1- Before You Start the Engine
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.
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.