How to Help Your Teen Become a More Responsible and Safer Driver

Does the thought of your child driving send chills down your spine? If so, you’re not alone. It’s difficult for most parents to imagine their child behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Even parents of the most responsible children cringe when they think about handing over the car keys.

It’s only natural. Driving is a major responsibility, and it takes practice to master.

Know your responsibility

As a parent, it’s your responsibility to guide your teen in the right direction. As you teach your child how to drive, you must instill positive habits that will likely stay with them for a lifetime.

Although your child is about to take on a significant responsibility, there’s also a lot of pressure that falls on your shoulders.

Before you start driving instruction, find out what the laws are in your state. Driving laws can vary greatly from state to state, and this will determine how you teach your child to drive.

For example:

  • Most states (46 states and Washington, D.C.) require at least some supervised driving.
  • Four states do not require any supervised driving if the teen takes drivers ed.
  • Four states don’t have any requirements on supervised driving

It’s a little scary to think that teens could get behind the wheel and wing it without any training. But even if you live in a state where this is allowed, you should spend some time teaching your kid how to drive. Think about how it was when you started driving. How would it go if someone gave you an instruction book and a set of keys? Driving should really be a hands-on learning experience.

The more time your children spend practicing, the better off they’ll be.

Tips for teaching safe driving

Everyone learns in different ways, but there are some common tips to help you teach anyone how to drive safely and effectively.

  • Take baby steps – Your kid may be excited to get started, and you may be tempted to rush through the verbal explanations, but resist that urge. Start by talking a bit about how the car works along with your responsibilities as a driver. When you’re ready, proceed to let your kids start driving in an empty parking lot. When your child is comfortable enough, move to the sides streets, and then major roads and freeways. Don’t rush any transition.
  • Practice patience – Nothing will test your patience like teaching a teenager how to drive. The stakes are high, so it’s only natural for tension to mount. But try to reign in your reactions. Avoid yelling or making any alarming movements. Try to remain in a peaceful state. If your child makes a mistake, ask them to pull over so you can explain what went wrong and how to do better.
  • Look out for hazards – You’ve probably been trained to avoid “backseat driving,” but that’s actually your job in this instance. There’s a lot for your child to learn and manage, so they may not see dangers ahead. Keep a lookout and let them know about any potential dangers in a calm yet serious tone.
  • Instruct while you drive – Use every opportunity to teach your child about good driving habits, even when you’re the one behind the wheel. Explain why you’re doing what you’re doing, and point out things you could do better.

The lessons you teach your child now will stay with them for a lifetime, so try to focus on safe and positive driving habits. Stress the importance of avoiding distracted driving, keeping their eyes on the road and using blinkers properly. And remember that responsible driving is also about taking care of your car. Talk about car maintenance and ways to drive that are easier on the car. Slamming on the brakes and incorrect gear shifting are two ways you could be damaging your car during a drive. Make sure your kids understand how to be safe and get the best performance from their car.

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