Behind the Wheel: 3 Tips on How to Raise Ready, Responsible Teen Drivers

This may be hard to believe, but that itty-bitty baby you once held in your arms is now a teenager who is now chomping at the bit to learn how to drive. If the idea of your son or daughter taking the wheel concerns you, it's totally understandable — you have undoubtedly seen the statistics indicating how teens are more likely to be involved in car accidents.

As the CDC notes, young drivers, ages 15-24, make up only 14 percent of the total U.S. population, yet account for 30 percent of the total costs related to motor vehicle injuries. Sadly, about six teens, ages 16-19, die each day as the result of car crashes. While these grim statistics are concerning, unless you plan on driving your teen all over kingdom come forever, they will need to learn how to drive. To help ensure your teen driver is mature and responsible, consider the following on-the-road tips:

Bone Up on Your Own Skills

As you begin teaching your teen to drive, you'll probably be great at covering the basics. From the good ol’ "Keep your hands at 10 and 2" to leaving smartphones in the backseat, you might feel like you have a solid handle on preparing your teen to drive. However, because you've been driving for many years and do things on instinct, you might neglect to teach your teen everything they need to know.

Before you start driving lessons, you might want to refresh your memory by checking out the "TeenDrivingPlan" at TeenDriverSource.org. The interactive, Web-based program features an impressive 53 videos — don’t worry, they're brief and interesting — that'll help guide you in creating a positive, thorough and up-to-date learning environment for your teen.

girl and red carSet Up a Variety of Driving-Lesson Conditions

As The Zebra notes, once your teen has plenty of practice driving in parking lots and neighborhoods under their belt, it’s time to up the ante and teach them how to handle less-than-ideal driving situations. As you know quite well from your years behind the wheel, getting from Point A to Point B is not always easy — it can involve avoiding crazy drivers who are texting while speeding, maneuvering around construction zones, and driving in rainstorms.

Set up practice driving sessions for your teen in a variety of locations and conditions, including at nighttime and during bad weather. As driving-tests.org notes, start out by having your teen drive at night, or through an empty parking lot in a rain or snow storm. Once they become acclimated in driving in these less-than-ideal conditions, repeat the lesson on the open road. Driving-tests.org also features a great set of tips for teens on defensive driving, including the importance of giving other drivers enough room and never cutting off anyone.

Be Patient and Empathetic

Teaching your teen how to drive can be nerve-racking. But as Family Education notes, having a calm, comfortable driving environment is a crucial step in creating safe and mature drivers. If your teen accidentally blows a stop sign, resist the urge to call them unsafe or dangerous. Focus as much as you can on the positive things your teen is doing while behind the wheel — soon enough, it will become instinctual. In the end, a positive attitude will help your teen stay calm and relaxed, and will create a more conducive learning environment, which, in turn, will make for a better driving student.