Tips for Teaching Your Teen to Drive
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Tips for Teaching Your Teen to Drive

For a teenager, getting a driver’s license is a rite of passage, opening the door to free travel. For their parents, it’s a time worrying about their kids getting in accidents. Tensions may run high with this battle between your worries and your teen’s freedom, but these tips can help you get your son or daughter through the learning process without causing each other harm.

1. Find Out What It Takes to Get a License

The requirements for getting a license have changed a lot in the past few years to address the high accident rates of teen drivers, especially here in Wisconsin: the most recent revisions to driving law were made when a study found our state led the nation in teen driving deaths. You should check out the DMV’s website for full details on getting a license, but let’s go over a few details that may take you by surprise:

The student driver must pass a Driver’s Ed course. These courses are taught at most high schools, and there are some private options as well. He or she needs to be enrolled in one of these courses before getting a permit.

The student needs to log 30 hours behind the wheel separate from the Driver’s Ed course, of which 10 hours must be at night. These hours are logged on the Wisconsin Graduated Driver Licensing Supervised Driving Log (Form HS-303). The person instructing the student needs to be a parent, guardian or spouse who is at least 19 years old, and any other passengers must be immediate family members. Alternatively, any adult at least 21 years old with written permission from a parent or guardian can instruct the student, but no other passengers are allowed.

Your teenager needs to have the permit for at least 6 months and have no moving violations for 6 months before they can apply for a probationary driver’s license. Despite the name, it’s basically a regular driver’s license with a few temporary restrictions on when your teen can drive and who can be in the car. They can finally get a regular license at 18.

The written test hasn’t changed much, but now the Wisconsin DMV offers practice test apps for iOS and Android to help your teen study.

2. There’s a Lot to Learn in an Empty Parking Lot

A parking lot is an obvious place to start when getting your teen familiar with driving, but there’s a lot more to do after taking the first few steps when learning how to drive.

When you’ve driven for a while, you get a feeling for the limits of your vehicle. However, a new driver has no such experience. Have your student driver go around in circles, gently increasing the amount of throttle until the tires lose traction. If you have the chance, do it again in rainy and snowy weather so your child will have a chance to get a feel for slick surfaces without the dangers of plowing into an obstacle.

Need to work on parallel parking? Place some cones to create a 20 x 15-foot space: this is approximately the minimum size parking space you’ll encounter in the U.S. This will give your teen a chance to maneuver in tight spaces without the risk of hitting cars.

3. Start Slow

As an experienced driver, you probably think the easiest driving is on Interstates because of the lack of intersections. However, the increased speed is a major problem for new drivers who aren’t used to handling a fast moving vehicle, so it’s actually easier for them to deal with low-speed traffic around neighborhoods. Although it may sound counter-intuitive, it’s best to save high-speed driving for when they’re comfortable getting around town.

4. Stay Calm and Positive

It may be difficult to stay calm sitting in a flying two-ton chunk of metal piloted by an inexperienced operator, but you can keep your nerves and your child’s in check with the right approach.

  • Have an idea of what you want to accomplish and where you want to go, and inform your student before the lesson. If they know what’s going to happen ahead of time, they don’t have to worry about surprises.
  • Prompt your teen to take the correct action instead of chastising them. For example, instead of saying “You’re going too fast!” ask your teen what the speed limit is. By letting them correct errors, they will be more aware of problems when they drive in the future.
  • Keep driving sessions short, starting with a maximum of a half hour at first, with sessions lasting no more than an hour or so once your teen is confident behind the wheel.
  • Be patient. Your teen needs to master the step they’re on before moving on to more complex driving.

Learning anything can be overwhelming at first. Take it slow, stay calm, and remember it takes time. If your driver has a minor hiccup along the way, don’t worry. Just stop by, and we’ll get it taken care of!

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