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 – touring the vehicle

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

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

Lesson two – Checking Tire Pressure and Tread Depth

Be sure your tires have adequate tread and air pressure prior to driving. Check the tire pressure using the recommended psi (pounds per square inch), located in the vehicle owner’s manual or the driver’s side door jamb by using a tire pressure gauge. If your psi is above the number listed on your door jamb, let air out until it matches. If below, add air (or have a tire professional help you) until it reaches the proper number.

You can measure tread depth using the penny test. Here’s how:

  1. Take a penny, Lincoln side up, and hold it between your thumb and forefinger.
  2. Select a point on your tire where the tread appears to be lowest and place Lincoln’s head into one of the grooves.
  3. If any part of Lincoln’s head is covered by the tread, you’re driving with the safe amount of tread. If your tread is below it, your car’s ability to grip the road in adverse conditions is greatly reduced.

Lesson three – 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 lean their head toward the left-side window, and set the left mirror so they can barely see the side of the car. When they sit up straight, the car should no longer be visible in the mirror.
  • Right-side mirror: Do the same to the right. 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.

Lesson Four – checking blind spots

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

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 – 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 at least 10 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 inches from the air bag. The head restraint should be at the center of the driver’s head.

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!