In-Car Driving Lessons

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Parent Tips: What to do With Your Teen During Supervising Driving Practice

So, your teen has been taking in-car driving lessons with a professional driving instructor, and the instructor recommends it's time to begin supervised driving practice. But, what do you do with your teen during supervised practice? And how can you make the supervised practice period more successful? Our regional driving instructor trainer and recruiter, Kris Kluis, shares his tips on how to best support your child through this stage of learning to drive.

Kris, remind us at what stage a child is ready to begin supervised driving practice with their parent.

The minimum period for in-car professional driving lessons varies between states. In California, all new teen drivers must complete a minimum of six hours of in-car driving lessons (usually split into three lessons of two hours) with a professional driving instructor. We always ask parents to wait until their child has had at least six hours with a professional driving instructor, ideally more.

When it IS time for parent supervised driving practice, where should the first lesson take place?

I would recommend a parking lot or a quiet residential area. In the first supervised practice lesson, I would expect a student to drive up to four, five or six miles.

Some parents may be thinking: 'I have no idea what to do with my child during supervised driving practice'. What's your advice?

The best resource for parents is the professional instructor. And the driving school. If I was a parent I would be asking "Who is training the instructors and how do I contact that person to help me out?" With, in California, that person would be me. I've never had a call like that but I'd be delighted to.

States vary, but in California we allow parents to ride along with their child during in-car driving lessons. Unfortunately, most don't, but if parents can find time to do this-even just for the first lesson-they will pick up some useful tips for supervised driving practice.

The website also has some useful training tips, such as making right and left turns.

How can parents make the supervised driving practice period more successful?

Use the three-step technique when introducing new driving skills: Explain, Demonstrate, and then Practice/Coach. Demonstration is very important so the teen can observe/see what successful driving skills are supposed to look like. Many teens learn much more through watching versus just hearing information.

Can you give any recommendations about teaching style?

Often, parents think they're great teachers. But do not over-teach. Yes, you might want to slightly challenge your child, but not to the point where they become overwhelmed or scared.

Think about ways to put your child at ease to help them relax. That is huge! Don't yell, that doesn't accomplish anything. Always stay calm.

How often should parents take their teen out for supervised driving practice?

After the initial six hours, we recommend taking your child out whenever you can both find the time. Try to vary the time of day, location, day of week, and consider any weather-related opportunities. Yes, look for the opportunity to take your child out driving in the rain at night. They need to be exposed to any, and all, different types of driving environments to help prepare them for their future of crash-free driving.

In total, how many hours of supervised driving practice do you recommend?

In California, the state minimum for parent practice is 50 hours, with 10 hours at night. Yet only around 18% of parents do the minimum. That means more than 80% are not doing the minimum 50 hours with their teen, yet are signing a legal document to say they have done so.

As a professional driving school, we don't feel that even 50 hours is enough. We would like 100, 150 or 200. Even better, 250 HOURS and beyond. The more time a parent spends with their teen practicing the skills of driving, the higher that young person's chance of making the right decision in the future and being crash free when neither their instructor or parents are in the car with them.

Finally, how can parents prepare for the day their child gets their license?

This is a big day for all teens and their parents! But, if parents have taken the advice of their child's driving instructor and have gone way above and beyond the minimum required supervised driving practice, it should be an exciting and confident day for all! Make sure to follow all the Graduated Driving License (GDL) laws of the state you are in. The GDL laws were created for a reason and should always be strictly followed and enforced by parents and students alike.

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