Driving is a pretty big rite of passage for teenagers. It increases their independence, widens the scope of their world, and propels them closer to adulthood. However, for parents, teaching teenagers how to drive can be a scary transition. Because so much can go wrong inside a vehicle, it’s important to keep safety in mind while teaching teenagers how to drive. Sober driving, increased awareness, and avoiding distractions are all ways to help teens stay safe behind the wheel.
In addition, it can be helpful that they know a little bit about how their car works in case they have mechanical troubles. It’s also good to help them feel confident behind the wheel, which can require a balance between pushing safety and not scaring them out of driving altogether. With each lesson, your teen should gradually learn how to be safe, how to take care of their car, and how to drive with confidence.
Stress the Importance of Sober Driving
Nobody should get behind the wheel of a vehicle if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Stressing the importance of this should be a prominent part of teaching your teen about safe driving. There are dire consequences for teens charged with a DUI, but the risk of death or injury is much more serious.
Make sure your teen understands that they can contact you for a ride and that driving under the influence is never an option. Though alcohol is dangerous, so are marijuana, other illicit substances, and even prescriptions. Even if you don’t think your teen is using drugs or alcohol, it’s still important to have a talk about sober driving.
Teach Them About Their Vehicle
Some teens are a little more interested in the logistics of their car than others, but teaching them about their vehicle is a great tip in teaching them about driving, car maintenance, and knowing what to do if they have car trouble. Start really basic, like teaching them how to turn their car on, how to park it, how to work their headlights, etc., and then move into other areas, such as:
- What their dashboard lights mean
- How to fill up their tank
- How to check their oil
- How to fill up their tires
- How to change a flat tire
- How and when to use their hazards
It can also be helpful to teach them about who to call if they have car trouble or how to contact AAA, if that’s an available resource for them. Learning some vehicle maintenance tips may be helpful, but not all teens (or parents) are savvy in that area.
Tips for Driving Awareness and Safety
It takes some practice to learn all about driving awareness, so it’s good to share some of those tips with them early on. These driving safety and awareness tips include:
- Sticking to the speed limit
- Always remembering to check blind spots to avoid an accident
- Understanding how to drive in all weather conditions
- Using their blinker at appropriate times
- Parking, especially parallel parking
- Keeping an eye out for pedestrians
- Backing up
- Navigating intersections
- Not following too closely
- Understanding night driving concerns
Try taking them to an empty parking lot and neighborhood streets first in order to lay the groundwork for driving awareness and safety before taking them on busier roads. Driving isn’t just stopping at red lights and staying within the lines; there’s a lot to it that involves awareness and quick decision making.
Distractions to Avoid
For teenagers on the road, some of their favorite things can also be the most distracting. Take time to explain that there are some distractions they should be avoiding, and discuss ways they can remove those distractions. Some big ones include:
- Loud passengers
- Food and drinks
- Being unfocused
It’s no secret that teens have grown up in a tech era, so many kids are very attached to their phones. Explain that their phone can’t be in their hand while they drive. They also shouldn’t bother with their music or other similar distractions before putting the car in drive. Driving friends can also lead to dangerous distractions, so the car needs to have some ground rules as to avoid them. Eating and drinking can take their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel. Sharing these concerns is a great tip to help them learn how to be safe.
Finally, a shocking amount of accidents happen simply because a driver is zoned out, or they are distracted by something happening outside of the car, such as a car accident. In addition to avoiding distractions inside the car, teens need to be instructed to keep their attention on the road.
Encouraging them to Feel Confident
There’s a lot that can go wrong in a vehicle, but that fear can also create confidence and self-esteem issues for your teen, who may be afraid to drive as a result of knowing what can go wrong. There are a ton of confidence-building resources that can help your child with this issue, but you can do your part by offering a lot of positive reinforcement and encouragement as well. Help them complete some easy-win tasks, like parking in a normal spot in an empty lot, to help build their confidence. Before you know it, they will feel comfortable on bigger roads with higher speed limits.
Teaching teenagers how to drive may have a heavy emphasis on safe driving, but it’s also about helping them understand how to tackle certain things without having a parent around to ask. Driving is a big part of independence for many kids, so it’s important that they feel comfortable enough to embark on their new journey. Just make sure they know how to be safe, what to do if they have car troubles, and to wear their seatbelts. After that, you have to let them go so they can navigate the rest on their own.