1- Before you start the engine

Drivers Icon Teaching Your Teen to Drive

Goal: Teach your teen vehicle basics before actual driving begins.

Location: Parked. This is a non-driving lesson.

Lesson one – look for hazards

Walk around the outside of the car with your teen. Instruct them to look for leaks and hazards such as broken glass, and to make sure it’s clear behind the vehicle as well as in front of the vehicle.

Lesson two – practice basic skills

Have your teen practice these basic skills until they don’t need help:

  • Starting and stopping the engine
  • Naming and operating all dashboard controls
  • Checking oil level
  • Checking wiper fluid
  • Checking tire pressure

Lesson three – seating position

The proper seat position is important to safely control the vehicle. Your teen should sit with their back firmly against the seat. There should be 10–12 inches between the steering wheel and the driver’s chest, with the air bag pointing at the chest. The top of the steering wheel should be no higher than the shoulders. Move the seat forward or backward so that the driver’s heel touches the floor and can pivot between the brake and accelerator. Shorter drivers may need a seat cushion or pedal extenders to sit safely 10–12 inches from the air bag. The head restraint should be at the center of the driver’s head.

Lesson four – teach correct mirror settings

The method below provides the best view of adjacent lanes, for maximum safety.

  • Inside mirror: Have your teen sit up straight in the driver’s seat and adjust the inside mirror so that it frames the entire rear window. This is the main mirror for viewing what is behind the vehicle.
  • Left-side mirror: Have your teen rest their head on the closed left-side window and set the left mirror to barely show the rear edge of the vehicle. When they sit up straight, the car should no longer be visible in the mirror.
  • Right-side mirror: Have your teen lean to the right over the car’s center console, and set the right mirror so they can barely see the right side of the car.

Additionally, teach your teen how to look over their shoulder to check the “blind spot” on each side of the car that cannot be seen in the mirrors.

Adjust tilt to have the horizon appear in the center of the mirror. And, adjust the viewing angle so that you can barely see the rear edge of the vehicle, which is essential to detect other traffic.

The most effective way to deal with blind spots is to briefly turn and look.

Lesson five-proper footwear

Wearing the right shoes may affect the safe operation of a vehicle. Flip flops and barefoot driving can be dangerous, so encourage your teen to wear shoes that have a flat sole and a back. An extra pair of shoes kept in the vehicle might be a good way to avoid this situation.

Proper mirror setting

In the past, drivers were often taught mirror settings that caused overlap between the rear and side mirrors, which was less safe. This is a great opportunity to update your own driving skills while teaching your teen!