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6 tips for teaching a teenager to drive

One of the best ways to make your teen a better driver is to make yourself a better driving coach.

Father teaching his teenage son to drive

1. Keep your cool
It's simple, support and positive reinforcement go a long way. Praise your teen when they practice good judgment and avoid overreacting to mistakes. Try not to say things like “you’re going to get us killed!” Instead, model a calm demeanor—it will set a good example for your teen so they remain cool in the car under pressure.

2. Plan out your drives ahead of time
Planning is everything. And since teens need to log a specific number of practice hours behind the wheel, you’ll want to make sure you put together a program that helps them meet their goals.

The best thing you can do is focus on certain skills for each driving session, starting with beginner skills and move up to more complex scenarios as your teen’s skills improve, such as highway, nighttime, or bad weather driving. Don’t focus only on your family’s routine routes. Mix it up and include new places so your teen driver can get used to navigating all types of driving situations.

3. Set a good example
Teens watch and learn from their parents, so it’s important to model good driving behavior and follow the rules of the road. Always keep your own behaviors in mind to avoid establishing and reinforcing bad behaviors behind the wheel for inexperienced teen drivers.

4. Don’t bring up outside issues while your teen is driving
While it can be tempting to use this “alone time” with your teen to discuss other matters, keep the car conversation limited to the task at hand: improving your teen’s understanding of the road. Table any other topics, like their school grades or family issues, for later and encourage them to remain focused.

5. Follow the rules of the road
Drivers education programs vary depending on location, but in general, every state implements a three-stage system so teens graduate from a learner’s permit, to a provisional license, and finally to an unrestricted license. Each stage grants teens more privileges, like nighttime driving or driving with friends.

6. Incorporate driving simulators
There are a variety of tools and resources available to help you. Using web-based driving simulators and materials can significantly improve your teen’s driving performance. Online simulators and safety courses not only give teens more practice time behind the wheel, but they also allow them to hone in on specific skills like merging and changing lanes.

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