Should Parents be Teaching Their Teens How to Drive?

 Parents of teens getting ready to learn to drive have a lot of decisions to make. Where should their teen take driver’s ed? What car should they practice on? What are the family rules around driving? And maybe the most fraught of all: Should I really be teaching my teen to drive?

There Is No “Right Answer”

Every teen is different, and every family is different. What works for one person might be a disaster for someone else. So at the end of the day, the most important thing to figure out is what driver’s ed setup will best support you and your teen.

That said, many parents default to wanting to leave driver’s ed to the professionals. Whether they don’t want to spend the time, worry about conflict with their teen, or simply don’t feel confident in their ability to teach someone how to drive, there is a kneejerk sense that driver’s ed is best done by the pros.

And while driver’s ed professionals do bring years of experience (and those cool cars with the passenger brakes) to the table, there are a lot of reasons parents make great driver’s ed instructors. 

Safety First

One of the biggest concerns about any teen learning to drive is safety. Motor vehicle collisions were one of the top two causes of death for teens aged 13-19 in 2020, according to the IIHS. Being able to drive safely should absolutely be the number one goal of any driver’s ed program. 

And in Texas in 2019, parent-taught driver’s ed students had the lowest collision rates of any group. So if you look at the data, parent-taught driver’s ed students actually have the best outcomes when compared to instructor-taught students or teens who took driver’s ed in school. 

You Know Your Teen Best

One reason that parent-taught driver’s ed can be so successful is that parents know their teen better than any instructor could. This is a person you’ve been guiding, supporting, and teaching for their whole lives. It only makes sense that you would know how best to help them learn to drive.

Many teens are rightfully anxious when they start their driver’s ed instruction, and having a trusted parent there can help calm those nerves. Though, of course, the flip side of that is that parent-child relationships can become strained in the teen years. Before you embark on the driver’s ed journey, make sure you’ve got a strategy for keeping yourself calm when faced with eye-rolls or sarcastic comments.

It’s a Bonding Experience

Doing driving hours together can be a great way for parents and teens to bond. For most teens learning to drive, it will only be a few years before they’re off to college or moving out to live on their own. Spending hours together in the car can be a really special time for the parent and teen to just hang out and enjoy each other’s company.

Or, in the case where a teen and their parent are not getting along, focusing on a task together and having shared goals can be a great way to find shared successes at a time when you might otherwise be having difficulty seeing eye-to-eye.

Skills Transfer

Another reason parent-taught driver’s ed can be a good choice is that it gives you the chance to transfer the driving skills you’ve spent a whole life learning to your teen. Hopefully, you think you’re a good driver. Now is your chance to share your insider driving tips with your teen. 

While a driving instructor will cover all of the basics, they probably won’t have time to share the more subtle knowledge that separates okay drivers from good drivers. Pass on your legacy of driving knowledge to the next generation and help them develop good driving habits.

You’ll Likely Be Doing a Lot of Driving Practice Anyway

While the rules vary from state to state, it’s often the case that even if you choose instructor-taught driver’s ed, the instructor will only be doing a limited number of instructional driving hours with your teen.

The bulk of their driving practice (usually in the range of 30 hours or so) will still fall to a parent or other licensed driver in the family to supervise. And while it’s possible to hire someone to do ALL of the driving practice hours with your teen, that is often quite expensive and a bit of a scheduling nightmare.

So if you’re thinking that outsourcing driver’s ed to an instructor means no white-knuckling it while your teen tries to merge onto the highway, well, think again.

Have a Conversation

In the end, for most people, there are a lot of good choices for driver’s ed. Whether you do parent-taught, instructor-taught, or your teen takes driver’s ed in school, odds are they’ll eventually pass the driving test, get that license, and go on to be safe and excellent drivers.

When you’re deciding what driver’s ed method you’re going to go with, make sure you’re including your teen in the conversation. They’ve probably got friends who have tried many different driving schools, apps, and instructional methods, and will have their own idea of what they want to do. 

While there are tons of reasons parents absolutely can do a great job teaching their teens to drive, the right decision is the one that works for your family.

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DriversEd.Com Staff Writers

Updated 11/1/22