How to Teach Someone to Drive: Tips + Checklist

Learn how to teach someone to drive with our step-by-step guide. Perfect for beginners and teens, we make driving instruction simple and effective.
Teaching someone how to drive

Adding a new driver to the family can be exciting and convenient for everyone.

When your teen driver gets their learner’s permit, it’s a sign that they’ll soon be hitting the road solo. This means you’ll no longer have to play chauffeur, and they’ll get some much-needed independence. Before your child can upgrade to a regular driver’s license, however, you’ll need to teach them to keep themselves and others safe.

Helping teens or other drivers operate a car safely requires a structured approach. Just because you know how to drive doesn’t mean you can just hop in the passenger seat and start giving random pointers. You must develop a plan, introduce common driving scenarios, and gradually build up their confidence.

If you aren’t sure how to teach someone to drive, this useful guide and attached checklist will help you give impactful driving lessons that promote safety and independence. We’ll be covering:

How can I teach people how to drive? 

Before you plan your first driving session, you need a strategy. Consider everything from where you’ll carry out your first few lessons to what topics you’ll go over.

Don’t just jump into highway driving, as doing so can make your student feel overwhelmed. If you aren’t confident in your driving skills or don’t have the time or resources to take on a driving student, consider putting them in driving school.

What’s the best way to teach your child to drive? 

woman teaching her child to drive

Here are some of our top tips for teaching your child to drive:

  • Choose a safe, quiet area to begin
  • Make sure your vehicle is in good condition
  • Adjust the vehicle to fit the driver (mirrors, seat, steering wheel, etc.)
  • Start slow
  • Practice defensive driving
  • Gradually introduce new challenges
  • Stay calm and be patient
  • Discuss the consequences of distracted and impaired driving 

While your child needs to understand the repercussions of unsafe driving, you don’t want to scare them or make them feel overwhelmed. Instead, use a balanced approach that encourages good driving practices while teaching valuable skills they can use once they hit the road solo.

Understanding the basics before you start

Your teen is probably excited to start their driving lessons (and you may be, too). While it’s good to be eager, it’s crucial to ensure that you’ve addressed all legal prerequisites before letting them behind the wheel. Find out what age they need to be to start driving, get them their learner’s permit, and add them to your car insurance policy.

Getting your teen prepared is only half the battle. You also need to mentally prepare yourself to become their teacher. That means devising a list of common driving scenarios so you can talk them through challenging situations as they arise.

Most importantly, practice giving constructive feedback, as it’s a vital part of teaching a teen (or anyone else, for that matter) how to drive.

Being overly critical makes learning difficult and could cause your student to shut down. While you’ll need to point out mistakes like distracted driving, do it in a way that builds them up, not tears them down. Also, remember to stay calm. There’s nothing worse than a parent gasping in fear as their teen attempts to drive—it’s startling and demoralizing for the student, and can result in accidents.

The basics of driving

You’re now ready to dive into the basics of driving. Here’s where to start.

Vehicle familiarization

Take your student to an empty parking lot and go over the most important vehicle controls with them, including:

  • Ignition (push button, traditional key, etc.)
  • Shifting mechanism (manual, column shifter, console shifter, etc.)
  • Seats and mirrors
  • Turn signals
  • Windshield wipers
  • Locks and windows 
  • AC and radio

Features like air conditioning and radio might not seem all that important, but remember that keeping the driver comfortable is a great way to create a frictionless and impactful learning experience. They need to know where these controls are located so they can make adjustments without getting distracted while driving.

If your car has added safety features, make sure to run through them, as well. Vehicles equipped with modern safety technology like lane departure assist, collision risk alerts, and blind spot alerts will help you teach important driving skills. These features keep new drivers attuned to potential hazards without making them feel overwhelmed.

Another great piece of technology to help new drivers is GPS vehicle tracking. Tools like Motion by Mojio help you track your child’s vehicle, speed, and other data, giving you peace of mind and allowing your young driver to venture out on their own. 

First lessons

You can go to a local school parking lot after hours or a shopping center once all the businesses have closed for the evening. The goal is to find an area that’s as open and empty as possible.

Prioritize basic maneuvering and safety, such as putting on a seat belt before placing the car in drive and making sure the vehicle is in park before turning it off or getting out. You can begin stringing multiple instructions together as your driver gets the hang of these simple steps. 

Start simple by having your student drive in a straight line, ] work on signaling, or practice braking and lightly accelerating. Again, working on these skills in a large, vacant parking lot is best.

For instance, you could tell them to start the car, drive across the parking lot, turn around, and return to the space they started in. Several other steps will also be implied, such as buckling their seat belt and putting the vehicle in park once they’ve finished the course.

When you’re confident they’ve got these skills down, it will officially be time to hit the road. 

Where is the best place to teach someone to drive?

There are many great places to start teaching someone how to drive, including vacant parking lots and rural roads with minimal traffic. Taking a student driver to a low-stress environment will give them a chance to achieve a few easy wins, which will in turn boost their confidence.

Some other strategies for getting new drivers comfortable include:

  • Setting achievable challenges (e.g., changing lanes)
  • Praising them when they do well
  • Gradually increasing the stress of driving instead of taking them straight to the highway

While you don’t want new drivers to develop a false sense of security, you need them to be confident in the skills they’re learning. If they believe in the process, they’ll be more attentive and receptive to your lessons.

Building up to advanced driving skills

Getting behind the wheel is a stimulating (and sometimes flustering) experience for new drivers. That’s why it’s important to gradually build them up to advanced driving skills.

Don’t just throw them into the deep end by taking them out on the highway on day one or making them parallel park. Start in an empty parking lot before progressing to two-lane roads and then more complex city or highway routes.

Navigating a busy city can be especially tough due to all of the different scenarios they’ll encounter (merging, turning, changing lanes, encountering cyclists and pedestrians, etc.) Make sure they’re ready and try to plan your first few excursions onto city streets during less busy hours.

Teaching defensive driving

teaching how to drive

Defensive driving refers to skills aimed at anticipating potential hazards and avoiding accidents. Maintaining spatial awareness is one of the most important defensive driving strategies you must teach. It includes abilities like:

  • Maneuvering on the fly
  • Understanding blind spots
  • Maintaining safe following distances

You should also teach your teen driver hazard anticipation, which involves:

  • Observing traffic patterns
  • Predicting other road users’ actions
  • Adapting to weather and road conditions
  • Adjusting behavior during night driving 
  • Being on the lookout for emergency vehicles

It’s worth noting that defensive driving lessons aren’t just for teens. Senior drivers can take defensive driving courses to brush up on their skills and stay sharp as they age. Keep that in mind as you help older loved ones navigate the driving-related challenges that come with age.

Overcoming common driving hurdles

Let’s look at some of the most common mistakes new drivers make and how to overcome them. They include:

  • Fear of merging: Give your student cues while merging, but don’t overload them with information while they’re trying to focus
  • Lack of confidence during parallel parking: Walk them through parallel parking, using cones when possible to eliminate the risk of a fender bender
  • Forgetting basic steps: Gently remind them to wear their seat belt, adjust their mirrors, etc.
  • Getting distracted: Refocus your student driver if they get distracted by phones, radios, or environmental factors

Teaching someone to drive isn’t just about overcoming their fears and struggles. You also need to be mindful of your own shortcomings as an instructor and unintentional actions that might negatively impact your pupil’s ability to learn. 

What not to do when teaching someone to drive

Learning how to teach someone to drive is a big responsibility—one that you mustn’t take lightly.

With that in mind, be careful not to tear your student down, even if they make a dangerous mistake. You must be calm and level-headed at all times, especially when addressing issues or correcting errors. Tell them what they did wrong, explain why it’s a problem, provide a solution, and then reassure them that everything is okay.

Another major mistake some driving teachers make involves overloading their students. They want to introduce them to the vehicle, practice parking, explore the city, and hit the highway all in one session. Even if you think your teen is picking things up fast, resist the urge to rush the process.

Assessing readiness

After a few months of regular lessons and practice, your teen driver should have developed some solid vehicle operation skills. You’ll know they’re ready for their official driving test when they can do the following:

  • Control a vehicle in numerous conditions
  • Follow traffic laws
  • Park, merge, and adjust to the flow of vehicles
  • Navigate intersections
  • Maintain spatial awareness
  • Anticipate hazards
  • Recover from mistakes gracefully
  • Deliver a consistent, safe performance

Once you believe they’re ready, book their driving test and start preparing them for it. Make it a point to take advantage of technologies like driver monitoring and GPS solutions so you can keep an eye on their habits and promote continued safety. 

Ready to enhance your driving lessons? Explore Motion Car Connect and its features like the Driver Score and Speed Alerts to identify opportunities for your student to improve.

Explore Motion Car Connect

How to teach someone to drive: checklist

Our checklist for how to teach someone to drive is a simple, easy-to-use tool that will help you impart important driving skills and safety lessons as your teen prepares to get behind the wheel. 

Download our free teaching checklist below.

Lesson 1: Vehicle Familiarization and Pre-Driving KnowledgeDateReady to Move On? (Y/N)Comments
Understands common road signs
Knows what documentation is needed (e.g., insurance and registration)
Can complete pre-check (lights, tires, etc.)
Knows where all safety features are located and how to use them
Knows how to activate turn signals, headlights, etc. 
Adjusts mirrors and seat
Wears seat belt
Knows how to turn vehicle on and off
Lesson 2: Driving in an Empty Parking LotDatesReady to Move On? (Y/N)Comments 
Putting the car in drive/reverse and entering/exiting standard parking spaces
Accelerating and braking
Three-point turns
Backing up
Parallel parking 
Lesson 3: Driving in Light Traffic Areas/Simple RoadwaysDateReady to Move On? (Y/N)Comments
Entering traffic
Smoothly accelerates to the appropriate speed
Notices pedestrians and bystanders
Stops behind white line at red lights and stop signs
Obeys traffic lights and signs
Stops and accelerates smoothly
Yields the right-of-way to pedestrians and cyclists
Entering traffic from a turn
Turning without a stop
Turning with a gray arrow
Maintaining appropriate speed for conditions 
Maintaining appropriate following distance 
Lesson 4: Unfamiliar Roads and Increased TrafficDateReady to Move On? (Y/N)Comments
Changing lanes
Curving roads at higher speeds
Being passed
Smooth driving at speeds up to 60 mph
Turning with multiple turn lanes
Navigating one-way streets
Sharing the road with motorcycles and commercial vehicles
Entering and exiting busy roadways
Lesson 5: Highway/Interstate DrivingDateReady to Move On? (Y/N)Comments
Entering the highway/merging
Speeds up to 75 mph
Using mirrors
Adjusting follow distance to account for higher speeds
Curves at high speeds
Being passed
Changing lanes to pass and returning to appropriate lane
Negotiating larger vehicles 
Moving over for emergency vehicles
Exiting the highway
Navigating and choosing the appropriate exit 
Lesson 6: Driving at Night and in Challenging EnvironmentsDateReady to Move On? (Y/N)Comments
Defensive driving
Maintaining spatial awareness
Adapting to changing conditions (e.g., weather, traffic volume)
Rush hour
Adjusting for glare or reduced visibility
Navigating construction zones 
Navigating school zones
Driving on various surfaces (e.g., dirt, gravel, worn asphalt)
Parking garages
Moving over for emergency vehicles
Completes at least 10 hours of nighttime driving
Kyle MacDonald
Kyle MacDonald
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