There comes a time in every parent’s life when they must face their own mortality. And if your teen is nearing the age of sixteen, the day is fast approaching when you will no longer be able to dodge the bullet. Soon your child will want to take the driving test and before that day arrives, he will need to learn how to handle a vehicle and follow the rules of the road. While some parents will shell out the money to send their kids out with a driving instructor, you may opt to save your money (you’ll need it for insurance) by teaching your child to drive on your own. If you decide to go this route, here are just a few tips to get you heading in the right direction.
- Get a permit. You can’t legally put your teen behind the wheel of a car until he/she has a permit. So go down to the DMV for a driving manual so that your teen can study and take the written exam. Once you’ve got the permit in hand you can find and empty lot and begin the arduous task of trying to hide your panic as your child learns to accelerate, brake, and steer.
- Get insurance. It would be extremely wise to insure your child on the vehicle he will be learning to drive on BEFORE the lessons begin. Even if you have a huge, empty space in which to train your teen in the art of maneuvering an automobile, there will almost certainly be obstacles such as light poles, fencing, barriers, and even buildings that they could accidentally plow into (even though cars and people will not be possible targets). Furthermore, most states require that anyone operating a vehicle be insured (so if a cop spots you and comes to check it out, you’ll be happy you had the forethought to secure insurance). While some insurers will cover “occasional” drivers under your policy, most won’t cover any damage caused by an uninsured driver, even if it is your child.
- Start with an automatic. Your teen is going to have enough to worry about with coordinating the gas, the brake, and the steering wheel (not to mention checking gauges and mirrors and keeping an eye on the road and other traffic); you don’t need to pile on more by throwing in a shifter and a clutch. So save the lessons on your manual-transmission vehicle for later on, once you’re reasonably sure that your kid can drive an automatic.
- Level up. You’ll want to start with something easy like an empty parking lot to get your teen familiar with handling the vehicle without any outside stimulus to worry about. But don’t just throw them into a freeway situation after that. Move up in stages by going to residential streets, then busier thoroughfares before finally making your way onto the high-speed byways that make up our interstate highway system.
- Parking. Even though there are now cars that can parallel park themselves, your child will need this skill in order to pass the driving test. So start by having him practice on a street that is clear of cars (just to learn the dimensions of the car), and then move to streets that have just a few cars before having him park on a busy street. This will hopefully lower the odds of your teen bumping another car while learning to park.