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How to Teach Somebody How to Drive

Is it your job to teach a friend or relative to drive? It's largely a matter of practice, but the process will go much more smoothly with a good teacher. Before you agree to be someone's driving instructor, you'll need to make sure that you're familiar with the rules of the road, that you are comfortable driving with an unlicensed driver and that you're willing to take responsibility if things go wrong. It also helps to have a lot of patience, as your student will definitely make mistakes!


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    Start at home. Before you ever get in the car, review the rules of the road, the basics of automobile operation and maintenance, and the requirements for getting a driver's license.
    • Review both the drivers' handbook and the owner's manual for the car.
    • If your student driver is also your child, this is a good time to agree on what responsibilities you will have and what responsibilities are your child's. Who will pay for fuel and insurance? Will your child drive your car or get his/her own? Must he/she be home at a certain hour or maintain certain grades in school? It is a good idea to lay out these conditions in advance.
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    Model good driving. Encourage the one you're teaching to notice what you do. You can start this process well before your student will get his/her license.
    • Drive out loud. It may have been a long time since you were conscious of your driving, but try to narrate the process aloud with your learner as a passenger. Say things like, "That blue car is going too fast. It'll probably pull in front of us, so I'll leave extra space," and "I'm going to turn left up ahead, so I'll signal and start pulling over and slowing down now."
    • Demonstrate good driving technique and adhere to the rules even more than usual. Leave space, signal, do not speed, and avoid berating other drivers.
    • Encourage your passenger to make judgments about what traffic will do and how to respond to it.
    • Discuss road hazards and what to do about them.
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    Help your student driver to get his or her learner's permit or provisional license. In many cases, he or she may not practice on public roads without it.
    • Review what the rules are for using the learner's permit. In most cases, an adult or teacher will need to be in the car with the student.
    • Keep a log of driving practice hours if one is required as part of the license process.
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    Find a place off the street and relatively free of obstructions for your student's first experience behind the wheel. An empty parking lot after hours is a one choice.
    • Go out the first few times in daylight and in mild weather. Let your student learn at least the basics of controlling the car and maneuvering in traffic before driving under hazardous or difficult conditions.
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    Review the controls.
    • Turn the car on and off a few times. Fasten your seat belts, adjust the mirrors and seats, release the brake, start the ignition, put the car in gear, etc. Then, reverse the process.
    • Review the controls for windshield wipers, headlights, turn signals and other items.
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    Practice controlling the car.
    • Accelerate and decelerate so that it is smooth and even.
    • Practice changing gears if it is a manual transmission car.
    • Drive in patterns, especially those that will be required in real driving situations. Make left and right turns. Try parallel parking next to a curb or painted line. Try parking in the marked spaces.
    • Get comfortable with where the sides and back of the car are.
    • Practice backing the car, too. Again, start with an open space, then try backing up towards a target, preferably one that won't damage the car in case of error (such as a hedge or painted lines).
    • Practice multiple times in the parking lot, if that is what it takes to be confident and consistent with basic controls and positioning.
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    Choose a road with light traffic for the first on-road experience.
    • Practice staying on the correct side and centered in the lane.
    • Advise stopping well back of other cars at stop lights. A good rule of thumb is being able to see the wheels of the car in front. Especially with an inexperienced driver, stopping too soon is far
    • Remind your student to leave plenty of space for stopping.
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    Work up gradually to more involved driving situations, such as freeways, inclement weather, and heavy traffic.
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    Practice maneuvers that will be needed on the driver's test as well as techniques that will be needed for driving under real conditions.
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    Rehearse for the driving test, even if you have to make it up yourselves. Generally, the driver's manual will indicate the sorts of maneuvers that will be tested, so find some side streets and practice those items. You may not be able to give your student a particular score, but you can probably give some feedback, such as "watch your speed" or "you forgot to signal that turn."


  • Don't give conflicting instructions. (Especially entertaining examples are the classics "Go ahead and stop" and "Go ahead and back up". ["Which one do you want me to do, go ahead or back up?" replies the student.] Unfortunately, these are not just jokes. Some people actually say them sometimes...including my mother, on at least one occasion.) (Part of the problem with "Go ahead and..." is that by the time your student hears what it was that you actually wanted him/her to do, he/she may have already gone ahead [driven forward].)
  • Think back to when you started to drive. Were you nervous, or perhaps overeager? Did you over correct?
  • Do your best not to panic or shout. Chances are your beginning driver is nervous enough already.
  • Practice in frequent, shorter sessions.
  • Review defensive driving practices, both for yourself and with your learner.
  • Advise and correct, but also let your student make his or her own mistakes, as long as they are not hazardous. A jerky turn or a sudden start or stop may be uncomfortable, but it's probably not a big deal, and your student will most likely realize that the car is not moving as intended.
  • Instruct on a driver's blind spot and try to stay out of other driver's blind spot.
  • Leave the radio off while learning. It will let you focus on instructing and let your learner focus on driving. Remove other distractions as much as possible.
  • As your learner gets the feel of it, let him or her drive you for trips you would do anyway, such as errands or to and from school.
  • Don't forget to teach courtesy as well as the rules.
  • Be patient. Expect some jerky starts and stops, especially at first, and don't expect it to be smooth for a while.
  • There's only so much driving you can do from the passenger's seat. Try to advise and not scream.
    • In an emergency, you may be able to correct the steering or operate the emergency brake from the passenger's seat. Be cautious and don't overdo it.


  • Always obey your local traffic laws. If you're not sure what laws pertain to student drivers, look them up.
  • I don't suggest doing this unless the person is old enough.
  • (However, what is "old enough" can vary depending on your state's laws and on your student's abilities. And on where the teaching is done. In some states it's legal to begin to teach your kids to drive in your driveway or on your family's private road when they're too young to have a learner's permit. Some kids are ready to begin when they're about 13 or 14, others are not really ready until they're at least 15 or 16. Also, some people need more months/years of practice before they're ready to get a license, and/or might even be better off waiting until around age 18 or 19 to actually drive on public roads very much anyway, particularly if you live in the country and most of the public roads nearby are 55 m.p.h. or 65 m.p.h. freeways.)

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Categories: Driving Basics | Raising Teens