Teaching Student Drivers: 9 Tips To Keep Everyone Safe And Sane

I have had the experience of teaching several people how to drive. Some were youngsters, but I have also taught a few adults how to drive too. Let’s just say that I am more than glad to have “retired” from this practice as teaching someone how to drive can be taxing mentally as well as physically.
Still, not everyone has the funds to go to driving school or an available friend to help out. So, if you are one of the “lucky” ones playing the role of instructor, here are some tips to help keep you sane and your student listening.

  1. Set A Schedule.
    Keeping teens on a schedule can be nearly impossible as they juggle their busy lives with after school programs, work, homework, socializing, etc., but it is something that you must do. Find a time that works for the both of you and go out no more than one hour each time for your lessons. Oh, by the way, make sure your driver in training has his or her driver’s permit on them at all times.
  2. Simple Start.
    Keep the first lesson or two simple. Backing in and out of the driveway and driving around the neighborhood first are good starts. If you live on a busy road, then you should drive the car to a less busy area before allowing your student to take over. At the very beginning, avoid driving on days when pavement is wet – dealing with water on the road is a separate lesson for the more experienced student.
  3. A Good Beginning.
    Thirty years after I first received my license, I remember in my lessons being told that there were four things that a driver must do before even starting the car: door, seat, seatbelt, mirror. In other words: close and lock the doors, adjust the driver’s seat for your personal settings, fasten your seatbelt, and adjust side and rear view mirrors. Then, put the key in the ignition, start the car, look all around, engage the transmission, and slowly step on the accelerator and get moving.
  4. Moving Forward.
    Once your driver has a good feel for the car – no jackrabbit starts or hard breaking observed – step things up and start practicing using hand and turn signals, parallel parking, how to negotiate turns and curbs, etc.
  5. Stepping Out.
    After several lessons of driving locally and practicing safe driver habits, it is time to take the student out onto a busy road. Keep this lesson short to allow the nervous student time to adjust to driving in traffic. At least initially avoid rush hour traffic, highways, and areas with excessive pedestrian traffic. Make sure your student understands road signs, traffic signals, stopping/yielding, and the myriad of other rules of the road. Repeat lessons as needed to help your student grow accustomed to driving in traffic. Once your student builds up their confidence, take them out on the highway.
  6. Study and Review.
    While behind the wheel lessons are extremely important, knowledge about driving rules and regulations are important too. When driving down the road, point out road signs and ask your student what they mean. Discuss the fines and points that can be assessed by the Department of Motor Vehicles {DMV} for violations. All of these things will be on their written test.
  7. Defensive Driving.
    If you live in a more northerly climate, learning how to drive on ice and snow is essential to being a safe driver. Even if your student learns how to drive and secures their license in warmer months, insist on getting back in the car with them when wet leaves, snow, and ice are on the ground. Also make certain that your student understands how alcohol can impair judgment, how a radio, cell phone, or other passengers can distract them, and how to drive around pedestrians, bicyclists, mopeds, etc.
  8. Check Fluids.
    An important lesson apart from actual driving and preparing for the written test is maintenance of the vehicle. Your student should be familiar with looking under the hood, checking fluid levels, hoses, belts, etc. Also show your student how to check tire pressure, do a visual check of turn signals, headlights, and all other lights. Familiarization with the exhaust and suspension systems is important too.
  9. Ready, Set, Test!
    Once you are certain that your student understands all the rules of the road, is exhibiting safe driving practices, and is a confident driver then take the test. Do not let a pending birthday or special event drive that decision as you want to produce a safe driver, not a reckless one.

Once your student has passed their test make certain that the information on their license is correct, your car’s registration is up to date, your insurance has them covered, and the car that he will be driving is road ready before allowing him to drive by himself.
Remember, driving is a privilege and not a right. Good driving habits are formed early on, but so are bad habits. Nip any problems in the bud early to ensure the safety of your student and everyone else who is out on our roads.

Matthew C. Keegan