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Training your Teen to Drive

Thursday, September 03, 2020

As inevitable and unavoidable as income tax, your teen has come of age and wants to learn how to drive.

And while there are many good driving schools around, nothing beats a family member showing them the ropes.

It is both a rite of passage and a big responsibility: How they are taught to drive will inform whether they endanger or protect lives for decades.

So, buckle up, take a deep breath, and follow these simple guidelines to make the experience one both you and your teen will remember with fondness:


Start with the basics

Step by step - moving from the basics to the complex - is the way to go when teaching anyone to drive.

First, familiarise your teen with the vehicle’s features – everything from the windshield wipers to the lighting settings to the air conditioning systems.

Let them adjust the seat and the mirrors to suit their height. Remember, this may be the first time they have ever touched the vehicle’s controls…

Next, practice switching the vehicle on and off. Remember to show them the different settings of the battery and ignition.

Your teen will need to familiarise themselves with the pedals and parking brake. Have them practice applying the brakes with the car rolling but engine off (you’ll thank me later!).

Finally, let your teen practice the simplest of motions – moving the vehicle forward, in reverse and turning. (They may struggle with the last two because they are not yet familiar with the vehicle’s length and thus its turning radius. Have them get out the vehicle to see the space between the front or back of the vehicle and the barrier.)


Safety first

Find a flat, open place where your team can practice driving without other vehicles or distractions (including trees and raised barriers). University parking lots on weekends are good options.

It is illegal for anyone in South Africa to drive without a licence, and you may waive insurance cover if an unlicensed driver is driving at the time of an accident, so while it may be tempting to use the back roads around the suburbs, rather stay off public roads until your teen has obtained their Learner’s Licence.


Managing expectations

Your teen probably has dreams of tearing up the streets in a “Lambo” with their mates, “music” blaring – reassure them that learning to drive is a long process.

Review what was covered before moving on to new areas of learning. Test them on the vehicle settings, the seat belt (automatic failure if not used!) and other learnings, for example, before moving on to the driving.

As experienced drivers understand, driving is about context. Talk to your teen about bad driving habits. Explain the risks of being late, of the need for defensive driving, of the many distractions available in a vehicle.

Think back to how your accidents – why they happened and what you could have done to avoid them.

These are the really important aspects of driving – the wisdom - not always taught at the driving schools.

Sharing these stories will only bring you closer.



Teaching a teen to drive can be a very rewarding experience for both parties.

Remember to breathe and to keep a grip on the hand brake!

Pulling the emergency brake while the vehicle is in motion may cause the vehicle to fishtail, or damage the vehicle’s braking system, and should only be used in an emergency situation.

And send them to a driving school to learn the parallel parking!