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Teaching Your Teen the Basics of How to Drive

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

Teaching your teen to drive is an exciting, and possibly scary time for both of you. Parents are granting their teen more independence and teens are taking on more responsibility. Before you hand your teen the keys, remember that your young driver may be overwhelmed with the new freedom and the accountability that goes with it. Driving is a huge responsibility, and you want them to understand that fact, without being paralyzed by anxiety.

Encouragement, education, and correction will help both of you feel more secure as your teen begins to drive. Remember - it’s a process, and you have to learn to trust the process!

There’s a lot of information you need to share with your teen, and as a seasoned driver, most of it likely comes naturally to you. Before you let your teen take on a multi-lane highway - or even the local neighborhood - you must start by covering the basics.

Here are some of the basics to be sure to review with your new driver.

Todd reviewing with teen student outside of car

Vehicle Tour. Especially if this is the first time your teen has been in the driver seat, make sure they are comfortable with the features and controls in the vehicle.

  • Seat belts

  • Steering wheel and seat adjustment

  • Dashboard controls and warning indicators

  • Headlights

  • Windshield Wipers

  • Side and rearview mirror adjustment

  • Turn signals

  • Emergency lights

  • Gas tank and trunk levers

First Steps. The first time your teen driver drives a vehicle should be in a completely safe environment and under low-stress conditions. A large, empty parking lot during the day is the best place to start.

In your first parking lot lesson, practice how much pressure should be applied to the gas and the break. Practice turning, with turn signals, and checking the mirrors. Practice parking in parking lot spaces. Practice reversing by using the mirrors (and not the rear camera). Your teen should be confident of these basic, first steps before driving on any road.

Fueling Up. How many times has your teen seen you put fuel in the vehicle? Hundreds? But you may be surprised that new drivers often don’t remember which side of the vehicle the gas tank is on or know how to put fuel in. Have your teen practice putting fuel in the vehicle and paying the next few times you stop to fill up. This is also a good time to build the habit of doing a quick visual check of the car (do the tires look good, etc.) with your teen.

Bonus Tip: Make sure to review the lights and gauges on the instrument panel of the car. If the Change Oil light comes on, your teen needs to know what this means!

Are you preparing for your teen’s first time behind the wheel? It’s easy for parents to be overwhelmed with everything their new driver needs to know.

Make sure you don’t forget anything with this free copy of the Safe Driving Coach Parent's Guide: First Time Driving Behind the Wheel Checklist.

You can also learn more about The Parent’s Survival Guide for New Teen Drivers online course for parents who want to know how to better coach their teens how to drive!


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