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Steer Your Teen to a Lifetime of Smart Driving

You play a critical role in developing responsible driving habits for your teen. Good driving tips during practice sessions along with an established drivers ed course will provide them with the critical defensive driving skills they'll need for the road.

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Teens Getting Behind the Wheel: Tips from An Expert

All parents want to help their children become safe drivers. Read our expert interview to find out how to successfully achieve this with success.

Wondering how to become — and stay — more involved in your child's drivers education journey? More importantly, how to help your child become a safe driver? We put those questions to Robert Foss, Director of the Center for the Study of Young Drivers at the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center. For years, Robert has researched the factors contributing to the crash rates of teenage drivers and, as a social psychologist, his work looks at the behavioral, social and cultural aspects of driving safely.

Are teenage drivers different from adult drivers?

In brief, teens are so different largely because they have less driving experience. There is some difference that results from the fact that teenagers are working their way through numerous developmental processes and all these can affect their driving behavior. But mostly, the differences have to do with the fact that the youngest teen drivers, by definition, are the least experienced drivers.

“Parents should be supportive mentors.”

What can parents do to help their teens become safer drivers?

Practice, practice, practice. And more practice. All while the parent rides along to ensure the mistakes novices will inevitably make do not become catastrophic. The parent's orientation should be that of a patient, calm, helpful, supportive mentor who is trying to slowly share the wisdom gained in years of experience driving, not a driving instructor trying to develop a range of specific skills.

Do not lecture them about safety. Do not try to scare them into being safe. Do not assume they know what you do about driving; they don't, and it's your job to help them learn.

Give them the opportunity to learn to drive through lots of varied experience, and make it as safe as possible while they're learning.

“Practice, practice, and more practice.”

What should parents do with their teens during the supervised driving period?

Give their novice teen driver every opportunity to drive as much as possible, in as wide a variety of conditions as possible.

People learn to drive from driving. We can't teach people to play soccer/football by teaching them rules and telling they what they should and shouldn't do. They have to get on the field, a lot, to begin to be able to do it. The same holds for driving. So, parents need to ride with their teens as much as possible, for at least a full year!

Basic vehicle control can be mastered pretty quickly, but driving involves much more than handling the car. It involves understanding (from experience) what the road system is like, in all its variety and complexity. It also involves realizing that other drivers don't always do what they should or what one expects them to, and being able to spot indications of when they are about to deviate from what one expects. None of this is difficult to understand, but the only way to develop that understanding is through experience. Repeated experience.

“A beginning driver should experience every kind of driving condition and situation”

Exactly what situations and conditions need to be covered during supervised practice?

Parents need to ensure their teens experience — repeatedly — the full range of conditions in which they will eventually be driving on their own. Driving a time or two in a congested setting is not nearly enough. Driving for a few hours on rural roads is not nearly enough. Driving at night, in heavy rain, on ice- or snow-slickened roads a few times is only a start in developing an understanding of all that these conditions involve.

In sum, you really want a beginning driver to experience nearly every kind of driving condition and situation for the first several times with an attentive parent in the vehicle. That way, the parent's experience can help minimize the danger for drivers who don't yet know how to anticipate problems or adapt their driving to avoid them.

Guiding Your Teen Every Step of the Way provides the support and resources your family needs to get a drivers license.

Step 1

Take an Online Drivers Ed Course

A convenient and effective way to learn the rules of the road and earn a drivers license.

Step 2

Prep with Free Practice Tests

Study for the permit test with free practice quizzes included in our course.

Step 3

Start Behind-the-Wheel Lessons

Expert instructors will teach your teen the basics to complex maneuvers, and other defensive driving skills.