Teach Your Teen to Drive (without driving you both nuts)

Randy Bleicher’s daughter, Ashley, is 16 1/2 and got her learner’s permit a year ago, but she won’t be getting her license anytime soon. Bleicher says she’s not ready, and he should know: He’s the chief driving instructor for the driver-training program Driving Skills for Life. “Until she’s totally confident behind the wheel and I’m confident that she’s aware of what’s around her, she’s not getting her license,” he says. “Driving is a huge responsibility for her and for others on the road.” We asked Bleicher and other driving instructors what parents can do to make sure their kids are ready.


  • 1.

    Drive-a lot.

    Set a goal of practicing together for at least 50 hours before the road test. More is better-William Van Tassel of AAA recommends 100 hours.

  • 2.

    Check your baggage.

    “You have a 16-year history, and you’re not leaving that outside the car,” Van Tassel says. Ask yourselves before you start, Do we have any extreme conflicts right now? If you do, reschedule.

  • 3.

    Ease into it.

    Start out in an empty parking lot, and move up to driving at low speed through a low-traffic neighborhood. Master that before driving on a busy street or highway.

  • 4.

    Practice controlling the vehicle.

    You need a way to intervene if your driver is headed for a guardrail. In a parking lot at low speed, practice reaching over with your left hand to take the wheel safely. R. B. Stiewing of the Skip Barber Racing School recommends telling your teen, “Don’t react to what I’m doing. Keep your hands on the wheel. When I’m done, you’re back to having control by yourself.”

  • 5.

    Tackle tough tasks.

    Once you’ve covered the basics, expose your teen to high-pressure situations, including night driving, bad weather, crowded streets, and open highways. For parallel parking, set up plastic garbage cans in a parking lot.

  • 6.

    Stay cool.

    Nerve-racking moments are inevitable. Be prepared, and be patient. “Don’t yell, either of you,” says Van Tassel. Take regular breaks to decompress.

  • 7.


    Ask your teen afterward, “What are three things you did well and three things we need to work on?”

  • 8.

    Improve your own habits.

    “Parents are a bad example,” Bleicher says. Do you talk on your cell while driving? Now’s your chance to change, because your new driver is watching you. 

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