Learning to drive involves a lot more than passing a driving test and getting a license. New drivers need to learn practical car-related skills and driving best practices in addition to the rules of the road. You can help new drivers learn the skills they need to stay safe on the road.
Use these handy tips and tricks to teach someone how to drive and help make the roads safer for everyone.
Before You Get Started
You might be tempted to sit a new driver behind the wheel and get started. Taking the time to go over a few ground rules and basics, however, could help prevent an accident. Your first step is to check that you have the right car insurance coverage for a learning driver. You’ll definitely want to know that your car is covered before letting a new driver take control.
Make sure your car is in good repair as well. Check that no warning lights are illuminated and you’re up to date on regular maintenance, such as oil changes. A well-maintained car lowers the risk of an unexpected breakdown or mechanical failure, which could be stressful for a new driver.
Go Over the Basics
Spend the first few driving lessons going over the basics of driving and cars. Have the new driver sit in the driver’s seat and help them adjust the seat to fit their preferences. Explain how to use the mirrors and adjust them accordingly. Let the driver get a feel for where buttons, levers, and controls are located — such as the gear shift, turn signals, windshield wipers, and lights.
Early lessons should include time on a quiet residential street or empty parking lot. Start with turning the car on and off, then move to putting it into gear and driving forward a few feet. Add in turning, reversing, and pulling along a curb or into a parking spot. Include road and parking lot safety tips from the beginning to help your student build safe habits as they learn.
Stay on quiet streets or in empty lots for the first several lessons behind the wheel. A quiet location with no other drivers makes it easier for the new driver to focus on mastering the basics. Extend the length of your lessons as the driver becomes more confident. You can also begin to add in longer exercises.
In early lessons, for example, you might ask your student to do one or two steps at a time, such as pulling forward and making one turn. In later lessons, you can make the tasks more complex, such as asking the driver to drive around the block and pull back up to the curb.
Add New Challenges
As your new driver gets more confident, start to add new challenges to your lessons. Have them drive on a street with other vehicles or multiple lanes. Slowly increase driving speed each lesson.
When they’re ready, take your driver to a road with multiple lanes and teach them to switch lanes, merge, and use different types of turn lanes. Work your way up with more speed and more complex driving tasks, including spending time on the highway.
Stay Calm and Positive
The best thing you can do for a new driver is to remain calm and give lots of positive reinforcement. Learning to drive is nerve-wracking for most people. Having an instructor who helps calm their nerves and encourages them to get better makes for a more enjoyable learning experience.
Give your student an explanation of any tasks you set. This lets them know why they should or shouldn’t be doing something. It could also help your student driver absorb more of the lesson. As the driver gets more experience, start asking them to explain what they should be doing instead of instructing them.
EFor example, you’re approaching a red light. You walk them through the steps to stop at the stoplight:
- Let off the accelerator when the light changes.
- Gently apply the brakes.
- Add pressure until you come to a stop.
- Hold the brake until it’s time to safely move forward.
When they understand the steps, you can flip the roles and ask them to describe what they’re doing at the next red light. This encourages the student to think about their next step as they relay the information to you.
Let Students Make Safe Mistakes
Most drivers make some mistakes when driving, especially new drivers. You can help keep a new driver safer on the road by letting them make simple mistakes when you’re teaching them. This gives your student a chance to work through why they made the mistake without the pressure of a busy road or highway.
Find an empty road or parking lot and ask the driver to complete some driving tasks, such as practicing changing lanes. Let them complete the task without instruction. Carefully watch for common mistakes the driver might make, such as forgetting to look over their shoulder.
After executing the task, stop the car and have a quick discussion on the task. Ask them what they thought they did correctly, how they think the task went, and what changes they would make. Suggest improvements and point out mistakes in a respectful and encouraging tone.
Introduce Common Driving Scenarios
The road isn’t always going to be the same as an empty parking lot. It’s important to expose your student to as many real-world driving situations as possible. The more they encounter during practice, the easier it becomes to handle new situations when they’re driving on their own.
Make a list of practical driving situations most drivers face and go over how to handle each one. Let your student gain practical experience for each one, if possible. The next time it rains, for example, plan an impromptu lesson on a quiet street and let them get used to driving in poor weather. Some common driving situations you might want to emulate include:
Include Other Car-Related Skills
Following the rules of the road isn’t your only responsibility as a driver. You should include practical car-related tips and skills as part of your driving lessons. Once your student is more advanced, spend some time each lesson learning a new skill that goes along with having a driver’s license.
Your student should feel confident they can diagnose basic dashboard lights, fuel up at the gas station, air up a tire, and perform basic care maintenance such as checking the oil.
Whether you’re teaching a teenager or an adult who’s learning to drive for the first time, the key to successful driving lessons is taking things at the student’s pace. Some students may be ready to hit the highway after only a few lessons, while others may need to spend a lot of time on the basics. If you listen to your student and encourage them with a positive attitude, they should be ready to hit the road safely when they get their driver’s license.