Teaching Your Teen to Drive

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Now that they have their learner’s permit, it’s time to teach your teen to drive. They probably learned a lot in their education classes, but learning in a classroom isn’t anything like driving a real car! 

The First Time

Before they start the car for the first time, set some ground rules with your son or daughter. My son knows that as soon as he starts the car, the radio goes off, his phone stays in his pocket, and he’s in “road mode.” I want him to focus all of his attention on driving so that he can learn and practice in an intentional way. Come up with the rules that work for your family. 

The first time you take your teen out to drive, take plenty of time to familiarize them with everything in the car. They need to know the how to: 

  • Adjust the mirrors, seats and steering wheel
  • Turn on all the lights including headlights, brights, turn signals and hazards
  • Use the wipers, including cleaning the windshield 
  • Operate the climate control features, especially the defrosters
  • Locate the latches for the locks, hood, trunk and gas tank 
  • Shift gears and what the gears mean/do
  • Set and take off the parking brake
  • Start the car

It’s a lot to go over and it won’t be the only time you have to explain how these things all work. Be patient; this is a new language for them!

Parking Lot Driving

It’s best to start off their driving experience in a large, empty parking lot. My son and I used a church parking lot and one at a middle school near us. Find a place not too far away from you that is fairly vacant in the evenings or on weekends. 

During the first few practice sessions in a parking lot, let your teen get a feel for the car and learn how hard to press the pedals. It’s also a good time to start working on parking and backing up. 

Neighborhood Drives

Next, let your teen drive the neighborhoods a bit. This is good practice for staying on their side of the street, not hitting parked cars, watching for pedestrians, and going a bit faster. As they get better, take them on streets with additional lanes and a bit more traffic. 

This is a good time to teach your new driver how to get gas if they don’t know. 

It’s also important that our teens know how to check the tire pressure, wiper fluid and oil levels. Add these skills whenever you’re both ready. 

Busy City Streets

This is where things get a little (more) scary because of additional traffic and higher speeds. This is not the same Colorado Springs I learned to drive in during the 1990s! But it’s important to teach our teens to drive defensively. Make sure they are comfortable changing lanes in traffic, merging, and going faster speeds. This is a good time to practice sitting in traffic, changing lanes in gridlock, and being a steady driver when it is stressful. 

The Interstate and Highways

Learning to navigate at much higher speeds can be scary for both teens and parents, but it’s critical that they learn how. The hardest part of the interstate is merging. Get on and off the interstate at different entrance and exit ramps, and at different times of day so that your teen driver grows in confidence that they can handle a variety of situations. 

Weather Practice

Since our students have to have their learner’s permit for a full 12 months before they can get their license, we have the opportunity to expose them to a full year’s worth of weather. Even though I’m scared to do this, I plan to take my son out in the snow and ice to drive as often as I can. It took me many years to get confident driving on slippery roads; I hope that my son can have a different experience. 

Important Requirement

To be eligible to get their driver’s license, Colorado teenagers must log 50 hours of supervised driving. Ten of the 50 hours must be at night. Download the free Road Ready app to keep track. A paper print out of all driving sessions must be furnished to the DMV. 

Driver’s Manual

This driver’s manual is specifically for parents and breaks down driving skills by lessons we can present to our kids. It’s full of some great information and breaks down the driving skills our kids need into actionable lessons. Check it out!

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Gretchen has lived in Colorado since she was 12 and never wants to leave. She has a 13-year-old son who is into having a good time, especially with sports and Fortnite. Together, they are navigating the teen world of puberty and growing up. She has a wonderful husband, having been surprised and blessed with a second chance at love. Their family enjoys playing board games, watching Avengers movies, and sharing dumb jokes over good food. In her free time, she loves to read, shop for purses, play games, watch football, laugh with her family, cook delicious food, and dream of the next home improvement project.

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