I don’t know about you, but my kids are growing up way too fast. My oldest was just learning how to put her seat belt on by herself and now she’s a new teen driver!
Inevitably, this comes to us all.
Thankfully, we had some pointers to help us through the process and gained quite a bit of insight from the experience. So, compiling my thoughts and those of other parents of new drivers, these are our best tips:
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Have your teen driver take Driver’s Education.
I did not take Driver’s Ed 20+ years ago, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but we knew our daughter would want to learn as much about the driving experience as possible, so we signed her up. I was thankful we did.
There were many things they covered in Driver’s Ed that I just didn’t think about going over with our young driver. I think we parents take a lot of knowledge for granted, often forgetting that our kids don’t know what we know, so having them take a driving lesson (or more) from another experienced driver was a great help in covering the bases of safe driving habits, etc.
Teens can take their classroom hours at a driving school or online, as long as they’re approved by your state. (You can find certified schools on your state’s BMV website.) We did ours online which I recommend if your teen has a busy schedule.
Whether you attend classes for Driver’s Ed or complete your studies online, you will most likely need a few hours with a certified instructor. You can find one by googling driving schools in your area. (Make sure they are state-certified.)
When you find one close by, I recommend scheduling early as the slots fill up fast. Our daughter had very little time available so we had to spread her driving times out over a few weeks, which can be very frustrating to a teenager eager to get their license.
Study your state’s driving manual.
Even if your teen took Driver’s Ed, you will want them to read the manual and study it before taking the test for their permit or license. This was not something we did and our daughter found out the hard way that Driver’s Ed does not cover everything she needed to know.
And, even though we don’t like to admit it, things have changed since we last took our test so we need to make sure that what we’re teaching them is up to date.
Use a “New Driver” magnet.
This little tip right here is probably the one I found to be the most helpful. It’s a small addition with a big impact. You’d be surprised how having one displayed on the back of your vehicle makes you and your teen feel more at ease, especially if you live in an area where people are less patient.
There are many styles to choose from but I found this one to be the most eye-catching with the perfect message.
Quiz your teen while out and about.
It’s one thing to read something in a book and it’s another to see it in a real-life example. Before our daughter got her permit she was working her way through Driver’s Ed and we would go over anything she didn’t understand. Then when I drove her anywhere, I would have her tell me what different signs meant, how to maneuver a four-way stop, etc.
It was good practice for her. She didn’t stress over the particulars as much when it was time for her to be behind the wheel because she’d already been thinking it through for weeks by then.
Practice off the road.
Probably every driver remembers learning how to work a car in an empty parking lot. There’s something to be said for learning in “no-pressure” situations. Let them get used to how that particular car moves, how touchy the brakes are and how to maneuver its size properly before putting them on the road.
And if you live in an area where you get snow, make sure to take them back to the parking lot when it snows so they can learn how to handle a vehicle in icy conditions without the fear of hitting another car.
Get the nerve-wracking things out of the way.
As excited as our daughter was about driving, there were a few things she was nervous about. So, as soon as we felt she could handle it, we made her take those situations on. Once she faced them, she was much more confident about her driving skills.
But this goes for parents, too. There were many times I would feel panic over things like taking her on the highway, etc. and I knew that anxiety would only get worse and would just hold my teen back as a driver. So, as soon as I felt she was capable, we would tackle those areas, as well. Eventually, I started feeling better about her driving skills, too. 🙂
Gradually add music, talking, etc.
When you first take your teen out driving, it will most likely just be the two of you so they’ll only have your instructions to focus on. But over time, you are going to want to see how your teen handles other distractions, like people talking in the backseat, music playing, etc.
There’s just so much multi-tasking involved in driving that we often take for granted. A new driver has to learn how to juggle it all and that can be overwhelming at first. Adding it in a little at a time was very helpful for our daughter.
(This would be a really good time to talk about safety. Like keeping your phone put away and having someone else control the radio while they’re driving.)
Consider taking the driver’s test at a driving school.
When our daughter was ready for her test, we were having a hard time scheduling her at the BMV. Then we found out her driving school can issue her driving test and we were over the moon about that. They did charge a fee but we were willing to pay it since we could schedule it quickly and she was already familiar with the instructors which helped with her nervousness.
I’m not sure if this is the case with all driving schools, but the one we worked with seemed to really care about their students. This wasn’t just a paycheck to them. It mattered to them that their students were safe and learning things properly. As a mom, I couldn’t have been happier with the experience.
Teach them car care and what to do in case of an accident.
When I first got my license, my dad taught me how to change a tire, check the oil, etc. My hubby did the same with our daughter. It’s so important they learn these basics, for the car’s sake and, most importantly, for their safety, in case they’re stranded somewhere with a flat tire.
Teens also need to know what to do after an accident: when it’s safe to exit their car, when they should pull off the road (if able), and what information needs to be exchanged.
Have guidelines and enforce them.
According to the National Safety Council: “The three biggest causes of fatalities on the road are alcohol, speeding, and lack of seat belt use.”
My husband is a police officer and he can verify this. He has come across some heartbreaking fatal crashes and near-fatal accidents from teen drivers who were either driving distracted, driving drunk, or simply ignoring the speed limit. In most cases, these driving habits were already known to the parents and could have been avoided if they had intervened early on.
A driver’s license is a privilege and should be treated as such. As parents of new teenage drivers, we may need to make the tough decision of withholding their driving privileges if they are not practicing safe driving. It very well could save their lives one day. Or the lives of others.
There should be clear guidelines of what’s expected and what are punishable offenses. Some parents even have their young drivers sign a driving contract. Whatever we choose to do, our kids should know that if word of their unsafe driving got back to us, there would be consequences and they should know what they are. And they should be enforced.
(Check out the Insurance Institute for more stats on highway safety and information about safety tips.)
Best Products for New Drivers
Cell Phone Holder for Car (Handsfree and perfect for following GPS)
Day and Night Driving Sunglasses (Great for new drivers!)
Car Safety Emergency Tool (We have one in every vehicle)
I hope, after reading this, you feel a little less nervous about starting out on this journey with your teenager. Trust me, I know just how nerve-wracking it is, but having a responsible, teen driver in our home has been such a gift! Honestly, I hardly drive anymore.
So try to enjoy the journey as much as you can and hopefully you’ll look back on it afterward feeling pretty great that you both survived it. 🙂 Good luck!
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