8 Fundamental Tips for Teaching Your Teen to Drive

teaching teen to drive in Lowell Arkansas

So the time has come...it’s time to teach your teen to drive. Whether you’re dreading the experience, or are excited to not have to be their personal Uber driver anymore...there are some fundamental tips that will help the process go smoothly. So today we’re sharing 8 tips for teaching your teen the basics.

1. Be Mindful & Patient

Try to remember back to when your parents taught you to drive. What do you wish they did differently to help you feel safe, confident, and in control? Try to be mindful of how nervous your teen is probably feeling. Learning to drive can be a super stressful experience, but it doesn’t have to be. The key is to help your teen become confident with all aspects of driving, one step at a time. 

It’s important to remain calm and refrain from criticizing your teen. Choose uncomplicated, direct language. When they make a mistake—which they will because that’s how humans learn, it’s important to not raise your voice and yell things like “Oh my God! You’re going to kill us!” 

Instead, offer tips in a calm voice, like; “next time, begin braking sooner.” or “next time, signal sooner.” Keep it simple, calm, and to the point.

2. Help Them Become Masters of the Vehicle’s Controls

The good news is, your teen can begin learning about all the controls and features of the vehicle they’ll be learning to drive before they even have their permit because they don’t have to drive anywhere—you can teach them right in your driveway.

Spending time in advance sitting in the car and helping them get comfortable with how to use all the vehicle's features and controls will lay a great foundation and a sense of confidence when it’s time to hit the road.

Begin by sitting in the driver’s seat and showing them how each control on the dashboard works. The last thing we want is a distracted teen on the road, so it’s important that they know how to do things like...quickly turning the defroster on without having to try and figure it out while driving on the road. 

Once you’ve demonstrated how everything works, have them jump in the driver's seat and practice using the controls themself. Let them do things like:

  • Pump the brakes
  • Turn the headlights on and off
  • Put the high beams on and off
  • Practice adjusting the mirrors
  • Use the turn signals
  • Use the wipers and wash fluids
  • Adjust their seat
  • Use the climate control
Teen driving guidance

Try and spend a little time doing this once or twice a week until they’ve mastered how to operate all the controls and they’ll feel more confident for their first driving lesson.

3. Keep Their First Driving Lesson Simple

Empty parking lot to teach teen to drive in NWA

Once your teen has their driving permit, it’s time for their first driving lesson. Head to a large, empty parking lot. Maybe a school lot on the weekend? Any empty parking lot will do. The point is, you want you and your teen to feel like you’re in a safe environment with plenty of space to practice...and very little to hit. An empty parking lot is probably the safest place for your teen’s first lesson. 

Their first lesson should simply focus on getting a feel for how the gas, brakes, and wheel work. They can practice driving forward, driving in reverse, making turns, and pulling into and out of parking spaces.

4. Teach Them Defensive Driving Skills

Teaching your teen defensive driving skills may just help you sleep a little better at night once they get their driver's license. 

Teach them that it’s important to not depend on other drivers to always do the right thing. A time will come when someone doesn’t stop at their red light...and you’ll want them to be prepared. Teach them to pause when their light turns green and to look to see drivers are stopping at their red light before proceeding.

Teach them the 4 second rule. Show them how to measure the space between their car and the car in front of them by 4 seconds. Spot a pole or other landmark on the side of the road, when the car in front of you is passing it, begin to count until you pass it. You should be able to count to 4 by the time you reach it. 

Explain how to scan the road both in front and behind them, looking for potential hazards to avoid, and how staying within the speed limit saves lives. Help them to understand that speed limits are the limit in clear, dry conditions, and if the roads are wet or icy they should adjust their speed accordingly.

And finally, one of the most important safe driving skills your teen needs to be hyper aware of, is to never pick up their cell phone while driving.

5. Have a Plan

Before hitting the road for each lesson, have a plan. What driving skills will you be focusing on today? What route would you like your teen to take? Be sure to talk about these things before your teen starts driving. If they know exactly where you want them to go and the route you want them to take beforehand, they’ll feel more confidence and you may even avoid any panicked, last minute turns.

6. Know Where to Hit the Road

When the time has come to get them on an actual road, don’t bring them to the busiest road in town! Begin on a low traffic, side street. Practice driving around a block in a low traffic neighborhood, focusing on basic skills like stopping at stop signs, accelerating and braking gradually, being aware of pedestrians, and staying on the right side of the road. 

Once your teen feels comfortable, you can have them drive on busier streets, slowly working their way to a two-way freeway, and then the highway.

7. Be Sure to Practice Advanced Skills

Once your teen has built their confidence, you can begin coaching them with more advanced skills like merging on to the highway, highway driving, parallel parking, driving on a rotary, driving at night, and driving in rain and snow.

Remember...be patient! Yelling will only stress an already nervous driver out and could cause them to lose their focus.

8. Create an Emergency Plan in Case They Breakdown

Teen getting a tow in Northwest Arkansas

In the unfortunate event your teen gets a flat tire, runs out of gas, or gets into an accident, it’s important to have a plan in place. Be sure they know the steps to take for these scenarios—if they get in an accident, call 911.  If they get a flat tire, breakdown, lock their keys out of the car, or run out of gas, they can call for roadside assistance. If they need a tow truck, keep a dependable tow truck service number in the glove box.

Learning to drive is an important right of passage for all teens. It’s a huge step towards their independence and opens up a whole new world of freedom and adventure.

Everyone here at Roadside Services Towing of Northwest Arkansas is wishing you, and your teen, happy and safe driving lessons!