Every family with teenagers growing up will have to deal with the challenge of teaching
and trusting them as they learn how to drive. It can be a dangerous time for everyone,
and it can also be a satisfying period of learning and growth with the right approach.
Here are five suggestions that will help both parents and students as they navigate
their way through the range of requirements known as driving in America.
1. Parents should strive to be a good “role model” driver themselves if they expect
to have a good influence upon teen drivers in the family.
Everyone picks up bad driving habits, such as failing to use seat belts and turn signals,
or unconsciously speeding, or following too close. One of the worst adult driving
habits is “jack rabbit” driving, i.e., starting and stopping abruptly, speeding down to
the next red light, and darting across lanes to get around slower drivers. Research
has shown that “jack rabbit” drivers actually gain very little progress, and expose
themselves to multiple accident risks, while at the same time abusing their own
vehicle and fuel mileage. Smooth driving reduces the stress on everyone, and helps
develop patience and maturity in young, impressionable drivers.
2. Be able to explain how your family car works. Every driver should know the location
and function of each button, switch, guage, and/or light on the dashboard. Simple
things like how to start the car, where the horn is located, and where to put the gasoline
need to be shown. Have the student read the Car Owners Manual ~ better yet, go
through it together.
3. Set them at ease from the very first learning session. Typically, parents are more
concerned about the family car getting damaged than they are about the student’s
learning environment. Try to de-stress the situation by only practicing in large, empty
parking lots before going on the streets. Live traffic should only be introduced
when the student has shown good command and control of the vehicle. Don’t yell
at the student, or lose control of your own emotions. A steady temperament is
required, and a well thought-out teaching plan.
4. Establish rules and incentives. Tell your teenager that you will be using the small
step approach. They must master smaller goals before they will be allowed to
progress to more demanding goals. For example, a student driver must under-
stand how to steer the car (stay in lane), as well as how to accelerate and brake
properly before being allowed to drive on the streets. The reward for learning the
basics is to advance to higher levels.
5. Teach, don’t preach. Big difference. Preaching is one-way communication, and
doesn’t allow feedback from the hearer. Better learning takes place using the
question and answer method. Good teachers always ask a lot of questions, then
then follow up with comments, and allow the student to interact.
Here are some Resources For Parents and Teens
Safe Driving Tips For Teens and Parents
CDC ~ Injury Prevention & Control: Motor Vehicle Safety
National Safety Council ~ Teen Driver Safety
Keys2Drive ~ The AAA Guide To Teen Driver Safety
State Farm® Teen Driver Safety Website