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Teaching Your Teen to Drive

The Stages of Learning to Drive


The following five stages of drivers education will help you figure out how to best help your teen develop good driving skills. In each stage, your teen should be proficient at the skills being taught before moving on to the next stage. Each stage will likely take several behind-the-wheel experiences for your teen, so don't try to move too fast.


Stage 1: Learning About Your Vehicle

This stage involves a general orientation about how the vehicle works and what the driver needs to know about the car. At the end of the stage, your teen should know:


  • How to start and stop the engine
  • How to turn on and off headlights and parking (or running) lights
  • How to turn on and off and to adjust windshield wipers
  • What the various lights on the dashboard mean
  • How to fasten seat belts
  • How to fuel the vehicle, check the oil and inflate the tires
  • How to change a flat tire
  • What to do in case of an accident


Stage 2: The Basic Skills

In this stage, the teen driver needs to learn how to maneuver the vehicle and make it do what the driver wants it to. Most of these skills can be learned in an empty parking lot. At the end of this stage, your teen should be able to:


  • Make safe turns, both left and right, including signaling
  • Stop the car smoothly
  • Shift gears if using a manual transmission
  • Back the car safely and straight
  • Show awareness of his or her surroundings


Stage 3: Interacting with Other Drivers and Distractions

In this stage, your teen will be learning how to operate a vehicle safely with other drivers, parked cars, pedestrians, etc. in their environment. Most of these skills will require beginning on a residential street and moving to a multilane street during the stage. At the end of this stage, your teen should be able to:


  • Navigate safely through an intersection, including those with signals, 4-way stops, 2-way stops and uncontrolled intersections
  • Make a smooth and safe lane change
  • Maintain a "safe cushion" around the vehicle when in traffic
  • Drive courteously
  • Operate within posted speed limits and obeying traffic signs
  • Safely cross railroad tracks
  • Use mirrors and check blind spots


Stage 4: Parking and Other Turns

Driving is one thing, but parking can be quite another. There are probably more teen accidents associated with getting in and out of parking spots than from any other cause. Once again, an empty parking lot and a residential street are good places to learn this skill set. At the end of this stage, your teen should be able to:


  • Park safely on a hill-facing uphill and facing downhill
  • Safely parallel park
  • Safely pull into and out of a 90 degree parking space
  • Safely pull into and out of a diagonal parking space
  • Make a safe U-turn
  • Make a safe 3-point turn


Stage 5: Advanced Skills

The skills in this stage are essential, but they are advanced and rely on proficiency in other skills learned in stage 1-4. Don't try to start on Stage 5 until you feel comfortable that your teen has the stage 1-4 skills well under control. At the end of stage 5, your teen should be able to:




Teaching your teen to drive is a harrowing experience for some fathers. But if a dad will take the time to prepare, will work on building skill by skill, and will patiently work with his teenager, he can make a huge difference in his teen's driving, now and in the future.


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How to Parallel Park a Car

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