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Tips for parents to help teen drivers

Getting a driver's license is one of the first rights of passage for American teenagers and frankly those from around the world as well. It's a sign that you have proven to be mature enough to control a giant machine. It is also a child's first opportunity to have real freedom. For parents though, it can be nerve-racking. Let's take a look at some tips to help make the process of learning to drive a bit easier for kids.

Stay Involved With Their Driver's Education Instruction

There's a lot of misinformation that I see older and less current instructors sharing with students today. For instance, while hand position was once said to be "10 and 2" that is a terrible position now since airbags can force the hands up and into the face when they deploy. Instead, 9 and 3 is the preferred position. Similarly, some instructors will tell the kids to never take their hands off the wheel and instead, cross their arms while turning. This also is terrible advice but was once common practice. Make sure to observe at least one session before committing to a school and ask your kids what they are being taught to make sure that it is proper. 

Take a Practice Test

Knowing and understanding the rules of the road is important when you’re behind the wheel, especially when you’re driving at high speeds. Make sure your teen is prepared by asking them to take a few practice tests first.

An online practice permit test for new drivers allows them to answer questions and get the answers immediately. A permit test course can take a lot of stress out of the event since your new driver will already know what to expect before the big day. It’s a more fun way to take a quiz than marking down answers in a book, and it’s a great way for parents to get involved. It wouldn’t hurt for you to go over the rules of the road either!

Let Them Drive on the Interstate

Road trips usually include plenty of time on the interstate or on highways. That provides the perfect opportunity for your teen to practice driving!

Getting on and off the interstate is a challenge that can easily be practiced when you’re on vacation. Once they have merged on the interstate, it’s easy-going. Just make sure you review these interstate tips before they take the wheel:

  • Drive in the right lane and pass in the left lane.
  • Leave four to six seconds of space between your car and the car ahead.
  • Never drive in a semi truck's blind spot.

You should also choose the right time of day to let them practice. It’s better to let them practice driving during the day and save the night driving for a more experienced driver.

Take Back the Wheel Before Entering Busy Cities

Not only can it be dangerous to let learning drivers take the wheel on the interstate after the sun goes down, but it can also be extremely dangerous to let them drive through busy city interchanges when they aren’t confident with their driving skills.

Cloverleaf interchanges include multiple exits and entrances, which can be confusing to new drivers. Many interchanges are even more confusing as they have added additional exits to existing roads. It’s very easy to accidentally take the wrong exit, even if you are an experienced driver. If you know you’re approaching a busy city, and especially if you’re approaching during rush hour, you should pull over and let someone else drive.

Don’t Let Them Drive for Too Long

Road trips can be long. Many include hour after hour behind the wheel, while others may even include driving overnight. If your trip is any more than two hours long, you should definitely take a break. If you’re letting a student driver take the wheel during your trip, they should take breaks too, and they should take breaks more often than you would if you were driving.

Brand-new drivers may only drive for a half an hour or so, while more experienced student drivers may be able to drive for an hour. Talk with your child ahead of time to agree on how much time they feel comfortable spending behind the wheel. It can also be helpful to decide on a stopping point before they start driving so they know exactly where to pull over.

Do Not Let Them Drive a Rental Car

Letting them drive while on vacation can be a great way to let your child practice, but it should only be done if you are driving a family vehicle. Although adding another driver to your rental car is a good idea so you can switch off driving duties, that other driver cannot be a student driver.

Rental car companies charge extra for drivers who will be operating the vehicle who are under age 25. Drivers under the age of 18 are out of luck. If you allow your teen to drive and there’s an accident, you could find yourself in big trouble.

The next time you hit the road for a road trip, let your student driver take the wheel! It’s a great way to take a break and let them practice, as long as you do it safely by following the tips on this list.

Invest in Defensive Driving Programs Such as B.R.E.A.K.S.

B.R.E.A.K.S. is one of my absolutely favorite driving schools. While typically a driver's ed instructor teaches kids how to operate the vehicle and you teach them the finer points through practice, this program focuses on what happens when things go wrong. For instance, how to recover from a skid or what it feels like to brake suddenly. They offer free teen driver training nationwide and it is something every parent should invest in.