How to Help Your Teen Learn to Drive

Learning to drive is an exciting but scary time for both you and your teen. But to learn to drive, they must practice. Here’s how to teach your teen to drive.

Help Your Teen Study for the Learner’s Permit Test

Your teen will need to pass a knowledge test to get their learner’s permit. This test usually covers the basics — identifying road signs, road rules, safe driving practices, and license restrictions. Set a date to take their test, and help them study for a few months leading up to it.

If you’ve had your license for a while, helping them study can also refresh your memory. Your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, or DMV, should have a free handbook. Read through the handbook at the same time as your teen. You can quiz them on the information.

Some DMVs also have free online DMV practice tests. Encourage your teen to take the practice test until they consistently get passing marks.

Know and Follow Teen License Restrictions

Once they get their learner’s permit, there are restrictions to their license. These can vary by state but usually include limits like:

  • Age at which they can drive
  • Times of day they can drive
  • Number of passengers
  • Mandatory supervision by a licensed, adult driver in the front seat
  • Roads they can drive on
  • Number of demerits or violations

Know the rules for your teen’s license and enforce them. Following these restrictions can be a good first step to teaching your teen to obey traffic laws and limit risky behaviors.

Enroll Your Teen in Driver Education

Formal driving lessons may be helpful to your teen. Find a program that combines book learning with practical learning. This will help your teen learn and practice driving skills from an instructor. 

You might have to pay for driving lessons, but check with your teen’s school first. Driving classes may be offered as part of their high school education. Make sure you get a certificate at the end — this can help lower your teen’s auto insurance rate.

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Start Driving in Low Speed, Low Traffic Areas

You and your teen may feel anxious at first. Don’t take them out onto high-speed roads or high-traffic areas right away.

Instead, find a quiet area of town and let them practice driving. Practice making turns, merging lanes on quiet streets, turning left at a green light, and practicing four-way stops. This will help them build up some experience and confidence before moving to freeways and bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Remain Calm and Positive

As a parent, following some simple practices can help make driving less stressful. These can include:

  • Before you take them out on the road, tell your teen where you’re going. Ask them how they’ll get there so they can start to plan it out in their mind.
  • Give clear, simple, step-by-step instructions.
  • Don’t shout or grab the steering wheel unless necessary.
  • Remind your teen to stay within the speed limit.
  • Don’t rush your teen. Encourage them to remain calm even if other drivers are rushing them.
  • If your teen makes a mistake, pull over and discuss it before moving on.

Most importantly, stay calm and positive. Learning to drive can be overwhelming. Your teen will probably need positive reinforcement.

Allow Lots of Practice Time

Let your teen drive as often as possible, because the best way to learn to drive is to practice driving. Some states require a certain number of practice hours before your teen can get their license. Keep a driving log that tracks the date, length of time driven, and the skills they practiced.

Set House Rules

To discourage risky behaviors, set house rules right from the beginning that will carry over to when they’re driving independently. For example:

  • Zero tolerance for distracted driving: no texting or talking on the phone while driving.
  • Zero tolerance for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Music must be set at a low volume.
  • Seatbelts must be worn at all times.
  • No eating or drinking while driving.
  • No speeding, racing, or reckless driving.
  • No driving at night or while tired.
  • They must tell you where they’re going and have permission to be there.
  • They must call or text when they get to their destination and before they leave to come home.

Set consequences for disobeying the house rules, like losing driving privileges for a certain amount of time. These consequences should still apply after they get their license and start to drive independently.

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Things to Consider

While your teen may experience outside influence and pressure, you shape your teen’s driving the most. Model safe driving for your teen by following traffic laws and good driving practices when you’re behind the wheel. Emphasize that the goal is to arrive safely and that the purpose of vehicles is for transportation.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on August 18, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children: “Behind the Wheel: How to Help Your Teen Become a Safe Driver.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Parents Are the Key to Safe Driving.”

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute Teen Driver Source: “Setting House Rules.”

Durham Region: “Parent’s Guide to Teen Driving: The Role of Parents.”

Insurance Information Institute: “Safety tips for teen drivers.”

National Highway Traffic Safety Association: “Teen Driving.”

Oregon Department of Transportation: “The Oregon Parent Guide to Teen Driving.

State of California Department of Motor Vehicles: “Knowledge and Drive Tests Preparation.”

State of Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles: “Teens' Frequently Asked Questions.”

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