Teaching Teens to Drive (Parent Guide)

Why Should a Parent Be Involved?

Parents play a critical role in the development of a good teen driver.  This often starts years before your teen gets the keys to the family car.  Practicing safe walking and biking skills are a great way to become familiar with the rules of the road while learning about behavior that can impact safety when they are behind the wheel.

Parents are the best example

For better or worse, your teen will have learned from your driving habits and may ignore what they hear from your or instructor’s words of wisdom.   Many parents have ignored traffic rules or don’t know them.  Now, is the time to examine and discuss your driving habits with your teen.  Try to help establish the record and work on being a good example.

California GDL law requires adult supervision

The standards for teens to get a driver’s license are based on graduated driving experience.  New drivers are required to drive with adults for a minimum of 50 hours (10 hours at night).  Driving courses only cover a small amount of this time.  So your time with your teen will be most of the time he or she spends learning to drive. For more information on California’s GDL law, click here.

Crashes are deadly for teens

In the United States alone, we lose 5,000 teens each year to fatal vehicle accidents. Your involvement in giving your teen experience behind the wheel when you are in the passenger seat will greatly reduce the risk of your teen being in an accident.  Lots of practice with a caring adult will go a long way to create a safer teen driver.

Set your own family rules about driving

Once your teen receives a permit or license, there is still more you can do to help your new driver learn to drive.   Setting rules is an effective way to help your teen learn to drive under safer conditions.

Some examples of rules:

  • Limit the number of passengers in the car. According to Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD), teen driving crash rates increase by 50% with just one teen passenger in the car, and by 400% with three or more teen passengers
  • Establish and enforce a house curfew. The highest number of driving crashes occur Friday and Saturday nights and early on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
  • Insist that your teen and his or her passengers always use seat belts. Teens tend to use their seat belts less often than other drivers. Remind your teen that the presence of airbags does not mean he or she can ignore seat belts.
  • Make sure your teen keeps the cell phone turned off. Teens may love talking on the phone, but doing it while driving is a dangerous distraction, and in more and more places, it may be illegal.
  • Set driving area limits. If your teen wants to travel outside your town or city, require that he or she request special permission.
  • Prohibit driving or riding with others under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In addition to the possibility of legal consequences, tell your teen you will revoke driving privileges for a given amount of time.

Most parents set rules – whether their teens admit it or not! Talk with your teen about your expectations and set some family rules that you all can live with.

Don’t forget to insure your teen!

Once your teen has a drivers license then you need to make sure that the teen is insured either under their own policy or your policy.  This would be easy to overlook.

Get Help

There are many community resources and professional classes to help your teen become a safe driver.  We recommend that you learn as much as you can about how to transition to this new level of responsibility safely.

Two of our favorite resources are:

www.DMV.ca.gov provides a tremendous amount of new driver information as well as other useful information about driving.  This site helps put into easy terms rules and laws from the California DMV.

Teaching your teen to drive (A Dad’s perspective) As a dad who has been the primary driving instructor for three teens, the author has learned some pretty good tips for teaching teenagers to safely work behind the wheel.