The teenSMART online driving course uses realistic driving simulations proven to improve teen driving skills.
It's the period of time teens most look forward to and parents become most anxious over: the first driving practice sessions. New drivers need hours and hours of practice behind the wheel of a car: learning everything from how much pressure to put on the brake and gas pedals to how to merge into traffic on the highway. Here are some tips on how to make these sessions as effective and stress-free as possible.
As a new driver, sitting behind the wheel of a car for the first time can be a little scary. Remember that it's a large piece of machinery that will take time and patience to master operating. Know that you will make mistakes - but that's ok, that's what these sessions are for.
As a parent, handing over the keys to a new driver can also be a little scary. But if you're tense and nervous, your teen will be too. Take comfort in the fact that few serious accidents occur during supervised driving lessons, and as long as you do not put your new driver in a situation they are not yet ready for - you'll both be fine.
Choose the Right Place
During the first few lessons, be sure to practice in a safe, open area during daylight hours and only during good weather conditions. Empty parking lots are ideal for these initial sessions. As the new driver becomes more and more comfortable behind the wheel you can begin branching out to side streets and varying road conditions, but start slow - and never put the teen in a situation they don't feel they're ready for.
Create a Lesson Plan
Your first sessions should include learning how to turn on the engine, adjust mirrors, adjust the seat and slowly move the car forward. Each session should review what the new driver learned in the last lesson and gradually add new skills. The California Department of Motor Vehicles has put together a comprehensive guide that includes sample lessons that could be a good resource: Download the Parent Teen Training Guide
Give Good Directions
If you're supervising a new driver, be sure to give directions in a calm, clear voice, well in advance of the action you'd like the teen to take. Avoid confusion by telling the new driver where something will happen before what it is you'd like them to do. For example: "At the traffic light, take a right". This avoids the teen turning right immediately. Likewise, try to avoid using just the word "stop", as this could result in an immediate and hard braking situation. Instead, ask the new driver to "bring the car to a stop".
Remember that this is an exciting time in a new driver's life. Neither the parent nor the teen should get too upset at the false starts and frustrations that are bound to happen. It's ok to laugh about them, and then go over what steps can be taken to avoid those mistakes the next time. If you follow these guidelines, both the new driver and the parent supervising them could turn what some people find a scary situation into an enjoyable way to spend time together.