How do you know if your child is ready to drive?
When it’s time to teach your teenager to drive, parents should begin by taking the time to make sure their teen is knowledgeable about and comfortable with the vehicle and its controls. Parents can also check with their insurance companies to see if they have programs to help teach a teen to drive. For example, the State Farm® Steer Clear® program is a great way for teen and young adult drivers to improve their driving skills.
Start with a tour of the vehicle
Before you hit the road, start by training your teen on the basics: demonstrate how to adjust the seat, and the side and rearview mirrors safely to fit their needs. Make any other accommodations that are necessary, such as tilting the steering wheel.
Review the controls and features of the car. Give your teen an education on how each of these works:
Steering wheel and seat adjustment
Safety features like air bags and seat belts
Starting/turning off the engine
Gas, brakes (especially ABS)
Warning indicator lights on dashboard (such as low fuel, oil, temperature indicator)
Also, be sure to show your teen where the registration, insurance card, and car manual are located.
Get a feel for the vehicle
The first time your teen actually drives the car, start in the safest, easiest location possible, like an empty parking lot. Have your teen practice applying gas and brakes, driving straight, turning, and backing up.
As you see your teen beginning to master these skills, take note and make the situation a little more complex next time. For example, instead of just stopping and starting, have your teen pull into and out of a parking spot.
It can take several outings to learn how to get from point A to point B, and to figure out how much pressure to apply to the brakes to stop or how far to move the steering wheel to turn.
This is also a good time to remind your teen driver to pay attention to their surroundings:
Look ahead and to the sides.
Scan continuously for hazards.
Teach your teen to keep a clear “safety space” around the car so there’s room to react to any hazards. The farther he or she hangs back from the vehicle in front, the better your teen will be able to see what’s ahead. Seeing better and farther provides extra time to react to changing traffic conditions.
Start in low-speed, low-traffic areas
Once your teen is comfortable with the basic operation of the car, take your training to quiet streets where your teen can practice staying on one side of the road, anticipate cars exiting driveways, and learn to pull up to a stop sign.
For the next several lessons, stick to roads that have slower speed limits (under 35 mph). Emphasize that the posted limit is only a guide for an acceptable speed in excellent conditions. Your teen should drive even slower in poor weather, heavy traffic, or areas where there are a lot of pedestrians.
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