The Parking Lot: A Perfect Place to Practice Driving

One of the best places you can teach your teen basic driving techniques is a parking lot. They can learn how to read signs, make turns, and practice parking at their own pace, in a low-pressure environment. As a parent, the more supervised experience your teen gets, the safer they'll be when they're on their own.

What Driving Techniques to Practice in a Parking Lot

The first thing you have to do is figure out where a suitable practice parking lot is. You'll want to avoid high-traffic ones like shopping malls or grocery stores. Instead, try to find one that's empty after a business closes for the day or weekend. It'll help you avoid the stress of people zooming around a busy parking lot, desperately seeking out spots. 

Start Slowly

When you first get to the parking lot, have your teen pretend that they're just getting into the car for the first time. Do a walkaround to see if there are any potential hazards and give a quick glance at the tires to make sure they aren't flat. Once you're in the car, have them check all of their mirrors and blindspots before slowly exiting the parking spot. Don't forget to use the turn signal.

Making Turns

Now that you're out of the parking spot, practicing turning is a great first lesson. Drive up and down the empty rows until they have the ability to make smooth turns in either direction. If they have to brake too much to turn properly, they're driving too fast. You can even practice U-turns and three-point turns if you have the space.

Backing Up

Driving in reverse can be tricky for new drivers since there are so many things to watch out for. Teach your teen how to back up by looking out of the back window and using mirrors to identify any potential obstacles. This helps them learn how to do it without relying on backup cameras and sensors. 

Reading Signs

Learning how to read and follow traffic signs is a key part of staying safe on the road. While a parking lot may not have a lot of signs, you should at least encounter ones like speed limit, yield, one-way, pedestrian crossing, and of course stop signs. 

Practice Parking

Parking a car requires a little more refined control to perfectly maneuver it into a tight parking spot. Good thing you don't have to worry about them bumping into any cars in an empty lot. Start them off by pulling into normal parking spots. Once they have the hang of it, you can instruct them on parallel parking. 

Mastery of parallel parking comes with practice, but the advent of backup cameras and sensors makes it much easier. Follow these steps and it'll be a breeze.

  1. Find a parking spot, put on your turn signal, and align your front bumper with the bumper of the car in front of the space. There should be two feet between the vehicles. 

  2. Check your blind spots as you start to back into the space. Back into the space at a 45° angle until the back driver's side corner of your car lines up with the driver's side front bumper of the vehicle behind you. 

  3. Straighten out the wheels and slowly back up as you become parallel to the curb. Pull forward and back as needed to straighten the vehicle and get less than a foot from the curb. 

  4. Once you center your car in the spot, put it in park and cautiously open your door to exit. If you parked on a hill, turn your wheel to the curb.

When your teen is practicing parallel parking, it's best to use your own obstacles like parking cones so they don't ding any other cars.

Master Basic Techniques in a Parking Lot

Once your teen masters all of the basics, you'll feel much more comfortable instructing them on the open road around other drivers. Another way for them to learn even more about the rules of the road and defensive driving is by taking a driver's ed course at These interactive lessons, which are completely online, prepare your teens to drive on their own. They can show off everything they learn online next time you take them to a parking lot to practice.

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Updated 2/2/23