An In-Depth Guide for Parents Teaching Their Teens How to Drive
Learning how to drive is an exciting rite of passage for teenagers. As a parent, you may be wondering if you can teach your son how to drive in your own car. The answer is yes, with some preparation and precautions. Here is an in-depth guide to teaching your teen son how to drive using your family vehicle.
Legal Requirements for Teen Drivers
Before your son can get behind the wheel, make sure he has completed a state-approved driver’s education course and obtained a learner’s permit or provisional license. The specific requirements vary by state, so check your local DMV website. Generally he will need to be a minimum age, complete classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction, and pass a written exam.
Once he has a learner’s permit, there are restrictions on when and how he can drive. For example, you may need to be in the car supervising him. Know your state laws and enforce the rules. Driving practice is an essential step between the learner’s permit and the license.
Choosing the Right Practice Car
When teaching a beginner driver, the ideal car has features that allow you to feel safe while your son learns. Prioritize the following:
- Automatic transmission – Removing the need to shift gears lets your teen focus on steering, scanning the road, and maneuvring the vehicle.
- Good visibility – A higher seating position in an SUV or crossover gives him a better vantage point to see the road and spot hazards. Avoid low-slung sports cars.
- Responsive brakes and handling – Look for a car with anti-lock brakes and stability control to prevent skids if he needs to stop quickly. Suspension and steering should feel solid and controlled.
- Minimal distractions – Remove clutter and unnecessary electronics. Silence phones and set rules against texting or eating while driving.
- Good tires and maintenance – Ensure tires have adequate tread depth and are properly inflated. Keep up with tune-ups, oil changes, etc. A well-maintained car is safer and easier to handle.
Teaching Your Son Driving Basics
Start lessons in a large, empty parking lot or quiet residential street before moving on to busier roads. Take it slow, focusing on one new skill at a time. Be patient and encourage your teen as you work on:
- Entering/exiting the vehicle – Adjust mirrors and the seat, buckle up, and review the controls every time.
- Starting and stopping – Use smooth motions with the brake and accelerator. No jerky motions.
- Turning – Scan ahead, activate turn signals, slowly turn the wheel, straighten out.
- Backing up – Back up slowly while looking over the shoulder and through the rear window.
- Changing lanes – Check mirrors and blind spots before signaling and making the lane change.
- Following distance – Maintain at least 3-4 seconds behind other vehicles and avoid tailgating.
- Parking – Master parallel parking, reverse parking, hill starts, and more.
Handling Tricky Road Situations
Once your teen has the fundamentals down, begin exposing him to different road environments and conditions. Have him practice:
- Busy roads – Multi-lane streets, traffic lights, pedestrians, bicyclists.
- Highways – Entering, exiting, changing lanes at higher speeds.
- Bad weather – Rain, fog, snow all require adjustments like slower speeds.
- Night driving – Dim lights call for focused attention and no sunglasses.
In each scenario, talk through how to handle it safely. Provide feedback on what he did well and where there’s room for improvement.
Maintaining Your Car for Practice Sessions
Letting a new driver use your family car means taking steps to keep it in top shape:
- Check tires often for tread wear and proper inflation. They impact braking distances.
- Change oil regularly to help the engine run well. More driving means more frequent changes.
- Inspect and replace worn windshield wipers if needed. Good visibility is a must.
- Fill up the tank before hitting the road so you don’t run out of gas.
- Clean off snow, ice, or fog from windows before driving.
- Note any new warning lights on the dashboard and have them checked out promptly.
- Adjust insurance to cover your teen as a driver of the vehicle. Rates may increase.
- Install dual brakes or pedals if allowed by your state for safety.
- Consider extra practice features like pivoting/pulling brakes on the passenger side.
Setting Rules and Expectations for Your Teen
While driving practice with a permit is essential, it’s not a free-for-all. Set clear rules and expectations for your son:
- No friends in the car without a supervising adult until he has his license. Only one peer passenger at a time after that.
- No night driving, especially late evenings on weekends. Set an early evening curfew.
- No cell phone use including talking or texting while behind the wheel.
- No driving while impaired by any substance or alcohol. Make it clear this is absolutely forbidden.
- Seat belts always. The stats don’t lie – they save lives.
- Speed limits and other traffic laws must be obeyed, not ignored. New drivers lack experience to speed safely.
- Music/radio volume stays low so your teen can hear hazards and focus fully.
- Regular feedback sessions after each driving lesson about what went well and what needs work.
Insurance and Liability Considerations
- Review your auto insurance policy – Many allow learner’s permit driving as long as an adult is in the car. Notify your agent of a new driver.
- Document supervised hours – Some states require tracking your teen’s practice drives before licensing.
- Consider supplemental insurance – Extra liability coverage gives peace of mind during the learning phase.
- Determine who pays for damages if your teen is at fault in a collision – will it be you, him, or split? Add him as a named insured to remove questions.
- Know state laws on financial responsibility of adult sponsors for teen drivers. You may be on the hook.
Preparing Your Teen for Independent Driving
The goal is to steadily build your son’s skills until he can safely drive your car independently. As the lessons progress:
- Increase drive time and mileage per session as he gains experience.
- Reduce your supervision and prompts as his confidence grows. But stay focused on any lingering weak points.
- Allow him to drive in more challenging conditions like heavy traffic or bad weather. But only at his pace.
- Emphasize defensive strategies by testing his hazard perception regularly – keep scanning and anticipating problems.
- Ensure he can handle vehicle issues like jumps in steering or stalling. Don’t rescue him too quickly so he learns to manage it.
- Confirm he knows basic maintenance like checking fluids, tire pressure, changing a tire, etc. to handle roadside emergencies.
- Have him take the road test when you feel he is truly ready to pass. It takes most teens multiple tries.
Celebrating a New Licensed Driver!
Passing the license test marks a major life milestone. Once the celebration dies down, reinforce smart driving habits:
- Review the graduated license rules – there may still be some restrictions.
- Limit teen passengers and night driving, the biggest dangers.
- Lead by example – model safe habits yourself.
- Make an agreement about sharing the car, fuel costs, maintenance, etc.
- Consider tools like safe driving apps to track behavior.
- Remind him driving is a privilege to earn and keep, not a right.
Teaching your son to drive is an investment of time, patience and care. But the rewards of mobility, responsibility and adulthood make it worthwhile! Refer back to this guide as needed to help him learn safe driving skills.