving to more complex traffic situations (highway here we come).
Tip #4: Variety is the spice of life. Allow your driver to practice with both parents and other family members like aunts, uncles or trusted adult friends. Every driver is different and that can allow them to learn things from a variety of sources. Don’t forget, driving in different weather conditions can have a very different feel so make sure to let your teen drive in rain or snow (see tip#3). If on the road conditions may be more than they can handle at first, try driving around an empty parking lot.
With the help of these tips, you can stay calm and help your teen to become a safe driver on their quest for that prized driver’s license.