PHASE 1: Smooth operator Location: Empty parking lot Length of lesson: 20-25 minutes

The steering wheel, the gas pedal, and the accelerator pedal are your main controls. It’s imperative that your teen become a master of all three. These exercises will help them become a master of the pedals. They are also intended to create muscle-memory in your teen’s feet. Unless your teen has been involved in a sport that requires fine control of their feet, they will have to put in the practice time with the pedals in order to become proficient.

The Accelerator

Starting from a dead stop, have your teen coast across the parking lot in a straight line, as slowly as possible. The point here is to illustrate that the car will travel without constant pressure on the gas pedal. Have your teen increase the speed to 10mph. You want them to maintain this speed as they travel across the lot. They will be learning how to apply varying amounts of pressure to the gas pedal in order to affect their speed. As their competence increases, continue increasing the speed by 5mph. Obviously, don’t exceed the safe speed of the parking lot. Once they can maintain a constant speed, challenge them to smoothly speed up and slow down to your command. Remember, they’re only using the accelerator in these lessons.

The Brake Pedal

Ask your teen come to a smooth stop from varying speeds. Pick points where you’d like them stop and have them begin braking at different distances. This will teach them to apply more or less force depending on the distance. Again, you’re trying to create muscle memory and the only way to do this is through practice. If their braking or accelerating is extremely jerky, double-check that their heel is firmly planted on the floor of the car. Some new drivers have a tendency to lift up their entire foot instead of pivoting.


During phase 1, you’ll be spending an awful lot of time in an empty parking lot. So, take advantage of it by having your teen practice parking the car. In this early stage, we suggest limiting your parking practice to 90-degree parking and angled parking. Leave parallel parking for later lessons.

At first, make sure there are empty spaces on both sides of the target space. Stay away from other cars as well as spaces on the end of a parking lot. Also, begin with angled parking. This is much easier than 90-degree parking. Challenge your teen to see how close they can come to perfectly aligning their car in the center of the space. After they pull in, have them get out of the car and see how well they did. Most new drivers end up too close to the driver’s side. They also have a tendency to not pull in far enough. Having your teen get out of the car and examine their position helps them gain spatial awareness of their car.

*You can also outline the spaces with cones to get a perspective if other vehicles are parked….

Angled Parking

How to park in an angled parking spot Position your car so that there is at least five to six feet between your car and the other parked cars. Once you find a space, signal. Continue driving forward until you can see the center of the parking space you wish to enter. As soon as you see the center of the space, turn the wheel sharply, about half a turn, and proceed slowly into the space. Once you come to a stop, straighten your wheels so that you begin backing out straight when you wish to exit the space.

90-degree Parking

Perpendicular or 90-degree spaces are a little bit more difficult to manage than angled parking spots. They are especially treacherous for new drivers and can act as powerful dent-magnets. So, make sure that your teen has become proficient in an empty parking lot before trying this with other cars present.

How to perpendicular park in 90-degree parking spaces

Follow the steps below to master this parking challenge. As you approach the space, keep at least eight feet between your car and the cars in the row you are parking in. After you signal, position the car so that the front bumper is just beyond the taillights of the car immediately before the space. Now turn the wheel sharply and slowly enter the space. Pull ahead far enough so that your rear bumper isn’t sticking out of the space. Straighten your wheels.


If your teen has shown repeated competence in the areas below, it’s may be time to move on to Stage 2. Oftentimes, teens are eager to move on to new tasks as soon as they’ve correctly performed the maneuver one time. Resist this temptation! Learning a new skill requires repetition so that your reactions to certain situations are instinctive.

Pre-Driving Tasks

  • Checks exterior of car before entering
  • Knows basic under-the-hood items
  • location of battery
  • where to add windshield washer fluid
  • how to check the oil dipstick
  • Knows how to check tire pressure and how to add more air
  • Knows how to set mirrors to reduce blind spots and glare
  • Adjusts seat position and headrest position before starting car
  • Always wears seat belt

Driving Tasks

  • Brakes and accelerates smoothly
  • Can maintain speed without jerky driving movements
  • Can turn right and left with equal ease
  • Uses turn signal when appropriate
  • Uses proper hand-over-hand and pull-push-slide steering
  • Checks mirrors periodically and continuously while driving
  • Has mastered angle parking
  • Has mastered perpendicular (90-degree) parking

When you move on to Stage 2, do not forget to practice everything in Stage 1. By moving on, you’re simply adding new tasks, environments, and skills onto what has already been learned.

PHASE 2: Space Management..… Location: Empty parking lot Length of lesson: 20-25 minutes

A space management system is simply a method for managing the space around your vehicle. As long as the area around your car is free of obstacles, you’re not going to experience any crashes. Maintaining a safe “bubble” around your car does not happen by accident, however. You, as a parent and an experienced driver, have already developed a space management system. You may not realize it, but it features a well-defined process that you repeat constantly as you drive. Unfortunately, you did not suddenly wake up one day possessing these skills. They must be learned, practiced, and refined.

Understanding the Space Management System

When driving, you are constantly searching the area immediately around your car, far ahead of your car, to the left, right, and rear for potential hazards. You’re looking at other vehicles and trying to determine what they’re doing, what they’re about to do, and what they may do. Lastly, you’re making adjustments to your speed and lane position based upon the information you’ve gathered. You may even activate some of the communication devices in your car. No, not your cell phone. By “communication devices”, we mean your turn signal, brake lights, head lights, and horn.

Search, Evaluate, Execute

The process that we endorse is called “SEE”. This stands for Search, Evaluate, and Execute. It requires that you continuously search your surroundings, evaluate your changing driving environment, and execute necessary changes to your speed, lane position, and communication.

Search Evaluate Execute

You must be aware of the area surrounding your car. By dividing this space into different zones, you can easily search these areas. There are six zones and each zone is the width of a lane and extends as far as you can see:

  • Front
  • Left Front
  • Right Front
  • Rear
  • Left Rear
  • Right Rear

Example searching pattern:

Look at your target area. Look at your front, left front, and right front zones 12-15 seconds ahead. Make sure you look for possible problem areas such as intersections or driveways.

Check your rear zones.

Check your front zone 4-6 seconds ahead for any immediate problems. Check your speed. Repeat Remember to check each search area for a very short period of time. Your eyes should constantly be moving.

The next step is to evaluate each of the zones to determine which ones are open, closed, or changing. Open zone: The zone has no restrictions to your line of sight or path of travel.

  • Your target area is the area 25-30 seconds ahead of you.
  • Your path of travel is the section of roadway that will get you from where you are to your target area.
  • Your line of sight is your ability to see the center of your path of travel from your car to your target area.

So, in other words, an “open zone” is one in which there’s nothing standing in the way of your car. Basically, the zone is clear of any obstacles, obstructions, or other cars.

Closed zone: Your path of travel is obstructed due to some condition (red light, construction, boulder in the road, etc). There may also be restriction to your line of sight. A closed zone indicates that you need to find an alternate path of travel.

Changing zone: This is most often an open zone that is changing into a closed zone. An example of this would be a yellow light at an intersection. If you find a zone to be closed or changing, make sure you evaluate other zones for possible closed or changing conditions that might affect the action you wish to execute.

Executing requires that you adjust speed, determine lane position, and decide if communication is needed. These decisions should be based upon your evaluation. Remember that you will be making these adjustments continuously. The safest place when driving is the place with the fewest cars. Try to keep as much space between you and the surrounding vehicles as possible. Other drivers might not always do the right thing. You should attempt to determine what other drivers are going to do and to leave space to escape if a dangerous situation arises.

Speed is your best friend when it comes to driving safely. If there is an obstacle in your path, a change in speed should be your first response. Don’t forget that your car will respond differently depending on the conditions of the road and the condition of your tires.

Some conditions which would require action are:

  • Traffic flow
  • Time of day
  • Traffic controls
  • Weather conditions
  • Visibility
  • Lane width
  • Roadway conditions
  • Speed limits

Speed Adjustments

By controlling your speed, you can control the space between your car and other cars or obstacles. If a car or obstacle moves dangerously close, you have the following options: Continue at the same speed. Increase your speed.

Reduce your speed.

Take your foot off the accelerator and cover the brake. Take your foot off the accelerator and apply pressure to the brake pedal.

Lane Position Adjustments

Changing your position within the lane is a great way to avoid driving conflicts. Most of these lane position changes will be minor. For example, moving from the center of the lane to the left side of the lane to avoid a small pothole on the right side of the road.


By appropriately using communication, you make it easier for other drivers to see you. You also make it easier for you to see other drivers. Ensuring that you can see other drivers and that they can see you will drastically reduce the chance of an accident. The following communication devices are part of your “execution arsenal”:

Turn signals can be used to let other drivers know that you are turning, changing lanes, pulling out of a parking space or pulling out from the curb. You should signal at least four seconds before you plan to take action. Hazard lights should be used to warn other drivers that you are experiencing car trouble. This is a warning to other drivers to give you more space. The horn should be tapped lightly when trying to gain the attention of another driver or pedestrian. It should not be used to vent frustration at other drivers’ actions.

Headlights: Many new vehicles have daytime running lights that turn on automatically. These help other drivers see you. You can flash your lights to oncoming traffic to warn them of dangers up ahead such as accidents or obstructions in the roadway. They should not be used to warn other drivers of the location of police cars.

PHASE 2: Emergency Braking Location: Large, empty parking lot Length of Lesson: 25-35 minutes

Emergency braking means coming to a stop…fast. We’ve all been in situations where bringing the vehicle to an immediate stop is absolutely necessary to avoid a collision. Usually, this reaction is instinctive. Any hesitation could mean the difference between a near miss and a nasty crash. Teens must practice to create this instinctive behavior. When that signal goes off in their brain that there is an immediate danger, they must brake forcefully. They cannot afford to wait for the situation to develop, cover brake, and then start braking.

New drivers are rarely taught emergency braking

New drivers are typically not prepared for this type of braking. It simply isn’t taught in driver’s ed classes. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t important. In fact, I can’t think of anything more important than teaching your teen how to brake out of dangerous situations. Your child needs to know how their car will behave while emergency braking. They also need to learn how to steer and brake at the same time.

Head to a large, empty parking lot

Before you have your teen practice emergency braking, first show them how it is done. This way, they’ll understand how quickly you want them to stop. Many new drivers are hesitant to brake as hard as they should.

Stopping in a straight line

In most emergency situations, stopping quickly while continuing in a straight line is the safest course of action. So, we suggest the following exercise: Accelerate to 15mph and maintain that speed.

Call out “Stop now!” at random. You want your teen to practice on quickly pivoting their foot from the accelerator to the brake. Your teen should apply heavy pressure to the brake pedal and stop in a very short distance. This exercise is not intended to teach smooth braking. Increase speed to 20, 25, and 30 mph and repeat. Make sure your teen is comfortable stopping at each speed before increasing to the next level.

Stop and Steer

There are situations in which you must brake and steer around an obstacle at the same time. The only way to prepare for these situations is to practice them in a controlled environment.

This exercise requires a large cardboard box that can be seen while driving. Make sure the box is empty so that it doesn’t cause any damage to your car if it gets run over.

Accelerate to 15 mph and maintain that speed. Call out “Stop now” when within 25-35 feet of the box. Your teen should brake hard and attempt to stop before hitting the box. If they are going to hit the box, they should steer around it. Increase speed to 20, 25, and 30 mph. As the speed increases, your teen will find it impossible to stop before hitting the box. This will force them to steer around the box.

This exercise will teach your teen how to brake and steer at the same time. It will also make them even more comfortable with their ABS brake system as it will surely engage during this exercise.

Common mistakes

Staring at the obstacle. Many new drivers make the mistake of fixating on the object they want to avoid. While they must be aware of the obstacle, their eyes should be focused on their intended path of travel (i.e. the escape route). If they focus on the box, they’ll probably hit the box. Easing off the brakes when the ABS system engages. The first few times your ABS system kicks in can be somewhat startling. Many new drivers think the car is falling apart or they’re going to damage the brakes. Reassure them that the odd behavior means that the system is working properly. PHASE 2: Parking lots…..

Head to a Crowded Parking Lot

You heard us right. This lesson takes place in a crowded shopping center or mall parking lot. Because every driver will spend a considerable amount of time in parking lots, your teen needs to become comfortable driving around in them.

A busy parking lot is a great place for your teen to practice their skills. Parking lots are usually a flurry of activity, so your teen’s searching and scanning skills will be put to the test. Of course, busy lots are also the source of most dings and dents on your car. So, when you first start practicing, keep your eyes peeled and your mouth moving so your teen doesn’t break the bank with body shop repairs.

Practice Exercises


Simply head over to a shopping center or mall parking lot and cruise the lanes. Remember: Drive down the center of each lane. Obviously, if there is an oncoming car, return to the right side of the lane. The reason for driving down the center is so that you’re equally positioned to enter a parking spot on either side of the lane. This also means you’re equidistant from cars backing (blindly) out of their spaces.

Use cover braking. You never know when a small child is going to run out in the middle of a lane from behind parked cars. Also, parked cars may suddenly back out of a spot. Since their line of sight is so limited, they may not see you coming down the lane. You must be ready to brake in a moment’s notice. Use those turn signals.We know from experience that many drivers believe that common courtesy and right-of-way rules don’t apply in parking lots — or at least that those rules don’t apply to them. However, that doesn’t mean you should check your manners at the entrance to the lot. Other drivers and pedestrians appreciate knowing what you’re going to do. You should use your indicators when:

Turning down a new lane.

You’ve found a parking spot. You should always do this when you’re stopped and waiting for a car to exit a space. This will alert other drivers that you’re waiting for a space. If the lot is busy and spots are scarce, this is also a way to “claim” the space.

Let’s Park

Hey, you’re in a parking lot. You might as well practice parking. Start with front-entry parking: Pull forward into spots and come to a complete stop. Make sure to straighten the wheels in order to make backing up easier. Put the car in park and set the parking brake. Remember to use your brake pedal for nearly all of your speed control.

When ready, back out of the space. Point out to your teen who much their view is obstructed when reversing out of a space. It is especially difficult for them to see when they are completely surrounded by other parked cars. Your teen should be on the lookout for cars driving down the lane. They should also be on the lookout for pedestrians who tend to walk (blindly) directly behind cars.

Now move on to rear-entry parking:

Identify a parking spot and come to a stop before it. Activate your turn signal so that nearby cars know that you’re about to turn into a space. Side note: Many drivers have a tendency to stop ahead of the target space and then back into the spot. While there’s nothing technically “wrong” with this approach, it presents a potentially annoying situation. Cars behind you may not realize you’re going to park into your target spot (especially since you’ve driven past it). Therefore, they may not give you the room you’ll need in order to reverse into the spot. By stopping before the target spot and putting on your signal, other cars should give you the necessary room. Reverse into the spot, come to a stop, and straighten the wheels. Put the car in Park and set the parking brake.

When exiting the parking spot, point out to your teen how much easier it is to see their surroundings.

Reversing into parking spots is always the preferred way of parking. It makes pulling out much easier and safer.

Parking Lot Etiquette

Speed Limits

The speed limit in parking lots varies depending on the municipality that you’re in. For example, in California, it’s 10mph. In a condominium development in Missouri, the posted speed limit in their parking lot is 17mph (which is pretty obnoxious, don’t you think?). Obviously, if a speed limit is posted, follow that. Otherwise, drive at 15mph or less, depending upon the conditions.

Following Pedestrians to their Cars

Just because parking spots are scarce, it doesn’t mean that you should track down people who are walking to their cars like you’re on safari. If possible, roll down your window and ask them if they’re leaving. A little common courtesy can go a long way. Remember, you can collect more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Walking to your car

Walk down the center of the lane! Don’t walk directly behind cars as this makes you very hard to see. If you are being followed by a car, be courteous and try to indicate to them where you’re parked.


There are only two ways to prevent collisions: don’t hit stuff and don’t let stuff hit you. Obviously, you can’t control everything around you or depend on other cars to behave rationally. So, you must focus on driving defensively, which means being prepared for other drivers to take wildly unexpected (and stupid) actions. When you’re traveling at city or highway speeds, the driving environment can change in an instant. This is why your teen must learn how to safely brake out of potentially dangerous situations. Like all things driving-related, this is easier said than done. So, in order to help your teen become a collision-free driver, you must practice controlled braking.

We’re ABS lovers

Because nearly every car made in the last 15-20 years has ABS brakes, we’re not going to bother discussing disc or drum brakes. There is plenty of information out there about how to use these older systems and you’re free to do that research yourself. If you do not have ABS brakes, we suggest you skip this lesson. We also suggest that you do whatever you can to get a car equipped with ABS.

How ABS brakes work

The ABS system prevents your wheels from locking up when you apply extreme pressure to your brake pedal. This is important because wheels which have become locked are essentially useless. When your wheels are locked, your tires will not rotate which means you’re skidding. The ABS system pumps your brakes faster and smarter than you can. The system applies pressure until it senses the wheels about to lock up. It then backs off and then applies more brake pressure as your wheels start to spin too fast. This braking and “un-braking” happens as often as 20 times per second. ABS allows you to steer the vehicle while applying extreme pressure to the brakes.

ABS brakes are noisy

Anti-lock brakes do all sorts of strange things when engaged. The brake pedal will pulse and vibrate at an extremely high rate. The brake pedal may suddenly drop and you may even hear some unpleasant grinding noises. This is normal and it means that your ABS brakes are working properly. This is probably the only situation in which horrible noises coming from your car is a good thing.

Don’t ever pump ABS brakes

Since the ABS system does not engage during normal driving, its behavior can scare many drivers into backing off the brake pedal. Don’t do that! If you need to stop, keep pressure on the pedal. Pumping the brake completely negates the ABS system. Of course, the only way to prepare yourself for what the ABS system feels like is to engage it. You don’t want your teen’s first experience with the ABS system to be during an emergency.

The Three Stages of Braking

Bringing a car to a stop requires three actions to occur: Your brain must recognize the need to brake. This can take a heck of a lot longer for a new driver than an experienced driver. New drivers simply don’t have the experience to recognize when the cars in front of them are slowing down. An alert driver may make this decision in 3/4 of a second. A new driver may take up to two seconds. You must move your foot into braking position. This may require moving your foot from the accelerator to the brake. This takes the average driver 3/4 of a second.

Finally, you must apply pressure to the brake. During the time in which your teen is deciding to brake and moving their foot to the pedal, their car is continuing at the same speed toward the car in front of it. Check out the chart below which illustrates just how far the car travels during these stages of braking.

  • 1. Assumes 1.25 second reaction time.
  • 2. Assumes 0.75 second “foot to pedal” time.
  • 3. Based upon the Vehicle Stopping Distance Calculator from CSGNetwork.com with a coefficient of friction of 0.7. * 1 mph = 1.4666 feet per second.

Obviously, to make your teen a safer driver, you want to reduce their reaction time and reduce the time it takes them to get their foot in position to start braking. This will inevitably lead to shorter stopping distances.

Reducing Your Teen’s Stopping Distance

There isn’t much you can do to reduce the braking distance of your car because it’s a function of the size of your car, your brakes, and your tire’s tread. Obviously, if your tires or brakes require maintenance, do it. Other than that, you’ll need to focus on your teen’s reaction and foot-to-pedal times in order to reduce their overall stopping distance.

Cover braking

The simplest way to decrease the time it takes for your teen to move their foot from the accelerator to the brake is to teach them “cover braking”. Cover braking is a technique in which you rest your foot over the brake pedal in anticipation of needing to brake. Any time you feel that you may need to brake, pivot your foot from the accelerator to the brake pedal. However, you do not push the brake. You simply rest your foot on the pedal. By using cover braking, your teen can eliminate their total stopping distance by as much as 20%.

Experience reduces reaction time

New drivers are typically slow to make the decision to start braking. In fact, when unsure of what to do, they tend to ease off the accelerator and wait for things to unfold. As they get more experience under their belt, they’ll make the decision to brake much sooner. And as long as they’re using cover braking, they’ll always be in a position to brake.

Let your teen use all of the family cars

I know what you may be thinking: “Are you out your mind?! I’m only going to sacrifice one car to my teen learning to drive.” I understand this initial reaction, but step back and think about this for a minute. What’s more important: a car or your teen?

While your car may get a few dings and dents while your teen learns to drive, that’s better than a serious crash. And the reason for having your teen drive as many different cars as possible is in order to avoid such a crash.

Helps develop spatial awareness

By allowing your teen to experience different vehicles, they will more quickly develop an intuitive spatial awareness of the car. Part of not hitting other drivers is to have an accurate feel of the space your vehicle occupies.

Creates better pedal control

As discussed in other articles, smooth driving requires fine motor control of the feet. By driving other vehicles, teens will more quickly learn how to apply small, yet varying amounts of pressure to the pedal. Think about it: if you were learning to play basketball, you need fine control over the flight of the ball. Therefore, it’s probably more effective to practice shooting from different distances than to only throw free throws (unless you’re Shaq).

Increases familiarity with control devices

Driving other vehicles also familiarizes your teen with variations of control devices. For instance, the gear shift, windshield wipers, lights, horn, trunk and hood releases can be slightly different between vehicle brands. Some cars have gas tank cover releases and some don’t. It’s important that your new driver realize these differences. You never know when they’ll need to drive a different vehicle than the one they’re used to.

Being able to drive in reverse is an extremely important skill. Many of us drive in reverse several times a day in crowded areas such as parking lots. Therefore, make sure that you practice driving in reverse until it becomes second nature for your teen. For these exercises, work in a large, empty parking lot.

How to drive in reverse

For many people, driving in reverse is quite difficult to master. Figuring out which way to turn the wheel is usually the source of the problem. Thankfully, this problem is an easy one to solve. Turn the wheel in the direction you want the back end of the car to turn. If you want the rear of the car to turn to the right, turn the wheel to the right. If you want the rear of the car to turn left, turn the wheel to the left. Reversing is the only driving situation where holding the wheel with one hand is encouraged. Place your left hand at the 12 o’clock position. Drape your right arm across your seat. Look over your right shoulder to see where you’re going.

Use the brake to control speed

When first learning to drive in reverse, you should restrict your teen to only using the brake. In fact, most reversing situations only require the use of the brake. Obviously, there are a few situations in which quickly backing up is necessary. However, remember that if your foot is covering the brake, you can never stomp on the accelerator by mistake. A common, yet very dangerous reversing situation is backing into traffic. It is in this situation that teens are likely to freeze up or “freak out”. A teen may have half of the vehicle in the street and suddenly become scared by a fast-approaching vehicle. Stopping the car by slamming on the brake is their first, instinctive reaction. Unfortunately, if they’re using the accelerator to reverse, they may actually “gun it” into the street. Keep that scenario in mind when practicing reversing.

Don’t forget to look forward!

Wait, what? I thought we were going in reverse. Why would I look forward? For the exact same reason that you check your rearview mirror when driving forward. You need to instill in your teen that it is their responsibility to be aware of everything going on around their car by checking all of their mirrors.

Obviously, you should limit your forward glances to only a few seconds in duration. Your car is moving backwards, so that is where most of your attention should be directed.

How to practice driving in reverse

Start in a large, empty parking lot. Have your teen drive in a straight line. They should be looking over their right shoulder and making slight adjustments to the wheel to continue moving straight backwards. They should be using the brake as their primary method of speed control. Tell them where you’d like them to stop. Ask them to get out of the car so that they can see where their car actually is in comparison to where they think they stopped. For example, ask them to reverse in a straight line until the rear of the car is perpendicular to a light pole. Don’t forget to practice having them drive in reverse by only using their mirrors. It’s a great idea for new drivers to learn what can and cannot be seen when using the rearview and sideview mirrors. Once your child shows competence in reversing in a straight line, have them reverse into parking spots. Again, have them get out of the car to assess their progress.

Common Mistakes

New drivers typically turn the wheel in the wrong direction when first learning to drive in reverse. Simply remind them to turn the wheel in the direction they want the rear of the car to go. Accelerating too quickly. However, if you restrict their speed control to the brake, this won’t be a big issue. Misjudging the position of the car. Getting out of the car once your teen thinks they’ve pulled far enough into a parking space is the best way to instill a sense of spatial awareness.

Locations: Parking lot, garage, residential and city streets Length of Stage: Per usual, as long as it takes! Check out the phase 2 checklist which will guide you as to when it is time to move onto to Stage 3. However, most teens are ready to move on within 2-5 weeks. At this point in your teen’s driving education, they have become comfortable with the basic operation of the car in the parking lot. In phase 2, you will begin the transition from the parking lot to low-risk environments such as residential streets. However, there are still more skills to learn in the parking lot, so they’re not done there yet! You may also encounter some city driving in phase 2.

More Parking Lot Practice

Although you’ve spent considerable time in the parking lot, there is still more to learn. Your teen needs to learn how to drive the car in reverse. There’s also parallel parking as well as more advanced braking techniques that can only be practiced in an empty parking lot.

Defensive Driving

As soon as you move out of the parking lot, you must begin hammering home the principles of defensive driving because driving is the ultimate “what if” situation. You may use the example of an infielder playing baseball. Before every pitch, an infielder goes through all of the what-if’s of the next pitch. What if the pitcher throws a wild pitch? What if the ball is hit to me? What if the ball is hit to the second baseman? What about a fly-ball? What if he throws a pick-off attempt to me? He is prepared for every scenario. The same is true with safe, smart, and skillful drivers.

What if the car in front of me suddenly stops? What if this guy who has his turn signal on doesn’t actually turn? What if someone runs this red-light ahead? What if this tractor-trailer decides to change lanes? Your teen needs to be thinking in these terms in order to stay safe.

Space Management System

Part of safe driving is managing the space around your car. This requires that you are aware of everything around you. In order to gather this information, process it, and then make adjustments based upon it, your teen needs to develop a space management system. The space management system that we recommend is called “SEE”. SEE stands for Search, Evaluate, and Execute. You’ll begin practicing this system with your teen during this stage.

This section was created for parents of new teen drivers. After our instruction has taken place, try to follow these steps to further the driving skills of your new driver.

Seatbelts are buckled, mirrors are adjusted, and the engine is purring. As your car backs slowly down the driveway you can't help but look into the side mirror to make sure the tires aren't on the lawn. You start down the street, white knuckles firmly clamped around the door handle and feet bearing down on imaginary brakes. It's your son or daughter’s first time behind the wheel and you're riding shotgun — who knows which one of you is more nervous…………..?

Learning to drive can be nerve-wracking for teens and parents. It's likely to be your first experience putting your safety and auto investment in your teen's hands. And since you know all the risks of the road, this can be pretty scary. Parents play an important role in helping teens practice their driving skills and develop confidence behind the wheel.

Practice Increases the Chances of Perfect

When it comes to driving, experience is an important teacher. The more time young drivers spend honing a variety of skills in different road and weather conditions, the more calm and confident they will feel and the better they'll be able to react to challenging situations. Before each practice session, plan the specific skills you want to go over. Consider your teen's temperament — and your own! If the lessons are too long, nerves might get frayed and it may be difficult to stay calm.

An empty parking lot is an ideal place for teens to…. practice simple car control skills like turning and braking get a feel for how the car handles

learn the location of some of the basic controls, like windshield wipers, defroster, and lights After practicing the basics of moving in drive and reverse, try to work on these skills on quiet back roads, where there's little traffic:

  • practicing an aggressive visual search (looking for potential road hazards)
  • slowing down around curves
  • coming to a full stop at a stop sign
  • understanding the rules of a four-way stop
  • keeping a safe following distance
  • making a left turn on a two-way road
  • keeping a constant speed when going uphill
  • recognizing and understanding street signs
  • navigating around pedestrians, animals, bikers, and runners

More Advanced Skills

Once teens have mastered those basic skills, they should get some practice driving on bigger, busier roads and highways. On these roads, you can help your teen practice:

  • changing lanes (S.M.O.G. – signal, mirror, over the shoulder, gradually go)
  • merging into traffic
  • maintaining a safe speed based on road conditions
  • understanding the different lanes — like not going below the speed limit in the left lane
  • approaching, slowing down, and stopping at traffic lights/intersections — green, yellow, and red
  • making a left on a green
  • using on and off ramps at appropriate speeds

Teen drivers should learn to anticipate and watch for potential problems from other drivers — always expecting the other driver to do something that will put them at greatest risk. For instance, when approaching a stop sign, they should watch for other cars coming from different directions that may not stop. In traffic, encourage your teen to watch for cars that suddenly switch lanes without signaling or pull out in front.

New drivers often have trouble anticipating the actions of other vehicles, accurately sensing how much speed and space certain situations require, and effectively recognizing high risk traffic situations. These are skills that drivers develop with experience and time.

Once comfortable with these skills, have your teen practice driving in different conditions such as:

  • Nighttime: Reduced visibility means greater risk that can lead to a collision.
  • Dusk and dawn: Glare from the sun makes it difficult for drivers to see.
  • Rain and snow: Practicing on slick pavement gives teens a chance to find the right speed for the conditions and helps demonstrate how traction is reduced.
  • Construction/roadwork: Construction zones have many signs and congestion that are good learning points for any new driver.

After plenty of practice, give your teen a chance to drive with more passengers in the car. Begin with family members or close friends who your teen is comfortable driving with and you're comfortable coaching around.

Riding Shotgun

Before your first driving session with your teen, sit down together and discuss your expectations, including the skills you'd like to practice and how long it will take.

Once the lesson begins, remember that the goal is for your teen to get comfortable, confident, and safe behind the wheel. Becoming a skilled driver takes time and experience, so it's important to be patient and:

Provide some warm-up time. First practice in safe areas, away from other cars, with low stress and risk. Then, as you get more comfortable with one another, you'll be ready to take on bigger challenges, like the open road and the highway.

Keep it simple. Practice skills one at a time. In basketball, a person can't learn to shoot, defend, pass, and dribble all at once, and the same goes for driving skills. Remember that it can be hard for new drivers to process multiple things at once while trying to drive — it can even be a distraction.

Turn mistakes into lessons. When a mistake happens, have your teen pull over, if possible, so you can talk calmly about what went wrong and how to avoid repeats.

As long as you are alert and attentive while your rookie driver is at the wheel, you should be prepared to help with any situation that may arise.

Be a Resource for Your Teen

A simple tutorial about the basics of car maintenance, like changing a tire, is important for a new driver. So show your son or daughter where the spare tire, lug wrench, and other equipment is kept and how to use it.

Other emergency and maintenance necessities to go over include:

  • maintaining proper air pressure in the tires
  • checking the oil
  • pumping and paying for gas
  • jump-starting a car

Approaching driver training with an open mind, a positive attitude, and patience will give your teen the best foundation for becoming a skilled and safe driver. And who knows? You may learn something new about the road too!

What is SIPDE?

SIPDE describes the 5 abilities every driver must have. SIPDE is an important and useful system to help you drive safely and anticipate things before they become a problem. There are 5 abilities:

  • 1. Search
  • 2. Identify
  • 3. Predict
  • 4. Decide
  • 5. Execute

Search and Identify means you’re able to notice what’s going on around you. If you drive with your eyes closed you’re going to crash. Why? Because you couldn’t see; you weren’t aware of what was around you. Likewise, if your eyes are open, but you’re not aware of your surroundings, you won’t be able to drive safely. You must be aware of traffic signs, other vehicles, pedestrians, road markings, etc. To Search, scan the road ahead of you 20-30 seconds. To Identify, look for objects or conditions within 12 to 15 seconds ahead that could be a problem. You need to do more than just “look” at things, you have think about what you’re seeing and identify if anything could be a threat.

Predict means you’re able to anticipate or make a good guess on what might happen next. If you see an oncoming vehicle with its left turn indicator on, you must be able to predict that it might turn in front of you. You must predict what might happen and prepare for it.

Decide what action you need to take, whether it’s to slow down, speed up, move, etc. In most situations you will have more than one option, so you need to decide on which option is the best one. If you see a car next to you merging into your lane, the worst thing you could do is panic. You have to decide to out of the way and let them know you’re there.

Execute means you take action on your decision. You don’t just know what needs to be done, but you do it.

Let’s give a very common example:

You’re driving in the right hand lane and approaching an intersection. The light is green. A car on the street you’re approaching is also in its’ the right hand lane and looks like it might turn onto your street—right in front of you!

How do you avoid getting in an accident?

First, you should be constantly searching your surroundings, looking 20-30 seconds ahead. Second, you must identify there is a car ahead of you that could cause a problem. Third, you must predict the car might turn in front of you, even though your light is green. Fourth, based on that prediction you must decide to either slow down or get out of the way, and fifth, you must execute that decision. You must actually take the necessary steps to slow down or get out of the way.

All of this can happen in a matter of moments. This is why driving takes great care and focus. But safe driving requires more than just knowing SIPDE in your head. It must become a part of your driving routine. You must constantly be scanning ahead 20-30 seconds, identifying objects ahead of you that could cause a problem, predicting what they might do, deciding what action you’re going to take, and then executing that decision. If even one step is missing, you will almost certainly have an accident.

My name is Yvette, and I live in Elizabeth. I have a daughter whom is deaf, and recently obtained her drivers permit. I have never seen her so happy. She was excited because she has something regular kids her age have, a permit. That happiness was about to change. It was time to find a driving instructor for her. I searched high and low and called every driving school in the Union, Essex, Middlesex, and Bergen County area. All of the schools refused to teach her how to drive because she was deaf. I was so upset and hurt, because they were not even willing to give her a chance. I didn't have the heart to tell my daughter so I kept lying telling her, I was waiting for call backs. Well as luck would have it one day at DMV someone I know there introduced me to a driving instructor. We started talking and I explained my situation. Without hesitation he was willing to teach my daughter how to drive. Later that week I arranged to have him come and meet my daughter. As luck would have it she took to him well that he took her driving. When she came home and he left she was like a kid in a candy store. I have never seen her fingers move so fast in sign language to tell me how it went. I could tell I found the right person and the right driving school. My daughter bugs me every day to call or email him so she can drive. She enjoys her time with him. She says he is very calm and relaxed and he makes driving fun. She said he doesn't treat like a Deaf person; he treats her like a person. That right there was the highlight that made me cry....The driving school is ROAD RULES DRIVING SCHOOLand the instructors name is MIKE..

If you or anyone you know with a (any) disability, before you drive yourself crazy searching for a driving school or instructor call him. You will not regret it. I promise you. Between him and his staff you cannot find any better. They will make you feel like family. So remember if you want to learn call ROAD RULES ask for MIKE. If you want to waste your time and money than call someone else.

Mike was extremely professional and courteous during my daughter's driving lesson. For someone who was nervous driving, he made her feel very relaxed and confident. I find now that she is a very confident driver and knows the rules of the road extremely well. I am so thankful that my daughter had such a great instructor! Thanks to Mike I am a little bit more relaxed with the idea of her driving!

I am happy to recommend Mike and Road Rules Driving School. Not only did Mike quickly form a trusting relationship with my daughter and tailor his instruction exactly to her needs, but he went above and beyond driving instruction. He patiently answered all my questions via phone and email, and he even went to the DMV for us to reschedule my daughters road test appointment! He made us both feel confident, welcoming my participation in the process, and his prices are competitive. I will definitely be calling Mike again when my younger daughters are ready to learn to drive.