Beginner skills checklist
Vary the routes to practice the following:
Turns: speed and use of signals
Braking smoothly: gradually slowing to a stop
Accelerating smoothly: steadily increasing to a safe speed within the posted limit
Approaching intersections controlled by stop signs or lights
Determining right of way
Single-lane and multi-lane roadways (low speeds)
Changing lanes and how to merge into traffic safely
Maintaining appropriate speed
Scanning for and identifying hazards
Keeping a safe following distance
Sharing the road with cyclists, pedestrians, and school buses
Driving in a school zone
Reacting to an approaching emergency vehicle
Using turning lanes
As your new driver starts to master these skills, pay attention to which ones he or she is confident with. As you both become more comfortable, continue to expose your teen to different times of day, levels of traffic, and weather conditions on familiar roads.
At this point, your teen has mastered the basics and needs lots of practice getting used to the road. For the next several hours of driving practice, stick to low-speed, low-traffic roads. Try to take a different route each time to be sure your teen is getting the variety needed to become a safe driver. Also consider working with a driving instructor.
Driving on the highway
Driving on a multi-lane highway for the first time can be scary. Start your teen out by driving at quieter times of the day to practice merging into traffic, staying in the lane, and using higher speeds and safe following distances without the added stress of rush-hour traffic. Once you are both comfortable with that, gradually move on to busier traffic situations.
Before heading out onto the highway, prepare your new driver for:
Higher speeds that call for longer stopping distances
The need to check blind spots before changing lanes
Driving near large trucks
Anticipating interchanges by reading signs
Allowing a “safety space” around you, in the event you need to pull off the road for another vehicle or debris
Looking for traffic stopped or slowing ahead
Advanced skills checklist
Skills a new driver needs to master while in high-speed, high-traffic conditions:
Merging into traffic
Identifying road signs and exits
Navigating toll booths
Passing and being overtaken
Maintaining proper speed
Being courteous to others
Keeping a safe following distance
Difficult driving conditions are dangerous for all drivers, but are extremely hazardous for new drivers. After you and your teen feel confident with his or her ability to handle each driving situation in daylight and good weather, make sure your teen has plenty of opportunities to drive each type of road at night and in rain, snow, and fog. Discuss using features like the defroster, fog lights, and bright headlights.
Until both you and your teen driver are comfortable with driving in “degraded” conditions, he or she shouldn’t do it without supervision, even if the law says it’s allowed.
How do I know when my teen is ready to drive alone?
Your instincts are probably the best way to know. Remember, even if your teen is legally old enough to get a license, it’s your decision whether he or she is ready.
Questions to consider
Has my teen had enough practice, in varying conditions, so we are both confident with my teen’s ability to handle most situations?
Has my teen shown the ability to detect hazards and react to them quickly?
Have I noticed that scanning for hazards has become a habit for my teen?
Does my teen always wear a seat belt and remind others to do so?
Does my teen avoid using a cell phone or text messaging while driving?
Does my teen wait to pull over to handle distractions or situations that take his or her eyes away from the road? Do I think my teen will act the same way when I’m not in the car?
Does my teen speed or drive aggressively?
Will my teen know to pull over if upset, frustrated, or angry?
Has my teen exhibited responsibility in other areas of his or her life and do I trust him or her to drive my car responsibly?
Has my teen agreed to your safe driving habits and house rules?
If you think more time and practice is needed before your teen becomes a licensed driver, talk to your teen about the reasons. One way to handle it is to make a deal that your teen may get a license, but you don’t want your teen driving alone in certain situations.
For more information about teen and driving, review the collection of teen driving articles on Simple Insights®.
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