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Teaching Your Teen to Drive

General Guidelines for Teaching Your Teen to Drive

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As you begin the process of teaching your teen driver, you should be aware of the basic rules for success.

Let your teen take the initiative.Not every teen is ready at 15 or 15 1/2 or 16 to begin learning to drive. Once you feel that he or she is ready, express that feeling and then wait for your teen to approach you. Don't push the issue - an overly anxious teen driver can be a dangerous thing.

Plan ahead.When you start working behind the wheel, know ahead of time where you are going and what you are going to do. Let your teen know the area in which he or she will be driving and what skills you will be working on.

Remember you are the coach.Your role as the teen driver's parent is to coach him or her through the basics of driving. Avoid talking down to your teen or getting upset. Try not to generalize with comments like "You're too distracted." Be specific in what you want them to do. Praise the good performance.

Correct by asking questions.Rather than saying things like, "You're going to get a speeding ticket if you don't slow down," try a question approach such as "What's the speed limit here?" Teach them awareness of their surroundings by asking questions.

Start slow and build up.When I start out with my teens, we go to an empty parking lot and spend a lot of time starting, stopping and turning. When they are comfortable there, we then move on to a quiet residential area with fewer cars. Then we move onto streets with heavier traffic. We need to help them develop confidence in the very basic skills before moving on.

Be constantly aware. One of the hardest things about driving safely is being aware of your surroundings. But for a new driver, that 360 degree awareness is not a skill which they have yet mastered. So you will need to be the one who watches on all four sides of the car.

Be careful with directions. Give your teens lots of notice when you want them to do something. For example, rather than saying "Turn left now," try anticipating and say, "We will be turning left in the next block." Also, only use the word "right" for a direction. When your teen does something well, tell them they did it "correctly."

Set realistic goals. I have found that the number of times we drive with our teens is more important than the amount of time in each session. At the beginning, limit your practice time to 15 to 20 minutes at a time. As your teen's confidence increases, you can extend practice times.

Start off in daylight and good weather. As your teen is developing their driving skills, try to focus on daytime driving and when road conditions are good.

Set a good example. As mentioned earlier, your driving is your teen's best example. So try to follow good driving practices as you drive with your teen as a passenger. If you try to bear the yellow light from turning red, so will they. If your lane changes are too quick, theirs will be too. Drive the way you hope they will drive when you are not with them.

Now, let's look at the essential skills your teen will need to be a safe and successful driver.

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