Conduct Practice Sessions
Practice, practice, practice. In addition to driver education, teen drivers need a driving coach—and that’s you or another family member. Virginia requires that parents and their teens conduct 45 hours of supervised practice driving, with at least 15 of those hours at night, but AAA recommends 100 hours. This time is a great investment in your teen driver’s future driving safety and skills.
AAA’s Recommendations for Being a Good Driving Coach
- Practice with your teen. Plan for as much supervised practice driving as possible. As a driving coach, it’s the key to helping your teen develop skills to become a safe driver.
- Select a goal for each session. For example, you may want your teen to focus on identifying potential hazards ahead or accelerating and braking smoothly.
- Take regular breaks. Stop every 20 minutes or so and review the past few minutes of driving to help your teen process the experience. If your teen did something dangerous behind the wheel, explain why and discuss potential consequences.
- Agree on how to communicate before you drive. For example, establish that the word “right” will be used as the opposite of “left” rather than as an affirmation (“correct”).
- Keep it interesting. Change the time of day, driving conditions and routes to allow your teen to gain confidence in diverse situations.
- Try out progressively more challenging driving situations. These can include parking garages, urban areas and interstate driving, for example.
- Use “commentary driving.” A driving coach should instruct. This means having your teen drive and provide feedback about any object or event you encounter that could result in the need to change speed, direction or both.
- Be patient. You and your teen may become stressed during these sessions. Remaining relaxed and even-tempered can go a long way toward reducing your teen driver’s stress and help improve driving skills.
- Be positive. Remember to point out and reinforce good driving behavior.
Although your teen should be practice driving with you as much as possible now, you’ll want to get behind the wheel yourself occasionally, with your teen as a passenger. Such “demo drives” with a driving coach allow you to discuss what you’re doing as you drive, what you’re looking at, what you’re thinking about and how you’re staying safe.
Keep It Safe
Help your teen understand that other drivers sometimes make mistakes or deliberately do things that are dangerous. Teach your teen that other drivers can be unpredictable. Novice drivers sometimes assume other drivers will do what they are “supposed” to do. Experienced drivers know this isn’t the case.
Explain how to minimize risk from other drivers’ mistakes. Increasing following distance and visual scanning are just two of the ways your teen can increase safety around distracted or unsafe drivers.
Explain how you manage different factors involved in driving, such as:
- Inclement weather such as rain and snow
- Hills and curves
- Slow drivers
- Highways, rural roads and city driving
- Railroad crossing
- Big trucks
- Disruptive passengers
- Impaired and distracted drivers
Many parents use AAA’s Teaching Your Teens to Drive to maximize their supervised practice driving. It provides effective driving tips and videos, along with a sample lesson and free driving log.