5 Tips for Teaching Your Teen to Drive

Your teen is ready to step behind the wheel and learn to drive. Are you?

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If your teen is anywhere near driving age, chances are she is anxious to get behind the wheel. But are you prepared?

Formal driver’s ed classes and license tests offer some measure of readiness, but it’s no substitute for the practical, behind-the-wheel experience you can provide your teen driver. A series of research studies from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found teenagers are more likely to develop safe driving skills when their parents ensure they get plenty of practice in a variety of situations and when their parents impart their own safe-driving knowledge.

Here are some tips for teaching safe driving.

1. Set a Good Example

Your children are watching, so long before you hand over the keys, make safety in your own driving a priority. Refrain from taking calls or texting, minimize distracted driving, watch the road and use proper signals. Your driving skills and judgment will shape those of your teen.

2. Practice … In a Variety of Conditions

While a parking lot or a quiet neighborhood street is an excellent place to begin, it’s not realistic to limit practice to these safer areas. As your child builds skills and gains confidence, have him or her practice on curvy two-lane roads and busy interstates. Expose your teen to driving in inclement weather, and offer feedback when driving in rain or snow. Have your youngster practice at night as well as during the day to gauge his or her comfort level in an array of situations.

3. Work on Merging, Yielding and Passing

While your teen may want to focus on parallel parking skills, it’s also critical to nurture more complex driving skills. Work on interstate merging, yielding to other cars, and visual scanning and anticipation of other drivers’ moves. Have your teen communicate why he or she is making a certain decision and offer feedback.

4. Teach Communication Between Drivers

Does your teen know the language of the road? While signaling is important, so is making sure other drivers are aware that you’re near. That might include pumping the brakes when coming to a fast stop. Help your teen refine these communication cues.

5. Keep Your Cool

It’s difficult to sit in the passenger’s seat and cede control to an inexperienced driver. Try to offer constructive suggestions rather than critical feedback, and ask your child why he or she is making a certain decision.

The more practice you and your teen get together in the car, the better you’ll both feel about him or her navigating road situations alone in the future.

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