My grandparents lived at the end of a very long dirt road. On the way to grandma’s house the dirt road was “driving time.” It was somebody different every time but we got to sit in Daddy’s lap and help turn the wheel. Plenty changed between then and getting my first license, but my parents taught me all the way. Here are four tips to even out the bumps along the way.

4 Tips for Teaching Your Teen to Drive Safely

Keep the Mood Relaxed and Light

Staying calm is very important, despite what you’re feeling inside. The last thing you want to do is to make your teen anxious and stressed, so keep things light, and keep your instruction positive.

Avoid broad negative statements like, “you always drive too fast,” or “you never remember your turn signal.” If you have to offer a correction, you can say something like, “the speed limit is 30 through here,” or “can you explain what happened at that last intersection?” Save any harsh criticisms for after you get out of the car, unless you feel like your teen’s driving is putting you both in danger.

Start Slow, but Cover Increasingly Difficult Driving Situations as Your Teen Matures

Many parents stick to daytime driving in nice weather when teaching their teens to drive. This is fine at the beginning, but as your kids become more confident, it’s important to expose them to more difficult driving conditions, such as rush hour traffic, driving in the rain, and driving at night. It’s better that they experience these conditions with you by their side — not after they get their driver’s license and are alone on the road.

Discuss Hazards and Sudden Obstacles Before they Occur

After your teen has learned the basics — how to handle the car and the rules of the road – it’s very important to discuss the hazards and obstacles they might come across while driving. Remind them not to swerve for an animal in the road, and to be on the lookout for brake lights, pedestrians, bicyclists, and cars backing out of driveways. Much of this will come with experience, but talking about common hazards will help your teens become more aware when driving.

Discuss Distractions and Accidents

Remind your teen about the dangers of driving distracted, and encourage them to keep their phones in the glove compartment so they won’t be tempted to text while at the wheel. Your teen should also be well-versed in what to do if they are ever in an accident. They should know how automobile insurance works, and where the insurance card is kept in their car. If they are ever in an accident, they should take pictures of any damage, file a police report, and take down the phone numbers of any witnesses.

The more experience your teen has driving, the better drivers they’ll become. As they become more comfortable in the driver’s seat, encourage them to practice whenever you go out together. This will give you both more confidence in your teen’s abilities as a driver.

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