Youth Writers

Teaching your Teen to Drive from a Teen’s Perspective

Driving! The ultimate form of freedom and “adulthood” that every teen hopes to obtain.

However, for most parents, it has been a few years since learning to drive. Taking on the challenge of Driver’s Ed can be intimidating with ancient memories of drivers training muddled with today’s struggles of rush hour traffic and road rage. Not to mention re-learning old laws and mastering new ones. As change is the only constant, the complicated process of learning to drive changes as well.

So, how do parents manage teaching a teenager to drive?

First, understand that this is new for your teen as well as yourself. No matter where you live, your teen will need adult help in research, preparing for the driver’s test, behind-the-wheel experience, and completing and submitting government documents.

The thought of your teen driving may even be scary or intimidating. Yet, in today’s world, learning to drive is a necessity. We use it to get to school, work with loved ones, and the list goes on and on.

Whenever you and your teen choose to start the process, talk to someone you know who’s gone through it. This will give you a sense of the specific steps in your area. This could be anything from the age at which you’re able to get a permit to the driving test requirements.

Speaking of permits, every teenage driver will have to take a “rules of the road” course to learn the laws of driving. If possible, an online, self-paced course is the most flexible. This allows both parent and teen to work around school, work, and any extra-curricular activities. If your teen learns better with a physical teacher or set time spans, research in-person courses in your area.

Once the course is completed, your teen can take, and hopefully pass, the learner’s permit test and earn a permit to start actual street driving. Next, your teen needs to complete the required hours with a professional instructor. Once this is accomplished, it’s time to join your teen behind the wheel.

Start good habits early. Since your teen hasn’t driven before, bad or dangerous habits, haven’t had the chance to emerge. Use this opportunity to the fullest by having your teen practice good habits as soon as possible.

Before getting behind the driver’s wheel, walk around the car and show your teen what to look for, e.g., low tire pressure or loose car parts, to ensure the car is road-ready. Once inside the car, show them the order to start the vehicle, check mirrors and anything essential, and build off that. This familiarizes them with the vehicle and provides a base for any driving they’ll do in the future.

Once the base is laid, remember that they haven’t had to note directions, street names, or landmarks in the past. Describe the first few turns before leaving for your destination. Allow plenty of time between your directions and the point where they must follow them. This includes anything from turns to merging to changing lanes. This relieves some of the pressure on your teen, allowing them to plan and prepare for whatever your instructions require.

After the required learning period, it’s time to take the DMV behind-the-wheel driving test. Doing another lesson with a professional instructor who will help decide if your teen is ready for the test and what the driving requirements are in your area. These instructors have a good idea of what streets the driving tests are taken on and can preview the road test. Once learning the requirements, practice them until your teen feels confident in their skills and is ready to take the official test. Remove as many distractions as possible. Bring the necessary documents to your local DMV, and with a passing score, your teen will have a license before you know it!

Remember to check in with your teen and ask their opinion on the steps you’re taking. Teen emotions can range anywhere from excitement to confusion to even anxiety about driving. It’s a great deal of responsibility and information to take in, especially on top of school and any other stressors they may have. Be patient and know that it will take time for your teen to become a confident and safe driver.

The better you prepare and encourage your teen, the more confident and willing they will be to drive.

Hazel Woods is a high school sophomore going through the experience of obtaining a driver’s license. She’s excited to join the California driving community and encourage others to do the same.

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