How to Teach Your Teenager to Drive and Maintain a Car
Do you remember when you started driving? It might seem like a lifetime ago. Perhaps your mom or dad took you to an empty parking lot to practice your parallel parking skills, or maybe you took driver’s education classes at your high school.
Now the tables are turned and you’re the proud parent of a young driver who’s eager to get out on the road – and borrow the family car. Teaching your son or daughter can be a daunting task for parents, and it’s natural to have a lot of questions about how to best to prepare. Virginia Tire & Auto is here to help!
We spoke with Sundas Ahmad, the owner of Nova Driving School in Chantilly, Virginia. Ahmad has been teaching teens for the past five years and has seen his share of enthusiastic drivers ready to hit the road.
“In my experience, new drivers are very smart and eager to learn. Most of them follow the rules ‘to a T’, but we as adults need to practice safe driving as well,” Ahmad explains.
Let’s start with safety first. Here are some helpful tips for parents whose teens are getting behind the wheel.
How to Teach a Teenager to Drive: 5 Safety Tips
1. Put the phone away.
Educating teens about the consequences of cell phone use while driving is absolutely vital to their safety and the safety of other drivers. Reiterate as much as possible that whatever the call or text is, it can wait.
It’s against the law in the state of Virginia for any teen driver to use a cell phone (hands-free or not) while driving. Unless your car is safely parked or in the event of an extreme emergency, it is never okay to look at your phone.
2. Maintain a safe distance while following.
Keeping a good distance behind other vehicles can be tricky for new drivers.
Teens need plenty of practice gauging how long it takes to make a turn safely, and how much distance they should keep between their vehicle and the one they’re following.
When you’re driving with your teen, it helps to ask, “How many seconds are there between you and the driver we are following?” The 2-second rule applies here. Counting to two at a normal pace will allow plenty of distance between your car and the one you’re behind.
3. Pay extra attention at night.
The dynamics of driving change when the sun goes down. It’s important to make sure that your teen has ample experience with nighttime driving before getting his or her license.
Confirm that the vehicle your teen is driving has working headlights that are aimed correctly, and ensure that all mirrors are cleaned and adjusted for maximum visibility. Discourage your teen from staring directly at oncoming lights and, ultimately, implore them to pay extra attention while driving at night.
4. Buckle up.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 48% of people killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2015 were not wearing a seatbelt.
Telling your teen to wear a seatbelt might seem like a no-brainer, but this simple tip should not be overlooked. Reiterate that airbags alone do not provide enough protection, and there is a right way to wear a seatbelt. Make sure your teen buckles up with the strap across the chest, not underneath the arm.
5. Be a good role model.
Practicing what you preach can be difficult, but it’s important to follow these tips for your own safety as well as your child’s.
In fact, at the NoVa Driving School, Ahmad tells parents that this is the most effective way to keep their kids safe.
“Kids learn by watching their parents drive. What they have seen is what they will do,” Ahmad explains.
If you follow the rules of the road and drive safely, your teen is more likely to do that, too.
Driving In Virginia
Every state has its own challenges for young drivers. In some states, it’s the weather or road conditions.
In Northern Virginia, it’s the number of cars sharing the road with you.
“We live in a very high traffic and busy area. People travel in and out of the DC metro area on a daily basis, making for congestion on the roads. That traffic can be tricky for teens who are new to driving,” Ahmad notes.
Multiple lane highways here in Virginia can compound the driving headaches. That’s why new drivers should practice driving on them to learn how to merge lanes safely and stay patient.
When it comes to nighttime driving, Virginia law states that if you are under the age of 18, you are prohibited from driving from midnight to 4 A.M.
Exceptions to this rule include:
- Driving to or from a place of business where you are employed
- To or from an activity that is supervised by an adult and is sponsored by a school or by a civic, religious, or public organization
- With a licensed spouse age 18 or older, parent or another adult
- In case of an emergency, including responding to emergency calls as a volunteer firefighter or rescue squad personnel.
Car Maintenance Basics
For teen drivers, learning how to drive is just the beginning. Knowing how to take care of a car and follow a regular maintenance schedule is also vital for every new driver. Regardless of when you learned the basics of car maintenance, it’s in your best interest to educate your teen about it before they take to the open road without you.
Basic maintenance knowledge like changing a tire and assessing tire pressure should be addressed early on in the learning process. Now is your opportunity to roll up your sleeves and teach your teen driver. When possible, try to show them how to perform these tasks rather than just tell them. We also recommend taking your teen with you to any car maintenance, or repair appointments. This will help him or her learn to identify any unusual noises or sensations coming from the vehicle and understand when it’s necessary to seek professional help.
Ready to show your teen the ropes?
We’re here to help you every step of the way. Next time you bring your car into one of our Virginia Tire & Auto locations, bring your teen along, and our automotive technicians can answer any car maintenance or repair questions he or she may have.