Tips for Teaching Your Teen To Drive

Making the commitment to be involved in your teen’s driver education can have a huge impact in your teen’s life and in your teen’s driving behavior. Research shows that a teen’s chances of being involved in a crash are reduced by one-third when parents take an active role in helping their teens learn to drive. Getting involved—and staying involved—in your child’s driver training is a great approach to ensuring his or her safety on the road. Still, teaching your teen to drive can be a stressful experience. We’ve compiled a few tips that should make the process smoother.

Preview the Lesson

Before a lesson, take a few minutes to go over the skills and maneuvers you’ll be working on. Letting your teen know exactly what to expect and being on the same page with them will take some of the anxiety out of the process.

Start in Your Teen’s Comfort Zone

Start your lessons in low-risk environments, such as an empty parking lot, a driveway, or a quiet residential street. Use streets your teen is familiar with and travels on every day. Also, stay away from adverse conditions—such as driving at night or driving in rain or snow—at least when you’re first starting out. When your teen masters basic skills in the low-risk environments, work your way up to more challenging environments, such as freeways, one-way streets, or unfamiliar city streets.

Keep It Short

It’s better to practice for a short amount of time several times than to do long, extended practice sessions. When teens first start driving, they may not have much confidence in their driving abilities, and the skills they’re learning may be tough to fully absorb all at once. Keep your sessions short so your teen can remain focused and not get overwhelmed.

Avoid Lecturing and Stay Calm

This is easier said than done. Remember: talking down to your teen or snapping at him or her will only cause your teen to become defensive and frustrated. If a teen becomes upset while driving, he or she may have difficulty focusing on the roadway, which could create a very dangerous situation. Instead of yelling, keep your cool. Encourage and praise your teen when they do something well—don’t just point out what they do wrong.

Minimize Distractions

Research shows that distractions are dangerous for all drivers, but especially for novice drivers. Distractions include the following:

  • Listening to the radio
  • Eating or drinking
  • Talking or texting on a cell phone
  • Having passengers in the vehicle

When your teen is just starting out, it’s important that all of his or her attention is focused on the driving task. It’s your job as the driving instructor to minimize distractions as much as possible during your lessons. That means turning the radio off, keeping all conversations not related to driving to a minimum, and putting away the cell phone. Also, avoid snacks and drinks, and don’t let other passengers tag along.

Practice Commentary Driving

Commentary driving is when the driver comments on the actions he or she is taking while driving. Commentary driving also includes any observations the driver makes while driving, such as noticing that the light up ahead just turned yellow or that a pedestrian is entering a crosswalk. This helps a driver maintain his or her attention on the road.

Commentary may sound something like this:

“Car turning left ahead… approaching a right turn… check mirrors and over right shoulder… reduce speed… activate right turn signal… mirrors… clear… check over shoulder again… making right turn… car overtaking in the left lane… approaching intersection… children and adults waiting at crosswalk… slowing down… scanning intersection… yellow light preparing to turn red… slowing down to stop… still watching pedestrians… stopping at red light,” etc.

Watch the video below for an example of commentary driving.


Finally, find a way to celebrate your teen’s driving achievements and progress. Take them out to dinner or a movie after a practice session, and let them know how far they’ve come.

Driver Education Courses

Safe2Drive offers online driver education courses to help teens learn how to be safe, defensive drivers and to help them satisfy licensing requirements. We also offer courses like Texas Parent-Taught Driver Education, Texas Parent-Taught Behind-the-Wheel ONLY and Georgia Driver Education that include behind-the-wheel guides that show parents step-by-step how to teach their teen to drive.

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