Useful Tips To Teach Your Teen To Drive

Recommend ArticleIf you are approaching that time in life when you are facing the prospect of teaching your teenager to drive, you are facing a daunting task. You will need to start preparing early; very early! These steps will be useful in teaching your teen to drive safely:
  • Understand the problem
  • Model your driving behavior
  • Get some refresher training
  • Start training them early
  • Use the continuous commentary method.
  • Stay calm

Understanding the problem

The United States has one of the worst teen driver training programs in the industrialized world. Unlike Canada and Western Europe, our teens can start learning to drive earlier and in states without Graduated Driver’s Licenses (GDLs), they are considered fully qualified to drive at age 16. Canadians can’t start until they are 16 and have to pass two road tests separated by a 12 month period before becoming fully qualified at age 20. Germans start at 18 and will spend up to $2500 on professional driving lessons, study materials, and tests to get their license.

In the U.S., kids are normally taught by their parents and since those parents are rarely professional driving instructors, they may unwittingly be passing on a lot of bad driving habits to their teen. As a result, the most dangerous period for teen drivers is during their first couple of years of driving. The danger doesn’t come so much from their outright flouting of the driving laws but from the lack of proper training and their inability to react correctly when encountering driving situations they have never faced before.

Model your driving behavior

Your need to take a good, hard look at your own driving behaviors. Do you come to a full stop at stop signs? Do you normally travel 10 to 15 mph over the speed limit? Do you step on the gas when the light turns yellow? If you have any of these driving habits you have been teaching them to your child since he or she was a toddler. Your first step in teaching your teen to drive is to model your behavior after the behavior you want them to adopt when they drive. This should start a couple of years early, if possible, and you should let your child know that you are deliberately changing your behavior and why. Teens have no tolerance for hypocrisy and telling a kid to “Do as I say, not as I do.” will create a lot of conflict.

Get some refresher training

From your perspective, your driving behaviors may not be all that bad or dangerous but, if you take a hard look at the driving laws, you will know, deep down, that you are probably modeling the wrong behavior for your child. It might not be a bad idea for you and your spouse to voluntarily take a driver training class as a refresher. During the class, don’t be afraid to discuss your driving behaviors and feel free to ask the instructor about them. You should also start studying your state’s driver training manual. We all get ingrained in our habits and everyone needs some refresher training from time to time.

Start training them early

When your child turns 14, it’s a good time to put them in the front seat and to start pointing out the driving situation. Point out drivers who are driving badly and explain why. Explain the defensive driving techniques that you are taking to avoid conflicts with other drivers. Start teaching them the road sign shapes, colors, and meanings. Use unusual driving or weather conditions to discuss how they should be handled. Start a feedback and have your child point out the signs. See if he or she can recognize bad driving behaviors, explain why they are dangerous, and what should be done to avoid them. Avoid the temptation to tell them what they should do and instead, ask them how they feel a particular situation should be handled.

Use the continuous commentary method.

When your child gets behind the wheel, you should have them start a continuous commentary on what they are seeing and what they need to do. For example:

  • “I see a reduced speed sign ahead, I need to watch for the new speed limit and be prepared to slow.”
  • “There is a construction zone ahead. I need to prepare to slow and watch for conflicts with other vehicles, construction equipment and workers.”
  • “That driver is pulling out of the parking lot ahead. I need to be prepared in case he doesn’t see me and pulls out in front of me.”
  • “There are kids on bicycles ahead. They could be unpredictable; I need to slow and give them a wide margin.”

This commentary should be continuous while they learn to drive. Of course, once they start driving on their own, it will stop but the concept will be deeply ingrained in them. This is a habit you should start before you start teaching them so you can model it for them.

Once they have a few months of driving experience, start taking them out in more difficult driving situations (rain, snow, rush hour). They need to experience these situations while you are there to guide them.

Stay calm

Teaching a child to drive can be an emotional experience and tempers can easily flare. This is not a good state of mind to be in while anyone, especially a novice driver, is driving. While it may be hard, you are in control of your emotions. If you were teaching someone else’s child to drive, you would probably keep your emotions in check. While teaching your child to drive, think of them as someone else’s child; watch your temper and try to remain calm. Obviously, if the situation becomes dangerous, you need to have them pull off the road but use the situation as a teaching moment and wait until everyone is calm before starting out again.

At National Safety Commission our mission is to make consumers more vigilant and understand that “safety is no accident”. We work to increase awareness of important safety issues, particularly those that deal with highway and traffic safety information through education, quality traffic school online courses and outreach programs. Through our traffic safety blogs we promote defensive driving techniques, driver training and safety. Learn more about teen driver safety at our Teen Safe Driving Blog.

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Manual Transmission – How To Drive Stick Shift


Scared about learning to drive manual? Just got a new car with manual and are having a hard time learning how to drive it? This guide will get you started.

First rule of driving manual transmissions: When you are unsure what to do, PUSH THE CLUTCH IN. Nothing bad will happen as long as the clutch is pressed in. If the car seems like it is going to stall (lots of shaking, bucking), push the clutch in. Also, push the clutch in when coming to a stop. Engrave this rule into you mind, and you will never stall when in doubt of what to do.

Now here is the best way to learn from scratch.

1. Go to a large, empty, deserted area like a parking lot or a side street with no traffic.

2. Put the car in neutral (shifter in the middle of the shift pattern). Push in the clutch all the way. Now, slowly press on the gas pedal, and bring the RPMs up to 2000, and try to hold it there (EXACTLY at 2000, not in between 1800 and 2200) for 20 seconds. Then bring it down to 1500 and keep it there for a few seconds. Go in between the two and get a feel for how responsive the car is and how much gas you need for a certain RPM. Keep the clutch in while doing this to get used to keeping it pressed.

4. Put it in neutral and rest your left leg for a bit, you’ll need it in a sec.

5. Next, with the car in first (top left gear in the shift pattern) and the clutch in, start to let the clutch out as SLOWLY as you possibly can. Veeery slowly. Don’t touch the gas for now. At some point, you will begin to feel the clutch engaging the engine. This is the engagement point. Try and remember it as it will help you later. Now continue to let the clutch out sloooooowly. Don’t freak out, the car will begin to move. Keep letting out the clutch until it is all the way out. You will now be moving about 5 mph. Repeat this exercise a few times.

6. Put it in first gear with the clutch pressed. Hold the RPMs at 2000 again. Your goal during this exercise is to keep the RPMs at 2000 no matter what, regardless of the clutch/gas positions. This means you will be moving both simultaneously. Start letting the clutch out again. When you see the RPMs start to go down at the engagement point, give it a tiny bit of gas to bring it back up to 2000. Keep letting the clutch out and giving it a bit more gas to stay at 2000 until the clutch is all the way out. Practice this until you can do it fluidly and evenly.

7. After you mastered taking off, and are moving along in 1st, rev the engine to 3000 RPMs and push the clutch in. Put the shifter in 2nd (bottom left in the shift pattern). Now, keep the engine at about 1500 RPMs and let out the clutch slowly as you did in the previous exercise, only now keeping the RPMs at 1500. After letting the clutch out, you’ll be in second. Now you can practice getting into 3rd gear and so on. With practice, you can also shift at higher RPMs once you’re more confident.

8. Now the hardest part of manual: Starting on an incline. Hold the RPMs at 2000 and begin to release the clutch. You should be able to find the right combination of gas and clutch to hold the car still on the incline, not moving forward or backwards. This is very difficult and takes practice; you will probably stall a couple times but it will become natural. Once you can hold yourself, more gas/less clutch will let you move up the hill. If you encounter a situation where you are unsure you can do this (like when someone is stopped right behind you on a hill), there is a trick that will keep you from rolling back: Engage the handbrake until you start to move, then disengage it.

Remember, it just takes practice. Good luck!

Kevin Nicholson

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Too Much Honking Even For a Goose

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It seems there are two kinds of drivers, those who use their car horns sparingly and those whose fingers never seem to leave the noisemaker buttons. I readily admit to preferring the former over the latter. It’s not that the horn doesn’t have its uses, such as alerting an inattentive driver that he or she is about to back into your car. In general, though, excessive use of the horn is a form of road rage, a mechanical counterpart to whatever words the driver may be mouthing inside the car.

Motorists who use their car horns too much remind me of certain drivers I encountered on the racetrack, who let their emotions rule, and spent far too much time waving fists at fellow racers. Few of them had much of a career. All those angry gestures took concentration away from the task at hand. They were also a sign to the rest of us that here was a competitor who could be forced into making mistakes. We took full advantage of the situation. Go to any major city and you’ll hear an awful lot of unnecessary honking. This is like the story of the boy who cried wolf. After a while, nobody pays attention. Besides, the mental energy would be far better directed towards simply piloting the car.

There is a Zen element to this, and it is the skill of letting things go. Whatever you may think of another driver’s performance, that is already in the past and as such, irrelevant. Think of it as water flowing down a stream. Besides, if the other driver is a bit of a sicko, bad things might happen. Two recent incidents that occurred here in British Columbia serve as highlights.
In the first, an on-road altercation led to a heated argument. One of the drivers received several stab wounds as a result. The second incident involved an angry motorist attacking a car with a tire iron, smashing windows and headlights. Sadly, these are not isolated affairs. As our lives become busier, the anonymity of the road seems to provide an outlet for some people to express frustration in a distinctly anti-social fashion.

We all lose our cool sometimes, and there may even be moments when giving another driver a blast from the horn could be considered therapeutic. If it is happening too often, though, consider it a bad sign about your state of mind. Professional drivers master a form of detachment, or unwillingness to let emotions rule, that would be wonderful to have in other circumstances. This is a worthwhile lesson for any motorist. A healthy attitude is a key part of being a good driver. The horn in my car was used once last year, and that was only to check that it was working. The expression “give someone a piece of your mind” seems a fair description of what the frequent honker is doing. You can only afford to give away so many bits. Our roads would be considerably more pleasant if we cut back on the noise pollution, got rid of some of that angry internal dialogue, and left endless honking to the geese in the city park.

Alan Sidorov is a professional racing driver, advanced driving instructor, development tester, and automotive journalist. He runs SPDT Performance Driving Technologies and Sidorov Advanced Driver Training, based in Whistler, British Columbia. The web site is, or

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Is Your Child Buckled Up and Safe to Go?

Is Your Child Buckled Up and Safe to Go?


Deaths resulting from people not wearing seat belts rose from 34 in 2014 to 42 in 2015 across Ontario. Despite strict legislation it continues to be a problem across Canada including in BC. South of the border, 35% of under-13s who die in car accidents were not wearing seat belts. Many younger children are not sitting in correctly installed child car seats and booster seats.


Mothers and fathers across Canada take their children on often long car journeys. Yet, many of them are unaware of the correct ways to make a car child safe especially including how to install and use a car seat. These include 6 common mistakes:


  1. Using the wrong kind of car seat

  2. Not registering the seat with the manufacturer

  3. Not securing the seat adequately to the vehicle

  4. Not securing the child to the seat properly

  5. Not using booster seats for older children

  6. Ignoring car seat recalls

There is a lot more we can do as parents to make sure our children are as safe as possible. This includes a lot of the sensible, usual precautions such as adhering to driving rules, being alert, not driving while sleepy or under the influence of alcohol, and ensuring the car is well maintained.

For more advice, check out this article :

An Essential Parent & Child Driving Safety Guide

Autopilot Is No Excuse to Stop Paying Attention!


If you’re someone interested in cars, technology or both, you’re probably aware of the recent hype surrounding the autopilot feature many luxury cars are offering. It claims to park cars automatically and reduce the input required of drivers to a minimum during the long highways drives many commuters dread. How confident should you feel trusting your safety to a computerized driving aid?

Autopilot represents an impressive achievement for the automotive industry, but taking a look in the proverbial rear-view mirror will reveal what we really have in autopilot is a highly developed form of cruise control.



Autopilot Systems Still Have Limits


Autopilot combines the speed-holding capabilities of cruise control with information about what’s going on around a car. The car’s on-board computer is then able to make decisions about whether to speed up, slow down or alert the drive because more input than that system is able to make is required.

The latest systems can even give steering inputs, but without laws to define how automated cars should behave on the road, human supervision is required of them, and for good reason. The systems aren’t advanced enough to know whether you want to follow a specific off-ramp, for example, or make sense of a road that isn’t clearly marked.

Harsh weather conditions can also pose a problem for systems that rely on reflective strips to make sense of the vehicle’s heading.

The following motion graphic portrays the risks you take by allowing autopilot to go unsupervised. We think you’ll agree after watching that it’s always best to keep your hands on the wheel.