How to Coach Your Teen Driver

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Published Jul 31, 2015

If you're a bundle of nerves when your teenager takes to the road for the first time, you're not alone! Many parents worry about what will happen when their teenager is behind the wheel without adult supervision. Will they drive safely? Follow the rules of the road? Remember what they've been taught

Keep the Cell Phone Off

Teach your teenager to turn their cell phone off altogether, drop it into the back seat, or even lock it in the trunk while they're driving. Distracted driving while talking or texting on a cell phone, is all too common. If you're worried that your teenager won't be able to follow this rule when they're on their own, install an app that will prevent the phone from being used when a car is in motion.

Obey the Speed Limit

It's tempting to speed, especially if you're running late or traveling down a familiar stretch of road. First, make sure that your own driving behavior models appropriate respect for speed limits. Second, have a detailed discussion with your teenager about what they stand to gain--or don't--by speeding. In many cases, speeding can cause bottlenecks and other traffic flow problems, many of which ultimately result in a longer journey to their destination. Furthermore, speeding doesn't actually gain that much time even on a straight stretch of road that has no obstacles or other vehicles. In addition, speeding increases the cost of gas. All of these factors mean that it makes more sense to travel at a safe, appropriate speed. Make your teenager aware of them to ensure that they'll remember to adhere to the speed limit.

Minimize Distractions

There are always going to be activities that can distract your teenager behind the wheel. The presence of friends in the car, changing the radio station, or eating behind the wheel can be all the distraction needed to lead to an accident. Teach your teenager to minimize those distractions when they're driving and remind them that there's nothing so important that they can't take care of it when they arrive at their destination.

Driving in the Rain

Make sure you discuss safe driving behavior in the rain with your teenager. They should know to turn on their lights when they turn on their windshield wipers, to allow greater following room, and to travel at lower speeds when it's raining. In addition to that, however, you should be sure that your teenager has adequate experience driving in the rain under supervised conditions before you turn them loose to drive on their own. Make sure you pay attention to your child. Are they comfortable driving in the rain? Cocky? Or have they admitted that they aren't quite comfortable with it yet? It's worth going to get your teenager after it starts raining to keep them from driving alone in conditions they haven't learned to be comfortable with yet.

Turning and Passing Techniques

Work with your teenager on safe turning and passing techniques. Teach them how to determine right of way: not only when to yield it, but when to take it, as well. Discuss remaining in the correct lane when they turn, observing traffic flow, and when it is and isn't appropriate to pass.

Practice Defensive Driving

One of the most important aspects of accident avoidance is defensive driving. Teach your teenager to keep a cushion of space around their car that will prevent them from being in an accident. Encourage them to look at cross streets before passing them to ensure that there isn't another car getting ready to run straight through a stop sign or red light. Remind them to check their mirrors before braking in case the car behind them is following too closely. Defensive driving doesn't necessarily mean assuming that everyone on the road is out to get them, but it does assume that other drivers can make mistakes and teach your teenage driver to act accordingly.

Getting Pulled Over

Sooner or later, even the most cautious driver makes a mistake. Teach your teenager how to respond appropriately when they're pulled over. Remind them to be respectful; to provide their license, registration, and insurance information on command; and to be honest with the officer. Also, says traffic attorney Isaac Abraham, if your teen is issued a ticket, make them financially responsible for it. This will help to remind them that their actions behind the wheel have consequences and encourage safer driving behavior in the future.

By teaching your teen safe driving habits now, you can instill behaviors that will last for a lifetime. The driving behaviors that they use now will likely stick with them for a lifetime, so by teaching them safety during those early days behind the wheel, you can assure yourself that they'll practice driving safety for years to come.


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